OAKLAND — Phil Nevin is going to get to keep his dream job.
The Angels have agreed with Nevin on a one-year deal to stay as manager, the team announced Wednesday.
Nevin, 51, took over as interim manager after Joe Maddon was fired June 7. The Angels were 46-59 under Nevin heading into Wednesday’s season finale, but apparently he made a good enough impression on general manager Perry Minasian and the players to remain in the job.
Nevin said he got “called into the principal’s office” Tuesday night. Although Nevin was initially concerned about the reason for the meeting, Minasian then shared the good news with him.
“I’m ecstatic,” Nevin said after the announcement Wednesday morning. “I thanked (Minasian), as well as Arte and the Moreno family, and (president) John Carpino and everybody involved with the Angels that have entrusted me with this. It certainly means a lot. It wasn’t exactly how I envisioned these things happening, but I know I’ve been given a heck of an opportunity with some special people that I created relationships with in the last six, seven months.”
Moreno is currently looking to sell the team, leaving an air of uncertainty over the franchise. Keeping Nevin eliminates one question for the winter. Decisions on the rest of the coaching staff are likely to be made over the next several weeks.
Nevin spoke to the media about 20 minutes after the news broke, and he said “as we sit here, my pocket is buzzing quite a bit,” referring to the messages from his friends and family members.
At one point, he nearly came to tears as he reflected on some of the people from his baseball journey who are no longer here to share this success, including legendary Cal State Fullerton coach Augie Garrido, longtime baseball executive Kevin Towers and Mike Bell, who worked with Nevin in the Arizona Diamondbacks system.
A product of El Dorado High and Cal State Fullerton, Nevin played 12 years in the majors. He managed in the minors with the Detroit Tigers and Diamondbacks. He was then a third-base coach with the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees.
The Angels hired him to be the third-base coach before the 2022 season, and he was promoted when Maddon was fired, 12 games in a 14-game losing streak.
A couple weeks into the job, Nevin was suspended for 10 games for his part in a bench-clearing brawl. Mike Trout had been upset at pitches near his head in the June 25 game against the Seattle Mariners. The next day, the Angels used Andrew Wantz as an opener – the first time they’d used an opener all season. Wantz threw a pitch behind Julio Rodriguez in the first inning, and he hit Jesse Winker in the second, sparking a fight that led to 12 suspensions.
Although the Angels players spoke that day about how such an incident could bring the team together and lead to a better second half, it didn’t. (It may have for the Mariners, who soon after started a 14-game winning streak that pushed them to end their 21-year playoff drought.)
The Angels lost 14 of their first 16 games in July, essentially ending any hopes of getting back into contention.
Nevin, however, earned some praise for leading the team to improvement in August and September. The Angels were 21-15 after Aug. 26.
“Everybody was very accepting of everything and we’ve all worked well together, going forward,” Nevin said Sunday. “I think it’s translated into some better play for us the last couple of months. We’ve just played better. The guys have played better. We’ve gotten healthy. And I think we’re showing signs of what this team can really be like when we are all healthy.”
Angels players got the news in a brief team meeting before Wednesday’s game.
“It’s awesome,” catcher Max Stassi said. “I love him. He’s done a great job. Just a good dude, just a baseball guy, a baseball rat. Cares about his players, cares about just everything involved in winning. He’s the right man and we’re excited to have him.”
Outfielder Taylor Ward added: “I think Phil is a great manager. I think so far he’s done a great job with us, trying to motivate us and keep us together. I’m super excited to have him next year.”
Trout said a few days ago that he’s been a fan of how Nevin has run the team.
“Phil’s been doing a great job,” Trout said Sunday. “He takes care of the players. He’s doing a good job with managing. He’s fun to play for.”
The true test of Nevin as a manager, though, will be his record. Nevin acknowledges that the Angels will have high expectations next season, and that they have work to do to get there after another losing season this year.
“I know the direction we’re trying to go as far as what we’re trying to do,” Nevin said Wednesday. “Add pieces around everything. Depth is a thing. I think we’ve certainly got the foundation in place. I love what our rotation did this year. I love what our bullpen has been able to do at times, the way our lineup shapes up with everybody healthy.
“Most guys in this position are coming into a spot where you’re taking over a rebuild and things that take a while and we’re certainly not in that position. Everybody talks about the dudes. We got a couple of the best players in the world and my goal is to see those guys play on the biggest stage. They deserve that. I think the baseball world deserves that. We’re going to stop at no cost to get there.”