My uneducated opinion regarding the off-field management errors made in the Stoneman era.
I'm no statistician, I've never played baseball professionally, and I'm not a sports journalist. My only qualifications to make the following observations are my long tenure as an Angels fan and career experience in management.
Like any Angel fan, I am distressed by the team's performance this year. While the team would be contending if it merely played up to its defensive potential, an objective analysis of the team's performance reveals a weakness in offense that was quite forseeable. The cause for this lies squarely on the shoulders of the off-field management, most obviously Bill Stoneman. I realize that he may be getting flawed information from his scouting staff and some unproductive direction from Arte Moreno, but for the moment let's just put it on Stoneman for the sake of argument.
Obviously I don't have the knowledge of the game that Stoneman has, and I certainly don't have access to inside information. I'm thus not going to criticize his trading acumen in general, other than to say that it fair to characterize him as timid and perhaps a bit unimaginative.
There are two aspects to his record, however, which I feel are undoubtedly deleterious to the team's on-field performance. The first is his obsessive clinging to minor-league prospects. At first I supported this quite enthusiasticaly, because I was heartsick at the team's historic propensity for trading away the future for washed-up veterans. I took great pride in the fact that the 2002 team was substantially home-grown.
Nevertheless, when a team has a declared philosophy of drafting the best available athletes, irrespective of organizational needs, inherent in that philosophy is the constant effort to trade surplus talent to fill these needs, at least at the minor-league level. This has simply not been done, and as a result we have (for example) virtually no top-level outfield talent apparent in the minors, and a laughable glut of middle infielders. Even a little kid trading baseball cards is liable to do a better job.
The other trait that Stoneman has is a bad temper. Whenever he loses patience with a player, he simply dumps him unceremoniously with no apparent attempt to secure anything in return. The only exceptions that come to mind are Mo Vaughn (admittedly a crucial exception) and Jose Guillen. He did a great job with these two, which shows that he is capable of a shrewd trade now and then. But there are many more examples of good players let go for nothing. The most recent and glaring examples are Bobby Jenks and Derrick Turnbow. Now, I think it was a good idea to let Jenks go, because he is obviously substandard in the character department, and despite our virtually wet-nursing him through the system he showed no real willingness to respond in kind. But the rational thing to do is sell such a player's strengths to another team and let them deal with the problems, not banish them from the kingdom petulantly.
Turnbow was a less understandable move; we had him up for a whole year dragging down the bullpen as a Rule 5 draftee, and later he had shown distinct promise in brief callups. We had a lot invested in this guy, and just when he was ripe we cast him off, apparently because of a positive test in the Olympic tryouts for a substance that was not banned by MLB at the time. While I respect the ethical considerations involved, why is it that we apparently cut him no slack when we were so indulgent with Jenks? The message sent to players here is at best mixed.
As I said, I don't know for a fact that Stoneman is entirely responsible for these two organizational flaws, and so I don't know whether simply replacing him would fix things. What I am sure of, however, is that these flaws have led to the problems we now see on the field. They must be corrected, and until I see some positive movement in this regard we will not achieve the perennial contender status so publicly valued by Arte Moreno.