Tony Reagins, the Day After

In Tuesday’s blog, I wrote that I wanted to see what the media reports had to say about why Tony Reagins got the job and not Ken Forsch.

Not much on that score, but the sportswriters seized on the Arte Moreno statement about manager Mike Scioscia having more input to conclude that Scioscia is now the real center of power in the organization.

Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times wrote:

Bill Stoneman tearfully steps aside, Tony Reagins heartily takes over, but make no mistake.

Mike Scioscia is now in charge.

By hiring Reagins, a rookie who ran the minor league system, owner Arte Moreno is ensuring that the loudest voice in the room will belong to Scioscia.

By hiring Reagins, a former publicity intern who never even played high school baseball, Moreno is ensuring that the final opinion of the night will belong to Scioscia.

With a wink and nudge, Moreno smartly paved the way for his most important baseball decisions to be made by his best baseball guy without costing him one of baseball’s best managers.

Scioscia’s vision. Our luck.

I don’t think it’s that simple. As I wrote on Tuesday, the model for how Reagins managed the minor leagues the last six seasons may be the model he’ll follow for the GM job — the baseball people take care of their business, he handles the administrative side, but in the end it’s his call.

The exception here is that Reagins will now answer directly to Moreno. Arte said many times over the years, in response to those criticizing Bill Stoneman, that he personally had intervened on personnel decisions. So there’s every reason to think Moreno will be just as imposing a force with Reagins.

Media reports seem to indicate Moreno himself made the decision to promote Reagins without interviewing anyone else, although he did discuss the transition with Stoneman. One reason why Forsch didn’t get the job might be that he’s only two years younger than Stoneman. If Bill is burned out at age 63, it’s not good for organizational stability to hire someone who might leave in another two years. Reagins at age 40 will have the energy to keep up with the demanding pace, and prides himself on being a hard worker.

The big question is whether Reagins is qualified for the job. He may not be now, but in the long run the intent may be to groom him so that in a few years he can go toe-to-toe with Scott Boras and other GMs.

If you’re looking for other examples of GMs who had no professional playing ability, the stathead poster boy Theo Epstein is the one. Epstein, who’ll turn 34 in December, was made the youngest GM in history when the Red Sox hired him at age 28 in 2002. No offense intended to Reagins, but Epstein had a brilliant mind proven by his graduating by Yale and his law degree at age 25. He didn’t inherit a crumbling operation and turn it around; he succeeded the well-respected Dan Duquette, who was dismissed in February 2002 when John Henry bought the team.

Unlike Epstein, Reagins isn’t a slave to sabermetrics. But that doesn’t mean he ignores statistics either. (Contrary to what some statheads claim on Angels fan sites, the Angels don’t ignore statistical analysis. It’s just that no one wrote a book about it.) In fact, the Angels recently promoted Tory Hernandez, a player performance analyst, to replace promoted Abe Flores to be the new Manager of Baseball Operations. But the Angels keep the statistics in context, realizing that there’s more than one way to win a ballgame, and winning starts with teaching players the right way to play the game.

Don’t expect Reagins to be witty or glib or a rumormongering chatterbox as some people on the fan boards seem to want. Stoneman was a quiet, private person and Reagins isn’t that much different. Unlike Kevin Malone, who joined the Dodgers in September 1998 and proclaimed he was "the new sheriff in town," Reagins at the press conference was sober and even a bit meek. He didn’t project confidence, he didn’t seem to be in charge, and that impression was reinforced when Moreno told the press that Scioscia would have more influence in personnel matters.

For the instant gratification crowd who think Stoneman’s departure means the Angels will back up the U-Haul and turn over their entire farm system to another team in exchange for some overly expensive fading star, get over your wet dream. It’s not going to happen.

What might happen is that a couple prospects could be traded for a star in his prime. Stoneman had no problem with such a deal, so long as it was equitable. As he told the press many times, it was foolish to trade the future for a short-term quick fix. It was foolish then, and it’s foolish now. If they can get a player in his prime who’s under contract for a few more years, or one who’s willing to negotiate a contract extension, sure, consider it. But shipping off Brandon Wood, Nick Adenhart and "WHATEVER IT TAKES!!!!!!!" to rent Johan Santana for year would be a pretty stupid thing to do.

I’m hoping the Angels stick to their guns and don’t give in to media pressure, or such loony ravings on fan boards. The worst thing imaginable would be to execute a "feel good" trade just to make a statement. I don’t think that will happen, but if it does you’ll know it was Arte’s decision. And that concerns me, because while Stoneman may have been a brake on Arte’s temptations, Reagins as the new guy may not feel it’s his place to question the boss. We can only hope that when Tony is negotiating with other GMs and free agents, he’s surrounded by more experienced colleagues. The problem with that, though, is that it will project Tony as a weak GM who isn’t his own man.

So for those who’ve been praying for Stoneman’s departure, you got what you wanted. Now you’ll have to face the consequences.

As an Angels fan, of course I want nothing but the best for the organization and hope Reagins is Stoneman’s equal. But the sharks will be circling, and right now Tony is the chum in the water.

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