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Angels, Giants Win by Decision

When free agent Schmidt chose San Francisco over Seattle, it had impact on both West division races.

October 19, 2002|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

Jason Schmidt was trying to help himself and the San Francisco Giants, but the Angels also benefited when the right-hander rejected a multiyear contract offer from the Seattle Mariners last December to re-sign with the Giants.

Schmidt had another strong season after recovering from a groin injury, coping with his mother's brain cancer and helping the Giants win the National League pennant.

Things didn't go so well for the Mariners.

Schmidt triggered a domino effect that involved three franchises and unexpectedly ended at the World Series. The Angels believe they dodged a bullet because Schmidt is a difference-maker, to which the Giants can attest, and they're scheduled to face him tonight in Game 1 of the World Series at Edison Field.

"Anybody that adds a Jason Schmidt is definitely helping themselves out, and [Schmidt's remaining with the Giants] might have made a big difference for a few teams during the season," Angel shortstop David Eckstein said. "He's done a great job for the Giants and I'm sure they're very happy they signed him back."

Schmidt knew he had made the right choice early on, saying the Giants' support has helped him remain strong for his mother.

In April, Schmidt revealed that his mother, Vicki, 52, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Most of the tumor was surgically removed and she continues to fight the cancer, which normally has a survival window of one to three years. Vicki traveled to San Francisco during the NL division series and is expected to attend tonight's game.

"She's doing a lot better," Schmidt said. "She's starting to look like her old self again. She's got her energy back and it's nice to see that. The first initial shock ... when you hear something like that, especially when it's family, that's the hardest part. You feel like you're in this little room all by yourself, going through the thing all alone.

"Then you realize there's so many guys on the team that have been through similar situations. It's a whole lot easier coming to the park every day. I don't want to say it takes your mind off of it, but it definitely helps that guys have been there and know what you're going through and the support is there. It's a great team as far as that goes, definitely."

Schmidt came close to switching teams.

The Mariners aggressively pursued Schmidt, who went 7-1 with a 3.39 earned-run average in 11 starts for the Giants after being traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a four-player deal on July 30, 2001.

Intent on upgrading the Mariner rotation, General Manager Pat Gillick did not make an offer to 15-game winner Aaron Sele, who signed with the Angels and made only one appearance after Aug. 20 because of a partially torn right rotator cuff.

Schmidt makes his off-season home in Longview, Wash., and his parents live in nearby Kelso, so the Mariners had geography in their favor. But Schmidt signed a four-year, $30-million deal with the Giants, turning down slightly more from Seattle because he believed in Manager Dusty Baker's program.

"It would have definitely been a very bad thing for us to lose him," right fielder Reggie Sanders said.

The Giants held off the Dodgers for the NL wild-card berth as Schmidt went 13-8 with a 3.45 ERA. Seattle, which signed James Baldwin when they couldn't get Schmidt, was only two games above .500 after the All-Star break and finished six behind the Angels for the AL wild-card berth, missing the playoffs a year after setting a league record with 116 victories.

"If he was in this division on that Seattle team it would have made a big difference," Angel designated hitter Shawn Wooten said. "He's a guy who throws 96 or 97 [mph] with a good breaking ball. Obviously, that helps when you're coming down the playoff stretch in September."

And the Giants helped the Angels by keeping Schmidt in San Francisco.

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