Halos launch new era with Ausmus as skipper

17th manager in franchise history introduced at Angel Stadium

October 23rd, 2018

ANAHEIM -- Brad Ausmus was in the running for at least one other managerial opening this offseason, but there was no doubt in his mind that the Angels were his preferred destination.

"It was No. 1," Ausmus said.

Ausmus turned out to be the Angels' top choice as well. Melding his 18-year career as a Major League catcher, his evolving knowledge of analytics and his prior managerial experience with the Tigers from 2014-17, Ausmus beat out nine other candidates to emerge as the successor to franchise icon Mike Scioscia, who stepped down from his managerial post at the end of the season following a 19-year tenure with the Angels.

Halos eager to see Ausmus' analytics in action

Monday signaled the beginning of a new epoch, with the Angels formally introducing Ausmus as the 17th manager in club history during a news conference at Angel Stadium. Ausmus, who signed a three-year deal with the club, was not an unfamiliar face, as he spent the past season in the Angels' front office as a special assistant to general manager Billy Eppler.

"In our year working with Brad and throughout our interview process, we saw someone who possessed an exceptional combination of the qualities we were looking for in our next manager," Eppler said. "His curiosity, his competitiveness and his knowledge showed us that he's the right person for the job."

Ausmus, a 49-year-old Dartmouth graduate, spent time in the Padres' front office before earning his first opportunity to manage with the Tigers, who hired him to replace Jim Leyland in November 2013. Ausmus guided the Tigers to a 90-72 record and the American League Central title in his first season, though the club missed the playoffs the next three years. Detroit went 314-332 (.486 winning percentage) in four seasons under Ausmus, who departed the organization last fall after his contract was not renewed.

Ausmus said he thinks that experience can only help him as he enters his second managerial gig.

"There's no question that experience is an asset," Ausmus said. "I think in every walk of life, experience is an asset. In managing, whether you experience something in the clubhouse or you experience something tactically on the field, rather than have to reconsider it, it becomes a little more reflexive. You can react to it and understand what the end result will be if you don't react quickly or properly.

"I know part of the reason I was actually hired in Detroit was the new wave of hiring a young manager with no experience that can relate to the players. But the truth of the matter is that experience helps you everywhere. And if you can still relate to players and have experience as a manager, I don't understand how it can't be an asset."

Eppler and Ausmus didn't have much of a relationship before last year, but they shared mutual friends in the San Diego area and are both avid surfers.

"When he was available last year, I texted him and said, 'Hey, you want to go have some breakfast?'" Eppler said. "We did and started to get to know each other."

Ausmus said part of the reason he wanted to join the Angels last fall was to deepen his own knowledge of analytics, which he said he used during his playing days to develop scouting reports for opposing players before each series.

"It allowed me to dive into what is the meat and potatoes of analytics now and the amount of information. It was remarkable to me because I hadn't seen it," Ausmus said. "I think I'm a pretty quick study on it, but that was the crux of why, when Billy asked me to come over here, I felt like it was going to be a really good fit."

Ausmus' analytical fluency was tested during the Angels' lengthy interview process, which included a two-hour written exam meant to assess each candidate's critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

Asked how Ausmus performed on the test, Eppler joked, "We're still grading him. It'll be four to six weeks, and we'll get the results in the mail."

Monday marked the Angels' first introduction of a manager since Nov. 18, 1999. Ausmus was teammates with Scioscia with the Padres in 1993, though Scioscia didn't play that year due to a rotator cuff injury. Ausmus said on Monday that Scioscia sent him a congratulatory text when the Angels made his hiring official on Sunday afternoon.

"I really appreciate what [Scioscia] did. He immediately brought me in as part of the team in Spring Training, even on the field, in uniform, throwing batting practice or hitting some ground balls," Ausmus said. "Replacing him? It's not ever going to be easy to replace someone like Scioscia … [he] was here for 19 years. I don't know that we'll ever see that again. But I'm not here to try and be Mike Scioscia. He was a great, great manager. Maybe he continues to manage. But I'm not here to be Mike Scioscia."

Top Angels brass, front-office personnel and current right-handers and JC Ramirez -- who are both rehabbing from Tommy John surgery -- were among those in attendance for the introduction. During Ausmus' opening remarks, Middleton held up a handmade sign bearing the words "Ausmus 4 President" to show his support for the club's new field boss.

"That's our new leader, man, and I just wanted to show some love," Middleton said. "I feel like they brought in the right guy. I've seen Ausmus around. He's a great person. I talked to him all season long, so I'm excited about it."

Ausmus will inherit a team headlined by two-time American League MVP Award winner , Japanese star and defensive whiz , but he will also be charged with steering the Angels back into the postseason for the first time since 2014. The Angels went 80-82 in 2018 and finished in fourth place in the highly competitive American League West, 23 games behind the division-champion Astros.

Among Ausmus' challenges will be finding a way to effectively deploy the 38-year-old , who will be coming off knee surgery and will need to play a fair amount of first base to create opportunities for Ohtani at designated hitter.

Ausmus, for his part, said he feels good about the Angels' outlook for 2019.

"I'm always optimistic that we're going to win," Ausmus said. "Maybe sometimes I'm being a little blind, but I go into every game thinking we can win that game. I don't get too caught up in how many wins we have to have over the course of the season. I just worry about today. But we have some very talented players on this team, and a lot of them are returning. … We have some holes to fill, we have some gaps, but I still am always optimistic about our chances of winning."

The next step for Ausmus will be to assemble a coaching staff, though decisions will not be finalized for another couple of weeks.