When it comes to finding a new general manager for the Angels, I'm not going to sit here and pretend like I have some special insider information on the specific names they might be targeting. What I can do though, is evaluate the types of GM candidates they might go after and why. Some options are more realistic than others and some of the more realistic ones might make you want to pull your hair out. Let's break it down and figure who is who and what is what.
Raise your hand if you a potential general manager candidate for the Angels. Not so fast, Moneyball Boy!
Many believe that this is what the Angels already had in place in Tony Reagins, who supposedly was just the man doing the bidding of Arte Moreno and Mike Scioscia. With the Angels making not-quite-ironclad promises that the next general manager will be hired from outside the organization, installing a new puppet seems unlikely, but is still possible. Just because a guy is currently in the Angel front office doesn't mean that he won't wind up being an impotent figurehead. If this is the way they want to go, expect to see candidates brought in that are older, long-time assistant GMs from other teams (for example, Al Avila, no insult to Avila, he is just the first guy that came to mind as far as being a first mate for a very long time) or former general managers with iffy track records that are desperate for another shot (for example, Steve Phillips). In either case, the candidate would profile as someone so eager to get a GM gig that they would compromise their autonomy just to be able to sit behind the big desk.
Will it really happen? Call me crazy, but I kind of believe them when they say they are going to get creative, especially after they cut Ken Forsch and Gary Sutherland loose. If they just wanted another puppet, they would've either kept Reagins in place or at least set him to be fired with a replacement already queued up. This is good news because this is the option Angel fans least want to see happen.
The Big Splash
Forgive the allusion to the negatively loaded buzz phrase of the Reagins era, but a lot of folks have been clamoring for the Angels to get real aggressive and make a play to bring in one of the many big name executives that could be on the market this fall. It took all of two minutes for Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal to suggest Billy Beane for the opening. It took one minute and fifty-nine fewer seconds for Angel fans everywhere to suggest him as well as Theo Epstein, Andrew Friedman and Brian Cashman. Hiring an established, elite general manager might be just what the Angels need to do to show fans that they really mean it this time when they talk about making aggressive changes. As such, they will at least kick the tires on those four, if only for the PR boost.
Will it really happen? Probably not. First off, guys like Beane and Epstein just seem far too saber-centric to be able to mesh well with Mike Scioscia. Second, and most importantly, these four will all demand complete autonomy or something very close to it. The Angels might promise them that, but the word throughout the league is that Moreno and Scioscia are always going to want to have their fingers in things, so it will take a lot of convincing to get someone to buy the "hands off" promise. Out of the bunch, the one that probably has the best chance of making the jump, it is Cashman since he is no stranger to working with a meddlesome owner and an iconic manager.
The Young Gun
This is an option merely because it is the trendy thing to do. Hiring kids in their twenties and thirties to the top job has worked out well for so many teams (Red Sox, Rangers, Diamondbacks, etc.) and most owners have a bad habit of just copying what other successful clubs do. If you start seeing the likes of Logan White, Mike Chernoff or Ben Cherington being brought in for interviews, then it will be pretty clear that Arte Moreno's idea of being creative is to follow the rest of the herd and hire a energetic young guy who hopefully has some good ideas rattling around in his head.
Will it really happen? I think this is the least likely option out of all of them. While Reagins wasn't in his twenties, he was still on the young side when he was hired just a few months shy of his 40th birthday. The general sentiment seems to be that Reagins quite simply wasn't ready for the job when he got it, so it seems highly improbably that Moreno would risk make the same mistake again.
The Track Record
I derided the notion of hiring a re-tread earlier, but that wasn't an all inclusive insult. What I was referring to were guys that had a chance to be a GM but made a mess of things and are desperate to get another shot. There is, however, a good kind of re-tread, the kind of guy who has held the GM title once or twice before and actually enjoyed a fair amount of success and few embarrassments. To give you the type of guy I am referring to, look at someone like Gerry Hunsicker. He's a guy who had a brief tenure running the Mets and then enjoyed several very successful years as GM of the Astros during the heyday of the Killer Bs era. He never really did anything flashy, but he also didn't make any catastrophic missteps. He's also still in the game, working under Andrew Friedman where he is no doubt keeping his mind fresh while learning some new tricks, depsite being an old dog in his early sixties.
