By GREG BEACHAM
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Perry Minasian once served as a batboy for the Texas Rangers when they made road trips to Angel Stadium. He’s headed back to Anaheim three decades later as the Los Angeles Angels’ general manager.
The Angels announced the hiring of the Atlanta Braves’ assistant general manager Thursday to replace Billy Eppler. Minasian got a four-year contract to take charge of a big-budget franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2009 and didn’t appear to be much closer to a breakthrough in the just-completed season.
“I think this is going to be a great situation,” Minasian said in an interview with KLAA-AM, the team-owned flagship radio station. “It’s a good group of guys, and I’m looking forward to winning a lot of games.”
Minasian spent the past three years in the Braves’ front office with GM Alex Anthopoulos, including the past two seasons as Atlanta’s vice president of baseball operations. Minasian also worked for Anthopoulos during his previous nine seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, where Minasian became the club’s director of pro scouting.
The 40-year-old Minasian has been in baseball since he was an 8-year-old batboy in Texas, where his father, Zack, was the team’s clubhouse manager. He soon became a clubhouse attendant and eventually an advance scout for the Rangers before serving as an assistant to manager Buck Showalter.
Minasian knows he had an unusual path to such a prominent front-office job, but he relied on hard work and persistence to get there.
“Early on, I didn’t think this was possible,” Minasian said. “But if you work hard, good things happen. If you treat people well, good things happen.”
Minasian has been a part of ample success over the past six years. Toronto and Atlanta reached the playoffs five times in that stretch, appearing in three league championship series and winning three division titles.
His new team has endured five straight losing seasons for the first time since 1977, and its winning percentage over the past two seasons is the Angels’ worst two-year run since 1992-93. Los Angeles has won the AL West and reached the postseason just once in the past 11 seasons.
The Halos went 26-34 in the pandemic-shortened season, failing to make even the eight-team AL playoff field despite the presence of Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Shohei Ohtani and Albert Pujols.
“There’s a lot of talent on this roster,” Minasian said. “Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, two of the best players in the game, and then it’s a great mix of veterans and youth, and I think that’s really important in this game. On the mound, I think we’re talented. There’s some younger arms there that have a chance to improve, and I look forward to going to spring training and seeing how they work. I’m really ecstatic about the roster that we have.”
Minasian won an extensive competition to replace Eppler, who was fired Sept. 27 by Moreno after Los Angeles finished its fifth consecutive losing season in his tenure. The Angels also made deep cuts in their scouting department earlier this year with furloughs during the coronavirus pandemic.
“His background in scouting and player development along with his unique understanding of roster construction were the leading factors in our decision,” Angels owner Arte Moreno said in a statement.
Minasian gave a strong vote of confidence to manager Joe Maddon, who was hired by Moreno last year after he parted ways with the Cubs. Maddon and Minasian have had two phone conversations already since Minasian’s hiring.
“I could not be more fired up to have Joe Maddon as the manager of this team,” Minasian said. “(As a) first-time GM, a lot going on in the office, it’s so comforting to have a manager you can give the car keys to and not worry about downstairs. Joe is exactly the kind of manager I would want to hire.”
Minasian is also familiar with Ohtani, the two-way star whose pitching career has stalled due to injuries and ineffectiveness, from several scouting trips to Japan. Minasian apparently supports Ohtani’s desire to continue as a two-way player, rather than concentrating solely on hitting.
“When he’s healthy, he’s a breathtaking player,” Minasian said. “He’s a game-changer. I can’t wait to watch him play. He’s insanely talented, and we need him.”
While Eppler made significant strides in rebuilding the Angels’ farm system and supplementing the big-league roster with talent, he never secured enough quality starting pitchers to win.
“Pitching is going to be a major priority, (but) I’m excited about the staff,” Minasian said. “I feel like there’s upside. There’s some live arms.”
Eppler’s efforts were financially hamstrung by the lavish free-agent contracts handed out by Moreno — none more problematic than the 10-year, $240 million deal Moreno gave to Pujols, who is finally in the last season of that contract in 2021.
While Minasian has a stellar baseball pedigree, his hiring follows Moreno’s pattern of signing untested general managers eager to run their own teams and willing to work around the wealthy owner’s desire to be involved in baseball decisions.
Minasian is the third first-time GM hired by Moreno since he bought the Angels in 2003. The fourth, Jerry Dipoto, had been an interim general manager in Arizona for less than three months.
All of the finalists for the job won by Minasian would have been first-time GMs.
Minasian’s brother, Zack Jr., is the pro scouting director for the San Francisco Giants. Another brother, Calvin, is the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse coordinator.
In another example of the depth of Minasian’s ties to the game, he was working in the Rangers’ clubhouse when Mickey Callaway, now the Angels’ pitching coach, was pitching for Texas in 1990s.
“I’ve known him a long time, and I bet he’s laughing right now,” Minasian said.