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THE INSIDE TRACK | SECOND THOUGHTS / CHRIS DUFRESNE

Never Fear, Canseco Is Exception to Angel Rule

April 16, 2001|CHRIS DUFRESNE

True confession: I still haven't recovered from the Angels' release of Jose Canseco, if only because of the opportunity lost.

This coldhearted move broke the time-honored continuum of aging stars dragging body parts into Anaheim to take last cuts, cut last checks and foster friendships with team trainers.

The Angels have been to impending baseball retirement what Palm Springs is to the elderly.

The team's limb-lease program has helped produce the most out-of-whack glossaries in hardball history.

Imagine an alien dispatched on a baseball-

discovery mission and, after a dissection of all-time rosters, space-jamming back to Zoltron to report he/she/it? had found the team that must have dominated baseball for the last 40 years.

Proof?

Seven former Angels have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, an average of one every 5.9 years since franchise inception.

Hall passes have been granted to Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson, Hoyt Wilhelm, Don Sutton, Nolan Ryan and, most recently, Dave Winfield.

Eddie Murray should make it eight ex-Angels in 2003, the year he becomes eligible, while Bob Boone, Bert Blyleven and Bert Campaneris could all be Cooperstown-bound.

The Angels' all-time roster is truly one for the books: Don Baylor, Dean Chance, Bobby Bonds, Mike Cuellar, Tommy Davis, Willie Davis, Bo Jackson, Tommy John . . .

(Pause for deep breath).

. . . Dave Kingman, Fred Lynn, Jim Maloney, Jack McDowell, Dave Parker, Lance Parrish, Ron Perranoski, Luis Tiant, Andy Messersmith, Joe Rudi, Bobby Grich, Ron Fairly, Frank Tanana, Luis Tiant, Fernando Valenzuela.

If you accept that even a blind squirrel sniffs out the occasional acorn, you'd think the Angels would have cracked three or four pennant nuts by accident.

In reality, the franchise boasts as many name changes (Los Angeles, California, Anaheim) as divisional titles (1979, 1982, 1986).

In fact, not one of those seven Hall of Fame players was inducted as an Angel; Winfield just announced he'll go in as a Padre.

The Angel all-time roster suggests an avalanche of accomplishment, but it has all been a snow job.

Carew won all seven of his batting titles for the Minnesota Twins.

Robinson took most-valuable-player honors with Cincinnati and Baltimore; Reggie Jackson with Oakland; Parker with Pittsburgh; Lynn with Boston.

Valenzuela, McDowell and Cuellar claimed Cy Young awards--for the Dodgers, Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles.

Jackson and Campaneris played on multiple world championship teams in other towns. Ryan, Cuellar, Gary Gaetti, Baylor, Fairly, Parrish, Willie and Tommy Davis, Robinson, Winfield and Rudi contributed to championships elsewhere.

Onetime Angels Dick Williams and Whitey Herzog managed other teams to World Series glory.

What is it they say about timing?

Murray hit 504 career home runs; three for the Angels.

Kingman finished with 442 homers; two for the Angels.

Robinson whacked 586 homers; 50 for the Angels.

Feats actually accomplished by Angels as Angels amount to a nut-graph.

In 40 years, the Angels have produced one rookie of the year (Tim Salmon, 1993), one MVP (Baylor, 1979), one Cy Young Award winner (Chance, 1964), one batting champion (Alex Johnson, 1970) and one manager of the year (Bill Rigney, 1962).

As puzzlers go, the Angels rank with Fermat's Last Theorem.

The club has either given up players too soon--Mickey Rivers, Carney Lansford, Dante Bichette, Ryan--or more often put the saddle on galloping ghosts.

Blyleven, Cuellar, Willie and Tommy Davis, Fairly, Bo Jackson, Maloney, Fred Patek, Perranoski and Tiant all played their final big league seasons in Anaheim.

Who knew the Big A actually stood for AARP?

In most cases there was, um, a slight drop-off in production.

Maloney went 23-7 in 1963 and 20-9 in 1965 with the Cincinnati Reds.

In 1971, Maloney finished 0-3 with the Angels.

Tiant, the swivel-hipped Cuban, was a four-time 20-game winner. He checked out of Halo Hotel in 1982 with a 2-2 record and 5.76 earned-run average (hey, not shabby in today's market!)

Perranoski went 16-3 with a 1.67 ERA on the Dodgers' 1963 championship team.

In 1973, he ended his career in Anaheim at 0-2, giving up 11 hits in 11 innings.

Cuellar, once brilliant in Baltimore, hitched a ride to Lonesome Town in 1977, donating an 0-1 record and 18.90 ERA to Angel lore.

Tommy Davis, a two-time batting champion with the Dodgers, split his last season, 1976, with the Angels and Kansas City. He did not win the batting title, going .265 in 72 games for California.

Bo Jackson's hip-replacement rehab ended with the 1994 Angels. He hit 13 homers.

Lucky him, huh?

So, yes, it is too bad about Canseco, who sits unemployed in Miami with 446 homers.

We regret he couldn't go down swinging in the Matterhorn's shadow before his back buckled, just so historians could note he walloped his 450th homer in Angel garb.

Alas, we suspect other rail-hoppers will pass through. A 42-year-old Greg Maddux, perhaps, testing out elbow reconstruction en route to a golf-package retirement. Or shortstop Derek Jeter, on his last damn Yankee legs, bolting New York to end his career in the patch between second and third where Patek and Campy and Rooster Rick Burleson took grounders in the same 1981 season.

We expect our hearts will go pitter-patter when the Angels, in 2006, welcome back 400-home run man Bichette, testing out his new titanium knees, for one last walk to home plate . . .

In a walker.

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