Mired in a 13-game losing streak, the Angels fire Joe Maddon
By Scott Miller
Joe Maddon became the latest Los Angeles Angels manager to fail to execute team owner Arte Moreno’s vision of achieving glory with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in Anaheim. He was fired Tuesday afternoon.
The move came amid a 13-game losing streak. The Angels have slid from a 24-14 record on May 16, when they were tied for first place in the American League West with the Houston Astros, to a 27-30 mark and a 9 1/2-game deficit in the division entering Wednesday night’s game with Boston. With Tuesday night’s 6-5 loss to the Red Sox, Los Angeles established the longest single-season losing streak in club history, surpassing the mark set in 1988.
The club said that Phil Nevin, the team’s third base coach, will take over as the interim manager.
General manager Perry Minasian said he made the decision Tuesday because he thought “it was time for a new voice” and that “it was not something that I thought was going to happen three weeks ago.” But ultimately, he decided, with 106 games remaining in the regular season and the Angels still within 1 1/2 games of an American League playoff spot despite their slide, that he was not willing to wait to see whether Maddon was capable of guiding a turnaround.
So early Tuesday morning, Minasian said, he attended a school ceremony where his daughter was receiving a second-grade award, drove to Angel Stadium and called Moreno with his recommendation and, upon receiving Moreno’s support, drove to Maddon’s home to deliver the news. Minasian said the conversation lasted about 30 minutes and that Maddon was gracious. The general manager said he had “no interaction” with players or coaches in making his decision.
Maddon, who has been close with Moreno since he served on then-manager Mike Scioscia’s coaching staff when Moreno purchased the team, was on top of the world as the World Series-winning manager of the Chicago Cubs just six years ago. He was wooed to Anaheim after parting ways with the Cubs following the 2019 season. The Angels fired Brad Ausmus, who had been with the team for only one year, to secure Maddon, who was in his 33rd season with the organization as a player, coach or manager.
But this is an entirely different Angels organization than the one Maddon left to manage Tampa Bay in 2006. Since Bill Stoneman left following the 2007 season, the club has churned through five general managers: Tony Reagins, Jerry Dipoto, Stoneman again (on an interim basis), Billy Eppler and, now, Minasian. Nevin will be the third manager to lead the team in four seasons following Scioscia’s departure in 2018, following a 19-season run of stability.
Moreno has been chasing a World Series title of his own with the Angels since purchasing the team in 2003, a year after they won while still being owned by The Walt Disney Co. Though they played in the postseason in five of Moreno’s first eight seasons as the team owner, the Angels have not qualified for the playoffs since 2014. Trout is already 30 and Ohtani, the Japanese star who is eligible for free agency following the 2023 season, has dropped strong hints in the past that his future with the Angels may depend on their ability to win. Those facts combine for an uneasy time in the organization.
“Obviously, it’s not my decision,” Trout said when asked about the organizational instability of general managers and managers. “I think, in this game, people come and people go. It’s part of it. It’s tough. There are tough decisions, tough days, and obviously this is one of the tough ones. But we’re here to ultimately win ballgames.”
Things took yet another sour turn later Tuesday night when Trout, who had homered in the first inning, left the game with tightness in his left groin after legging out a double in the third inning.
Ohtani, through translator Ippei Mizuhara, said, “Obviously, this is not all Joe’s fault. The players, including myself, are to blame for underperforming. I just want to say thank you to Joe. I’ve really learned and appreciate everything he’s done for me.”
When Minasian replaced Eppler following a 2020 season in which Los Angeles went 26-34, he was placed in the sometimes-uncomfortable position of inheriting a manager along with the job. As Minasian has struggled to rebuild around two players who have won four of the past eight AL MVP awards (Trout in 2014, 2016 and 2019; Ohtani in 2021), Eppler moved on to the New York Mets, where he is leading the top team in the National League.
Everything seemingly has gone wrong for the Angels during the recent losing streak, from Trout enduring an 0 for 26 slump to third baseman Anthony Rendon landing on the injured list — again — to the team’s pitching staff being wildly inconsistent.
“The last two weeks have been really tough,” Minasian said. “There hasn’t been one phase of the game where we’ve been good. We’ve struggled on the mound, we’ve struggled at the plate, we’ve struggled defensively, we’ve struggled with baserunning. The one thing I will say is the effort has been great. I believe in this group. We’ve gone through a tough stretch.”
In Nevin, whom Minasian said would manage for the rest of the season, the Angels are going with a man who played 12 seasons in the majors and spent the past four summers coaching third base for the New York Yankees. Nevin managed in more than 1,000 games over seven seasons in the Detroit Tigers’ and Arizona Diamondbacks’ minor-league systems, compiling a 481-525 overall record.
“Very rarely do you see somebody with the career path he’s had, to have a major-league career and [have] made enough money as he has, to be quite frank, and to go manage in the minor leagues as many games as he did, it doesn’t happen too often,” Minasian said. “I think we’re going to be in good hands going forward.”
Angels reliever Archie Bradley, who played for Nevin in 2014 and 2015 at Class AAA Reno, noted that the Angels were just in Philadelphia when the Phillies fired their manager, Joe Girardi, on Friday.
“We’ve played this thing down a little bit, but 12 in a row is a lot,” Bradley said of the losing streak after a 1-0 loss to the Red Sox on Tuesday night and the guilt involved in having a manager fired. “We’ve got to do something different. We’ve kept a good attitude, but when people begin losing jobs and going home because of it, from a player’s standpoint, you never get used to it.”
Over 19 seasons as either a manager or interim manager with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Cubs and the Angels, Maddon has compiled a 1,382-1,216 record.
Maddon, via text message, declined to talk late Tuesday afternoon, writing that he’d “been talking all day” and it was time for Mexican food. He said to check back in on Wednesday.