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Angels Know All About Playing Second Fiddle

October 10, 2002|Rick Morrissey | Chicago Tribune

The Chicago White Sox long have believed, often to the point of distraction, that they're second citizens in the Second City.

The Cubs cast a big shadow, it's true, but if the Sox would loosen up a little bit, they would notice that the shadow looks something like a large stuffed animal with motor-skills problems.

The Sox instead might want to start paying attention to the Anaheim Angels, who have managed to work their way out of the Los Angeles Dodgers' shadow and into the light of the playoffs.

"I don't think it's anything tricky," said Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman, who pitched for the Cubs in 1967 and 1968 before being paroled to Montreal. "I don't spend my days thinking, 'We're second to the Dodgers.' My job is to get the best players for [Manager] Mike Scioscia and see how many games he can win with them."

A lot, as it turns out, including Game 2 of the American League championship series on Wednesday night, a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins. Some of the credit goes to Stoneman, a man working with limited resources. At the start of the season, the Angels had a payroll of $61.7 million, 15th out of 30 major league teams.

Disney increased its payroll by $13 million for this season, even though attendance had dropped in 2001. The Angels improved this year, and so did attendance. Funny how that works.

The moral of the Angels' story is that neither ownership nor money is necessarily the most important element in winning. Decision-making abilities are.

"Everybody takes shots at Disney because they're an easy target," Stoneman said. "They think the people upstairs are pulling my strings. There couldn't be anything further from the truth. I wish they weren't selling."

None of that matters right now, not with the Angels in the heat of the playoffs. Come to think of it, the Dodgers don't matter much right now.

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