If it were strictly up to Los Angeles Angels general manager Perry Minasian, manager Joe Maddon might have been fired over the winter, with Buck Showalter replacing him.
The Angels instead decided to wait, giving Maddon one more chance to reverse the Angels’ fortunes and end their seven-year playoff drought.
Their patience officially ended on Tuesday.
The Angels’ 12-game losing streak sealed Maddon’s fate, as he was fired on Tuesday and replaced by third baseman coach Phil Nevin, who will lead the team for the rest of the season. Nevin, drafted past Hall of Famer Derek Jeter in the 1992 draft, becomes the first No. 1 draft pick to manage in the majors.
Maddon, despite mounting losses, was optimistic early Tuesday morning that 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 guys are not happy, but they are together.”
Well, the Angels front office had different thoughts, and when Minasian woke up, he called owner Arte Moreno to ask permission to make the switch. He drove home and fired Maddon, who had lost key support in the clubhouse.
“Waking up today, I felt like it was the right thing to do,” Minasian said at the Angels’ press conference. “I just felt it was the best decision for the organization.”
A year ago, when Albert Pujols was released by the Angels, he informed Minasian and chairman John Carpino that they would never win as long as Maddon was manager. Several veterans privately thanked Pujols for speaking out. The Angels finished with their second straight fourth-place finish, but stuck with Maddon, believing he deserved one more chance.
They started 24-13, had AL West Division hopes in the lead, and then came a 12-game losing streak, tying the franchise single-season record.
“There wasn’t a single phase of the match where we were good,” Minasian said. “It’s not something I thought would happen three weeks ago.”
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Maddon, in the final year of a three-year, $12 million contract, had a $4 million option or a $1 million buyout in 2023. He hoped to end his career with the Angels organization. He made it known this spring that he wanted a contract extension. The Angels refused, believing from the start that they would fire him if they failed to make the playoffs.
With their losing streak extended to 12 games on Monday night following a 1-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox, the Angels just didn’t believe they could reach the playoffs with Maddon at the helm.
They’ve made the move now with a 27-29 record — 8½ games behind the division-leading Houston Astros but just 1½ games shy of the last AL wildcard spot.
“I understand that if you’re an Angels fan, nobody’s happy,” Maddon said Monday. “But it’s quite early here to do something different about it, and we intend to do that.”
The Angels front office listened and decided to do something different themselves.
Really, that shouldn’t have been a surprise. Maddon was never the Minasian guy; he simply inherited it.
Then again, he wasn’t former Angels general manager Billy Eppler’s guy either.
Eppler wanted to hire Showalter as his manager when Brad Ausmus was fired, but he was rejected by Moreno.
Now Minasian has a man who should have been hired years ago as manager at Nevin. He was picked by Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart to replace Chip Hale for the Arizona Diamondbacks, but they were also waived by ownership.
This is an Angels team that has only reached the playoffs once since Mike Trout arrived, and none with Shohei Ohtani. They were built to win this year. Still, after losing just two fewer games in 13 days than the Yankees have lost all season, Minasian felt a change was needed to salvage the season.
“I just felt 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 excited for the next 106 games. But talking is cheap.”
It was the second firing of a veteran manager in a week, with Joe Girardi dumped by the Philadelphia Phillies and replaced by interim Rob Thomson.
Ironically, Maddon was a candidate for the Phillies job when they hired Girardi, but pulled out of the running, only interviewing with the Angels after the Cubs cut 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 intention of retiring. There could be half a dozen openings this summer as well as this winter.
Maybe he could make a difference in Seattle. Maybe he could get the young Kansas City Royals started. Maybe he could sell tickets to Miami.
Who knows, maybe he could return home to Pennsylvania, where the Phillies would have to conduct a full management search if they don’t make the playoffs this season.
Stranger things have happened in the managerial carousel, and in Anaheim, well, it’s become a way of life. The only manager who has lasted three full seasons in the Angels organization since 1987 is Mike Scioscia.
Nevin, who was fired as the Yankees’ third baseman coach after last season, becomes the Angels’ fourth coach in five years.
“I think he’ll do just fine,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone, one of Nevin’s closest friends, told reporters. “He’s a great baseball player. He certainly paid his dues. He invested a lot in this game.
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