'New era of Angel baseball' begins with Maddon

October 24th, 2019

ANAHEIM -- As Joe Maddon took his place in front of the dais above the pitcher’s mound at Angel Stadium as part of his introductory press conference as the Angels' manager on Thursday, he couldn’t help but look up and marvel about his long road back to the organization that employed him for 31 years.

“How cool is this?” Maddon said to begin his opening statement, which lasted nearly 18 minutes. “I tossed and turned last night thinking about all this stuff. It’s very emotional. To be back here and see your name up here is pretty special.”

It was a homecoming for Maddon and his wife, Jaye, who were joined on the stage by owner Arte Moreno and general manager Billy Eppler. Maddon made it clear he believes there’s an “Angels Way,” and that his goal is to bring it back to a club that hasn’t won a postseason game since 2009 and has made the postseason just once over the last decade.

"I want us to reestablish our own identity here. I want us to play the Angels game," Maddon said. "This is about excellence over a period of time. This isn't just about being good for a brief window and then moving it along. The only way to get that done: you have to establish your culture, you have to establish a methodology -- 'This is how we do things here.' That's what I'm gonna be all about."

Maddon, who signed a three-year deal worth $12 million to become the organization’s 22nd manager and just the third since 1999, also stated he plans to manage the club for longer than just three years, as the 65-year-old wants to cement his legacy by returning the Halos to their winning ways after four straight losing seasons, including their first 90-loss finish in 20 years.

"I’m not going to sugarcoat it or pussyfoot around it,” Maddon said. “My goal is to be playing [in October]. I don’t like watching this on TV right now. It’s much more fun to be involved. Much more fun to be under the scrutiny, Much more fun to be second-guessed than to not. Never permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure of the moment, ever. When you arrive at that point, that’s when you can really do some special things. That’s what I’m really going to preach this year.”

Maddon served in a variety of roles in his time with the Angels, beginning in 1979, including stints as a scout, a Minor League hitting coordinator, Minor League manager, Minor League field coordinator, Major League first-base coach and Major League bench coach. He served in that role as bench coach for more than a decade, including being on Mike Scioscia’s staff when they won the World Series in 2002.

"We're so excited to have him back," Moreno said. "We're really excited to start a new era of Angel baseball."

Maddon departed in 2006 to manage the Rays for nine years and the Cubs for five seasons, making the postseason eight times and winning the '16 World Series with Chicago. His experience made him an easy choice for Moreno and Eppler, especially with Maddon longing to return to his original organization.

“Joe has had an impressive managerial career, starting with his success in Tampa before leading his team to a world championship in Chicago, but people forget it was a long process for him to get there,” Eppler said. “It says to me, and it should say to our fans, that we have someone with a growth mindset, someone who has challenged himself to adapt and evolve through a diverse set of experiences. Simply put, he’s both a learner and a teacher. He’s focused on the goal of an organization and how to get there. He has shown he knows how to create a winning culture.”

Bringing that winning culture to the Angels will be an important role for Maddon, who touched upon some things he plans to do differently with the Halos than what they’ve done in recent years. Maddon plans to bring back Angels alumni into prominent roles, especially in Spring Training to connect with the current players. But as far as team rules, the players will know what to expect.

"I don’t have rules, I grew up in the late '60s and early '70s,” Maddon said. “I don’t have a lot of rules. I just don’t. I believe you know what is right and wrong and you choose."

Maddon, though, did say one of his main jobs as manager will be to blend analytics with an old-school style. It fits in with what Eppler has preached since taking over as GM in 2016.

"That's what it comes down to: data vs. art," Maddon said. "Art being the human heartbeat, data being numbers, math, etc. I believe there's a balance to be struck right there. You can use both these things to your advantage, and you should never, ever want to disassociate one or the other -- to just be all analytically inclined or all heartbeat-inclined. You're gonna lose. You're not gonna be the best version of yourself. You're not."

But Maddon also knows the Halos need pitching this offseason if they’re going to compete next year, although Moreno has given him assurances that they will be aggressive this winter. Moreno said the payroll will go up next year, as Moreno wants to bring a World Series back to the organization for the first time since 2002.

Hiring Maddon was the first step in that pursuit. Now, it’ll be up to Eppler to help give Maddon the tools to build a consistent winner, with Moreno’s blessing.

“Arte was very adamant about being ‘all in’ regarding getting this whole thing done and trying to get the right people here,” Maddon said. “He’s always been that guy. Billy is really great to work with already. He’s wide open. He’s already thrown at me some things he’s envisioning. I’m waiting to hear about all that and if some of that stuff comes to fruition, I’ll be very happy. So we’ll wait and see.”