Phil Nevin has baseball in his blood and California in his bones.
Nevin, 51, is the interim Los Angeles Angels manager, as he took over for the fired Joe Maddon on Monday. Unfortunately, Nevin, and even the Nickleback trick the Angels tried against the Red Sox Wednesday night, have not turned around the Angels’ fate. The losing streak is now a franchise-record 14 games.
There’s still a long way to go in the baseball season. There are still great Angels players in Mike Trout and Shohei Ontani and no one is running away with the AL West, but this is now Phil Nevin’s team which leads to the inevitable question….Who is Phil Nevin?
A hitter with a kick
Nevin was a school boy star for the Hawks of El Dorado High School in Placentia. He was drafted directly out of high school by the Dodgers in the 1989 Draft in the third round, but Nevin opted for college. He went to nearby Cal-State Fullerton, one of the premier programs in college baseball.
But he didn’t just play baseball.
Nevin was a kicker/punter for the Titans football program and was named Freshman All-American in football by The Sporting News.
Cal-State Fullerton dropped football in 1992. Oh well.
Nevin was a first-class stud for the Titans baseball team. He batted .358 as a freshman and the Titans reached the College World Series (they were two and barbecue as they say in Omaha).
He batted .335 as a sophomore and then as a junior, he led the Titans to the CWS Championship game where they lost to Pepperdine. Nevin batted .391 that year with 20 dingers. He was CWS Most Outstanding Player – for a losing team – and won the Golden Spikes Award as the best player in college baseball.
Number one pick, six trades, seven teams
People don’t consider Nevin that big of a bust, but he didn’t live up to the hype coming out of college. He was drafted No. 1 by the Astros in the 1992 draft ahead of no-name pitchers Paul Shuey (Indians) and BJ Wallace (Expos).
A shortstop named Derek Jeter was the sixth overall choice that year by the Yankees.
He did all right.
Nevin made his MLB Debut in 1995 with the Astros, but he just didn’t fit in. These are the Killer B Astros (Craig Biggio, Derek Bell and Jeff Bagwell) and Nevin didn’t hit and didn’t have a clear spot to play. Nevin was traded to the Tigers for closer Mike Henneman after just 18 games with Houston.
The Tigers liked Nevin so much, they traded him in 1997 to the Anaheim Angels (yes, they were Anaheim then) for pitcher Nick Skuse, who never made it out of Triple-A.
Nevin played a year in Anaheim, batting .228 in 75 games. His career was going nowhere.
Finding the juice in San Diego, maybe?
Before spring training in 1999, Nevin is traded to the San Diego Padres.
Ok, the numbers look different now, knowing what we know about steroids, and Nevin has never tested positive or anything but we have to point it out.
Nevin suddenly becomes a power hitter in San Diego.
He bats .303 in 2000 with 31 Homers and 107 RBI, then in 2001 he had his single All-Star season slugging 41 homers and batting .306. (Before he got to San Diego, the most homers he hit in one year was nine).
He has a few moments where his temper gets the best of him in San Diego and he ends up hurting his elbow and his career winds down. He gets traded to the Rangers, then the Cubs, then the Twins. Nevin plays in one post-season game with the Twins in 2006 and goes 0-3. His career slash line is .270/208 homers and 743 RBI. Respectable.
The coaching carousel
It doesn’t take long for Nevin to become a coach after retiring in May of 2007. He works in an independent league in California in 2008. He gets hired by the Tigers and coaches in Double-A and Triple-A with them, but gets fired in 2013. He recycles with the D-backs and is back in Triple-A with the Reno Aces. Then he coaches third base with the San Francisco Giants and then joins Aaron Boone with the Yankees in 2017.
His Yankees coaching career ends in controversy when he waves Aaron Judge home on a ball knocked off the Green Monster by Giancarlo Stanton in the 2021 AL Wild Card Game. Judge is out by 10 feet. The New York media needs a scapegoat after the 6-2 loss. To his credit, Nevin defends his decision but is swept out by Yankees GM Brian Cashman.
Back as an Angel
The Angels (now Los Angeles Angels) bring in Nevin as their third base coach before the 2022 season. No one saw this losing streak coming.
Nevin was the obvious choice to be named manager, but the early returns are disappointing at best. Nevin was an amazing college baseball player, and a serviceable pro. This is his first managerial job in the majors. Nevin has always shown enough ability to get the job done. The Angels need him to start producing.