If Phil Nevin wasn’t to blame for the Angels’ dismal second-half decline and ninth straight non-playoff finish, as general manager Perry Minasian declared during a Zoom news conference Tuesday, why is Nevin no longer their manager?
If Minasian and Nevin had the great relationship Minasian said they enjoyed — and if Nevin has the bright future Minasian predicted for him — why did the Angels decline to exercise the option on Nevin’s contract for 2024 and restart the managerial revolving door they’ve been operating since Mike Scioscia completed his 19-season tenure in 2018?
Although Minasian said it was a collaborative decision to make a change and bring in a fourth manager in six post-Scioscia seasons, the fingerprints of club president John Carpino and owner Arte Moreno are all over this, missing only the messy smudges of black ink. And Moreno’s track record on personnel decisions and spending (that would mean you, Anthony Rendon) hardly inspires confidence.
Remember, it was Minasian who had the idea to dismiss Joe Maddon during the 2022 season, and he got approval from Moreno to carry it out. Nevin took over and was brought back on a one-year deal this season. Moving on from Nevin, who had his faults but had earned respect within a clubhouse occupied by more followers than leaders, smacks of having come from on high.
They didn’t win enough games, Minasian said, and that’s true enough. They were 56-51 the morning of Aug. 1, the day of the trade deadline. Minasian’s go-for-it shopping spree proved to be a bust, and they went 17-38 the rest of the way. Minasian insisted it wasn’t Nevin’s fault. “It’s all of us. Me first and foremost. I’ve got to do a better job of putting the club together. I know that,” said Minasian, who has only the 2024 season left on his contract to do better.
In any case, here the Angels are, in turmoil again. Rarely has a team done so little with so many resources, including all-world two-way player Shohei Ohtani.
The question now is where do they go from here?
Minasian, in his first public comments since the Angels announced they wouldn’t bring Nevin back, said Tuesday he hadn’t assembled a list of possible replacements or even a list of specific qualities he’d value, such as experience over freshness or a winning pedigree over a promising but unproven candidate. Nor does he have a timeline for the search, he said.
He added that he hadn’t had time to wrap his head around it all yet, another indication this wasn’t his idea. If it had been, he surely would have had some ideas of who to pursue and what to look for. “I’m not there yet,” he said when asked about the qualities he’d prefer in the next manager.
“I think there’s general things you look for from a leadership level. Presence, respect, honesty, I think, are probably right up there as the top three. There’s obviously more to it, but I think those are general things that you look for when hiring somebody in a leadership role.”
The next manager will be in a no-lose situation. If Ohtani leaves as a free agent, as is all but certain, expectations for the Angels will be drastically lowered. There are enough young players who made impressions this season, notably first baseman Nolan Schanuel, catcher Logan O’Hoppe, shortstop Zach Neto and pitcher Ben Joyce, to appeal to a manager who likes to mold young careers. That could be a strong selling point and enough to counterbalance the difficulties of working under an owner like Moreno.
“This organization, I think if you look around, whether it’s some of the impact players we have on the roster, whether it’s the young core that’s developed over the last year or two years, whether it’s the fan base which I’ve realized being here is one of the most passionate and one of the better fan bases in all of sports, I think this is a very attractive job,” Minasian said. “It’s a job that I think people would love and relish the opportunity to have.”
This hire will be important for the Angels’ future and for Minasian’s career. They have to be better. So does he.
“I think all of us are guilty to a certain extent, especially me. I’m probably my toughest critic,” Minasian said. “And I need to do a better job of adding more players to where we can withstand injuries. And we tried to do that this past offseason. We tried to really improve the depth. We were excited going into the season. We were excited with how well the players played over the first couple months with the injuries we encountered. With that being said, we just didn’t have enough. We didn’t have enough to sustain competitiveness throughout the whole year.
“We have to have some internal improvement with the players that are currently on the roster. We have to have some health with the players that are currently on the roster that are here for a long period of time. We need to do a better job from a front-office standpoint of giving our coaches and manager the right players to take us to where we want to go.”
They can’t get there by restarting that revolving door every few seasons.