(Originally published June 7; Updated June 8)
When asked about his dismissal as manager of the Angels, Joe Maddon admitted that he was surprised “a lot, actually.” His firing came in the midst of a 12-game losing streak that sent the Angels (27-29) crashing back to Earth. The fired skipper’s Angels tenure ended with a 157-172 record.
In an interview moments after his firing, Maddon declared his interest in landing in another dugout. “Of course I want to manage,” he said. “I’m really good at it.” However, with the Angels, he acknowledged that the club simply could not “get the mojo going again.” Now, at least for the moment, the task of restoring that mojo falls to former third base coach and current interim manager Phil Nevin.
The Athletic’s baseball writers weigh in on Maddon’s firing, and what it means for an organization that has not reached the postseason since 2014.
Keith Law, national MLB writer
Midseason managerial firings often feel like “well, you can’t fire the players …” moves, and this one fits that pattern. Is it Maddon’s fault that the Angels’ relief corps is among the worst in baseball, fifth worst among all bullpens by FIP with just a 0.2 aggregate fWAR for the season? Or that Anthony Rendon’s wrist has bothered him all season, hurting his production and landing him on the IL just as the team hit this tailspin?
At the same time, though, it’s also fair to question whether Maddon was still the right person for this job. His decision-making has deteriorated over the last few years, highlighted by one of the worst strategic moves I’ve ever seen from a major-league manager: walking a batter with the bases loaded to force in a run, something Maddon did in the fourth inning of a game against Texas on April 15. General manager Perry Minasian inherited Maddon, so now he’ll get to make a managerial hire of his own, perhaps finding someone better aligned with his philosophy, or just someone more prepared to deal with the challenges of winning with this roster.
Andy McCullough, national MLB writer
There has been a willingness, in recent years, to deflect responsibility for a team’s failures away from its manager. Barring a seismic tactical mistake in the playoffs, when things go wrong it is usually the fault of the players, or the executive who assembled the players, or the owner who authorized the assemblage of players. The manager has, effectively, become a middle manager rather than a Mahatma. Which makes it hard to argue that firing a manager will have a significant effect on a flagging team. But it also makes it easier to actually fire the manager. If the man is just another cog in the machine, rather than the man behind the curtain, then a team can part ways with the fellow and not expect significant downside risk.
And so, in the past week, two cratering teams with high payrolls and high expectations axed their skippers. The Phillies fired Joe Girardi last week. The Angels fired Joe Maddon on Tuesday. The Angels had lost 12 in a row, and Maddon appeared to have few answers. He praised the effort of his group, though his praise grew fainter in the wake of so many defeats. Maddon never found the footing he held in prior stops in Tampa Bay and Chicago. He was hailed as a pioneer with the Rays and adored for ending a curse with the Cubs. With the Angels, though, he was just another ineffective skipper unable to get a team with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani into the postseason. It wasn’t really his fault; the team lacked pitching depth and has been hurt by injuries. Even so, he wasn’t able to stop the skid, so the team stopped relying on him. It might not make a difference. It still shouldn’t come as a shock.
Stephen J. Nesbitt, national MLB writer
Twenty-nine days ago, Angels flooded the infield and descended upon rookie Reid Detmers, who had just no-hit the Rays. The scene at Angel Stadium was euphoric. Mike Trout had hit two home runs. Anthony Rendon had smashed one left-handed. The Angels were in first place in the AL West, cruising at 10 games over .500, and were the talk of the young baseball season.
Today, the Angels are no longer a winning team, and Joe Maddon is no longer their manager. His last act was asking The Athletic’s Sam Blum to do the job of evaluating his ball club for him.
Here was an interesting exchange I had with Joe Maddon after the game today: pic.twitter.com/PswKyPcTIJ
— Sam Blum (@SamBlum3) June 7, 2022
Maddon is a man who always has managed his way. Sometimes that meant inviting a magician, a mariachi band or a penguin into the clubhouse. Sometimes it meant intentionally walking a batter with the bases loaded “just to stir up the group, quite frankly.” Whatever the vibes warranted. It all has made for great stories and more winning than losing. But it did not fix what ails these Angels. When you employ Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in their primes, operating in win-now mode should be the only option. Firing Maddon a few months before his contract expired won’t patch the remaining holes in the roster, but he clearly didn’t have the answer to pulling the Angels from their free-fall. (He should have asked Blum for it.)
Marc Carig, MLB deputy managing editor
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: what about the owner’s role in all of this? Arte Moreno has spent a ton of money on the big league roster in an effort to make his team a contender. That’s awesome. It’s what all of the owners should be doing. But Moreno has yet to find the right formula for building a winning culture — and that’s problematic given that he employs Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. Front office turnover and, now, the firing of manager Joe Maddon shows that Moreno doesn’t seem to be any closer to building a sustainable winner. All managers know that being fired is part of the deal. This remains true even though skippers no longer occupy the same lofty perches that they once did within organizations. In this case, the Angels dismissed a manager with a World Series championship on his résumé in addition to a lengthy history with the organization. But all that experience wasn’t going to negate a dearth of arms and a banged up roster. Those issues could have only been overcome with depth, and that kind of thing falls outside of a modern manager’s purview.
(Photo: Meg Oliphant / Getty Images)
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