The last general manager of Mike Trout’s prime is Perry Minasian, the assistant general manager of the Atlanta Braves and longtime baseball rat who began his career at 8 years old as a Texas Rangers bat boy and clubbie in the locker room his father ran.
Thirty-two years later he will manage an organization’s baseball operations for the first time, becoming the next to attempt to attach Los Angeles Angels relevance to the generation’s finest player.
Scouted in the time of Bill Stoneman, drafted, promoted to the big leagues and an MVP in the years of Tony Reagins, polished into a superstar with Jerry Dipoto, twice an MVP and signed to a $426.5 million contract under Billy Eppler, Trout will turn 30 next summer.
He’s three managers in. On his sixth hitting coach. Who knows how many plans, processes, strategies, hunches, fliers and promises, how many realizations the last one wasn’t going to work and how many innings counted down from center field when the nights turned chilly. He’s one playoff team in (2014), more than 1,200 games in, so many press conferences in, all amounting to time (and, occasionally, money) wasted setting up and breaking down all those folding chairs.
The constant is owner Arte Moreno. The rest is Trout, seven losing seasons in 10 and a truckload of decisions that have, by some measures, resulted in the American League’s worst pitching staff over the past decade. The rest is drama and tragedy and heartache and six-month-long slides into the reality that this, well, this just isn’t going to be their season.
Eppler took over an 85-77 team after 2015 and posted five losing seasons. He was fired six weeks ago. Minasian was chosen from an initial list of about 20 candidates, all with their own stories, career paths, priorities and areas of expertise. The farm system is ranked generally in the bottom 10, the major league team just failed to make a 16-team postseason field and the payroll is always plenty competitive.
In the first hours of the search, team president John Carpino had granted, “We’re not doing it the right way. We’re not winning games. So something is not right in our organization. We have to look at it. You have to look in the mirror to find out what’s happening here that’s causing us not to be playing this week or deep into October.”
He’d also said, “We feel tremendous responsibility to Mike.”
After another fourth-place finish, the club had effectively burned a decade of Trout. Albert Pujols’ contract will expire after 2021. Justin Upton is due more than $50 million over the next two seasons. Beyond Trout, Anthony Rendon (owed $217 million over the next six years) and the final seasons of Pujols and Upton, the roster is available for suggestions. And while the Angels are among the league’s aggressive cost cutters as a result of the pandemic, the free agent market does offer options. There are pitchers — starters and relievers — if not a slam-dunk ace. There are offensive possibilities, if the Angels are to try again to cover for their pitching, which has been tried before.
That is, now, for Perry Minasian to decide, assuming Moreno allows him room to run. On Thursday Moreno lauded his background in scouting, player development and roster construction, all reasonable places to begin, just as they were through the tenures of Reagins, Dipoto and Eppler.
Minasian is under contract for four years, which is not to say there would be a four-year plan. The Angels are rather on an April 1 plan, which is the day they open the 2021 season against the Chicago White Sox. Also, it is the first day of Mike Trout’s 11th big-league season.
Those in the Braves’ front office and those who know him from Toronto and Texas call him smart and savvy and likable and ready for a job that has regularly defeated others. So it will be Minasian who will help carry Trout into his mid-30s, him and the next plan and the next press conference and the next summer nights. The only reasonably sure thing is that Trout will be great for at least a few more years. It hasn’t yet been enough for the Angels. Now there’s a new guy. Another one. Capable, like the rest. Hopeful, like the rest. And confident, like the rest.
We’ll see what he can make of it. We’ll see if he’s different.
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