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Angels Glad Season Has Ended at Last

Baseball: They lose to Texas, 4-3, in finale and finish in the cellar with a 70-91 record.

September 30, 1996|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ARLINGTON, Texas — The calendar in the Angel clubhouse pretty much said it all Sunday. Below a page indicating it was Sept. 29, someone had scrawled the word: "Yes!!"

Sure, the Angels' season has been over for a month or two, but it came to an official end with Sunday's 4-3 loss to the playoff-bound Texas Rangers in front of 45,434 at the Ballpark in Arlington.

And there weren't many complaints among the Angels, who finished last in the American League West with a 70-91 record, the fourth time in five years they've had a winning percentage below .445.

"If we were one game out, I wouldn't be glad it was over," designated hitter Chili Davis said. "But we're 19 1/2 games out--we'd need 38 more games to have a chance--so right now I'm just looking forward to the off-season."

It will be a busy winter for the Angels, who must hire a manager, find some way to bolster their pitching staff, and add some punch to the lineup.

But despite a disastrous season, in which the Angels set team records for wild pitches (80), hit batsmen (84), highest earned-run average (5.30), most double plays grounded into (148), most runners left on base (1,209) and most home runs allowed (219), there was at least a hint of optimism about the future.

"I still have a lot of confidence in this club," Davis said. "I don't think we need major changes, but obviously some things need to be done. We all know we're better than this. A lot of guys say that and don't really mean it, but I really believe that with this team."

Shortstop Gary DiSarcina said the Angels have the nucleus of a potential contender--they showed that with their 1995 run, which ended with a playoff loss to Seattle for the American League West title.

But unless the Walt Disney Co. is willing to increase a $27-million payroll with the addition of some high-profile players--either through free agency or trades--it will be difficult to remain competitive with the Rangers and Mariners.

"It depends on how Disney approaches the off-season," DiSarcina said of the Angels' long-range hopes. "They can go different ways--they can either get guys who will have an impact or do it like [the Angels] have done the last five years, plugging players in."

It appeared the Angels might finish on a high note Sunday when they erased a 2-0 deficit with three runs in the sixth, on Jack Howell's run-scoring single, Chris Pritchett's RBI fielder's choice and George Arias' RBI double.

But Ranger shortstop Kevin Elster hit a two-run homer against Angel starter Dennis Springer in the bottom of the sixth to put Texas in front for good.

It was the 24th homer and 98th and 99th runs batted in of the season for Elster, whose career was thought to be over after he had major shoulder surgery in 1992.

Though the Angels lost three of four in Texas, they did win two of three from Seattle last week to damage the Mariners' playoff hopes. And they beat the Rangers in a 15-inning game Friday night, sparing themselves from having to watch a wild pennant-clinching celebration for the second straight year.

"There is some satisfaction in that--we didn't let them celebrate like they wanted," utility player Rex Hudler said. "And we did some damage to Seattle, which was also satisfying."

Sunday's game marked the end of interim Manager John McNamara's tenure with the club. Before the game, he requested a picture be taken with the umpiring crew at home plate. "That's probably the final game I'll ever manage," said McNamara, 64.

The game closed with Jim Edmonds striking out against Bobby Witt, after which Edmonds returned to the clubhouse and hurled his bat into a trash can.

It was a fitting end for a bottom-of-the-barrel season.

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