As a first-time general manager,
“I had the pleasure of cleaning bathrooms before cleaning crews for eight years, so that was a lot of fun,” Minasian said of his unlikely first step up the ladder to the front office.
His ascent peaked last week when he signed a four-year contract to shape a team that has lacked smart, strategic leadership almost as badly as it has lacked high-quality pitching.
Minasian, 40, became the Angels’ fourth straight first-time GM. After five straight losing seasons and one playoff appearance in the last 11 seasons — a sweep at the hands of Kansas City in 2014 — it made sense the Angels would pursue an experienced hand. That they’d require someone who had previously revived a feeble farm system, a proven winner who could build a strong supporting cast around Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon and transform the team into a contender while each of those superstars is still in his prime. That window might not be open very long, adding urgency to the Angels getting this hire right.
But Minasian, who steadily progressed from latrine duty to scouting, baseball operations roles and assistant GM jobs with the Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves, won over Angels owner Arte Moreno, club president John Carpino and manager Joe Maddon during mostly remote interviews with his enthusiasm, knowledge and insistence on communication. And he practices what he preaches.
“I think my Zoom calls went over the time allotted,” Minasian said Tuesday during an introductory news conference at Angel Stadium. “If you start asking me baseball questions, you’d better take a seat and get comfortable. I love talking the game. I love talking about the different experiences I’ve had.”
Moreno said the job drew about 40 applicants. He reviewed Zoom interviews when the field shrank to 18 or 20.
“I was surprised at the quality of all the candidates and the organizations they were coming from,” Moreno said.
The next cut left seven or eight candidates and led to more interviews.
“Those Zoom calls were anywhere from an hour and a half to I think Perry’s probably lasted two and a half or three hours,” Moreno said. He then met with Minasian, planning to spend an hour, but “ended up spending 3½ hours talking about his experience and what we were looking for and what the fit was, and it was sort of a team effort,” Moreno said.
Maddon, speaking to Fox Sports West after the news conference, said he had reviewed the Zoom interviews and is still getting to know Minasian. But Maddon said they found common ground when it comes to blending analytics with old-time gut feelings.
“When you talk to him, philosophically, there’s a real alignment there,” Maddon said. “I’m not an extremist in any way shape or form. I believe in balance and I believe you need to balance the numbers with the heartbeat. There’s certain nights it’s going to be all about the heartbeat 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 can’t go one way or the other completely. We’ve already talked about that because I do believe in heartbeat…. For me, a lot of it has to do with planning, the balance between the heartbeat and the numbers.”
Minasian doesn’t shy away from analytics but he plans to rely on intuition, too. “I do think my background is a little different than most. I’ve been in a big league clubhouse for 30-plus years of my lifetime. I’ve seen different clubs, I’ve seen different personalities, different players. I think that’s one of the advantages I’ll have,” he said.
“I’ve been around enough to see a lot of different situations and what makes players tick and when they need a pat on the back or a hug or when they need to have a serious conversation with somebody. So I think that’s a feel component in me being around as long as I have. I feel like that’s one of my strong suits and it will come in handy.”
As the playoffs began without the Angels’ participation, Carpino, in an unusually frank moment, said the organization wasn’t “doing it the right way,” and added, “You have to look in the mirror and find out what’s happening here that’s causing us not to be playing this week or deep into October.”
Trout, the coaching staff and Maddon contributed their input to the offseason analysis. The obvious explanation for their failures is their lack of pitching depth, a concern Minasian said will be “first and foremost,” along with filling out his staff and familiarizing himself with the organization’s personnel.
“We’re going to be open to everything,” he said. “We’re going to try to make this team as good as it can be in any way, whether that’s offensively, defensively, on the mound, support staff, too. Anywhere we feel like we can gain a competitive advantage and improve our chances, our odds to win games, we’re going to do that.”
Persuading Moreno to invest in the farm system also should be prominent on his to-do list. It was encouraging to hear Minasian say he wants to beef up employment, “whether that’s scouting, whether that’s analytics,” and he will push for that in future conversations.
At least twice while he faced the TV cameras Minasian declared the Angels are on the cusp of doing great things. His enthusiasm rang true, but objective evaluation of their roster and prospects suggests otherwise. He’s asking the Angels to take a big step forward, but he has taken a few himself since his unlikely beginning. They will succeed or fail together.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.