KANSAS CITY — Angel General Manager Mike Port does not wear his emotions on his starched and cuff-linked sleeve, but the first clue to his displeasure over the collapse of the American League West's defending champions came over the weekend, when Angel players found copies of a USA Today article in their lockers.
Circled with a stroke of Port's pen was a comment by Chicago Cubs General Manager Dallas Green, which Port apparently believes applies to the current state of the Angels.
"There is an ingredient, an understanding that eventually comes to a team," Green was quoted saying. "They put aside all the bull, all the problems at home, and they come together to a realization of what it takes to get the job done. Some teams never get it, and that's why there are collapses."
Then, on the eve of a seven-day trip that began Monday with an 8-5 loss to the Kansas City Royals, Port spoke out on the matter in his own words, telling the Riverside Press-Enterprise that his club lacks heart.
"They don't have it here," Port said while pointing to his chest. "They're lacking something inside. Some guys have their own interests and problems at heart. Those guys know who they are.
"I've misread the team," Port continued. "I'm the one who gave those players to the manager.
"There are several classes of players here. Players with ability who give their best every day and carry more than their share. I take my hat off to them. Then we have the class of guys who are just doing their jobs. Then we have another class who essentially believe everyone is at fault except themselves. They point their fingers.
"What they should do is look at themselves in the mirror and be honest and say, 'I'm not getting the job done.' "
Port also singled out the highest-paid Angel, relief pitcher Donnie Moore, who has spent two extensive stints on the disabled list this season.
"Instead of worrying about hurting his rib cage because of pitching three innings on the wrong night, he should have been out there earning his money," Port told the Press-Enterprise. "What do we pay him $1 million for? He's supposed to be in shape. We should be getting our money's worth."
This is uncommonly strong stuff from the reserved and media-wary Port, but Monday afternoon, when reached at his Anaheim Stadium office, Port not only confirmed such statements but added another salvo.
"It's tough for 18 men to do a 24-man job," Port said.
All of this reached the Angels by the time they had lost their fourth straight game, dropping into fifth place in the AL West. And Port's words carried added sting in light of the proceeding just played out at Royals Stadium--a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning wiped out by five Kansas City runs in the bottom of the first.
What was that about Angel Heart?
Manager Gene Mauch refused to comment on Port's published opinions.
"I have no reaction," Mauch said flatly. "Nobody's going to remember it (the story) tomorrow, anyway.
"If we get a well-pitched game tonight, everybody's laughing and scratching. But we didn't, and everybody's talking about the damn Riverside Post-Gazette."
Moore, however, did have a response.
"Again, that's one man's opinion," Moore said. "That's his business, his philosophy.
"If I could have been out there pitching, I'd be out there. Hell, I had 10, 12 (pain-killing) shots in my rib cage. You tell him to get 10 shots in his rib cage.
"I don't care what he says. If he's got something to say, say it to my face."
And from Brian Downing: "Everybody's coming out of the closet with reasons now for what appears to be happening. I've always believed in the (George) Steinbrenner approach--you have something to say, say it to our faces and let's get on with it.
"People who have seen a fraction of our games are ripping and saying other things, using memos and hiding behind newspaper articles. That's like an anonymous quote to me."
Downing used a different method to vent his frustrations Monday night. After getting called out on strikes by home plate umpire Steve Palermo, Downing got himself thrown out of the game.
Downing's ejection came after Palermo called a strike on the next batter, Jack Howell, which drew hoots from the Angel dugout and an admission of error from Palermo. According to Mauch, the ensuing dialogue went something like this:
Palermo: "I missed it."
Downing: "You missed two others, too."
Palermo: "Well, you're not going to see the last one."
Afterward, Downing called his ejection "almost laughable," but not the circumstances leading up to it.
"I'm not going to give up, just because we're playing badly and we're playing out the string," Downing said. "I'm going to go down fighting to the end. I'm not going to roll over, especially against these guys (the Royals).
"I want to beat them more than anybody, the way they've taken us out of pennants before. I want to give them a little payback."
The payback now is try to spoil a Royal pennant surge. Kansas City has won four straight games to move to within 3 1/2 of first place.
Yet, one week ago, the Royals and the Angels met in Anaheim, virtually tied in the AL West standings.
Why has Kansas City been able to turn things around and not California?
"I'm no expert," Downing said. "I just worry about our own team."
"Ask Mike Port," Downing finally added. "He's got all the answers."