There's no sense in asking Gene Mauch about the Angels' 4.70 earned-run average since the All-Star game, the failure of 11 of his last 14 starting pitchers to go beyond six innings, or the 23 homers and 78 runs that were allowed in the 12 games of the home stand that ended Tuesday.
His response is what you would expect from a positive leader who doesn't criticize players and who continues to display a Midas touch, managing a team that is two games ahead of Kansas City in the American League West.
Throw some of the recent pitching negatives at Mauch, and he says: "Damn, we're still in first place. We're right where we want to be.
"Sure, that 4.70 isn't good, and I hate the blowups we had on the home stand (losses of 13-10 to New York, 13-2 to Detroit and 17-3 to Baltimore).
"They can destroy an ERA, but what do I care about ERAs? I want 92 or 93 Ws in that left column. That's the only statistic I care about."
This is the first time Mauch has mentioned the number of wins he thinks it will take to win in the West.
The Angels are 72-54 with 36 games to play. They would need a 20-16 record, a .555 pace, to reach 92. That's slightly slower than their overall pace of .571 but slightly better than their .513 (20-19) since the All-Star break.
The Angels will play their next 10 on the road, facing the same teams they just played at home, New York, Detroit and Baltimore.
"When you face some of the lineups we've been facing, they can make you think you've got some problems," Mauch said. "I know we have to face those same lineups again and that we have to do a better job of it. I think we will."
The Angels rebounded from each "blowup" and won the ensuing game. The ERA on the home stand was 5.45, but the Angels were 7-5, emerging with the same lead they took in.
Mauch remains unruffled, optimistic.
Ask him about John Candelaria, who has gone 1 innings in each of his last two starts, allowing a total of 13 hits and 11 earned runs, and he says: "I know you guys (reporters) are fearless, but don't get too negative about Candelaria, or before September is over, you're going to have to eat it. I believe that."
Or ask him about Ron Romanick, who has an 0-2 record and an 11.32 ERA in four starts since the strike, and he says: "I don't think Ron promised anyone he'd be 25-6. At the start of the season if anyone had told me he'd be six or seven games over .500 (he's 13-6) with eight or nine starts to go, I'd have said, 'Oh, brother. Nice going Ronnie.' "
A pitching problem?
"The thing that's not fun is giving up as many first-inning runs as we did (17 when they were scored on six times in the first inning). This club can do it (come back from a deficit), but it kind of wears you down day after day.
"A problem? I went into Tuesday's game feeling about the way I did before Mike (Witt) straightened it out in his last start. I was hoping for him to do it again, and he did. We'll be all right."
Witt (12-7) has won 10 of his last 12 decisions and has won his last two in the wake of 13-10 and 17-3 defeats. He threw 306 pitches in the two games, a test of the tendinitis in his shoulder and the tenacity in his makeup.
Mauch is juggling his rotation somewhat for the four-game series starting tonight at Yankee Stadium.
He is putting Candelaria in the bullpen for this series. That will give him the advantage of having two left-handers, Candelaria and Al Holland, in relief.
Candelaria will start again in Detroit, will be available for relief in Baltimore and will start again against Kansas City in Anaheim.
A control specialist who walked an average of only 1.65 batters per nine innings with Pittsburgh last year, Candelaria has walked nine in 19 innings with the Angels. The move to the bullpen will give him time to work on mechanics, although part of the problem is that Candelaria isn't getting the low strike from American League umpires that he got in the National League.
"It's different, but I don't want to use that as an excuse," he said. "I'm not that way. If you start making excuses, you don't stop."
Candelaria had been opposed to his relief role in Pittsburgh, but he volunteered to both start and relieve when he got to Anaheim.
"We were going nowhere in Pittsburgh," he said. "It didn't make sense. I could have helped the club more as a starter. The Angels have an excellent team that's playing well. I'm willing to do anything I can to help."
Mauch is also expected to move Kirk McCaskill up a day to start tonight ahead of Romanick, who has gone 3 innnings or fewer in three of four starts since the strike.
Romanick would not discuss his recent problems with reporters Tuesday night, saying that there has been too much negative writing regarding the whole staff recently and implying that pitching alone isn't to blame.
"I don't like the tone of the articles and I don't want to contribute to them," he said.
One theory is that Romanick's concentration was disrupted by his work as player representative during the strike, leading to a mechanical breakdown.
Pitching coach Marcel Lachemann said that a study of videotapes confirmed a flaw in Romanick's delivery, affecting his speed and control.
"There's also the confidence factor," Lachemann said. "Once you start doubting yourself, that compounds the problem. Ron just has to remember how good he's been and how good he can be."
Lachemann also said that each of the starters had to stop trying to carry the burden by himself and that some of the recent problems stem from pressing.
"The guys have the tendency to start thinking, 'I'm going to throw the great game and put a stop to this,' " Lachemann said. "They should be staying within themselves, doing what they can do. They have to remember that it was good enough to help get us here."