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Column: Angels general manager Perry Minasian makes the tough call, but it better be right one

Surprised that Perry Minasian fired Joe Maddon?

Don’t be.

As a rookie general manager last year, Minasian released Albert Pujols in the final season of his 10-year, $240-million contract.

Minasian made a similar move in April, dumping outfielder Justin Upton with $28 million remaining on his deal.

Really think Minasian wouldn’t sack a lame-duck manager he inherited?

At a time when baseball is run by cautious executives who are more concerned with protecting their jobs than winning, Minasian stands out for how unafraid he is.

He’s unafraid to be decisive.

He’s unafraid to take responsibility for his choices.

Which isn’t to say he made the right call by parting ways with the former World Series champion manager who oversaw the Angels’ 12-game losing streak heading into Tuesday.

Whether Minasian is the caliber of decision maker worthy of leading the Angels remains unknown. But playing the part of leader will require him to act the part of leader. Minasian is doing that.

He could have taken the safer option of doing nothing. He could have blamed the depleted farm system he inherited for forcing him to search the free-agent market for relievers, who are notoriously volatile performers. He could have said he felt obligated to keep Maddon because of his $4-million salary.

Instead, Minasian tried to salvage his free-falling team’s season by replacing Maddon with interim manager Phil Nevin, even if doing so removed the primary safety barrier between him and unemployment.

Maddon’s departure leaves Minasian as next in line for the firing squad.

“All of us are accountable, every person, me front and center,” Minasian said.

He owned the decision entirely, saying he didn’t speak to Arte Moreno about Maddon’s job status until he asked the Angels’ owner to sign off on the move Tuesday morning.

He also said he didn’t consult any of the players.

This was Minasian’s call and Minasian’s call only.

If the move eventually turns around the Angels, Minasian will receive the credit. If it doesn’t, he will shoulder the blame.

In spelling out why Maddon was fired, Minasian essentially detailed the criteria by which his work as general manager should be judged.

Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, right, shakes hands with manager Joe Maddon while general manager Perry Minasian, left, watches during a ceremony before a game on May 10 at Angel Stadium.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

“I think it’s just wins and losses,” Minasian said. “That’s what it boils down to.”

The majority of modern-day executives would be less specific, fearing their reasoning would be weaponized later to justify their own firings.

Maddon didn’t get any extra credit for his role in keeping players motivated while they went from being tied with the Houston Astros for first place in the American League West on May15 to 81/2 games behind them entering Tuesday.

He didn’t receive any leniency because of the injuries to Taylor Ward or Anthony Rendon. He wasn’t granted a free pass because of Mike Trout’s 0-for-26 slump.

Minasian now has to expect to be held to the same standard.

“Our work is based on results,” he said, “and bottom line is we’re here to win games.”

Minasian acknowledged his displeasure with the team extended beyond its recent slide.

“I did not like the way we were playing the last two weeks, three weeks, to be honest,” he said. “We had a really good stretch in April, half of May, and we haven’t played the brand of baseball we played early.”

Minasian described how the team’s once “fundamentally sound” play degenerated into something considerably sloppier.

The son of a former major league clubhouse manager, the analytically inclined Minasian wasn’t afraid to draw on his personal observations to explain how the voice of a new manager could sharpen a team’s form.

“When there’s change, it can do different things to the room,” Minasian said. “I’ve seen it. I’ve experienced it. And I think what Nev brings to the table will help the room and will help spark us and help us win games.”

Minasian could have waited several more days to make Nevin the manager.

The Angels were about to play the Boston Red Sox in the second game of their four-game series Tuesday night. The New York Mets are visiting next for three games. The Angels will then play a two-game set against the Dodgers.

Delaying the move until after the Dodgers series would have allowed Nevin to start his managerial career with five games on the road against the downtrodden Seattle Mariners and three more at home against the even-worse Kansas City Royals.

But Minasian wasn’t making a change to shape perception. He was making a change to transform his team’s reality, and that couldn’t wait.

The Angels were only 11/2 games out of a wild-card spot entering Tuesday.

What happened next was an example of why others in his position take more cynical approaches to their jobs: In the third inning of the Angels’ game Tuesday night, Trout exited because of tightness in his left groin.



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