Angels manager Brad Ausmus has heard the rumors regarding his future in Anaheim. He dismissed them before Sunday’s season-ending 8-5 loss to the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium.
“I have a contract,” he said. “That’s the only thing I know.”
Ausmus was named the Angels manager last October, a few weeks after Mike Scioscia stepped down from the post he had held for 19 seasons. Ausmus was highly regarded by general manger Billy Eppler, who hired Ausmus as a special assistant in November 2017.
Their relationship remains “very strong,” Ausmus said, despite a challenging season that included the death of Tyler Skaggs on July 1 and ended with the Angels losing 90 games for the first time since 1999.
Yet speculation that Ausmus was on his way out began as soon as it became evident that Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, 65, would not have his contract extended. Maddon was with the Angels for 31 years as a coach and interim manager before taking the helm of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006. Maddon managed the Cubs to the 2016 World Series title.
The Athletic reported that the Angels would entertain the idea of replacing Ausmus if Maddon became available, and ESPN added Sunday that the Angels are seriously considering Maddon. The Angels have not made any comments regarding Ausmus. Eppler, who is under contract for at least one more year, will speak with reporters Monday. Ausmus is signed through 2021.
“I’ve kind of learned to shrug those things off,” said Ausmus, who previously managed the Detroit Tigers from 2014 to 2017. “There was a point in Detroit in 2015, my second year there, it came out that I was being fired. I was there for two more years. So you learn to take it with a grain of salt.”
Ausmus joined the Angels’ front office shortly after the Tigers declined to renew his managerial contract. His tenure ended with a 64-98 record in 2017.
Ausmus, 50, did not fare much better his first season in Anaheim. Rookie Matt Thaiss’ two-homer, four-RBI Sunday helped the Angels avoid a -100 run differential, but opponents still outscored the Angels by 99 runs this season. The Angels finished with a 72-90 record in fourth place in the AL West division, which the Astros dominated with 107 wins.
“Quite frankly, I’m ready at this point to put it behind me,” Ausmus said. “It was a tough year.”
The Angels’ struggles can be traced to the ineffectiveness of the pitching staff, which was not only wracked by injuries but also hurt by mediocre performances. High-dollar free agents Cody Allen and Matt Harvey, who were released in June and July, respectively, combined for a 6.86 ERA. Trevor Cahill, who also signed as a free agent, eventually moved to the bullpen after beginning the season as the opening day starter. He had a 5.98 ERA in 102 1/3 innings over 37 games. The Angels spent nearly $30 million on that trio.
Still, the Angels were able to make strides on the analytical front under Ausmus. Among the biggest changes was the introduction of high-speed cameras and radar devices that helped pitchers optimize their repertoires. They also adopted the strategy of starting the game with a reliever, which allows the primary pitcher to face more hitters before seeing the top of a lineup a third time.
“If you talk about it from a tactical or strategy standpoint, I thought it went well,” Ausmus said. “My time in Detroit served [me] well in terms of experience responding to situations that happened on the field. I thought the clubhouse was extremely smooth. I think the guys got along well. They laughed together, they played hard together, they worked together. It was a good group of guys.”
The Angels must address their dearth of starting pitching this offseason. Atop their wish list will likely be Astros starter and Orange County native Gerrit Cole, who tried to fortify his case for the AL Cy Young Award against the Angels on Sunday. The Orange Lutheran and UCLA product allowed four hits over five innings, including Thaiss’ solo homer in the third, and struck out 10 to become the first pitcher in MLB history to record nine consecutive double-digit strikeout games. Cole’s 326 were the most in one season by any right-hander since Nolan Ryan fanned 341 in 1977.