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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Stoneman steps aside for Reagins

Successful Angels GM resigns to become consultant for club
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- A door to a world of new challenges opened on Tuesday for Tony Reagins, selected to succeed Bill Stoneman as general manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Stability, continuity and seamless transition were identified by club owner Arte Moreno as the primary reasons for staying inside the organization to replace Stoneman, who will serve as his advisor on baseball matters.

"This organization is not broken," Reagins said during Tuesday's press conference at Angel Stadium, presided over by Moreno. "I don't need to come in and try to reinvent the wheel.

"We know where we've been and where we're going. We're committed to remain steadfast to bring a championship contender to Angels fans across the country, year in and year out."

Stoneman was the GM for eight years, producing four playoff teams, three American League West champions and a World Series champion in 2002.

Referring to diminished energy and the desire to free up more time for family and other interests, Stoneman introduced Reagins after emotionally thanking numerous people who made his eight years as GM memorable.

"I've known Tony since coming on the job here," Stoneman said of Reagins, the club's director of player development for the past six seasons and a member of the organization for 16 years. "This is one of the brightest, most energetic and dedicated guys I've known. He's able to get things done, and he understands the game very well, [understands] players very well.

Ken Forsch, Angels assistant GM for 10 years, will remain in that capacity, and Gary Sutherland, special assistant to the GM, also will stay on, Reagins said.

Abe Flores was promoted from manager of baseball operations to fill Reagins' role as director of player development, with player performance analyst Tory Hernandez also gaining a promotion to Flores' former role. Eddie Bane will continue as director of scouting.

Reagins is the 10th GM in franchise history. He is the first African-American to hold the position for the Angels and the second African-American GM in the Majors, joining Ken Williams of the Chicago White Sox.

Reagins has worked closely with Angels manager Mike Scioscia since the system provided six rookies for the 2002 club, Reagins' first year as director of player development.

Scioscia sees Reagins continuing the work Stoneman has done in creating a consistent winner in Anaheim.

"Bill's done a great job of laying the foundation for what we are right now," Scioscia said via conference call. "I know Tony has the same vision for where this organization should go.

"Tony has a lot of similarities to Bill in his sense of duty and diligence. He's not afraid to take chances, and he's a good [talent] evaluator. He's going to be great at this position. Tony's a good communicator, terrific with people. He's got the key components for a general manager."

Moreno said the organization would do everything "within reason" to give Scioscia what he needs to bring another championship to Southern California, adding that he "felt it was important to give Mike more responsibility."

Asked if he anticipated playing a more prominent role in personnel decisions with a less experienced GM on the job, Scioscia replied that he and his coaching staff always have had input on player moves.

"We've been given some terrific clubs, and I don't think that's going to change," Scioscia said. "To say I'm going to have a larger role, I don't know how I could have a larger role without moving into the general manager's chair."

That, he added, is something that has not come up in conversations with management, and he is not interested in leaving the dugout or having a dual role.

Repeating his state-of-the-Angels message delivered after they'd been swept by Boston in the American League Division Series, Scioscia said the club's primary offseason need is improving its slugging percentage.

"Although we made the most out of the offense we had," the manager said, "a little more batter's box offense, particularly in slugging percentage, is what we need at the Major League level.

"With outside sources, that's the No. 1 priority we're going to address, getting deeper in the batter's box."

He added that injury-free seasons from Garret Anderson, Casey Kotchman, Howard Kendrick and Gary Matthews Jr. could help significantly in that department. Each missed significant time with various injuries in 2007.

Matthews, Anderson and relief pitcher Justin Speier were among those attending Tuesday's press conference.

Working his way up from the ground floor, Reagins joined the organization in 1992 as an intern in baseball operations and marketing in 1992. He became a full-time member of baseball operations in April 1998, rising through the ranks.

"Under his direction, the Angels' farm system has developed the core of talent graded one of the top five in baseball the last five years," Moreno said. "I feel it's important to continue to build from within. It makes it easy for me to keep Bill at my side to help with baseball decisions and help Tony move forward.

