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Baseball's Awesome Assaulters : Comparing the Angel Offense to the 1927 New York Yankees Is Not a Stretch; It's a Fact


Comparing the offense of the California Angels to the 1927 New York Yankees is not a stretch. It's a fact.

Featuring a lineup including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey and Tony Lazzeri, the Yankees of 68 years ago scored 974 runs--an average of 6.32 per game--in terrorizing opponents and putting together a 110-44 record.

As July turned into August, the Angels were averaging 6.29 runs per game, having scored 548 runs in compiling a 54-33 record and a 10-game lead in the American League West. They have scored in double digits 17 times, including a 20-run game against Texas on June 29.

No other major league team had reached 490 runs and only a handful had gotten to 450.

The Angels, who won 15 of their final 18 games in July, stayed hot as August began, beating Seattle ace Randy Johnson 7-2 and topping the Mariners again the following night 5-4.

All this from a team that ranked last in the league with 548 runs in the strike-interrupted 1994 season, when they finished at the bottom of their division at 47-68.

"I don't think anybody realistically could have expected that kind of turnaround," Angels manager Marcel Lachemann said. "Our hitters have just gotten better and better."

The Angels scored 201 runs in July in 27 games (a 7.44 average), the most scored by a big-league team in any month since the Yankees scored 202 in 34 games in July 1958. The Angels' total was just six runs shy of the runs scored in the month by Texas and Kansas City combined.

"It starts right from the first inning," Angels left-hander Chuck Finley said of the team's explosive offense. "The first of the year, they were a little sporadic with it. It's been day in and day out lately. It's freaky."

It must be pointed out that the Angels have one significant advantage over the great Yankee team of 1927--the designated hitter. Of course, the Yankees of that era didn't have to worry about coast-to-coast travel or playing at night.

The maestro of the awesome Angels' offense is hitting instructor Rod Carew, a Hall of Famer who, coincidentally, reached the 3,000-hit plateau 10 years ago Friday in a game at Anaheim Stadium.

"He's had a great deal to do with this," Lachemann said of Carew. "It hasn't just happened overnight. He's worked with these guys for a long time, and they've worked hard, too."

Carew, 49, admitted the satisfaction he's feeling these days is greater than what he felt as a player.

"The difference is I'm the teacher now," he said. "I only had one person then, myself. The enjoyment is a lot greater. We've made believers out of a lot of people.

"I have 14, 15 guys to look after, but I know all of them. I know their strengths and weaknesses. I don't change anyone, I make suggestions. To me, you've got to learn to adjust from pitch to pitch, from at-bat to at-bat, be one step ahead of the pitcher."

Carew has a simple explanation for the success of his hitters.

"Patience at the plate, good mental approach at the plate, discipline, a lot of two-out base hits," he said. "(Sometimes) I sit over in the dugout and I have a little grin of my face. I see we've worked on something and we've done it. I see the smile on their faces, too."

There have been a lot of smiles, especially lately. The Angels have six regulars batting over .300 and another, leadoff hitter Tony Phillips, is within striking distance. And he's among the league leaders in walks.

Rookie Garret Anderson, who became a full-time player in June, hit .410 in July with seven homers and 31 RBIs. Anderson, 23, bats sixth and the Angels have really taken off since he became the team's left fielder and Phillips was moved from left to third base.

"The first time I saw him in spring training, he's facing Mark Langston in a squad game and he hits it nine miles," Carew recalled. "I called him the franchise and some people wondered why. Now, they know."

Phillips, acquired by the Angels from Detroit for outfielder Chad Curtis shortly before the start of the season, has also been a major contributor from the leadoff spot.

"He gives us an on-base guy, he knows how to work pitchers, he knows how to work counts," Lachemann said of Phillips. "A lot of guys have picked up on that."

First baseman J.T. Snow and shortstop Gary DiSarcina are both hitting far better than ever before. Both have been well over the .300 mark most of the season. Before this year, neither had a higher average than DiSarcina's .260 mark of last year.

Center fielder Jim Edmonds had played in only 112 big-league games before this year, hitting .269 with five homers and 41 RBIs. He hit 10 homers in July to give him 21 and drove in 34 runs to take over the big-league lead in RBIs. He's also hitting well over .300.

Other regulars over .300 are outfielder Tim Salmon and designated hitter Chili Davis, who hit 3-4 in the lineup, after Phillips and Edmonds and ahead of Snow and Anderson.

DiSarcina hits ninth, behind second baseman Damion Easley and either Jorge Fabregas or Greg Myers, who share the catching duties.

Carew is mentioned prominently when the players are asked about the offense.

"He's had all of the impact," Edmonds said. "He's the one who has put this team together the way it is right now from changing some guys' swings to working with some guys' mental approach."

"I think the majority of it (the success) can be attributed to him," DiSarcina said of Carew. What he's been saying is starting to pay off."

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