ANAHEIM, Calif. - Tony Reagins abruptly resigned as the Los Angeles Angels' general manager on Friday after the big-budget club failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season.
Reagins took over for Bill Stoneman after the 2007 season, rising to the top executive job after starting with the organization as an intern in 1991. Although owner Arte Moreno said "a change was needed" in a statement released by the team, Reagins insisted he made the decision to quit after discussing his future with his family over the past month.
"I felt from my perspective that the club probably needed a different perspective and a fresh direction," Reagins said in a conference call. "I felt that Arte wants to win, and at the end of the day, if you perform, you get rewarded. If you don't perform, you have to be accountable. I felt accountable, because those are the expectations I put on myself. Arte wants a winning ballclub ... year in and year out."
The Angels won the AL West in Reagins' first two seasons, losing to Boston in the 2008 division series and the New York Yankees in the 2009 AL championship series. But Los Angeles has fallen behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West over the past two seasons despite a payroll well over US$100 million, and Reagins' hit-and-miss record on personnel decisions apparently didn't please Moreno.
"Though we finished 2011 with a winning record, we remained short of our objective in winning a championship," Moreno said. "In moving forward, we felt a change was needed. Throughout his career, Tony has meant a great deal to this organization, and represented the Angels with the utmost loyalty and dedication. He will always remain part of the Angels family."
Reagins will remain with the Angels as a special assistant to chairman Dennis Kuhl, but won't have a role in picking his successor. Team President John Carpino said the Angels have no successor in mind, planning to look throughout baseball for candidates.
"We don't believe the organization is broken by any means," Carpino said, adding that longtime manager Mike Scioscia will be consulted during the process. "It's not like somebody has to come in here and rebuild this entire organization."
Los Angeles has reached six of the past 10 postseasons, starting with its only World Series championship in 2002, after making just three previous playoff appearances in the franchise's 51-season history. The Angels have had just two losing seasons in the past decade, going 80-82 in 2010 — but Moreno pays handsomely for his talent.
Despite starting this season with baseball's fourth-highest payroll at $139 million, Los Angeles went 86-76 and finished 10 games behind Texas in the AL West, five behind Tampa Bay in the wild-card race. The Angels struggled to score throughout the season, and their bullpen wasn't up to its usual high standards.
Moreno attended the Angels' season finale on Wednesday, a 3-1 loss to the Rangers, who completed a three-game sweep with a ninth-inning homer by Mike Napoli, the longtime Angels catcher who was traded by Reagins last winter for disappointing outfielder Vernon Wells. Los Angeles was in contention for the AL West title until a week ago, but lost nine of its final 13 games.
"I'm responsible for putting the team in place, both last year and this year, and we didn't accomplish our goals for whatever reason," Reagins said. "When you make the type of investment we've made in the last couple of years ... you expect to perform at a high level. It's not about taking a fall. It's about moving forward and bringing a championship to Southern California."
Before he became the Angels GM, Reagins spent the previous six seasons as Los Angeles' director of player development under Stoneman. Los Angeles won a majors-best 100 games in his first season in 2008 before getting within two games of the World Series in 2009, but slipped to a losing record in 2010.
Reagins had several successes in his GM tenure, and he got a multi-year contract extension from the Angels in November 2009. Reagins signed outfielder Torii Hunter and traded for pitcher Jon Garland in his first few months on the job, and he picked up Mark Teixeira for the 2008 playoff push before acquiring standout starter Dan Haren last year.
But Reagins' disappointments apparently were more glaring.
After missing out on every big-name free agent last winter, he swung a trade for Wells, who batted just .218 with 25 homers while making more than $26 million in his first season with Los Angeles. Left-hander Scott Kazmir also was a hugely expensive disappointment, getting $14.5 million this season while making just one start before his release June 15.
Reagins also fired Eddie Bane, his respected director of scouting, last season after an apparent rift developed between the executives. Bane's department produced roughly half of the Angels' current roster, including rookie of the year candidate Mark Trumbo, top prospect Mike Trout and ace Jered Weaver.
Reagins was praised for signing Weaver to a five-year, $85 million extension earlier this season.
"We've had success, and we have a great group of young players coming up the pipeline," Reagins said. "I've seen a lot of those great young players on display this year, and the future is bright for the Angels organization. I think there's a lot to look forward to, and I think we've done well over the last four years."