Angels’ Tony Reagins doesn’t brush aside criticism

Go ahead Angels fans, take your best shot.

Unhappy with the way the team has played this season? So is the general manager.

“It’s been frustrating,” said Tony Reagins, who just happens to be the general manager. “We haven’t performed to the level that we’re capable of performing in virtually every area.”

Convinced there’s a lot of work to do this winter to fix things? So is the general manager.

“Playing this type of baseball is definitely not something that we’re going to settle for,” Reagins said. “We’ll evaluate every aspect of the organization from a baseball standpoint. And we’re going to get better.”

Looking for someone to blame for the fact that the Angels, who came within two victories of the World Series a year ago, will likely finish with a losing record this season for the first time since 2003? Look no further than the general manager, the general manager says.

“That responsibility falls on me,” Reagins said. “Putting the talent on the field is something that I’m accountable for. This year we’ve underperformed.”

Underperformed everywhere.

The team that led the majors in batting last season started Saturday without a .300 hitter or a player who will finish the season with 90 runs batted in. The team that led the majors in saves each of the last two seasons started Saturday with fewer saves as a team than nine closers had by themselves.

And in the front office, which three years ago signed Torii Hunter and two years ago acquired Mark Teixeira at the trade deadline, the Angels have given away more than they got in return, dealing former All-Star Joe Saunders and five other pitchers to acquire infielder Alberto Callaspo and right-hander Dan Haren in separate trades.

Two years ago, Reagins was the American League’s executive of the year and in his first two seasons as a general manager, the Angels won 197 games. He had the Midas touch in that everything he touched turned to gold.

Let Francisco Rodriguez go six weeks after setting the single-season save record? No problem. Reagins signed Brian Fuentes, who went on to the lead the majors in saves.

Lose three-fifths of your starting rotation a week into the 2009 season? No problem. Give the ball to career minor league pitcher Matt Palmer and watch him win nine of 10 decisions as a starter.

This season, however, everything Reagins has touched has turned to aluminum.

He let designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero walk and Guerrero is leading the Texas Rangers to a division title. He signed Hideki Matsui as Guerrero’s replacement and Matsui is having his worst full season since arriving at the majors eight years ago.

“I don’t know if it’s fair or not fair,” Reagins said of the criticism and second guessing he’s received. “But … that’s the nature of the job and it’s the nature of the business. And I’m fine with that.

“We get evaluated on a daily basis by what we do.”

The Haren deal was especially lopsided — in favor of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who acquired Saunders, a 29-year-old left-hander still two seasons from free agency, then had to fight the urge to burst out laughing when the Angels agreed to throw in reliever Rafael Rodriguez and minor league left-handers Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin, two of the team’s top 12 prospects according to Baseball America.

It was a curious trade, one in which the Angels took on more than $33 million in salary obligations over four seasons. Yet, Reagins says he would make it again if had the chance.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We were looking at trying to improve our club. We felt being able to get a player like Dan Haren made us better at the time. And will make us better in the future.”

Never mind that Saunders is younger, cheaper and has more wins over the last three seasons than Haren. Reality, apparently, can be evasive at times.

But if Reagins won’t admit that the Haren trade was a mistake, he will admit this year has been a learning experience, one filled with painful lessons.

Reagins didn’t replace the base-stealing threat free agent Chone Figgins took with him when he left for Seattle, for example, and counted too heavily on Brandon Wood to take Figgins’ place at third base.


Then there was the Angels’ inability to replace switch-hitting slugger Kendry Morales, who was lost for the season after suffering a broken leg in late May.

A week after Morales went on the disabled list, the Angels climbed into first place alone for the only time this season. They’ve been nine games under .500 since then.

Double ouch!

“We’re in a position that we haven’t been in in a long time,” Reagins said. “You look for ways to see how you can do things better, be more efficient.”

Hunter, who Reagins signed only a month after replacing Bill Stoneman as general manager, isn’t sure Reagins deserves all the blame.

“I think it’s more of the players’ fault. We’re the ones on the field playing the game. And I just don’t think we got the job done,” he said. “You have to look at what he’s done. [It’s] just one year. What we’re going through doesn’t mean anything.”

It does if you’re Reagins.

“My goal is not to ever see this again,” he said. “We’re going to win and we’re going to win every year. That’s what we set out to do. And we’re not going to rest until we win a world championship.”

And if they don’t win? Well, then Reagins says you can blame the general manager.

That’s what he’s going to do.