Billy Eppler welcomes high expectations as Angels’ new GM
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Billy Eppler knows his new job as the Los Angeles Angels’ general manager looks particularly tough. He knows all about the organizational power wielded by manager Mike Scioscia and the high expectations of owner Arte Moreno.
None of it scared Eppler, who learned all about sky-high expectations in demanding organizations during 11 years in the New York Yankees’ front office.
”I’m looking for a place that has high expectations,” Eppler said. ”I’m looking for a demanding work environment. That’s why I wanted this job. … I think growing up in that New York environment and the microscope that comes with that, maybe that played in my favor.”
The Angels introduced Eppler as their 12th general manager on Monday, a day after their season ended with the big-budget club missing the postseason for the fifth time in six years. Moreno also confirmed that Scioscia, the longest-serving manager in baseball, will return for his 17th season next year.
Eppler immediately said he is eager to work with Scioscia, whose philosophical differences with GM Jerry Dipoto played a large role in Dipoto’s decision to quit on the Angels at midseason this summer.
Eppler got to know Scioscia when he was a finalist for the job that went to Dipoto four years ago, and he wasn’t afraid to jump in with the veteran manager in their quest to get the Angels’ first playoff victory since 2009.
”To join an organization this committed to winning is truly an honor,” Eppler said. ”I’m humbled by your faith in me, and I will make you proud of this decision.”
Scioscia also attended the news conference welcoming Eppler to the organization.
”It’s really all about communication, and I don’t think there’s going to be any issues at all,” Scioscia said of Eppler. ”I think in talking to Billy just the couple of conversations we’re had, I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.”
The 40-year-old Eppler repeatedly referred to ”growing up” with the Yankees in New York, where the former UConn pitcher moved up from a scouting position to GM Brian Cashman’s valued assistant. But Eppler was born and raised in Southern California, and the San Diego native was eager to return close to home for the chance to run his own team.
He has been considered a top candidate for several GM jobs in the past four years since getting his first major interview with the Angels.
”When we started the process four years ago, we spent a lot of time with Billy and talked about attitude,” Moreno said. ”He was probably (choice) 1-A. He was very close to getting the job last time. When we went through this process again, we found the same energy and creativeness, and coming from a winning organization.”
While working closely with Cashman, Eppler has built a reputation as a well-rounded baseball man who understands old-fashioned scouting and new-school analytics.
”I look at analytics like I look at any other department: They collaborate,” Eppler said. ”They offer opinions. They offer insight. I believe they’re a complement to decision-making. I do not believe they’re a driver of decision-making. People drive those decisions. … I believe the analytics can be a very valuable weapon, but I think you have to educate the people using those analytics, because like any weapon, if you don’t use it right, it can blow up on you.”
Eppler wasn’t ready to list any items on his to-do list before heading back to New York with his wife to pack. He also might attend the Yankees’ wild-card game against Houston on Tuesday.
But the new GM is eager to familiarize himself with every aspect of the Angels’ organization with an eye toward the winter meetings. He also must make decisions on the Angels’ new free agents, including third baseman David Freese and catcher Chris Iannetta.
He’s already familiar with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and the other big pieces to a puzzle that hasn’t worked yet.
”There is a core of championship-caliber players,” Eppler said. ”Generally I’m pleased with the core. There’s some thoroughbreds that can pull the cart.”