Moreno still part of baseball decisions under next Angels GM

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Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, right, celebrates with teammates after the Angels defeated the San Diego Padres in a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Angels’ search for a general manager will be broad and deep, and the process could last past Thanksgiving.

Angels President John Carpino said Wednesday that the franchise is committed to a detailed examination of the reasons it hasn’t won a playoff game since 2009 despite an array of high-priced talent around Mike Trout. The Halos will listen to the ideas of candidates and smart minds from all around the game while they choose a replacement for Billy Eppler.

“Obviously, we’re not doing it the right way,” Carpino said of the Angels, who have endured six consecutive non-playoff seasons and five straight losing seasons.

“We’re not winning games, so something is not right in our organization,” Carpino added. “You have to look in the mirror to find out what’s happening here that’s causing us not to be playing this week, or deep into October. … There are things in here that aren’t working. It’s obvious, because we’re not getting the end result that each of us want.”

Yet the Angels’ prime constant during this miserable decade will not change, according to Carpino: Owner Arte Moreno will continue to be involved in baseball decisions.

“I really believe that as an owner of a business, and you have that type of investment, you want some type of return on your investment, and the return on the investment that Arte looks for is wins,” Carpino said. “All he’s looking for is wins. For him not to have a say in his investment, or knowledge on it, I don’t know. I think it’s fair that he has discussions and communication with the general manager.

“Arte loves the game of baseball, and he loves this team and he wants to deliver a championship here. … He likes being part of the process. In my opinion, he deserves to be part of the process. He’s the owner.”

Moreno made the decision to fire Eppler last weekend, Carpino said, two months after giving a contract extension to the former Yankees executive. The Angels’ 17-9 surge in the second half under new manager Joe Maddon wasn’t enough to make up for their miserable 9-22 start, and it wasn’t enough to save Eppler’s job despite Maddon’s strong backing for him.

“We have the base of a strong team,” Carpino said. “We’re not that far away. A couple of right decisions being made, and we’re playing this week instead of being here, which doesn’t make any of us happy.”

Eppler revitalized the Angels’ farm system, landed Shohei Ohtani and played a big role in persuading Trout to sign a $426.5 million deal to stay in Anaheim. But the Halos didn’t have a winning season during his half-decade in charge, and that’s why Moreno is starting over, Carpino said.

“It was a difficult decision, but at the end of the day, it was a business decision,” Carpino said. “We’re in the business of winning baseball games, and we just didn’t win enough over the five-year period.”

Moreno plays a major role in the Angels’ fortunes, of course. The owner made the decisions to hand out his roster’s biggest contracts, from the $240 million given to Albert Pujols and the $125 million given to Josh Hamilton several years ago to the $245 million given to Anthony Rendon last winter.

Moreno’s penchant for giving lavish free agent contracts to aging sluggers has a huge impact on his baseball executives, particularly when they’ve tried to sign quality starting pitchers to shore up the roster’s perennial weakness. Eppler and former GM Jerry Dipoto were both limited in their team-building ability because of the huge chunk of their payrolls taken up by Pujols and his declining numbers.

In addition, Moreno’s determination to win now for Trout has prevented a complete franchise rebuild.

“We feel tremendous responsibility to Mike,” Carpino said of the three-time AL MVP, who hasn’t won a postseason game while spending his entire career with Los Angeles. “There is an amount of pressure to surround Mike, to be able to perform on the game’s greatest stage. Yeah, we feel it every day.”

Former general manager Bill Stoneman and baseball great Tony La Russa will assist Moreno and Carpino with their search. Maddon said he’ll give any advice requested, but the veteran bench boss is optimistic about the Angels’ future after the way they came together in a strong September.

“The second month (of the season) should have been May, but it’s September,” Maddon said. “Normally that second month is when corrections begin. Normally in June, being given enough time, I think we would have been in good shape. I liked the trajectory of the season. It was just something that was a little too short.”

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