If the Angels hire a new manager, here’s their guy

Despite Shohei Ohtani’s near-supernatural intervention, the Angels were nearly swept by the Kansas City Royals this week. The Royals are not a good team. Maybe the angels aren’t either. As of Thursday, Baseball Prospectus is predicting they have a 1 in 10 chance of making the new and extended playoffs.

If the Angels don’t make the playoffs, they could start a broad search for someone to replace interim manager Phil Nevin. Perhaps their best pick was at the house on Wednesday as the Angels celebrated the 20th anniversary of their only World Series championship.

The Angels shouldn’t be considering Darin Erstad because he’s a link to their former glory, the all-star midfielder who caught the ball who clinched the championship. You should consider him because he’s a born leader, a bid to be Manager of the Year.

Andrew Friedman hired two managers. He hired Joe Maddon for his first major league managerial job with the Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon is a three-time manager of the year.

In 2015, Friedman hired Dave Roberts for his first managerial job with the Dodgers. Roberts was named manager of the year. The same goes for Roberts runner-up Gabe Kapler with the San Francisco Giants.

The third finalist for the Dodgers’ job would have been Erstad until he retired from consideration. Friedman hadn’t known Erstad well, but Maddon had recommended him.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect as we went through the process,” Friedman said Wednesday. “But after the first interview he blew us away.

“We just felt like the leadership qualities were off the charts. He was very thoughtful about the way he sees the game.”

The Dodgers put Erstad through multiple simulations, learning how to set and maintain expectations, manage personality conflicts, and communicate with his players. They would have been comfortable introducing Erstad to a clubhouse with Chase Utley and Yasiel Puig.

“He had a chance to be a really strong leader,” Friedman said.

On Wednesday, Erstad said the Dodgers’ interest came “completely out of the blue,” no pun intended.

He had just completed his fourth year as a head coach at his alma mater, the University of Nebraska. He and his wife Jessica had three young children. For a job that involved traveling eight months a year, moving to California wasn’t an option.

“I knew where my priority was, and that was with my family,” said Erstad. “I wanted to see my children grow up and I have no regrets. I was very humbled to even be considered.”

And then he stopped and smiled.

“The guy that’s here now,” said Erstad with a grin, “he’s fine.”

In 2019, after eight seasons with Nebraska, Erstad resigned.

Angels' Darin Erstad high-fives Tim Salmon after a home run.

Angels center fielder Darin Erstad, left, gives Tim Salmon a high-five after hitting a home run in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series against the San Francisco Giants.

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

“I got to a point where I might have loved the student athletes more than my own kids,” he said. “I didn’t like that feeling. I just wanted to be with our kids.”

That was three years ago. The children are all teenagers now. Would he consider a baseball job at this point?

“I’m just going to enjoy today,” he said.

And he did, with a speech that briefly showed why he was such a respected clubhouse manager. He joked that he would keep his speech short because Tim Salmon is next and Salmon likes to talk.

He confessed he was young and a bit hotheaded when he walked into the new manager’s office to brief him on the team.

“This team is soft,” Erstad told Mike Scioscia.

“You worry about yourself,” Scioscia said to Erstad. “I take care of the team.”

Four years later, when outfielder José Guillén challenged Scioscia, Erstad stood up for him, standing between Guillén and the coach.

On Wednesday, Erstad also shared how the 2002 Angels defied the skeptics by winning despite having no postseason experience and losing the first game in all three postseason series.

“My point is,” he said, “to anyone who’s listening, you never know.”

He has spaced out the last four words in a way that draws attention. He didn’t tell the most famous leadership story of Erstad.

The Angels were heading back from San Francisco after Game 5 of the World Series. They had been beaten, 16-4. They were a loss from elimination. The team bus was quiet.

Erstad gathered the troops. he yelled. If someone told you that you could win two home games and win the World Series, Erad demanded, wouldn’t you risk it? Why couldn’t we win two more games?

You. Just. Never. Knows.

You just never know how well someone can do as a manager until they get the job, but Erstad holds everyone accountable, including himself. He knows exactly what Scioscia has mastered – the game is about the players and they deserve it the recognition. He can identify with the super-talented player at the top of the squad and the rowdy player on the fringes of the squad, as he was both: the first overall winner of the 1995 draft and an often-injured player trying to get his body to work together.

When the Dodgers called in 2015, Erstad said he had to at least listen. When the Angels hire this fall, we hope the first call they make is Erstad, and he listens with interest.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/angels/story/2022-06-24/angels-darin-erstad-possible-managerial-candidate-mike-scioscia If the Angels hire a new manager, here’s their guy

Emma Bowman

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