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Herzog Strengthens Grip on Angels : Baseball: General manager takes control of future negotiations. White Sox win, 10-2.

September 21, 1993|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Just to make sure there was no misunderstanding this time, General Manager Whitey Herzog peered behind the microphone Monday, caught the eye of his bosses, and declared that the Angels will now be run his way.

If anyone has any problems with this arrangement, speak now or forever hold your peace.

No one uttered a sound.

On a day when the Chicago White Sox took another step toward clinching the American League West title with a 10-2 victory over the Angels before 15,836 at Anaheim Stadium, leave it to Herzog to steal the show.

In what was a simple news conference to introduce Bill Bavasi as the assistant general manager, Bob Harrison as a special assistant, Ken Forsch as the director of minor league operations and Joe Maddon as the director of player development and field coordinator, Herzog let the world know that things are changing in Anaheim.

OK, so maybe owners Gene and Jackie Autry still have not fudged on their budgetary constraints. Herzog has been told that the budget will be only $24 million in 1994, according to sources, and that includes the remaining $3 million that former third baseman Gary Gaetti is owed.

It's a far cry from the $38 million payroll that Herzog inherited in 1991, but he seemed unfazed, vowing that he can make it work.

He knows that the Angels can't participate in the high-stakes free agent market, so he signed starter Joe Magrane to a two-year contract with an option, club sources confirmed Monday night. The signing is scheduled to be announced this afternoon.

He then jumped into the negotiations with left fielder Luis Polonia, demanding that Polonia's agent provides him with a concrete contract proposal that the Angels can accept or reject. Polonia said Monday that he is seeking a three-year deal for $9 million, or four years for $11 million. Herzog will soon let him know his answer.

He let designated hitter Chili Davis' representatives know that they can forget about a three-year contract. If they cannot agree to a two-year extension, Herzog said, the Angels simply will exercise the option of Davis' $2.4-million base salary in 1994.

Then, there were the telephone calls to the agents for reliever Steve Frey and catcher Greg Myers. They were told to forget about arbitration. They will negotiate one- or two-year contracts, and if there's no agreement, the players will be released.

Yes, things will be done differently now, Herzog said. There will be no more confusing who is in charge. No more prolonged negotiations. No more embarrassing communication gaffes.

This, in fact, is the only way Herzog would have returned to the Angels. He told President Richard Brown that he would resign if there was no change in the front-office structure, and Brown decided that Herzog deserved a chance to try his way, so he fired Vice President Dan O'Brien.

"I wasn't here to get anybody fired, but I just didn't feel I was earning my money," Herzog said. "I was ready to resign because I didn't get to do what I wanted the last two years. I mean, I wasn't around here much because I had nothing to do.

"I came back to baseball in the first place because I wanted to get the Cowboy in the World Series, and I was told I was the only one who could do it. In two years, we haven't done it. Now, I want to try it my way."

Just in case Herzog needed more time, he was offered a contract extension by the Autrys past 1994. Herzog declined, saying he might not need the extra time.

"I will stay with the Angels until I feel the organization is on the right track," Herzog said. "When I feel we will get to that point, I'll step aside. . . . There's no doubt in mind that one day (Bavasi) will be the man who's going to be running the organization."

Said Bavasi, 35, whose father, Buzzie, was general manager from 1977-1984: "I called him today and told him that I was sitting in his chair. It's amazing. Whitey assigned new offices, and mine just so happens to be the one Buzzie had."

While Herzog will attempt to make the Angels contenders again, the only gratifying aspect of Monday's performance for Herzog was knowing that the White Sox will be out of the American League West next season.

The White Sox (85-64), winning for the fifth time in six games, stayed 4 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Texas Rangers with only 13 games remaining. They moved to a season-high 21 games above .500, reducing their magic number to nine for their first division title since 1983.

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