If it was strictly up to Los Angeles Angels GM 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 turn around the Angels’ fate and end their seven-year postseason drought.
Their patience officially ended Tuesday.
The Angels’ 12-game losing streak sealed Maddon’s fate, as he was fired Tuesday and replaced by third base coach Phil Nevin, who’ll manage the team the rest of the season. Nevin, drafted ahead of Hall of Famer Derek Jeter in the 1992 draft, becomes the first No. 1 overall draft pick to manage in the majors.
Maddon, despite the 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 aren’t happy, but are together.’’
Well, the Angels front office had different thoughts, and when Minasian awoke, he called owner Arte Moreno to ask for permission to make the change. He drove to his house and fired Maddon, who had lost some key support in the clubhouse.
“Waking up today, I felt 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.’’
It was a year ago when Albert Pujols was released by the Angels that he informed 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 with their second consecutive fourth-place finish, but they stuck with Maddon, believing he deserved one more chance.
They started off 24-13, had AL West division hopes dancing in their heads, and then along came a 12-game losing streak, equaling the franchise’s single-season record.
“There wasn’t one phase of the game we’ve been 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 $1 million buyout in 2023. He was hopeful he’d finish 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 they would fire him if they failed to make the playoffs.
With their losing streak extended to 12 games Monday night after a 1-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox, the Angels simply didn’t believe they could reach the postseason with Maddon at the helm.
They made the move now with a record of 27-29 — 8½ games behind the division-leading Houston Astros, but just 1½ games out of the final AL wild-card spot.
“I understand if you’re an Angels fan, nobody’s happy,” Maddon said Monday. “But it’s early enough in here to do something different about this, and we intend to.”
The Angels front office listened, and decided to do something different themselves.
Really, it shouldn’t have come as any surprise. Maddon was never Minasian’s guy; he simply inherited him.
Then again, he wasn’t former Angels GM Billy Eppler’s guy, 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 years ago as manager in Nevin. He was the choice of Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart to replace Chip Hale with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but they were overruled by ownership, too.
This is an Angels team that has reached the postseason just once since Mike Trout’s arrival, and none with Shohei Ohtani. They were built to win this year. Yet, after losing just two fewer games in 13 days than the Yankees have lost all season, Minasian believed a change was needed to save the season.
“I just felt it was time for a new voice,’’ Minasian said. “I think we have the right group of individuals. We have 106 games to prove it. And I’m excited about the next 106 games. But talk is cheap.’’
This 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 himself out of the running, interviewing only 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 managing. He has no plans to retire. There could be a half-dozen openings this summer and winter.
Maybe he could be the difference-maker in Seattle. Maybe he could get the youthful 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 reach the playoffs this season.
Stranger things have happened in the managerial carousel, and in Anaheim, well, it has 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 base coach after last season, becomes the Angels’ fourth manager in five years.
“I think he’ll do great,’’ Yankees manager Aaron Boone, one of Nevin’s closest friends, told reporters. “He’s such a great baseball guy. He’s certainly paid his dues. He’s poured a lot into this game.’’
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