The Angels got a head start on their annual winter tradition--the unceremonious dumping of a veteran player--by waiving 37-year-old third baseman Doug DeCinces Wednesday evening, 11 days before the end of the regular season.
In October 1985, it was Rod Carew. In November 1986, it was Reggie Jackson. Now, in 1987, before Wednesday night's 10-6 victory over the Chicago White Sox, the club released DeCinces, who batted .234 with 16 home runs and 63 runs batted in during his sixth season with the Angels.
As with Carew and Jackson, there was no fanfare, no press conference, no parting tribute.
DeCinces didn't even get a handshake.
"It wasn't what I would classify a positive ending," said DeCinces, who spoke to reporters via a conference call from his home in Villa Park. "It wasn't a very classy move.
"All it was was, they call you in, hand you a sheet of paper, no thanks for anything: 'Here's your piece of paper, see you later.' "
About two hours before game time, DeCinces was summoned to General Manager Mike Port's office, where he was given the news. According to DeCinces, words were exchanged--"The first words Mike Port and I have had all year," he said--and then DeCinces left Anaheim Stadium, without pausing to clean out his locker.
The move was made for financial reasons, DeCinces said. If the club had waited until the end of the season, it would have had to choose between renewing DeCinces' contract for $850,000 or buying him out for $141,667--one-sixth of his annual salary. Releasing DeCinces before the end of the season, however, rid the club of any financial responsibility.
Thus, Wednesday's announcement saved the Angels $141,667.
"I understand how the business works," DeCinces said. "(But) it's still hard to grasp the way you get treated."
DeCinces would not elaborate on his parting discussion with Port, but theirs has been a strained relationship, at best, since 1984. That year, when Port was named to succeed Buzzie Bavasi as Angel general manager, DeCinces spoke out against the decision, questioning Port's integrity in print.
Since then, DeCinces has remained critical of Port, and Port has remained tight-lipped about DeCinces. Port's terse reply when approached by reporters Wednesday was, "All the facts are in the (press) release. I have no comment other than what's in the release."
And what was in the press release? Just this:
"Doug played here for six seasons and, for most of that time, was an outstanding third baseman," Port is quoted as saying. "You can't help but think of some of the home runs and great plays he has made for us through the years. I think we should let his record speak for itself."
DeCinces, meanwhile, preferred to speak for himself.
When asked about his relationship with Port and if ill will between the two "had been building," DeCinces said, "I don't think anything was building . There isn't a player on this ballclub that respects him."
DeCinces remains bitter over his final contract negotiations with Port last winter, contending that Port reluctantly offered the third baseman a one-year contract in the hope DeCinces would reject it. DeCinces didn't, but after signing the contract, he staged a two-day holdout before spring training to protest what he considered a lack of good faith in negotiations.
Wednesday, DeCinces indicated he is considering filing a grievance over the matter.
"Let's just say there are some legalities involved that I'm going to pursue further," he said. "The way my contract negotiations were handled last year, the lack of response I received, the integrity aspect of the whole thing . . . I didn't think my situation was handled very well over the winter."
And a bad winter, DeCinces claimed, had a carryover effect to the summer.
"Because of what happened last winter, I expected this to happen," he said. "It's not a very comfortable feeling to know that no matter what you do, nothing's going to change things."
Along with DeCinces, free-agent veterans Brian Downing and Bob Boone had to negotiate new contracts with the Angels after 1986. Only Downing signed a guaranteed contract for two years.
"That's exactly why Bob (Boone), Doug and myself all tried for two-year deals," Downing said. "Just to alleviate situations like this.
"(A one-year contract) just puts undue strain on you. I know it bugged Doug from the first day. It gets you into a situation where you're pressing all along, to make it happen so you can get another year. Then, it doesn't happen and we don't win the division, and they release you during the last week of the season."
DeCinces, who averaged .271 with 23 home runs and 84 RBIs in his first five seasons with the Angels, slumped in each category during 1987. His .234 average was the second-lowest of his 13-year career. Excluding the strike-shortened season of 1981, his 16 home runs were the fewest he hit since 1980, when he was still with the Baltimore Orioles.