"We talked about this when I bought the team [after the 2002 season]. We felt stability was important to the team. That's one of the reasons we felt this was an important decision."

Stoneman assumed the job on Nov. 1, 1999. Seventeen days later, Scioscia was named manager, and the two have worked in tandem to direct the most successful run in franchise history.

During the final week of the regular season, after the Angels had wrapped up the AL West title, Stoneman talked about what an exciting season it had been and that he was happy in Anaheim under Moreno.

"The decision is one I've known for quite a while I was going to have to make," said Stoneman, who had the option to remain in the GM's chair had he chosen to do so. "As time went on, I realized I'm getting older, and you really don't have the energy you once had.

"You have to face that as a fact. In order to do this job, you have to have a ton of energy. There are so many elements you think about. The main thing was, I was worn down and was coming to that realization.

"I don't have the same energy I brought into this job. It was really time for the betterment of the Angels to step aside for somebody who was a lot more energetic -- yet knows the Angels as well as I do -- to take over and provide a seamless transition in behind the scenes operations here."

Three other high-profile general managers -- Atlanta's John Schuerholz, Minnesota's Terry Ryan and St. Louis' Walt Jocketty -- recently have walked away from their jobs, citing the job's multiple and time-consuming demands.

Stoneman, 63, pitched for eight seasons in the Major Leagues and authored two no-hitters for the Montreal Expos. He took the Angels to unprecedented levels of success by focusing on player development and building from within while going outside to add key free agents such as Vladimir Guerrero, Bartolo Colon, Orlando Cabrera and Matthews.

Reagins has been chiefly responsible for the club's Minor League system, which includes seven affiliates and a club in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.

Reagins, 41, is a graduate of Cal State Fullerton University. He's a native of Indio, Calif., where he was an all-CIF tailback on the Indio High School football team in the mid-1980s. He played American Legion baseball in Indio.

Reagins was joined at the press conference by his wife, Colleen, and their daughter, Kennedy.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Yanks' meetings inconclusive on Day 1

Team has not made a decision regarding Torre's future
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com

The Yankees executed a last-minute change of venue, steering their discussions away from Legends Field, but that was apparently the only decision finalized on their first day of season-end meetings.
With dozens of reporters waiting outside the Yankees' Spring Training home in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, club executives instead huddled for afternoon meetings at the nearby mansion of principal owner George Steinbrenner.

According to reports, the top hierarchy of team executives gathered for several hours. Yet the Yankees did not come to an official conclusion on the fate of manager Joe Torre, whose contract expires at the end of the month.

On behalf of the club, spokesperson Howard Rubenstein released a statement shortly after 4:30 p.m. ET, saying: "The meetings are adjourned for tonight. There have been no decisions made, nor will there be any comment today. The meetings will resume tomorrow."

A final ruling regarding Torre's future is believed to be the first step in what figures to be a busy offseason for the Yankees. The 67-year-old Torre has made the playoffs in each of his 12 seasons at the helm of the club, but his Yankees have suffered first-round exits in three consecutive seasons, prompting some in the organization to consider a leadership change.

Before Game 3 of the American League Division Series, Steinbrenner said in a rare interview that the Yankees were not likely to have Torre back for 2008 if the club did not advance past the first round. The Yankees fell in four games to the Cleveland Indians and official comment from the organization has been sparse since their Oct. 8 elimination.

The afternoon brought a strange twist from a potential successor in the event that the Yankees wish to part ways with Torre.

A representative for bench coach Don Mattingly refuted a report published in the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger, which claimed that Mattingly has told members of the organization that he is not ready to manage and does not feel comfortable replacing Torre.

Agent Ray Schulte called the report, which cited a Mattingly friend as a source, "completely false" and "totally fabricated." Schulte said that Mattingly was caught completely by surprise by the report, and that while he hopes Torre returns for the 2008 season, Mattingly would be ready to assume the reins of the club if offered the job.

