The availability of Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson lends a degree of glamour and mystery to today's annual June baseball draft, but it is the Angels, with five of the first 28 picks, who figure to get rich.
"We're in a situation without precedent," scouting director Larry Himes said Sunday.
"Now I have to rub the Buddha and see if we can pick the right ones."
Most say the Angels can't miss, citing the depth of the 1986 talent pool.
Said Himes: "There's not the premier guy at the top, but there's talent all the way down the line. . . I think it's the strongest draft since I became scouting director in 1981."
Dodger counterpart Ben Wade agreed.
"There's a larger number of good high school kids in this year's draft than I've seen in a long time and that's not to take anything away from the college field," he said.
"Everyone should come out of the first round at least with an outstanding prospect."
As for Bo?
The feeling seems to be that he is using baseball as a wedge to increase his bargaining power with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who recently made him the No. 1 selection in the National Football League draft.
"I'd be very surprised if he didn't sign with Tampa Bay," said Himes, citing statements by Tampa Bay owner Hugh Culverhouse that he will not be outbid.
"He's talking about having Bo make a franchise," Himes said. "We're talking about having him play minor league baseball. They're talking immediate returns and we're talking the future.
"I have to assume he'll sign with Tampa Bay if only on the basis of the comparable financial packages."
The Angels took a 20th-round gamble on Jackson in last year's June draft, and there were rumors that they offered him a $1-million signing package. Himes hotly disputes this, saying Jackson made a broken-field run through the Angel negotiating attempts, resisting virtually all phone calls and invitations.
The Angels' negotiating rights expired when Jackson returned for his senior year at Auburn, ultimately enhancing his football credentials by winning the Heisman Trophy and leading Auburn to the Cotton Bowl.
In a baseball season abbreviated by an NCAA ruling that Jackson had violated regulations by traveling to Tampa Bay at the Buccaneers' expense, he batted .246 with 7 home runs and 29 strike outs in 69 at-bats.
The Angels, with those five early picks, are again in position to take a risk, but Himes said it won't happen--not in an early round, at least.
"Our interest is as high as it was earlier," Himes said. "He's still right at the top talent-wise. He's still comparable to a Kirk Gibson in potential. I don't think you'd be taking a risk on his ability, but there would be a definite risk in drafting and signing him.
"I've got a chance to put a lot of good players in the system and I can't take that risk unless we were to get a commitment. There's enough talent that even drafting 28th we can take a quality player who wants to make a career out of baseball.
"We will not use one of those five picks on him, nor will we take him in a top round, and that takes care of rounds two and three, too."
There is no indication that any of the 26 clubs will gamble a top pick on Jackson, who recently has been on something of a baseball tour, visiting Anaheim, Toronto and Kansas City.
He was expected to work out with the Royals on Friday, but refused--an indication, perhaps, that he has definitely decided on football and does not want to risk injury. He has said that he will announce his decision within a week after the baseball draft.
Either way, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who draft first today and were once committed to selecting Jackson, are no longer interested, according to club sources.
The Pirates are expected to choose one of four players:
Third baseman Jeff King of the University of Arkansas; left-handed pitcher Greg Swindell of the University of Texas; outfielder Greg McMurtry of Brockton High in Brockton, Mass.; or shortstop Gary Sheffield of Hillsborough High in Tampa, Fla.
If the Pirates believe in pedigree, they will take Sheffield. He is Dwight Gooden's nephew.
King, Swindell and Sheffield are definitely expected to be among the first five selections.
Others expected to be taken near the top are shortstop Matt Williams of Nevada Las Vegas; right-handed pitcher Kevin Brown of Georgia Tech; catcher Scott Hemond of the University of South Florida; right-handed pitcher Daryl Green of Nacogdoches (Tex.) High; shortstop Patrick Lennon of Whiteville (N.C.) High; and left-handed pitcher Kent Mercker of Dublin (Ohio) High.
Among Californians expected to go in the first round are pitcher Ryan Bowen of Hanford High near Fresno; catcher Derek Parks of Montclair High in Pomona, and pitcher Brad Brink of USC.