Eppler 'committed to championship standards'
Angels' new GM says he believes in working with current personnel
ANAHEIM -- Billy Eppler heard all about the potential pitfalls that came with being the general manager of the Angels and basically shrugged them off. He came up with the Yankees, an organization that experiences pressure like no other. In his first five years in the Bronx, the bombastic, unpredictable, cutthroat George Steinbrenner was the owner. And all throughout, the high expectations and the inflated payrolls never ceased.
This, Eppler emphasized, was the job he wanted.
"I'm looking for a place that has high expectations, I'm looking for a place that has a demanding work environment, because that, professionally, is where I grew up," Eppler said on Monday, moments after being introduced as the 12th GM in Angels history. "It's second nature for me to work in environments that have expectations. That's why I wanted this job -- that's why I gravitated to this job."
Eppler, born and raised in San Diego, admittedly thought he had this job four years ago, until Angels owner Arte Moreno and president John Carpino chose Jerry Dipoto. The Angels still wanted Eppler in a different capacity then, but Yankees senior vice president and GM Brian Cashman countered by making Eppler his assistant.
The Angels interviewed Eppler again on Sept. 14, at a ritzy Italian steakhouse in midtown Manhattan named Pietro's. Moreno and Carpino were there, as was chairman Dennis Kuhl.
Eppler ordered water.
"You better have a glass of wine," Moreno told him.
So Eppler did. And then they talked, for nearly four hours, about the job, about the roster, about the manager, about the former GM and about the fallout. The second time around, Moreno sensed "the same energy and creativity, and he was coming from a winning organization, and we really felt that he stepped up."
The Angels conducted "close to 10 face-to-face interviews," Carpino said. But Eppler, 40, was the prime candidate from start to finish. He wound up getting a four-year contract, one year longer than what longtime manager Mike Scioscia is currently guaranteed for.
The reality of working with a strong-willed manager and a hands-on owner was "a non-issue for me," Eppler said.
"I understand the role of a general manager. I understand pooling opinions, collecting analysis, collecting information, disseminating that, putting together a recommendation, as well as some alternative recommendations, and taking it to the powers that be. And then from there, implementing and executing a plan."
Eppler pitched and then received a finance degree from the University of Connecticut in 1998. He scouted for the Rockies from 2000-04, at one point working with Angels assistant GM Matt Klentak, an intern at the time. Then, Eppler moved on to an 11-year career with the Yankees, a place where he went from scouting director to assistant GM.
The Angels announced Eppler as their GM late Sunday night.
"Ideally what we were planning on was announcing it Tuesday," Carpino said, "after we beat the Yankees in the Wild Card Game."
Instead, the Angels' season ended that afternoon, and Eppler sent an e-mail to everyone he had worked for in the Yankees organization later that night.
"I got a little choked up," Eppler admitted. "And then when I hit 'send,' it was really tough."
Eppler will return to New York on Tuesday, pack his belongings, return to Southern California and begin the process of gathering information for all of the difficult decisions that lie ahead. He might stay to watch the American League Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser -- slated for 8 p.m. ET at Yankee Stadium -- but he wasn't sure.
Eppler has a lot of work to do, from putting together a front-office group to evaluating the Major League coaching staff to sorting through all of the holes on the roster. Most importantly, perhaps, is getting the front office, coaching staff and player-development staff on the same page.
"It has to happen," Moreno said. "If I'm dictating a policy, or someone else is dictating policy, and it's not the consensus we need to move us forward, then we're not going to move forward. That flexibility of communication, as far as we've tried to run this organization, we've always tried to keep that in. Once in a while, things get out of whack."
Eppler spoke to Dipoto, the new Mariners GM who resigned from his Angels job on July 1, but didn't go into details about their conversation. Eppler was also non-committal on personnel decisions, because he still has a lot to digest.
"I just want to understand everybody's philosophy," he said. "I want to understand what were the protocols in place, what was the internal philosophy, and just try to understand it as much as possible before we roll up our sleeves and get to work. The learning-the-people process is paramount to this."
Eppler called scouting "the lifeblood of the Angels' talent-procurement efforts," but also praised "the effect a mindful and a forward-thinking front office can have on an organization." He believes analytics "can be a very valuable weapon," but, he added: "like any weapon, if you don't use it right, it can blow up on you."
Eppler began Monday's press conference by reading from a prepared statement for nearly five minutes. He called it "an extremely exciting day for me," said joining an organization "that's this committed to winning is truly an honor" and talked about being "committed to championship standards."
Then he turned to Moreno, seated to his left.
"I'm humbled in your faith in me," Eppler said, "and I'll make you proud of this decision."