The organizational meetings are scheduled to resume Wednesday and will feature direct influence from Steinbrenner's sons, Hank and Hal -- both of whom will be taking on increased importance in the club's planning going forward.

In addition to settling the Torre issue, Yankees decision-makers are expected to tackle courses of action in dealing with the club's numerous potential free agents, including an expected contract extension offer for Alex Rodriguez and plans for lifetime Yankees Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, both of whom are seeking multi-year contracts.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Surging Rox making baseball history

Last place to first Colorado on a Cinderella run for the ages
By Jim Molony / MLB.com

DENVER -- When the 1976 Cincinnati Reds ran off seven consecutive postseason victories en route to a second straight World Series title it represented the pinnacle of the Big Red Machine's '70s dynasty.
While the 2007 Colorado Rockies certainly aren't in the class of those Reds, their 7-0 run to clinch the franchise's first World Series made the Rockies the first team in 31 years to go 7-0 in the postseason and also earned Colorado another rare place in baseball history.

Besides the streak, their sweep of Arizona in the National League Championship Series made the Rockies one of only five teams to finish in last place one year and reach the World Series the next, joining the 1991 Atlanta Braves, the 1991 Minnesota Twins, the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies and the 1998 San Diego Padres.

Baseball fans haven't forgotten the previous four teams to go from last place to the Fall Classic in one year, and it's doubtful they will soon forget a Colorado team which has won 21 of its last 22 games and was 6 1/2 games out of first place in the National League West as recently as Sept. 15. A year ago, the Rockies finished 76-86, 12 games behind San Diego and Los Angeles.

"These guys just don't quit," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. "This has been fun to watch let me tell you."

The 21-1 run is incredible on its own, but it is even more amazing when you consider the Rockies are in the playoffs for only the second time in their 15-year existence and first time since 1995.

They became only the second team to sweep an NLCS since the seven-game series was instituted in 1985 and first since Atlanta swept Cincinnati in the 1995 NLCS.

"At some point, maybe the historic [magnitude] of this will sink in, but right now we're just a team that is enjoying playing the game and coming out expecting to win every day," Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins said. "What you're seeing is 25 guys pulling in the same direction."

And rewriting baseball history in the process.

The Wild Card Rockies did not have home-field advantage in either series, yet swept NL East champion Philadelphia in three games and NL West champion Arizona in four to complete their bottom to top jump that earned them a place along the other great turnaround stories in baseball history:

• The 1991 Atlanta Braves, a year after finishing last (65-97) in the NL West, went 94-68 to win the division, then beat Pittsburgh in the NLCS before losing to Minnesota in the World Series.
Those '91 Twins made a similar last to first leap. The '90 Twins finished 74-88 and in the American League West cellar, 29 games behind Oakland. When the Twins and Braves met in that memorable 1991 World Series it was the first and only time in the 20th century two teams that had finished last the year before met in the World Series.
• The 1993 Philadelphia Phillies made it to the NLCS and then the World Series, one year after finishing dead last in the NL East, 70-92 and 26 games out of first place.

• The only other team to go from cellar to World Series in one year was the 1998 San Diego Padres. The year before, that team finished in the NL West cellar, 76-86 and 14 games behind San Francisco. The '98 Padres finished the regular season 98-64, good for first place in the division, then beat Houston in the NLDS and Atlanta in the NLCS to advance to the World Series.

Now comes the Rockies, the latest team to climb from the cellar to the pinnacle in one season.

Even Cinderella didn't climb that far.

"If you would have told me back in Spring Training that we were going to the World Series I wouldn't have believed it," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "This has been an incredible run, we played so long where if we lost our season was over we've been playing every day like that's still the case."

Of the previous four to go from cellar to pennant, only the Twins went on to win the World Series. None of those teams went unbeaten in the postseason, let alone win 21 of their last 22.

The Rockies will face either Boston or Cleveland in the World Series with a chance to join Minnesota as the only team to finish last one year and win a Fall Classic the next.

Keep the history book handy. The last-to-first Rockies don't look like they are finished rewriting it.

Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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