It isn’t a rare occurrence to see Phil Nevin cry publicly. The indelible images of his Los Angeles Angels tenure might be of him screaming at umpires about a call with his head turning red and bulging in disgust. But his emotions often covered both ends of the spectrum. For as often as he yelled at the umps, he fought back tears. When talking about his managing against his son. When remembering his old Cal State Fullerton coach, Augie Garrido.
When Nevin got up on the podium Sunday after the Angels’ final game of the season, he was trying to put on a brave face. But he also recognized the inevitable. A trying season had come to an end, and it came with the potential that everything he was doing might be the last time he did it wearing an Angels uniform.
“I don’t know,” Nevin said, hoping to avoid triggering the waterworks when he was asked about his emotions. “It didn’t go the way we wanted. But I’m proud of the way that group held together.”
The Angels declined the option on Nevin’s contract Monday. He ended his tenure as manager with a record of 119-149.
General manager Perry Minasian was retained for the final year of his contract.
Those two significant decisions answered important questions for the Angels. But the course of this franchise’s future is far from clear. Nevin will be the face of the offseason leadership changes — fair or not — and owner Arte Moreno will hope his fifth manager in the last seven seasons will be the one who gets the job done.
Minasian will be in a significantly tougher position next season, given that he’ll be on an expiring contract. It’s harder to make long-term decisions — and convince others to buy into that vision — when ownership isn’t certain about a GM’s status.
This will also make hiring a quality new manager potentially more complicated. The partnership between a GM and a manager is among the most critical for any team across the sport. And any potential manager will know that their job could be tied to the fate of the GM who gave them their chance.
There’s also the general chaos that seems to surround the Angels at all times. Off the field, the Angels are facing numerous lawsuits. There’s drama surrounding the now infamous deal to purchase the stadium and surrounding land, which led to an FBI investigation and a criminal indictment of a former mayor of Anaheim.
On the field, the team has not made the playoffs since 2014 and has effectively wasted three MVP-caliber seasons of Shohei Ohtani. The farm system is ranked by all reputable outlets as one of the worst in the game. And it’s unclear whether Moreno is willing to spend near the luxury tax threshold for a second straight season.
All of that is to say that any manager considering this position will have to weigh whether they want to join a team defined by its failures and unpredictability. Whoever manages this team in 2024 will be stepping into one of the toughest jobs in the entire sport.
For now, it’s unclear what this means for the rest of the coaching staff, front office or those in player development. If the Angels look internally to hire a manager, infield coach Benji Gil and bench coach Ray Montgomery are the two likeliest candidates.
Gil showed his managerial chops by taking Team Mexico to the WBC, and with his extensive success in the Mexican League. Montgomery has a long track record in the game as a player, coach, scout and executive. He was a part of Minasian’s front office in 2021.
This job was far more attractive in recent years. It featured the allure of managing Mike Trout and Ohtani, paired with coming to Southern California to push a team that once felt much closer to contention. Even with the Angels’ baggage, there were undeniable plusses.
The dynamics of this job have changed. And with it, potentially the ability to land a proven skipper. Buck Showalter, for example, was fired by the New York Mets and has ties to Minasian from their days with the Texas Rangers. There were people in the organization concerned that the front office’s decision to put seven players on waivers in August would have an impact on their ability to sign quality free agents.
The same concern could apply toward acquiring quality managers, who have seen Moreno’s constant churn in the dugout.
Minasian will speak publicly Tuesday. Perhaps he’ll fill in some of the gaps on what the Angels’ plan is. Because the decisions made Monday took on the feeling of an action without a concrete purpose. Because as bad as the record was, Nevin was right about what he said Sunday afternoon. The team itself did not devolve as many do in losing seasons. Nevin was respected by important players on this team — with Trout vocalizing his support just last week.
It will be incumbent on Minasian and his bosses to make organizational changes beyond personnel, and beyond manager. Decisions that put the organization in position to win and make Anaheim a place people want to be.
(Photo: Troy Taormina / USA Today)