Joe Maddon is out in Anaheim, as the Angels announced Tuesday afternoon he’d been relieved of his managerial duties. Third base coach Phil Nevin will take over on an interim basis. Maddon had been in the final guaranteed season of his contract, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes the club will owe him a $1MM buyout on a 2023 option.
Shortly after the news broke, Maddon spoke with Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic. He expressed “a lot” of surprise with the decision, conceding that the team’s recent play had been disappointing but opining there “wasn’t an issue of camaraderie or lack of leadership.” Asked point blank whether he wanted to continue managing, the 68-year-old replied “Of course I want to manage. I’m really good at it.”
The change comes as the Halos are mired in a disastrous stretch. Los Angeles is currently amidst a 12-game losing streak, one that has seen the club fall two games under .500. The Angels had started the season as one of the hottest teams in the major leagues, but their dreadful past couple of weeks has dropped them eight and a half games behind the Astros in the American League West. They enter play Tuesday tied with the White Sox for the AL’s eighth-best record overall.
A midseason dismissal is certainly not the result the Halos envisioned when they first hired Maddon during the 2019-20 offseason. Los Angeles signed him to a three-year, $12MM guarantee within days of the veteran manager’s departure from the Cubs. The Angels ousted former skipper Brad Ausmus after just one season, bringing Maddon aboard in hopes he’d be able to replicate the success he’d experienced in his previous stops.
That hiring was overseen by former general manager Billy Eppler, with owner Arte Moreno reportedly playing a significant role in the search process. The Angels dismissed Eppler just one year later, hiring Perry Minasian to oversee baseball operations. How notable it is that Minasian wasn’t involved in Maddon’s hiring isn’t clear, but the organization declined to discuss an extension last winter even as Maddon entered the final guaranteed year of his deal.
Maddon has been an MLB manager for 17 straight seasons, with his first permanent position coming at the helm of the 2006 Devil Rays. Tampa Bay scuffled through a pair of last-place finishes to start his tenure, but they reeled off six straight winning seasons between 2008-13. The Rays won the AL pennant in 2008, a season in which Maddon claimed the first of three Manager of the Year nods. After the 2014 season, Maddon and the Rays went their separate ways, and he took over an ascending team on the north side of Chicago.
Over five seasons with the Cubs, Maddon oversaw four playoff appearances. The highlight was a 103-win 2016 campaign that culminated in the franchise’s curse-snapping World Series title. While the team never reached the dynastic heights some had expected, they were consistently effective. Chicago played above .500 ball in all five of Maddon’s years at the helm, a stretch that coincided with four losing seasons for the Angels.
The Angels hoped he’d continue those winning ways in Southern California, but the team hasn’t managed to break through. Despite the presence of Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon and breakout position players like Jared Walsh and Taylor Ward, the Angels lost more games than they won with Maddon at the helm. Los Angeles went just 26-34 during the shortened 2020 season, then slumped to a 77-85 finish last year. While their strong April made it seem as if 2022 might be their long-awaited breakout, the past two weeks have instead brought Maddon’s tenure in Orange County to an unceremonious end.
One can’t simply attribute the entirety of any team’s underperformance to the manager, and Maddon’s Angels are no exception. The club was dealt a massive blow last season when Trout suffered a May calf strain that ultimately proved to be season-ending. They’ve had a top-heavy roster throughout Maddon’s tenure, with the back of the rotation and bottom of the order often struggling to such an extent that MVP-caliber play from Trout and Ohtani (and Ward thus far in 2022) hasn’t been enough to get the team back to the postseason.
To some extent, the Angels have addressed the rotation woes that have been one of the organization’s recent downfalls. Los Angeles ranks 12th in rotation ERA (3.77) despite an underwhelming 20.8% strikeout rate. That’s solid enough run prevention from the starting staff, but the Halo bullpen is tied for the MLB lead with 12 blown saves.
The lineup has been effective overall, but the Angels’ somewhat curious decision not to address the middle infield this past winter has proven problematic. Tyler Wade and Andrew Velazquez have offered next to nothing offensively, and they’ve been forced into larger than expected roles by a pair of David Fletcher injured list stints. Ward and Rendon are also on the IL, and the club’s depth options haven’t performed of late. Over the past two weeks, the team is hitting a woeful .228/.287/.334.
All that said, the season certainly isn’t lost for the Halos. Their strong early work served both to illustrate the roster’s capacity for better play — particularly with Ward and Rendon healthy — and bought them enough room in the standings that they’re still right in the thick of the Wild Card race. The Angels sit just a game and a half out of the final playoff spot, and there’s still plenty of time for the club to make a push if they can break out of their current swoon.
It’ll be Nevin who’s tasked with leading those efforts. The 51-year-old just joined the organization this past offseason, signing on as third base coach. That came on the heels of a four-year run serving as third base coach in the Bronx under Aaron Boone. After the Yankees declined to renew Nevin’s contract last winter, he made the jump to Anaheim and will now get his first shot in a major league manager’s chair.
Nevin is a household name in spite of his lack of managerial experience, as he spent more than a decade as a player in the major leagues. The first overall pick in the 1992 amateur draft, he suited up with seven teams over parts of 12 big league seasons between 1995-2006. Nevin earned an All-Star nod during a 2001 campaign with the Padres in which he hit 41 home runs, and he twice earned down-ballot MVP support during his time in San Diego. All told, he collected more than 1100 hits and 200 longballs during his MLB run.
Since hanging up his spikes, Nevin has bounced between a handful of organizations during a lengthy run as a coach and minor league skipper. He managed in the Tigers’ and Diamondbacks’ farm systems for a few seasons, reaching as high as Triple-A in that role. Heading into the 2017 season, Nevin made the jump to MLB coaching as Giants’ third base coach before his stints with the Yankees and Angels. He’s drawn consideration for various managerial posts in years past — most recently interviewing with the Tigers during the 2020-21 offseason for the position that ultimately went to A.J. Hinch — but his first position will come an interim basis.
Whether Nevin is in consideration for a permanent position presumably depends on how the team fares over the coming months. The Angels join the Phillies — who replaced Joe Girardi with Rob Thomson last week — as teams going with interim skippers for the 2022 campaign.
Buster Olney of ESPN reported shortly before the team announcement that a managerial change was under consideration.
Images courtesy of USA Today Sports.