Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

ANGELS / COMMEMORATIVE SECTION | Ross Newhan ON BASEBALL

Put Some Champagne on Ice for Next Year

October 29, 2002|Ross Newhan

There are no guarantees, no sure things.

There is no easy route back to the World Series, but there is also no reason to think the Angels can't be competitive again next year, can't contend for a wild card, division title and, perhaps, more.

In fact, no recent World Series winner figures to be better prepared in the context of returning virtually the entire roster that was responsible for 110 wins, 11 in the 16 games of the postseason.

Only three Angels--outfielders Orlando Palmeiro and Alex Ochoa and relief pitcher Dennis Cook (who may retire)--are eligible for free agency, and virtually the entire nucleus, home-grown and otherwise, is either signed to comparatively modest multiyear contracts covering next year at least or still under club control -- a tribute to the aggressive foresight of General Manager Bill Stoneman and predecessor Bill Bavasi.

It is conceivable, in other words, that the Angels could do nothing over the winter and return next year with basically the same lineup, rotation and bullpen.

The harder part, perhaps, will be returning with the same selfless approach at the plate, the same sense of Team, with a capital T, but then it is unlikely Manager Mike Scioscia will tolerate anything less.

"It's exciting to know that this core of players is going to be together for some time," Scioscia said before the corks popped.

"It's championship caliber, and with the experience of what they're accomplishing this year, the confidence level will be high enough to let it remain championship caliber."

The Angels, of course, have yet to even enjoy their parade.

Next year can wait.

But the extent of the potential stability and continuity they take into the winter can be measured against the uncertainty facing the team they just defeated in the World Series.

The potential upheaval starts with Manager Dusty Baker.

The San Francisco Giants can't be sure he will be back or wants to be back.

In addition, valuable second baseman Jeff Kent is eligible for free agency and likely to test a market that may include interest from the Dodgers, who were aware they had to make an impact move to improve the offense even before the Angels, playing a game familiar to the Dodgers of the past, stole some of the neighborhood.

Among the Giants, meantime, center fielder Kenny Lofton and utility players Tom Goodwin and Shawon Dunston also are eligible for free agency, and the status of four others--third baseman David Bell, right fielder Reggie Sanders, closer Robb Nen and reliever Tim Worrell--hinge on option clauses at a time when the new labor agreement and alleged industry losses of $800 million could find option and arbitration-eligible players thrown into a market almost certain to undergo significant correction.

Considering the potential impact of all that on a lineup that included eight players 30 or older, it was not surprising that managing general partner Peter Magowan stood by the Giants' dugout at Edison Field before Game 7, reflected on the fact that it had been 40 years since the team had last played a Game 7, and said candidly, "I don't know if I'll ever be here again."

Magowan said he wasn't ready to ponder his club's immediate future, but he added:

"I do think when you get into a World Series, you have to have a pretty good team to get there, and there's a lot of incentive to try to have as much of that team coming back next year as you can. Having said that, the days are over when a World Series team could come back intact. The Yankees are a good example. Of the eight starters on that team last year, four [were] not back this year. [Paul O'Neill and Scott Brosius retired, and Tino Martinez and Chuck Knoblauch left as free agents]. So if the Yankees can't keep their team together, the Giants will have a pretty tough time of it."

He referred to the fact that revenues in San Francisco don't compare to those in the Bronx. The Yankees had a payroll of about $130 million, while the Giants were at $78.3 and will have to keep it there, Magowan said.

The fact that the Angels went the distance with a payroll of $61.6 million and do basically have their World Series roster returning intact additionally validates the work done by Stoneman and Bavasi, along with former scouting director Bob Fontaine Jr.

Magowan concurred.

While wondering if he and the Giants would ever be back for a Game 7 (or even a Game 1), he said of the Angels: "I like the way they play and the way they've been put together. They're young enough that I have to think this won't be the last time they'll be in a World Series."

In the final days of the American League West race, as the Angels and Oakland A's jousted down the stretch after the A's had been unable to shake the Angels despite winning 20 consecutive games, Oakland General Manager Billy Beane offered a similar thought, saying of the Angels: "They're not going anywhere. They're going to be good again next year."

All of this is not to suggest that the World Series winner doesn't have issues.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|