ANAHEIM — The Angels, who seem to manage to do something each season that leaves the baseball world dumbfounded, came up with a beaut Tuesday.
They fired Manager Buck Rodgers.
And hired Marcel Lachemann, the pitching coach of the Florida Marlins, to be their manager beginning Thursday against the Kansas City Royals. Meanwhile, first-base coach Bobby Knoop will fill in, then will become the bench coach.
Rodgers, the original Angel who was instrumental in turning around the image of the organization, who refused to bash his bosses for trading away Jim Abbott and allowing Bryan Harvey to leave in the expansion draft, who nearly was killed for the Angels during their 1992 bus crash, was whisked away for one major reason.
He talked too much.
Rodgers, according to a highly placed source in the organization, was fired as much as anything because he was outspoken.
He was much too candid in his opinions that appeared in print, irritating his players, and too opinionated in the private meetings, enraging his bosses.
Angel officials, according to sources, were infuriated when Rodgers was quoted after Sunday's 9-5 defeat by the Seattle Mariners as saying, "You have to realize John Dopson has been released. Mark Leiter has been released. Joe Magrane has been released. And we're trying to find spots for them on our club . . . . You've got to look at what we've got to start with."
Said one club official: "Come on, you just can't say those things. It wasn't like that was the first time. It just kept happening."
There also was the underlying belief in the organization that the club had one too many general managers. While Bavasi was hired Jan. 12, 1994, as general manager to replace Whitey Herzog, several front-office officials said Rodgers also behaved as if he was general manager.
President Richard Brown and Bavasi informed Rodgers several times of personnel decisions that they wanted made, but too often Rodgers steadfastly refused. This was his team, and he was running it like he wanted.
Their relationship had all but dissolved Monday during a private personnel meeting with Rodgers, the coaching staff and the front office. Rodgers accused the front office of being more concerned about budget restraints than winning, saying they were trying to save $200,000 by bringing up Russ Springer instead of veteran John Farrell.
There also had been the disagreement on the handling of triple-A first baseman J.T. Snow. Although the Angel front office was ready to bring up Snow if Eduardo Perez was placed on the disabled list, Rodgers wanted utility player Mark Dalesandro.
It also was no coincidence that on the day Rodgers was fired, the Angel lineup was overhauled. Rookie Jim Edmonds was playing left field instead of Dwight Smith or Bo Jackson; third baseman Damion Easley was dropped from leadoff to seventh in the lineup; and Chad Curtis was moved up from sixth to second. And while Farrell indeed will be brought up to replace Mark Leiter in the rotation, they also decided Springer will be up later in the week.
Bavasi refused to confirm the reasoning for the firing, and wouldn't even offer specifics, but he did say the Angels' 16-23 record had no bearing on his decision.
"I would have done it if we were in first place," Bavasi said.
"We made the change because as an organization we feel we need to take a different direction. I don't want to get into why we made the move, because saying anything would be negative.
"I don't want to be critical of the guy. I've probably done enough damage already.
"My actions speak loud enough."
Rodgers, 55, who had the team only two games out of first place in the American League West, was unavailable for comment.
Rodgers, informed by Bavasi of the decision in a private meeting at about noon Tuesday, spent the rest of the day with a close friend who recently had a heart attack. He will have his own news conference at 2 p.m. today, and perhaps then he will divulge his perspective.
"We had no idea something like this would happen," said Judi Rodgers, his wife. "I don't even know what happened. He just called me and said, 'Well, I got the ax.' "
Bavasi, who said he had been contemplating the decision for about a week, phoned Marlin General Manager Dave Dombrowski in about the seventh inning of their game against the New York Mets, and asked permission to hire Lachemann.
"We're going to make a decision and offer the job to Marcel," Bavasi told Dombrowski. "The job's his if he wants it."
Dombrowski, who fired Rodgers on June 3, 1991, from the Montreal Expos, informed Lachemann after the game. Marlin Manager Rene Lachemann, his brother, hitting coach Doug Rader and Marcel stayed up until 4:30 in the morning discussing whether he should take the job. Rader was fired by the Angels when Rodgers took over on Aug. 26, 1991.
"I can't say I even had my mind made up when I woke up," Marcel Lachemann said, "because I'm not sure I even fell asleep. . . .