The two-year downhill toboggan run of owner Arte Moreno's broken franchise has created a suffocatingly tense atmosphere throughout the organization best illustrated by a team meeting last August in which All-Star Torii Hunter had to be physically restrained from punching out $240 million man Albert Pujols. The meeting details of which were provided to CBSSports.com by several sources followed two ugly losses to Tampa Bay last Aug. 17 and 18 that were rife with internal team discord and short tempers. During a 12-3 blowout on Friday night in which Jered Weaver was hammered for nine earned runs in three innings some players were unhappy when the emotional ace threw up his arms in disgust when one of the infielders dove for a ground ball and failed to make the play. During a 10-8 implosion the next night in which starter C.J. Wilson was cuffed for seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings some players grew weary of Wilson's chirping in the dugout – especially when he began giving advice to hitters. Hunter sharply told him to pipe down and the two had words in the dugout. Immediately following that game veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins called for a players' only meeting. Word of the Hunter-Wilson altercation had reached the Angels' bullpen by the late innings and Hawkins a respected veteran then in his 18th season in the majors and now with the Mets could identify major problems when he saw them. In a glimpse into how fractured the Angels had become they could not even agree on a meeting format. Hawkins called for a players-only meeting. Pujols insisting that manager Mike Scioscia and the coaches attend wound up co-opting the meeting. Pujols called out Weaver for showing up a teammate the night before. Then he turned his attention on Hunter blaming him for the dugout altercation with Wilson. What Pujols did not know at the time was that Wilson and Hunter already had made amends with the pitcher apologizing to the outfielder for overstepping his bounds in the dugout immediately following the game. “Albert you'd better get your facts straight” a seething Hunter told Pujols. Pujols said something back and Hunter jumped him for being a bad teammate and pouting all season whenever he failed to get hits in a game even in games the Angels won … and now he was going to call others out? “Shut up Torii” Pujols snapped. It was then that Hunter from across the clubhouse lost it and charged Pujols. Hawkins and outfielder Vernon Wells had to restrain him. The meeting proceeded from there and when it was over tempers still heated Hunter had to be physically held back a second time from going after Pujols who is described as wanting no part of the fight. The incident was reminiscent of one in Minnesota earlier in Hunter's career when an exasperated Hunter in a heated discussion trying to teach Justin Morneau to be a better teammate punched Morneau in the jaw. The two later bonded after that incident and Morneau went on to win an AL MVP award and he became a long-tenured and beloved Twin. Hunter quickly became the spiritual leader of the Angels upon signing as a free agent before the 2008 season and remained so during his five years with the team. Among his peers Hunter is known as one of the most popular players and best teammates in the league. But he will not hesitate to call out a teammate he thinks isn't living up to standards. That Pujols the new $240 million centerpiece of the Angels would become a flashpoint just months into his monster 10-year deal is the most expensive example of the organization-wide dysfunction that Moreno has both created and fueled with his temperamental and impulsive decisions.
Angels' tense times nearly included Pujols, Hunter fight in 2012
CBS Sports | Aug 24