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#pounditWednesday, February 1, 2023

Billy Eppler has been fired and never should have been hired in the first place

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The Los Angeles Angels will need a new general manager after firing Billy Eppler on Sunday, finally ending a five-year mistake.

The Angels made the move with Eppler, firing him even though he had a year left on his current deal. The Angels reportedly quietly gave Eppler a 1-year contract extension over the summer, The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya reports.

The move is long overdue from the Angels, and truthfully, Eppler never should have been hired in the first place.

The Angels had a losing record in all five seasons of Eppler’s tenure from 2016-2020. The best they did was get to 80-82.

At the time the Angels hired Eppler, they should have gone into a quick rebuild and tried to acquire some young pitching to help replace the losses of Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, who were rotation mainstays. Instead, they wanted to compete right away despite the vast talent differences between them and the division-leading Astros. Eppler likely got the job because he convinced owner Arte Moreno that competing in the AL West was possible. That proved to be a fantasy, as the team lacked the pitching throughout his tenure as GM. One of Eppler’s first moves — trading two young pitchers for Andrelton Simmons — seemed to be proof of this misguided belief.

Eppler’s best moves were signing Mike Trout to a long-term, lifetime-type deal, and winning the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes. Beyond signing Ohtani, Eppler never built a pitching staff and even continued to spend his resources on position players despite the team’s pitching being a glaring weakness. The team acquired Justin Upton at the trade deadline in 2017. Acquiring Upton under the belief that they were contenders was proof of their delusion. Signing Upton to an extension rather than using the money in other ways compounded the error.

The Angels’ strong run from their World Series year in 2002 to their last division title in 2014 had ended, and the team was heading the wrong direction. It was obvious. The Angels hired Eppler and tried to fight the truth, but the truth prevailed, and the best they could manage was an 80-82 season. At least the Angels appear to have a real winner in mind as a replacement to get them back on track.

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