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Alexander: Another fall, another Angels introductory press conference

Alexander: Another fall, another Angels introductory press conference

It has become an autumn ritual in Anaheim, the annual news conference to introduce the next guy who will set the Angels organization right.

Two years ago it was a new manager, Brad Ausmus.

Last year it was another new manager, Joe Maddon.

Tuesday, via Zoom, it was a new general manager, 40-year-old Perry Minasian, a first-time GM charged with reversing a slide that includes five straight sub-.500 seasons and six seasons since the Angels won the AL West and Mike Trout, the best player of his era, made his only postseason appearance.

There is, of course, one common denominator. I suspect Arte Moreno is as tired of these news conferences as anyone – among other things, they’re generally the only time he talks to the media – but there seems to be a body of thought elsewhere in baseball that the team’s frustrating results have their roots in the owner’s suite, and that any job administering the Angels is a tougher one precisely because Moreno is hands-on in baseball as well as business decisions.

There is a pattern here. Of the four general managers Moreno has hired since buying the club in 2003, three were rookie GMs: Tony Reagins (2008-11), Billy Eppler (’16-20) and Minasian. The other, Jerry DiPoto (’12-15), was interim general manager in Arizona for half a season before the Angels hired him.

Minasian, notably, indicated up front that part of the appeal of this job was being able to work with a manager like Maddon, saying, “To be able to give (him) the keys to the car and not worry about downstairs is huge, for any young general manager. For me, that’s going to be very, very important in this relationship.”

Moreno said he, too, found that collaborative mindset appealing as well.

“Probably the number one thing was his attitude about communication and communicating with the manager and the players and being able to listen to what was happening at the field level with both managers and players,” the owner said. “I thought that was a very good quality. That is very hard to find someone that believes, you know, that they (don’t) have all the answers. I mean, it’s a complicated game and if you’re not listening you’re not learning. So I just felt that one of the other things he talked about was winning, surrounding yourself with good people, quality people that can listen, learn and compete at the highest level.”

That all sounds good. The danger is what happens when collaboration turns into the owner saying, “I don’t like that. Do it this way.”

Or, to put it another way, what might have transpired if Ross Stripling and Joc Pederson had become Angels, as was going to happen in February before Moreno vetoed the deal Billy Eppler had made with the Dodgers?

Minasian’s backstory, as one who grew up around the game and was familiar at an early age with the etiquette of the clubhouse, is less important than his more recent experience in the game. He was a pro scout with the Texas Rangers, the organization for which his dad was clubhouse manager and he was a batboy. And Minasian was a scout, scouting director and special assistant to the GM in Toronto, and more recently director of player personnel and eventually Senior VP of baseball operations and assistant GM in Atlanta under Alex Anthopoulos.

He recognizes that there’s a fairly severe learning curve any time you assume the No. 1 chair.

“Obviously, being in this job, there’s going to be certain things that come up that I haven’t experienced before,” he said, “but I’m going to surround myself with people around me that are going to be able to help handle these experiences.”

Then he added this:

“My Rolodex is long and being around as long as I have, I can pick up the phone and call former general managers. I can call a Tom Grieve, who allowed me to be in (the Texas Rangers’) clubhouse when I was 8 years old and is one of the best baseball people I’ve ever met. I can call a Doug Melvin, a John Hart, those people that have been in those positions, I can call an Alex Anthopoulos as a friend and ask for advice. And that’s – it’s really important to me. And I think that’s a huge advantage for me.”

Rolodex, eh? For a young executive, that’s awfully old school.

He and Maddon seem to mesh in terms of the balance between analytics and instincts, or as Maddon calls it, “data and art.” Basically, be aware of the data, use it when appropriate but don’t let it rule your decision-making.

“I believe you need to balance the numbers with the heartbeat,” Maddon told Fox Sports West’s Patrick O’Neal and Mark Gubicza after Tuesday’s news conference. “There’s certain nights that it’s gonna be all about the heartbeat. A lot of times it is. And there’s times that those numbers may possibly influence a decision in a good way. But you have to be able to balance this out. You just can’t go one way or the other completely.”

Minasian declined to disclose a target payroll figure for 2021, not surprising because of the game’s economic uncertainty but also, he said, because that “does not do anything from a competitive advantage standpoint.” He did note that the plan was to beef up other departments within the organization, but “those will be conversations down the road,” almost certainly with the owner.

It was at the end of the regular season – one in which the Angels bottomed out early before a 17-12 finish gave them an outside shot at a playoff berth going into the final weekend – that club president John Carpino told reporters, “We’re not winning games, so something is not right in our organization.”

If Minasian can help fix it, he’ll be a hero. If he can’t, won’t it be past time to point the finger higher on the organizational chart?

@Jim_Alexander on Twitter

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