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ANGELS '89 PREVIEW SECTION : Trying to Get by With Touch of Gray : Youth Movement Detoured in Favor of Beat the Clock

March 31, 1989|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

Over nachos and iced tea, at the Mexican restaurant where he announced his retirement last fall, ex-Angel Doug DeCinces also served some food for thought concerning the wobbly course being run by his former team.

"They need to change their approach over there," DeCinces said. "They're not going to do it with the farm system alone. They're going to have to bring in some veterans."

Hardly surprising stuff, coming from a recent casualty of the Angel youth movement. DeCinces was a 1987 victim, pushed out in favor of Jack Howell, just as Rod Carew had been forced out by Wally Joyner in 1986. DeCinces' peer group was Reggie Jackson, Bobby Grich, Don Sutton--not Devon White, Mark McLemore and Bryan Harvey.

A veteran veteran, DeCinces and his advice seemed best taken with a grain of margarita salt. The 1988 Angels might not have been very good, but at least they were young.

And all young players need is time, right?

Time's up.

Between the final out of their 12th consecutive defeat and the opening workout of their spring camp in Mesa, Ariz., the Angels did their share of retooling. And most of the tools they acquired were of the vintage variety:

Lance Parrish, 32-year-old catcher, came from Philadelphia in a trade for 19-year-old pitcher David Holdridge.

Bert Blyleven, 37-year-old pitcher, was imported from Minnesota for the price of three minor leaguers.

Claudell Washington, 34-year-old outfielder, was signed to a free-agent contract worth $2.6 million over the next three seasons.

Bob McClure, 35-year-old pitcher, was brought in to replace 26-year-old Sherman Corbett as the left-handed bullpen specialist.

Bill Schroeder, 30-year-old reserve catcher, was acquired from Milwaukee in exchange for 27-year-old utility infielder Gus Polidor.

Dave Concepcion, 40, and Glenn Hoffman, 30, were signed as possible replacements for Polidor.

Imagine DeCinces and Angel vice president Mike Port, after all this time, finally finding common ground.

Stop the youth movement, the Angels want to get off.

Port, of course, characterizes the club's change of course in less dramatic terms. The Anaheim youth revolution presses on, he insists.

All that has been added, he says, is a touch of gray--for that more distinguished look.

"We still have Wally Joyner, Mark McLemore, Dick Schofield, Jack Howell and Devon White," Port points out, ticking off the names of the Angels' under-28 brigade.

"Chili Davis is just reaching the 30 mark. Our pitchers--Mike Witt, Kirk McCaskill, Dan Petry, Bryan Harvey--are still reasonably young fellows.

"I would venture to say there's still a strong youth element to this club."

Yet, after back-to-back 75-87 finishes in 1987 and 1988, the need for experienced leadership, for additional seasoning, was glaringly obvious. All those new faces didn't look so fresh after that club-record, season-ending losing streak.

The Angels had gone from too old to too young too quickly, it was argued. This was a ship that needed a rudder.

So Blyleven and his 254 career victories were brought in to impart some winning wisdom on the Angel pitching staff.

Washington, who served as Rickey Henderson's personal guidance counselor with the New York Yankees, would be the good influence in the Angel clubhouse George Hendrick failed to be.

Concepcion, a relic from the Big Red Machine dynasty days, was invited to camp in hope of (a) losing some weight, (b) making the team, and (c) lending a knowing hand to the young Angel infield.

Parrish? Well, he knew how to win. In 1984, he led Detroit to a World Series championship. And at 32, he wasn't too old.

In fact, Parrish is nine years younger than the man he succeeds, Bob Boone.

See, the youth movement lives.

Brian Downing, the Angels' 38-year-old designated hitter, was gladdened no end by these new old arrivals--and not just for the company.

"We brought in a lot of experience, major league veterans who can fill some roles," Downing said. "That's going to help. These people have played for winners--and we need all the winning experience we can get."

In reserve roles, as well as starting roles, Downing said.

"Look at Oakland last year," he said. "The one thing Oakland did was go out and get some veteran backup players. David Henderson, who came in and really helped. Ron Hassey. Glenn Hubbard at second base. Don Baylor, Dave Parker. Some guys in their pitching staff.

"Most teams give those jobs to some player making the minimum salary, a 23-year-old kid. At least we went out and paid some money for some people who have been through it before. That's an encouraging sign."

Of course, whenever experienced hands are brought in, baggage comes attached. Some of it, in the case of the Angels' old newcomers, would be better off lost in transit.

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