Washington’s goal in L.A.: ‘To run the West down’

Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. — It was probably already obvious, largely because of how prior winters have gone, but Los Angeles Angels general manager Perry Minasian said so definitively on Wednesday — the Angels don’t plan to take a step back to rebuild, in any capacity, in 2024.

“We’re going to be aggressive this offseason,” Minasian said, “and we’re going to make this team better.”

Minasian’s new manager, the deeply passionate, widely respected Ron Washington, might help.

“I’ve gotten numerous calls already of people that have played for him, people that know him — not only excited for him and his opportunity but wouldn’t mind joining the party over here,” Minasian said. “That’s exciting, too.”

Washington, 71, was formally introduced as the Angels’ fifth manager in eight years on Wednesday, a hiring Minasian touted as one that can ignite an entire organization. Mike Scioscia’s 19-year run, which culminated in the Angels becoming one of the industry’s most successful teams in the early 2000s, was followed by brief stints from Brad Ausmus, Joe Maddon and Phil Nevin. The Angels have gone nine consecutive seasons without qualifying for the postseason and haven’t won a playoff game since 2009.

Washington, who signed a two-year contract that also includes a club option, expects to change that.

“If you remember now — I was in Texas, and guess what we did? We ran the Angels down,” Washington told a large conference room of media members, team employees and current and former players. “Now I’m in California, with the Anaheim Angels — well, the Los Angeles Angels. I’ll get that in my head. Once we get things together, we get these guys together in spring training and start to work, our whole focus is gonna be to run the West down. And you can take that to the bank and deposit it.”

Washington has spent six decades in the sport, more recently carving out a reputation as one of baseball’s best third-base coaches and infield instructors. His tirelessness, devotion and authenticity has been lauded by many. But his two managerial opportunities will come 10 years apart.

Washington famously managed the Texas Rangers for eight seasons, guiding the team to the World Series in 2010 and 2011, but he resigned in September 2014 in the wake of what he cited as an extramarital affair. Washington returned to the Oakland Athletics‘ coaching staff for the next two seasons, then began a seven-year run as the Atlanta Braves‘ third-base coach, with whom he won his first championship in 2021. He continued to long for an opportunity like this one.

“The belief never wavered,” Washington said. “You never know when you’re gonna get an opportunity to lead, to be a manager. You never know that. Even though I left Texas the way it happened, I still had a lot to give. I still was able to make a difference. So what I did was kept myself relevant. I kept making a difference wherever I was. I had three or four interviews when I left Texas, and in each interview, I left the interview knowing I had the job. I left the interview where the general manager and the owner told me I was the guy. But then somewhere along the way you get a phone call and you always hear the one line, ‘going in a different direction.’ The direction was away from me, but I was still making a difference where I was.”

Minasian first met Washington in the spring of 2007, when Minasian was working as a staff assistant helping the major league coaches. Minasian got in the habit of running late-afternoon sprints after his spring training duties were finished. Washington stopped him one day and told him his form was awful, breaking down everything he did wrong. They reconnected in Atlanta in 2017, when Minasian spent the next five years serving as an assistant GM to Alex Anthopoulos. Minasian was consistently drawn to Washington’s ability to connect with people.

“He is the definition of respect and belief,” Minasian said, “and those were the two most important qualities for me.”

About six weeks ago, as Minasian was going through the search for a new manager, he awoke one morning at around 3:30, pulled up the notebook that sits by his bedside and jotted down the traits of the esteemed managers he previously worked alongside. Washington, he said, continued to stick out. The two met one-on-one over dinner at a historic New Orleans restaurant, Tujague’s, on Nov. 2. Their conversation lasted more than five hours, after which Minasian recommended him to Angels owner Arte Moreno and president John Carpino.

“He was dying for this opportunity,” Minasian said, “and I could feel it.”

Five days later, on Nov. 7, Washington flew to Arizona, site of the general managers meetings. Moreno picked him up at the airport and rode with him to brunch. The two spent the next 90 minutes talking about the team.

“I learned he wants to win,” Washington said of Moreno. “I learned he wants to see good baseball. And I learned he will commit to bring good baseball back to this area. That’s the main thing I learned. And I think that’s what everybody here wants. We gotta make his vision come to fruition.”

The Angels essentially agreed to terms with Washington that Tuesday and officially announced him as their manager while he flew back from Phoenix to New Orleans the following day. Washington said he didn’t realize the news had spread until he charged his phone at baggage claim and saw more than 300 congratulatory text messages and voicemails awaiting him. He spent the next four days answering every one of them.

Now he’ll spend time reaching out to his new players. His two priorities are Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon.

“Those are the two huge leaders here,” Washington said. “And I do want them to lead.”

The Angels received three historic two-way seasons from Shohei Ohtani but were hardly even relevant in September for any of those years. A big reason was the litany of injuries suffered by Trout and Rendon, who combined to play in only 385 of a possible 972 games from 2021 to 2023. Getting them back healthy will be critical, but the Angels — still expected to do whatever they can to bring Ohtani back as a free agent — also recognize there are holes to fill throughout their roster. After setting a franchise record with a $230-plus million payroll in 2023, they vow to spend again.

Washington said he plans to maximize whatever he inherits.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of negativity about the roster,” Washington said during his opening remarks. “But here in Angel country, there’s such a thing as the inside-out syndrome. Everybody that’s on the outside, you’re just gonna have to wait to see what you get. Everybody on the inside, they will know what will happen.”

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