Will it really happen? If I were a betting man, this would be where I put my money. Not on Hunsicker, necessarily, but on an older former GM who is still well respected and never made any ruinous decisions that have haunted him. Guys like Randy Smith, Andy MacPhail or Gord Ash might all qualify. What makes this type of hire so likely is that the Angels get what they want in a guy with his own set of opinions but also not so much of an ego that we will get bent out of shape if he has to take input from Scioscia or gets overruled by Arte Moreno every once in awhile.
The Dodger Leftover Magic, Part II
There is one name I want to focus on in particular, Kim Ng. She gets her own section because I don't quite know where she fits. Technically, she is a young gun because of her age and lack of top job experience, but she has also spent several years working in the high levels of the White Sox, Yankees, Dodgers and MLB offices. Most everyone agrees that she knows what she is doing and will be a general manager someday, quite possibly even as soon as this off-season. What she also has going for her is some Scioscia-esque mystique. For a few years, she was considered the heir apparent with the Dodgers, much like Scioscia, but the team then changed course and the succession plan was no longer clear, so she left, just like Scioscia. Would it not be poetic justice if she joined Scioscia in Anaheim to bring the Angels back to the World Series and once again made the local rivals look like fools?
Will it really happen? Her lack of experience in the top position probably makes her a dark horse, but she has lengthy experience as a #2, just like Detroit's AGM Al Avila, that could be enough to convince Moreno to bring her on board. Also, and I hate to be so cynical, but it is a factor, Arte Moreno probably wouldn't mind the PR that comes with hiring the very first female general manager in any of the major sports. That PR could work against her though because it will no doubt bring with it a lot of scrutiny and I'm not so sure that Moreno wants that kind of extra attention after having to deal with the embattled Reagins so much recently.
The Mea Culpa
Hire Eddie Bane back, but as GM. The story that emerged about Reagins firing Bane is that he did it because there was tension between the two as Bane was upset about being passed over when Stoneman stepped aside. It seems pretty clear that Moreno now knows he chose the wrong guy, so maybe he will try and make things right by giving the job to Bane.
Will it really happen? Not quite a zero percent chance, but pretty close. The Angels have been willing to admit when they are wrong in the past, but I can't imagine the bridges weren't burned in the process of Bane getting fired. Plus, it isn't like Bane has ever been a serious GM candidate for the job elsewhere. Still, it is a fun idea.
The Nuclear Option
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. And by that, I mean hire Scott Boras... or at least maybe hire a big time agent to run the club. If there is one area Reagins constantly fouled up, it was negotiating contracts. Why not remedy that by hiring guys who do it for a living? It isn't a crazy as it sounds (OK, maybe hiring Boras is). Other clubs in baseball and other sports have convinced agents to switch sides. It certainly would be creative.
Will it really happen? I was kidding about Boras, but this seems like a good idea to me. An agent would bring a fresh perspective to the front office and would certainly be familiar with dealing with the various personalities in the Angel organization and in other organizations as well. Still, it seems a little too progressive for the Angels.
The one thing everyone keeps saying about the Angels, no matter what they do, is that they need a new voice in the front office. What they really need though is a new voice that they MUST listen to. The only way to guarantee that is to go out and hire someone with such a great track record and so much respect that Moreno and Scioscia can't help but defer to them. To me, that equals an older former exec with an impugnable track record and maybe a World Series ring or two. This person doesn't even have to be a hands-on GM. It would be more like hiring a very involved senior advisor. Heck, you could mimic what many NBA front offices do and hire the guy with a fancy title like Executive VP of Baseball Operations and then install a younger GM with more energy who really just does his bidding while sparing the older exec from the daily grind of being a GM.
Will it really happen? This would be the ideal situation for the Angels, in my opinion. If they could convince John Schuerholz, Terry Ryan, Pat Gillick or John Hart to leave their current cushy advisor jobs to take on a more active role in Anaheim, I think they might finally have the right kind of balance of letting Moreno and Scioscia have their input but also having someone around who not only has the balls to tell them when they are wrong but actually be able to do so and have them accept that feedback. My biggest reservation about this coming to fruition is whether or not the Angels job really has enough cache to get an of these older guys to leave teams that they have long been associated with and possibly risk tarnishing their legacy a little bit if they fail to get the Angels back on track.