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Angel Players Feel Bad, Then Continue Their Bad Play

Baseball: DiSarcina could see Lachemann's resignation coming. Team still lifeless in McNamara's debut, a 4-1 loss to Twins.

August 07, 1996|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Pitcher Mark Langston said he felt "horrible," center fielder Jim Edmonds likened it to "losing a childhood friend," and pitcher Jim Abbott called it "a sad day for the organization."

But no Angel player had a better handle on the dynamics of Manager Marcel Lachemann's resignation Tuesday than shortstop Gary DiSarcina.

"He kind of took one for the team," DiSarcina said before the Angels' 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins before 20,058 in Anaheim Stadium.

"He saw that change was the best thing, and he didn't want to put himself in the way of the team. It took a lot of guts for him to do it this way, because he wanted to see this thing through to the end."

The end came much sooner than Lachemann expected, and it wasn't pretty. The Angels went 1-5 on a trip through Detroit and Toronto last week and spent a fair amount of time sniping at Lachemann.

First baseman J.T. Snow questioned why he was not in the lineup for two consecutive games and said there was a lack of communication between the players and manager. Even utility player Rex Hudler criticized Lachemann for benching Snow, a Gold Glove winner.

"I thought that was unprofessional," DiSarcina said. "You keep things like that in the clubhouse. Lach always said if you have problems, go see him."

Then there was the sticky issue of motivation, which Lachemann said "was a zero" after a 13-5 loss to Detroit last Thursday. The players said it was their job to motivate themselves; Lachemann felt it was his responsibility.

"He tried a lot of different things," DiSarcina said. "One day he'd goof around, tell jokes, try to get us to loosen up. Another day he'd be a real hard-ass. He came full circle, and it got to a point where he was beating himself up on a daily basis."

Lachemann finally hung up the gloves Tuesday, but this hardly came as a shock to players, who were informed of Lachemann's decision on the team's flight home from Cooperstown, N.Y., Monday night.

"Things were really starting to stagnate toward the end," Langston said. "We just never got on any kind of roll this season. For some reason we didn't play the way we're capable of playing, and he took the heat."

DiSarcina could see something like this coming for the past week or two.

"Marcel hasn't been himself, he hasn't been smiling much," DiSarcina said. "The fact that he's such a perfectionist, and the added expectations we had, not only from the outside but from ourselves, were wearing him down."

Lachemann often talked about accountability--perhaps no manager in recent years has taken more blame for his team's shortcomings.

But Tuesday several Angel players stepped up--a concept they can't seem to grasp with runners in scoring position--and took responsibility for the team's sporadic play.

"If we'd have done our jobs he'd still be here," Edmonds said. "We didn't have to win every game, but we've been making baserunning mistakes, errors, we're not hitting or pitching very well. . . . That's a reflection of the team, not the coach. It's our playing that caused this."

The Angels, one of the American League's most dominant offensive teams for much of the 1995 season, entered Tuesday night's game ranked 13th in the league in runs, 11th in team earned run average and 11th in fielding. They are batting only .259 with runners in scoring position.

A change of managers didn't exactly change Angel fortunes. With John McNamara beginning his second stint in Anaheim, the Angels had only five hits and went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, their only run off Twin pitcher Brad Radke (7-13) coming on Tim Salmon's sixth-inning home run, his 25th of the season.

Minnesota's offense consisted of eight singles, six off Angel starter Dennis Springer (1-1), but the Twins bunched four hits in a two-run sixth inning and three in a two-run seventh. The Angels fell 10 1/2 games behind first-place Texas.

"This should be a wake-up call for us," Langston said of the managerial change. "I don't think anybody on this team can look in the mirror and say they've done a good job. We basically forced a guy who works as hard as anyone in this game to resign."

Lachemann's resignation was especially hard on Abbott, Langston and Chuck Finley, three pitchers whom Lachemann helped groom as the team's pitching coach from 1984-92.

"It hurts me incredibly, being a pitcher," Langston said. "I feel I really let him down."

Ditto for Abbott, who is 1-14 with a 7.31 earned-run average this season. Lachemann stuck with the struggling left-hander even as he lost 11 of his first 12 decisions, always expressing confidence Abbott would return to the form that made him one of the league's most consistent pitchers.

Abbott was eventually demoted to the bullpen on June 22, but he has since returned to the rotation.

"I wish things were a little different, that's all," Abbott said. "Lach is a good man, he has decency, integrity and honesty. That was apparent in every situation, and it was apparent again today. I'll always admire him for that."

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