Over the past couple of days, while his team navigated through a mystifying losing streak that still has not ceded, Los Angeles Angels general manager Perry Minasian began to think a change at manager might be necessary. On Tuesday morning, as he drove into Angel Stadium after watching his daughter receive an award for her second-grade class, Minasian became convinced that it was time to let Joe Maddon go. He called Angels owner Arte Moreno, received his blessing, then later drove to Maddon's house to inform him he had been fired.
Thirty-two months ago, in October 2019, Maddon's return to the organization he came up with was marked with celebration.
Now, on the heels of a 12-game losing streak that tarnished the Angels' remarkable start, it's over in swift, sudden fashion.
"It's tough," Minasian said during a news conference at Angel Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. "Disappointed it's come to this. I really like the man. It's somebody I'm gonna talk to the rest of my life. Just the conversations daily. Who he is, what he's about. You guys were around him -- the energy he brings, how consistent he is on a daily basis. It's tough. It's tough. But you gotta be able to take emotion out of things and make decisions. I've taken the emotion out of it and taken a step back. Looking at where I'm at, as tough of a decision as it is, I felt like it was the right thing to do."
Phil Nevin, the longtime corner infielder who joined the Angels coaching staff this year, will manage the team in the interim and will remain in that role through the end of the season, Minasian said. Mike Gallego will replace Nevin as the team's third-base coach.
The Angels, coming off getting shut out by Michael Wacha and the Boston Red Sox on Monday night, sat at 27-29 entering Tuesday despite boasting a 27-17 record just two weeks earlier. The 12-game losing streak tied the longest for a single season in franchise history and tied for the second longest since 1900 by a team that was at least 10 games over .500 entering the streak, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. During that 12-game stretch, the Angels had a minus-43 run differential, a .596 OPS and a 6.31 ERA.
"There hasn't been one phase of the game where we've been good," said Minasian, whose team continued to skid later Tuesday with another loss to the Red Sox and finds itself 2½ games out of a playoff spot despite an expanded field. "We've struggled on the mound, we've struggled at the plate, we've struggled defensively, we've struggled baserunning. The one thing I will say is the effort's been great. I believe in this group. I know we've gone through a tough stretch, but we have 106 games left. And I'm excited about the 106 games."
Maddon, 68, was in his third season with the organization he previously spent four decades with as a player and as a coach, largely in the minor leagues. Maddon was Mike Scioscia's bench coach on the team that won the 2002 World Series, then went on to a highly successful nine-year run with the low-budget Tampa Bay Rays, with whom he won two of this three manager of the year awards. In 2016, he led the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series championship in more than 100 years.
But it never quite clicked with the Angels.
The team finished the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season with a 26-34 record, missing the postseason in a year when 16 teams made it. The Angels enjoyed a historic two-way season by Shohei Ohtani in 2021, but prolonged absences by Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon sent them to a sixth consecutive losing season. They began 2022 with a dominant first month and a half but are suddenly in danger of missing the postseason for the eighth straight season.
In an interview with The Athletic shortly after his firing was announced, Maddon expressed surprise at the decision.
"You always rely on people in charge to read the tea leaves properly. This time, they did not," Maddon told The Athletic, adding that he wants to continue managing. "You can ask any of the players or coaches. They're the ones who really know. Perry was in a tough spot. I understand that. Let me put it that way. I would really rely on the sentiments of the coaches and the players."
Maddon added that he had what he believed to be a good working relationship with Minasian and that his relationship with the players and coaches "could not have been better."
"Obviously, 12 [consecutive] losses is no fun for anybody," Maddon told The Athletic. "But there are people who get it, who can easily see why. It's not to point the finger at just one particular person. We just needed to get the guys back on track, get a couple of wins, get the mojo going again. But we didn't get that opportunity."
Nevin becomes the third Angels manager since the end of Scioscia's 19-year run in 2018. Minasian, a longtime executive for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves, is the team's fourth full-time GM since Bill Stoneman ended his nine-year run in 2007. Since being brought in at the start of the 2021 season, Minasian has been given the freedom to make major decisions in a manner that wasn't afforded to prior executives such as Billy Eppler and Jerry Dipoto.
In May 2021, he released Albert Pujols early in the last year of his $240 million contract. In April 2022, he released Justin Upton days before the start of the last year of his $106 million deal. Now he has cut ties with Maddon, a celebrated member of the organization, in the final guaranteed year of his contract.
Maddon's replacement, Nevin, carved out a 12-year playing career in the major leagues before embarking on a coaching trek that began with a stint in independent ball and was followed by seven years as a manager in minor league systems of the Detroit Tigers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Nevin, 51, served as third-base coach for the New York Yankees over the past four years. Throughout his career, he became known for his fiery personality. Minasian, who knows him dating back to their time together with the Texas Rangers from 2005 to 2006, hopes Nevin will light a spark in an Angels team that desperately needs one.
"People know that I've wanted to have this opportunity, and this isn't how I envisioned it," Nevin said. "I envisioned this being a happy, great day, and addressing the media, the players, the staff, but obviously this is under different circumstances. And I don't feel those same emotions. I am excited. Absolutely. I'm excited for this opportunity. The conversation I had with Joe earlier really set me at ease. He was great; told me to just take this and run with it and be the person I am, which I plan to do. So that made it easier on me, because it has been an emotional day."
The Angels have famously not won a postseason game despite employing the game's best player, Trout, for the past dozen years. And the pressure to play into October has only ratcheted with the emergence of Ohtani as a pitching and hitting force. Trout is now in his age-30 season; Ohtani, 27, is in his second-to-last season before free agency. The Angels' most recent winning season came in 2015, giving them the longest active consecutive-losing-seasons streak in the majors. Since then, they've been slowed mostly by a lack of quality pitching and inferior depth throughout their 40-man roster.
Minasian added Noah Syndergaard and beefed up the back end of the bullpen over the offseason. He hoped those moves, coupled by health from his best players, would make the difference. But the Angels are suddenly in an all-too-familiar situation.
"We wanna win," Minasian said. "This group wants to win, this group is built to win, they have the mindset to win. I think we have the talent to win. I did not like the way we were playing the last two weeks. I did not like the way we were playing the last three weeks, to be honest. We had a really good stretch in April, half of May, and we haven't played the brand of baseball we played early. And I'm not putting that on Joe. It's not his fault. It's all of us. Every single person. But at this time, I felt like a different mix, a different voice, would be good for the group."