Inbox: Who will the Angels hire as GM?
Beat reporter Lyle Spencer fields Halos fans' questions
ANAHEIM -- Winter has come too early again for Angels faithful, who must sit back and watch Texas bid for a World Series championship with a cast fortified by Mike Napoli, along with Old Man River Darren Oliver still rolling out of the bullpen.
Yes, I know, it's hard to swallow. But now you know how Rangers fans felt watching the Angels win the American League West seemingly every year. The one certainty with this game is that eventually it's going to humble everyone involved, from superstar to superfan.
The Inbox has been in cold storage, and for that I apologize. I did not have a nice summer. Serious auto accidents and surgeries have a way of taking the fun out of things.
I'm looking forward to a better 2012, personally and for the Halos. I remain upbeat about the Angels, in spite of daily attempts online to bring me into the chorus calling for massive change. This team, as constituted, is not far away at all.
Just the other day, in Texas, Nolan Ryan was telling me how much he respects the Angels and, specifically, their impressive collection of young talent. That tells me I'm not off track here. The Express is as smart as anyone in the game. It shines through in what he has built in Texas.
So, let's get on with it ...
Who should the Angels hire for the new general manager to replace Tony Reagins?
-- Bobby B., Los Angeles
Ah, the $24 million question. There are so many directions to go with this, so many plausible candidates, it's difficult to narrow it down to even as few as five or six. I'm guessing that's what the front office is going through at this moment as it weighs an infinite range of options.
I can't see the Angels entrusting a new GM with the power or salary one of the big names -- Theo Epstein, Billy Beane -- would require. But there are other creative avenues to explore.
One popular sentiment, expressed by Orange County Register columnist Mark Whicker, is to bring back Buddy Black, the Padres' manager. Black has two years left on his contract and has the look of a guy who thoroughly enjoys the challenges of managing -- a job he does about as well as anybody in the game.
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If there is a way to get him, I'm enthusiastically on board. He's one of the game's brightest minds, blessed with rare communication skills. That gift, not as common as you'd think, is essential for a quality GM. If colleagues aren't comfortable engaging you in conversation, how are you going to keep communication lines open?
Along those same lines, Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon would be a wonderful choice. Like Black, he's an elite manager, with every credential you'd want in a GM. He was an Angels organizational anchor for years, culminating in his role as bench coach for Mike Scioscia's early teams. That was a staff for the ages, with Black, Maddon and Ron Roenicke all having moved on to success as managers.
I have no idea if Maddon would be interested in leaving his current position. He has a year left on his contract and will return the core of a Rays team that stole fans' hearts across the land in September.
Even with the rotation of any manager's dreams, however, the future is not bright in Tampa Bay, where the fan base can be invisible. Economic realities make it extremely difficult to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East. At some point, that has to wear on Maddon in spite of his incredibly upbeat attitude.
With Black or Maddon, there would be an inherent bonus. The Angels would have a GM who could easily move down into the dugout at a moment's notice if Scioscia decided he'd had enough of the road life and preferred an office job. A switch of roles would be seamless.
Internally, the candidates getting the most play in the media -- Gary DiSarcina and Tory Hernandez -- are bright young minds with potential to be successful GMs. Both know the game and are personable, and the transition would be smooth.
As for the multitude of candidates with minimal name recognition who have labored with distinction in other places, everyone has a favorite. Mine is the Giants' John Barr, who has uncovered gems for years for a number of clubs, starting with the Amazin' Mets of the '80s. He's done it all, from area scouting to serving as an assistant GM and scouting director. Barr has a keen eye for talent, shown over and over, and superb people skills.
What do you consider the team's biggest needs?
-- Aaron P., Loma Linda, Calif.
Everyone is in reasonable agreement that the Angels could use an offensive upgrade as well as another starter behind the big three and perhaps a veteran closer.
That much-needed big bat could be on the roster, of course. If Kendrys Morales is able to come back and swing with gusto, the Angels' lineup finds its missing ingredient: a left-handed presence in the heart of the order. It would be wise, as tempting as I know it is, to forget about Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder. Unless they plan to take their budget into Boston's range, the Angels can't afford royalty.
I'm not sure there's a need to overspend for a starter. Jerome Williams looks capable of being a solid No. 4, and Tyler Chatwood, Garrett Richards and Trevor Bell are power arms with the potential to handle the No. 5 spot.
As for pursuing a free-agent closer such as Heath Bell or Jonathan Papelbon, that seems the most likely option if the dollars are reasonable. Jordan Walden had a fine rookie year and has the talent to be a lights-out closer, but it wouldn't hurt him to set up for a spell. He has time on his side.
You must know you're getting killed all over the Internet for defending Jeff Mathis. Why do you persist knowing how the majority of fans feel about him?
-- Mark T., Anaheim
Sure, I read my emails and the comments beneath my stories; it's part of the job description. I'm aware of how the Mathis critics feel about my views and positions on his value.
I am around this team more than my own family. I know how teammates feel about Mathis. I know players, coaches and managers throughout the game. I respect their judgments. They see qualities in Mathis his critics don't see and never will see. That's OK. It's the way it is. If you were able to spend five minutes with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Darren Oliver, Mike Napoli -- basically, anyone who knows Mathis as a player and person -- you might understand there's more to his game and baseball than numbers. Especially at his position, the most important on the field other than the mound.
Mathis represented 4 1/2 percent of Angels at-bats this season. To focus all this negative energy on him, as if he ruined the season with his batting average, is absurd. As for the harsh words sent my way, I don't take criticism personally until it becomes personal. I'd never anonymously attack with words someone I don't know, but that too comes with the turf. Life goes on.
Frankly, I'd love to see Mathis dealt to a place where he could relax and play, free of the environment in Anaheim that has become an emotional drain. I'm convinced he'd settle in and be a fine total player. I'd love to see the Angels acquire a catcher who hits .270 with power -- and is not an inadequate receiver who drives up the earned run averages of Weaver, Haren and the rest of the staff.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.