ANAHEIM -- After the Angels’ hot start to the season was all but undone by a 12-game losing streak, manager Joe Maddon was relieved of his duties on Tuesday. Third-base coach Phil Nevin took over as interim manager for the remainder of the season, with bench coach Mike Gallego moving to the third-base coach role.
"Tough day," general manager Perry Minasian said before the losing streak reached 13 games with a 10-inning loss to the Red Sox. "Not something that I thought was going to happen three weeks ago, but I felt like it was in the best interest of the club going forward to make a change at the managerial position. I love Joe Maddon. … This morning was really tough, but my job in this position is to do what’s best for the organization, day in and day out. And I don’t take that lightly. I wake up thinking about it, I go to bed thinking about it, and where we were today, waking up today, I felt like it was the right thing to do."
Maddon, who won the World Series as Cubs manager in 2016 and the American League pennant as Rays manager in ‘08, was hired as Angels manager ahead of what ended up being the pandemic-shortened ‘20 season. That year, the Angels went 26-34 to finish fourth in the AL West. They finished fourth again in ‘21, when they went 77-85. He departs with the club at 27-29 and in second place. Including his two stints as interim manager in 1996 and ‘99, Maddon’s overall record as Angels manager is 157-172, a .477 winning percentage.
The Angels started off 2022 strong, spending much of the year in first place, their peak coming on May 15, when they were 11 games over .500 at 24-13. Injuries have since taken their toll on the club, with the current losing streak beginning on May 25. Even so, the Angels entered play Tuesday still very much in playoff contention, 1 1/2 games out of the second AL Wild Card spot. For the front office, that was enough of a reason to make a change as soon as possible.
In an interview with Ken Rosenthal for The Athletic, Maddon said that he was surprised by the front office’s decision, which came to him with no warning.
“You always rely on people in charge to read the tea leaves properly,” Maddon told The Athletic. “This time, they did not. You didn’t even have to ask me. You can ask any of the players or coaches. They’re the ones who really know.”
This is the second managerial firing in the Majors this year, as the Phillies let Joe Girardi go on Friday -- just prior to the start of their series against the Angels.
The prevailing sentiment amongst Angels players on Tuesday was one of personal accountability. Several expressed that Maddon was not culpable for the club’s recent struggles as much as the players were.
“Obviously, this is not all Joe’s fault,” said Shohei Ohtani, through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “Players are, myself [included], to blame, because I was underperforming.”
Minasian noted that he didn’t consult with players or coaches before letting Maddon go, which contributed to the shock felt throughout the Halos’ clubhouse. But while there was a feeling of sadness, there was also a sense of optimism for what Nevin might bring to the club.
“You have a guy here for three years, you build relationships that are obviously bigger than just baseball,” said Mike Trout. “You got to know him. So it’s just tough, but we’re moving in a new direction [with Nevin].”
This is Nevin’s first stint as a big league skipper, though he has plenty of managerial experience, having managed several Minor League and independent ball teams from 2008-16. Prior to his promotion, he was in his sixth season as a third-base coach, having served that role for the Giants in ‘17 and for the Yankees from ‘18-’21. As a player, he was something of a journeyman, dividing his 11 seasons between seven clubs from 1995-2006 -- including the Angels in ‘98, when he slashed .228/.291/.371 with eight homers and 27 RBIs. Nevin is the first No. 1 overall Draft pick in baseball history to be named manager.
“Nev has worked a long time to get this opportunity,” said Archie Bradley, who played under Nevin with the Reno Aces in 2015-16. “Regardless of how it came to him, I’m excited for him, personally. I think our team’s excited for him, and I think he’ll be the guy to lead us and get this thing turned around.”
Nevin comes to his new role with a couple of advantages. Not only does he already know his players well, he also has their respect.
“He's an intense competitor,” said Jared Walsh. “He'll be giving the umpires hell sometimes if he disagrees with something. But overall, I think he's done it. He [coached] in New York -- that's a pretty big market, he had a lot of experience there, third-base coach -- and managed a lot in the Minor Leagues, played in the big leagues for a long time. So I think he's got the track record.”
For Maddon’s part, this might not be the last we’ve seen of him. He’s interested in managing again, should the opportunity arise.
“Of course I want to manage,” Maddon told The Athletic. “I’m really good at it.”
And even though Maddon is gone, his influence will certainly still be felt in the Angels’ dugout. After all, he was a mentor for Nevin.
"I played for Joe, I was excited to come work with Joe, I’ve learned a lot from him," said Nevin. "We had a great conversation today. He’s a great man, and I appreciate everything he’s done for me."