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Angels Still Look Down on Edmonds

BASEBALL

October 14, 2000|ROSS NEWHAN

NEW YORK — It is six months later, and the clock may be ticking down on Jim Edmonds' MVP-caliber debut with the St. Louis Cardinals, who face elimination from the National League's championship series before the weekend is over.

A sore knee and the New York Mets' stifling southpaws have Edmonds struggling some, but that does not detract from a season that has left people perplexed, asking:

* What were those reasons again that the Angels traded a player of his talent?

* Couldn't he have had a season of this magnitude in Anaheim?

* Didn't the Angels get taken, obtaining only second baseman Adam Kennedy and pitcher Kent Bottenfield, who failed to sustain his 18-victory form of 1999 and was subsequently traded for Ron Gant, another dud?

Simple questions with complex answers.

As complex, perhaps, as Edmonds himself and his often eye-of-the-storm tenure in Anaheim.

His six full seasons with the Angels were often marred by injury and/or strained relations with teammates who openly questioned his intensity, fortitude and priorities, suggesting he wasn't making full use of his talent.

With the Cardinals this year, Edmonds had career highs for homers, 42, and runs batted in, 108, and then led the division series sweep of the Atlanta Braves while batting .571 and setting series records for doubles and extra-base hits.

"I don't think he could have had a year of this type in Anaheim," said Bill Bavasi, former Angel general manager. "I think he was sick of the place and had been drained emotionally. It was a bad environment for him and I think [new General Manager Bill Stoneman] made the right move by trading him.

"I also don't think it's safe to say that Jim has turned a corner, that he'll do this again next year. He's too unpredictable, although he has a strong group of peers there to keep him straight and focused. Our problem was that we just couldn't keep him channeled in the right direction."

Was Edmonds drained emotionally and sick of the place?

Agent Paul Cohen disputed that, saying that as happy as Edmonds is with the Cardinals, who signed him to a six-year, $57-million extension in May, his objective was to re-sign with the Angels last winter but they never made an offer.

"I think that once the Angels began dangling Jim as the trophy for a No. 1 pitcher, it was clear what their intentions were," Cohen said.

"Now you can see some of the same things starting with Tim Salmon and Mo Vaughn."

Edmonds was eligible for free agency after the 2000 season, and finances played a role in the trade, Stoneman acknowledged.

He didn't want the Edmonds situation being a distraction during the season, felt he could most easily and economically re-sign Garret Anderson, and needed to fill two holes by trading his only tradeable commodity, a fourth outfielder.

"We knew that if Jim was healthy, he would have a hell of a year, whether if was with us or elsewhere," Stoneman said. "We also had four outfielders and needed help at two positions. The fact that Bottenfield didn't have the year he had in '99 was a disappointment, but at the time Ken Hill was our only veteran pitcher.

"You give and you get. We got a pretty good year out of a second baseman who figures to be here for a long time and I can't let Edmonds' year cloud what we have here.

"I also knew Jim's [contract] demands would be greater than Garret's, and I felt Garret definitely wanted to stay, was healthy and had played virtually every day of his career, unlike Jim, who wasn't always healthy and didn't always play. Garret is also younger than Jim, and it looked like his power numbers were trending upward and had a real chance to become a major run producer."

Anderson did just that, setting career highs with 35 homers and 117 RBIs while batting .286.

He was not the Gold Glove center fielder Edmonds is, but this was his first full season at the position and he definitely had a comparable year offensively.

Said Manager Mike Scioscia, "We knew that we wouldn't be able to make up for what Edmonds might do offensively and defensively, but we had a paramount need for a starting pitcher and second baseman. I don't know if you can ever get enough for a player of Jim's talent, but we had the luxury of a fourth outfielder and he was the piece we needed to use.

"There were also other considerations. Would we be able to sign him? Could we count on his durability?"

Both Scioscia and Stoneman, new to the Angels, insist that in familiarizing themselves with an organization wracked by clubhouse turmoil in 1999 they heard no finger pointing at Edmonds or any one person and it would be inaccurate to attach any problems Edmonds might have had with teammates or management with the decision to trade him.

"That simply was not a motivating factor," Stoneman said. "The only question people raised about Jim was his durability."

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