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Future Shocks for Angels

November 20, 1992|MIKE PENNER

Nov. 17, 1992: The Angels lose the biggest name taken in the expansion draft and the best relief pitcher in their history when they choose to protect John Orton and Luis Sojo ahead of Bryan Harvey.

"When you score 500 or so runs," says Angel Senior Vice President Whitey Herzog, "you don't need a closer. We need DiMaggio, Gehrig and Ruth, and I'm not sure that would be enough."

Within hours, the Angels also lose outfielder Junior Felix, the team's RBI leader and, in the words of Manager Buck Rodgers, "our best player for two-thirds of the season."

ESPN's group of on-site commentators collectively shake their heads. Comments one: "Right now, you have to wonder where this team is going."

Nov. 22: Jim Abbott's agent, Scott Boras, phones Herzog to re-open contract negotiations. "By my calculations," Boras tells Herzog, "losing Harvey and Felix now gives you at least $5 million more to play with. With that in mind . . . "

Herzog cuts Boras off with a stream of expletives.

"Our offer is $16 million and not one dime more," Herzog snarls. "Take it, or we'll continue our efforts to trade him."

Nov. 23: Boras faxes Herzog a counterproposal. Four years for $16,000,000.10.

Nov. 24: Angels trade Abbott to Toronto for three minor leaguers nobody's ever heard of. At an emotional press conference, Herzog angrily waves a finger at Boras. "I warned you. Not one dime more. "

Nov. 25: Fay Vincent announces he is voiding the Abbott trade because "it is not in the best interests of baseball" before someone reminds Vincent that he is no longer commissioner.

Nov. 26: Taking a substantial beating in the media over the Abbott trade, Herzog agrees to appear on "Nightline" to explain his side. "When you score 500 or so runs," Herzog tells Ted Koppel, "you don't need an immensely popular franchise pitcher who will probably win 300 games for the Blue Jays. We need DiMaggio, Gehrig and Ruth, and I'm not sure that would be enough."

Dec. 4: In a cost-cutting measure, Herzog, Rodgers, Senior Vice President Dan O'Brien and team President Richard Brown car-pool to the winter meetings in Louisville. Brown, being the rich guy, is forced to spring for the Doritos.

Dec. 5: The Angels trade Chuck Finley (1992 salary: $4 million) to Oakland for Lance Blankenship (1992 salary: $165,000), thus giving them four second basemen making less than $200,000. "You can never have enough cheap second basemen," says O'Brien. Adds Herzog: "When you score 500 or so runs, you don't need starting pitching. We need DiMaggio, Gehrig and Ruth, and I'm not sure that would be enough."

Dec. 21: The deadline for tendering 1993 contracts passes and the Angels forget to send one to Blankenship, thereby granting Blankenship automatic free agency. Blankenship immediately re-signs with Oakland. "Hey, he was the new guy," O'Brien explains. " You try keeping up with all the names in this office. It isn't easy."

Dec. 31: The Angels unveil their new uniforms. Oddly, the inscription across the chest reads A-N-G-E. "Regretfully, the seamstress ran over budget," Brown says, "so we had to cut back somewhere."

Jan. 10, 1993: Mark Langston and musician buddy Bruce Hornsby organize a benefit concert to raise money for the missing uniform letters. "Somebody had to do something about the S and L crisis," Langston says.

Jan. 15: In a cost-cutting measure, Jackie Autry announces she will restructure the Angels travel itinerary for the 1993 season. In Oakland, for instance, the team will roll out sleeping bags on the floor of the Cow Palace. In Minneapolis, Gary and Debby Gaetti will put up the team in their home in nearby Eden Prairie. Lacking connections in New York, the Angels sign free agent Dave Magadan, who knows lots of people with spare sofas in Manhattan.

Feb. 8: Luis Polonia takes the Angels to arbitration and wins, boosting his salary from $1.65 million in 1992 to $3.1 million in 1993.

Feb. 9: The Angels trade Polonia to Colorado for two players to be named later. "The great thing about getting players to be named later," Brown says, "is that you don't have to pay them until later." Adds Herzog: "When you score 500 or so runs, you don't need a .299-hitting leadoff man who has stolen 99 bases the past two years. We need DiMaggio, Gehrig and Ruth, and I'm not sure that would be enough."

Feb. 24: The Angels trade Tim Salmon to the New York Yankees for DiMaggio, Gehrig and Ruth.

Feb. 25: Gehrig and Ruth fail to report.

March 4: DiMaggio concludes his first week of workouts. "He's lost a step or two," Rodgers concedes, "but the clubhouse coffee has never tasted better."

March 10: Jackie Autry finds out what DiMaggio is making. Angels release DiMaggio.

March 15: The new media guides arrive from the printer. Pictured on the cover is a copy of Gene and Jackie Autry's bank statement. "You tell me, who had a better year?" says an unnamed Angel spokesperson.

April 6: The Angels lose their season opener to Milwaukee, 2-1. Mike Fetters gets the victory in relief.

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