Less than 24 hours after the end of a disappointing season, the Angels restructured their front office Thursday, appointing Richard M. Brown president and chief executive officer.
The move significantly reduces the role of Mike Port, the club's executive vice president and general manager. Port will remain in charge of baseball operations but will no longer be the chief operating officer.
Brown, who has been on the Angels' board of directors since 1986 and the club's legal counsel since 1981, will oversee the entire organization and report to owner Gene Autry, who had been the club's president and remains as chairman of the board. Brown is expected to assume his new duties on Nov. 1.
"I will be taking over the corporate responsibilities, the promotions, the ticket sales and television contracts," Brown said. "Mike is still the general manager and is responsible for baseball operations. He will still be handling the scouting and player personnel."
Dan O'Brien, senior vice president in charge of baseball operations; Bill Bavasi, director of minor league operations, and Bob Fontaine Jr., director of scouting, will continue to operate their departments, but their decisions will be approved by Brown, not Port.
"It's not a demotion," said Stan Schneider, a member of the Angels' board of directors, referring to Port. However, Port will now report to Brown. All trades and other transactions will have to be cleared through Brown.
Port has been the Angels' general manager since 1984 and was promoted to vice president and chief operating officer in 1988.
"With my corporate responsibilities, I have sometimes been stretched thin," Port said. "The baseball end hasn't suffered, but sometimes the administrative end has. My background is in baseball. I will now be responsible for only the product on the field."
That, though, is the area that has drawn the most criticism in recent months. The Angels, who contended for the American League West title in 1989, finished fourth this season, 23 games behind the Oakland Athletics.
Much of the blame was put on Port, his critics saying he had not done enough to improve a club that was considered an overachiever in 1989.
Port's only significant move during the off-season was the signing of free-agent pitcher Mark Langston. Even that backfired, as Langston, a 16-game winner with Seattle and Montreal in '89, fell to 10-17 in 1990.
When the Angels had a poor start this season, Port did make deals for outfielders Luis Polonia and Dave Winfield, but was criticized for allowing Willie McGee of the St. Louis Cardinals to clear waivers.
McGee, who won the National League batting title, went to the A's, a team already loaded with talent.
Brown said Port will still be responsible for player transactions, trades and contract negotiations.
"I may ask Mike to fill a need on the team, but he will be the one making the deals," Brown said. "He will then bring it to me. Myself and the Autrys will make the final decision."
Brown, 47, said he hoped to improve communications within the organization. He also said he wanted to strengthen the Angels' farm system and expand the scouting system into Latin America.
Manager Doug Rader talked in similar fashion two weeks ago when he agreed to a two-year contract extension. Rader signed after Port promised to shore up scouting and minor league operations.
"To me, if you deal a manager cards to play with, he's got to have some input on what he needs," said Brown, who added that he had sat in on the Rader contract talks.
"We have good people in our baseball operations. This will just free them up to do their jobs. This will be a smooth transition. I hope I'm not being naive."