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Manager Takes Fall for Angels : Sports: Collins resigns by 'mutual consent' with superiors. Promising season was soon soured by injuries, infighting and inept play.

September 04, 1999|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Terry Collins bid a tearful farewell to the Angels Friday, resigning as the team's manager while two of his superiors lashed out at the bickering players who essentially cost Collins his job.

Having exhausted all efforts to motivate an underachieving club that started the day 28 games out of first place, Collins said during a press conference at Edison Field that he decided to step down after a lengthy meeting with General Manager Bill Bavasi Friday morning.

The move, both parties said, came by "mutual consent," although Collins said he would not have left the team if Bavasi had asked him to finish the season. Joe Maddon, the Angels' bench coach, was appointed interim manager, the third time in the past four seasons he has taken that title.

Angel players were not immediately available for comment because the team took the unusual step of making its clubhouse off limits to reporters before the game.

But after the Angels' 8-2 win over the New York Yankees, shortstop Gary DeSarcina acknowledged, "The game was a blur to me. I wasn't all there, probably, until the fourth inning. You look into the dugout, you look for Terry and he's not there. It crosses your mind that you're to blame."

Added DeSarcina: "Speaking for the guys, we're pretty much embarrassed and ashamed with the way we've conducted ourselves. Terry deserved better. You don't realize what your actions can do until something like this happens."

Collins' departure is the first significant change in what might well become a management make-over of the Angels before the start of next season. Bavasi's own job appears in jeopardy and the Walt Disney Co. has the team up for sale.

Bavasi has hired two managers in his 5 1/2-year tenure--Marcel Lachemann in 1994 and Collins before the 1997 season. Both resigned under duress.

Only a little more than two months ago, Collins received a one-year contract extension with an option for an additional year and will receive his full salary next season.

Although occasionally criticized for his abrasive style and hot temper, his 1997 and '98 Angel teams contended for American League West titles before collapsing in late September.

Despite a series of devastating injuries this season, the club was within 6 1/2 games of division-leading Texas at the All-Star break. But since the break, the Angels have won only 11 games while losing 37, and players have taken turns pointing fingers at each other for being soft, for not taking losing hard enough, for having a lackadaisical attitude, for being unprofessional and for putting individual goals above team goals.

And when they ran out of those complaints, they ripped each other for airing their gripes in the media.

The result was the worst record in baseball going into Friday's game.

Collins, 50, said he had a good idea Thursday that his reign as Angel manager would end Friday. "I was walking around Cleveland, trying to figure out how to end our [nine-game] losing streak, and when I got to the clubhouse, I had to address a few other issues," he said.

"I was unable to talk about the game. That's when it hit. .. . . There were a couple things that happened [Thursday] and I thought, this was enough."

*

Collins wouldn't elaborate on any specific incidents, but he endured a typically tense past week, during which:

* The Angels blew an eight-run, eighth-inning lead and lost Tuesday night.

* Reliever Troy Percival accused some teammates of not supporting him during a bench-clearing brawl.

* $80-million first baseman Mo Vaughn tore into his teammates with two expletive-laced tirades.

Friday's announcement is a crowning blow in a tumultuous season that started to turn ugly when players staged a mutiny of sorts in May, going to Bavasi to complain about Collins' impending contract extension. It turned hideous in late July and August, when the Angels collapsed on the field and crumbled in the clubhouse.

"If people took as much responsibility as Terry Collins, if they had one-quarter the integrity he has, this wouldn't have happened," Angel President Tony Tavares said. "I don't think [the players] quit on Terry, they quit on themselves. I've never been more disappointed in a team.

"We thought we had the right core of players here. . . . Frankly, I think it's all excuses. We have to take a long look at the character of this team and determine if it can perform when the chips are down."

Said Bavasi of the Angels: "They quit on somebody. . . ."

He later said he thought quitting might be too harsh a word, "but their energies were divided," he said. "Not enough energy was spent on the games."

Collins said he was sad, not bitter, about leaving the team.

Bavasi was the one who was bitter.

"This is not a good day for me, for the organization or for baseball, because this is a good guy," Bavasi said. "This is not a reflection on how this man works, how he approaches things. He has sacrificed everything he has for this club. This is a bitter, bitter pill to swallow for me."

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