Watching Terry Collins fight back tears as he announced his resignation Friday was a sobering sight for the Angels, who seemed as remorseful as could be for a team that played and acted all season as if it wanted Collins fired.
"I can honestly say Terry enjoyed putting on the uniform as much as anyone in the clubhouse," shortstop Gary DiSarcina said. "Sometimes you'd drag yourself in at 9:30 a.m. [after a night game] and he'd already be in uniform. And you're asking yourself, 'How does he enjoy it so much every day?' Looking at his press conference, it shows the passion he had."
The Angels, who lost to the New York Yankees, 9-6, Saturday at Edison Field, helped rob Collins of that passion, bickering and back-biting their way through what may wind up as the worst season in franchise history.
But not until Collins stepped down did the Angels fully realize the gravity of their actions, that the finger-pointing and constant turmoil that tore apart their clubhouse may have also shredded a manager's career.
"We're pretty much embarrassed and ashamed with the way we've conducted ourselves," DiSarcina said. "Terry deserved better. You don't realize what your actions can do until something like this happens."
Added outfielder Darin Erstad: "We should have learned our lesson a long time ago. . . I learned mine."
It was Erstad's harsh comments on July 21, when he said the Angels had "a very divided clubhouse," a "soft team," and that winning "is not the first priority here," that set the tone for the rest of this unsightly summer.
What did Erstad learn?
"To keep my mouth shut," he said Saturday. "To realize that no matter if you have good intentions, words can get turned around. Everyone knows that the best stories are the [negative] ones. . . .
"It's just embarrassing to have a guy who loves his job having to do what he did because we didn't do our jobs. That doesn't seem right to me."
Nor did it seem right to third-base coach Larry Bowa.
"Terry Collins is a good man--he did not rip one guy on this team for three years," Bowa said. "The bottom line is there are a lot of players making a lot of money who did not live up to expectations. If you want to blame the manager, the coaches, fine."
Bowa said he was disillusioned with everything that has gone on this season and disappointed with how players have reacted to adversity.
"If you don't respect the game, you're not going to get anywhere," Bowa said. "From the way you warm up to the way you deal with your manager, coaches and peers, you have to have respect for this game.
"These guys don't know the history of the game, who sweat for them in the union so they could get where they are today. All they know is they make a nice living playing baseball. If you don't have respect for this game, for this uniform, you shouldn't be playing."
What would these players respect? Who would they respond to?
Marcel Lachemann was considered a players' manager, a low-key guy who seldom raised his voice, and the Angels frustrated him so much Lachemann resigned in 1996 under duress.
Collins was a firebrand known for his kick-in-the-pants style, the anti-Lachemann, and the Angels contended for the American League West title in his first two seasons. But they grew tired of his sometimes-abrasive manner and occasional emotional outbursts and could no longer live with him.
"You've got to have somebody you know is going to form a pact between the players and the coaches," first baseman Mo Vaughn said. "It's a promise that if you give me everything you've got, I will lead you in the right way mentally and strategically.
"You've got to have trust on both ends. I've had yellers who have been successful. I've had laid-back guys who have been successful. You have to have that trust."
Vaughn got around to mentioning names. Yes, he likes Kevin Kennedy, his former Red Sox manager who is now a Fox television analyst, "but I don't want to get involved in managerial politics," Vaughn said.
He did, however, mention Don Baylor, Davey Lopes, Willie Randolph and Chris Chambliss as "guys who are all success stories."
Chambliss, who has won World Series rings as a Yankee player and batting instructor, was interviewed for the Angel job in 1996 and said he would be interested again. Randolph, the former Yankee second baseman who is the team's third-base coach, said Saturday, "There's no doubt I'd be interested in an opportunity like that."
Lopes expressed interest and Kennedy is expected to. Baylor, the former Colorado manager and current Atlanta batting instructor, and Phil Garner, the recently fired manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, are expected to be strong candidates.
Dave Winfield, a former Yankee and Angel who attended Saturday's game and lives in Southern California, also said he'd be interested, even though he has never managed or coached.
"I think I'd have a lot of rapport with and respect among the players," Winfield said. "I know the game."
Right fielder Tim Salmon believes it's too early to be concentrating on the next Angel manager.
"The focus should be on playing the game," Salmon said. "No more griping, finger-pointing, wondering who's going to be next."
That detrimental behavior, along with the Angel collapse on the field since the All-Star break, led many to question whether the Angels had quit on Collins or themselves.
"I don't know if we quit," DiSarcina said. "I think we got lost. When you're not focused on baseball, you're going down the wrong path."
Staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this story.