Angel management threw another going-away party, and, as has become a custom with this crack crew, the affair had all the warmth and compassion of a piece of sharpened steel.
One day, Doug DeCinces is a starting third baseman. The next, he is gone.
Poof. Vanished. And don't let the trap door hit you on the way out, eh?
Not that the 1987 season was one that DeCinces would have taken special care to paste into the family scrapbook. To the contrary. His .234 batting average was the lowest during his stay with the Angels, as were his 16 home runs and 63 runs batted in. As General Manager Mike Port was so kind to point out, DeCinces stranded more than 100 runners on base, and he is--gasp--37 years old.
So on Sept. 23, with only 10 games remaining in this dismal and depressing Angel season, Port handed DeCinces a piece of paper, mumbled something about disappointing statistics and bid him an icy farewell. For this, the Angels saved $141,667, the buyout price had the team decided to keep DeCinces until season's end.
And by the way, what's the name of that fabled Angel public relations firm, Cold, Callous & Calculated?
"I had a feeling," DeCinces said in a telephone conversation from St. Louis, where he spent the season's final week with the Cardinals as a reserve. "I knew what my contract situation was from the start. I knew that if the team didn't play well, I wasn't going to be around the next year. The thing about this is that they could have chosen to approach me in a far different way. They could have approached me and asked, 'What's the best way to do this?'
"I would have been receptive to an amicable parting. I didn't get to say goodby to the fans, to my teammates, to anybody."
DeCinces isn't the first player the Angels have jettisoned, nor will he be the last. There's always someone available for scapegoat duty.
In 1985, Rod Carew was presented with his walking papers.
In 1986, Reggie Jackson was told to take a hike.
In 1987, it is DeCinces' turn.
Ten years from now, the Angels may turn their back on Wally Joyner. Such is their tradition.
"I think (Joyner's) eyes have been opened quite a bit," DeCinces said.
The Angels have this shtick down to a science. Give no player his due, acknowledge no past service, ignore any semblance of dignity. Simple, really.
Carew did receive a belated salute after his forced retirement, but the ceremony lacked any real emotion. It was as if the Angels suddenly remembered Carew's contributions.
Jackson's heave-ho was a protracted event and ended in November, in an Anaheim Stadium office hallway. Some fanfare.
The worse yet is the handling of DeCinces' departure. The reasons, according to the Angels:
--DeCinces was at the end of his career.
Fair enough. DeCinces' 1987 numbers were unimpressive, and his age is a consideration. But it was only a season ago that DeCinces produced 26 home runs and 96 RBIs. And during his first five years with the Angels, DeCinces averaged .271, 23 homers and 84 RBIs.
"It was just unfortunate that I never got in a solid groove this year," DeCinces said. "I've always overcome things in my career. I overcame Brooks Robinson in Baltimore. I overcame my back problems, trades, contract situations in the past. I just think there was a little something taken out of me after last winter's negotiations."
--DeCinces was a clubhouse lawyer.
The joke around the Angel clubhouse was that if you wanted to know anything from nuclear proliferation to the Latin derivative of infield, you asked DeCinces. He was disruptive, said Angel management, a bad influence on younger players. He offered advice, apparently a no-no.
Funny, owner Gene Autry and the gang didn't seem to mind DeCinces' opinions in 1982 and 1986, as he helped lead the Angels to division titles.
--DeCinces had to go; Jack Howell awaits.
Howell is a third baseman, not outfielder, as he has played much of the season.
"We determined it was time to go with Howell," Port said recently. "We took heat for it, but felt it had to be done."
On the count of three, you're free to scream.
Nobody questions Howell's talent, probably not even DeCinces himself. Nobody disputes that it may have been time for the Angels to consider alternatives. But this?
A piece of paper? An owner who questions DeCinces' willingness to play? A manager, said DeCinces, who never extended a handshake or a simple wish of good luck?
"They talk about family, but then they do everything to pull everybody away," DeCinces said.
When pitcher John Candelaria encountered personal and alcohol-related problems this season, the Angels rushed to his aid, as they should in such situations. They insisted that Candelaria undergo rehabilitation, that he take whatever time needed to solve his problems.
After his return, Candelaria mentioned his desire to pitch for a New York team. The Angels obliged the request. Just like that, Candelaria became a Met.
Then there is DeCinces. Involved in local and national charities. A role model of sorts. Wanted to end his career as an Angel.
So, of course, the Angels rewarded him with a tight-lipped farewell and then claimed it had nothing to do with the $141,667. Sure. And Joe Biden writes his own stuff.
Said DeCinces: "I never thought I'd be in St. Louis for one week at the end of the year, no."
Then again, he probably never thought the Angels would treat him as they treated Carew or Jackson. He was wrong.
By the time DeCinces returned to Anaheim Stadium to gather his belongings, the Angels had left on a six-game trip. The highest-ranking Angel official available to wish DeCinces well? Leonard Garcia, the team equipment manager.