If only Los Angeles Angels GM Perry Minasian had had its way, manager Joe Maddon might have been fired over the winter and Buck Showalter would have replaced him.
The Angels instead chose to wait, giving Maddon another chance to reverse the Angels’ fortunes and end their seven-year postseason drought.
Her patience officially ended on Tuesday.
The Angels’ 12-game losing streak sealed Maddon’s fate when he was fired Tuesday and replaced by third-base coach Phil Nevin, who will lead the team for the remainder of the season. Drafted ahead of Hall of Famer Derek Jeter in the 1992 draft, Nevin becomes the first No. 1 overall draft pick to make it to the majors.
Despite mounting losses early Tuesday morning, Maddon was optimistic the Angels could still turn things around in a text message to USA TODAY Sports. He believed they could easily have a 12-game winning streak.
“Working on positive vibes and fundamentals,” he said. “The boys are not happy, but together.”
Well, the Angels front office had other thoughts, and when Minasian woke up, he called owner Arte Moreno to ask permission to make the change. He drove to his house and fired Maddon, who had lost a key support at the clubhouse.
“When I woke up today, I felt like it was the right thing to do,” Minasian said at the Angels press conference. “I just felt like it was the best decision for the organization.”
When Albert Pujols was fired from the Angels a year ago, he told Minasian and President John Carpino that they would never win as long as Maddon was the manager. Several veterans privately thanked Pujols for speaking out. The Angels finished the tournament with their second straight fourth place finish, but they stuck with Maddon because they believed he deserved another chance.
They started 24-13, with the hopes of the AL West Division in mind, and then came a 12-game losing streak that equaled the franchise’s single-season record.
“There wasn’t one phase of the game where we were good,” Minasian said. “It’s not something I thought would happen three weeks ago.”
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Maddon, in the last year of a three-year, $12 million contract, had an option for $4 million or a $1 million buyout in 2023. He was hoping to end his career in the Angels organization. He let it be known this spring that he wanted a contract extension. The Angels refused, believing all along that if they didn’t make the playoffs they would fire him.
After their losing streak extended to 12 games Monday night following a 1-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox, the Angels just didn’t think they could make the postseason with Maddon at the helm.
They made the move now with a 27-29 record – 8½ games behind division leader Houston Astros but just 1½ games from the last AL wildcard spot.
“I understand if you’re an Angels fan nobody’s happy,” Maddon said Monday. “But it’s still early enough here to do something about it and we intend to do so.”
The Angels front office listened and decided to do something different themselves.
Actually, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Maddon was never Minasian’s type; he just inherited it.
Then again, he wasn’t former Angels GM Billy Eppler’s type either.
Eppler wanted to hire Showalter as manager when Brad Ausmus was fired, but he was overruled by Moreno.
Now Minasian has a man who should have been hired as manager at Nevin years ago. He was Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart’s choice to replace Chip Hale with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but they too were overruled by the owners.
This is an Angels team that has only reached the postseason once since Mike Trout’s arrival, and none with Shohei Ohtani. They were built to win this year. After losing just two fewer games in 13 days than the Yankees have lost all season, Minasian believed a change was needed to salvage the season.
“I just felt like it was time for a new voice,” Minasian said. “I think we have the right group of people. We have 106 games to prove it. And I’m looking forward to the next 106 games. But talking is cheap.”
This was the second layoff by a veteran manager in a week, with Joe Girardi being fired by the Philadelphia Phillies and replaced by interim Rob Thomson.
Ironically, Maddon was a candidate for the job with the Phillies when they hired Girardi, but withdrew from the race and only interviewed with the Angels after the Cubs severed ties with him.
Maddon, 68, who led the Cubs to a World Series title and the Tampa Bay Rays to an American League pennant, says he wants to keep leading. He has no plans to retire. There could be half a dozen new openings this summer and winter.
Maybe he could make the difference in Seattle. Maybe he could get the fledgling Kansas City Royals going. Maybe he could sell tickets in Miami.
Who knows, maybe he could return home to Pennsylvania, where the Phillies are expected to conduct a full managerial search if they don’t make the playoffs this season.
Stranger things have happened in the management carousel, and it’s become a way of life in Anaheim. The only manager to have served three full seasons in the Angels organization since 1987 is Mike Scioscia.
Nevin, who was fired as the Yankees’ third base coach after last season, will become the Angels’ fourth manager in five years.
“I think he’s going to do great,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone, one of Nevin’s closest friends, told reporters. “He’s such a great baseball guy. He certainly paid his dues. He put a lot into this game.”
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