Like many of his Angel teammates, Bobby Grich has been learning to live his baseball life "on the bubble." Grich is one of nine prominent Angels who may not be Angels next season.
He has spent much of 1986 in debate with himself over 1987. The issue: Should I play or should I go?
In the last year of his current contract and about four months away from his 38th birthday, Grich has found himself wondering if 15 full seasons in the major leagues is time enough. Then again, there are nights like Monday that make him feel young again, and make retirement seem like such a ridiculous concept.
It was Grich's two-out, three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning that gave the Angels a 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians in the first game of a twilight doubleheader Monday in Anaheim Stadium. Throw in a couple of alert defensive plays and it's enough to make a guy want to stick around for a while.
The game's final out came when a ground ball off the bat of Dave Clark eluded Wally Joyner and Grich, backing up the play, fielded the ball on the run and threw in time to pitcher Doug Corbett covering. It was the kind of play that Grich followers have become accustommed to seeing.
Afterward, Grich found himself in the middle of a huddle of reporters in the Angel clubhouse, answering the now-familiar questions. A mysterious voice in the back of the pack suddenly piped in. "Do you think that play you made at the end of the game will save your career with the Angels?" the voice asked. Grich looked momentarily taken aback.
The voice belonged to Reggie Jackson, who came off his own bubble long enough to provide the between-games entertainment. Grich laughed. Reporters laughed. Jackson, satisfied at his mischief, laughed. But this retirement issue is serious business, and Grich knows it.
Grich admitted that the debate is raging on within him. "I had said that it was unlikely that I'd be back," he said. "Then, around July, I started to waver. I started playing well, and I've been feeling great. I feel like I'm 27 years old."
Grich said his talks with the powers that be--namely General Manager Mike Port--have not been conclusive enough to tell him whether he will be back with the club next season. He says he's satisfied with the season he has had this year but remains uncertain about coming back for more.
"First of all, they have to want me back," Grich said. "No matter how bad I might want back, if they don't want me back it's academic. We'll just wait until November, when they start putting all the pieces of 1987 together and see if I fit into that puzzle."
In the meantime, the Angels' magic number is drawing closer to zero, and Grich is reminded of division titles gone by, and World Series appearances gone by the wayside. This year, he hopes it will be different.
"If we do clinch (the American League West), I'd like to see the celebration be really low-key," Grich said. "In my mind, it's not a successful season unless you get into the World Series. A division title's nice, but it's not what I want for Gene Autry."
Getting back to the issue--to life on the bubble--another voice, this one belonging to a reporter, asked Grich if the curtain call he took after his game-winning home run Monday could be something of a symbolic gesture. Was this almost like an opportunity to wave goodby?
"The thought did cross my mind," he said. "It's a possibility."