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BILL DWYRE

Garret Anderson faces Angels' hard reality with no ill will

With spring training coming soon, the free agent isn't sure where he'll play, after spending 14 years with the Angels. Anderson's agent, Scott Boras, advises patience.

February 07, 2009|BILL DWYRE

It is not exactly a death in the family, because it is baseball. Plus, the dearly departed is alive and healthy and will be doing quite well financially, thank you.

But when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim take the field at Angel Stadium on April 6 for opening day 2009, the roll call will be, most likely, missing one familiar "here."

After 14 full seasons in Anaheim, Garret Anderson will be wearing somebody else's uniform. No matter what the color scheme, no matter what the logo on the cap, it won't be quite right. The Big A won't be at the Big A. The player known to his teammates as "G.A." will go from Gentleman Angel to just a guy named Garret, on a team named something else.

Unless, just maybe, perhaps, in a late development . . .

More on that later.

For all intents, Anderson had his key to the front door taken away when he was on the airplane returning home from Boston, after the Angels had been eliminated from the playoffs by the Red Sox.

"Mike came by and said we needed to have lunch next week, and that he'd call me," says Anderson, who knew immediately that Manager Scioscia's lunch agenda was not social.

"We had lunch about a week later, with [General Manager] Tony Reagins, and they told me they were not going to exercise my option. I said, yeah, I know. They asked how I knew. I said, 'Have you had lunch with Vladdy or Lackey to tell them you were keeping them?' "

Vladimir Guerrero and John Lackey remain, of course. For the moment, Anderson, matched only by Chipper Jones in same-team, big league longevity -- is gone. The Angels had an option on his services for the 2009 season at $14 million. They could buy out that option and make him a free agent by paying him $3 million. When the check arrived at Anderson's home in Irvine recently, reality set in.

"My wife [Teresa] told me to face it, that they had moved on," Anderson says. "She could see it more clearly. She wasn't emotionally involved. I was."

Lest anything be misinterpreted here, Anderson has no anger toward the Angels. Quite the opposite.

"I harbor no ill will," he says. "They gave me 14 great years, a World Series. Nothing but positives to look back on there."

Still, as much as he understands that this is business, that he is 36 years old, that the Angels have made a commitment to a younger and less costly Juan Rivera in left field, he also hoped -- and still does -- that there will be a home for him at his old home this season.

"When we had lunch," Anderson says, "Mike talked about some of the parameters that could take place that would make room for me. If they sign X and Y, that would mean this and that. But it all seemed to add up to a role as a utility outfielder. And I still want 145 games and everyday at-bats."

Anderson, who had gone without an agent for the last three seasons with his four-year, $48-million deal in place, told Scioscia and Reagins at their luncheon that he wouldn't get an agent right away, that he wouldn't put an agent between them and him for a while, as they considered a spot for him.

When they held a recent memorial gathering at Angel Stadium for longtime Angels front office legend Preston Gomez, Anderson went and smiled and shook hands and mourned alongside the rest of the Angels.

But as time passed with no word from the Angels, Anderson interviewed three agents and hired Scott Boras. The first thing Boras told him was to focus on one word: patience.

And so, he has.

"I'm not nervous. Not at all," he says. "I'm not calling my agent every day. Only on a need-be basis."

He works out daily, casually keeps track of teams and developments and keeps his eye on the crystal ball of his future.

He is 632 hits shy of the 3,000 mark, and while 3,000 may be a bit unrealistic, it also means almost automatic selection to the Hall of Fame. He entered last season with a .297 lifetime batting average and stayed near that when he hit .293 last year, with 163 hits, 15 home runs and 84 runs batted in, as well as no errors in the field.

"I don't think I'm old at all," Anderson says. "Chone Figgins calls me the young vet."

Anderson says it feels funny, having no job with just a few weeks until spring training starts. He says no matter where he goes to play, Irvine will be his permanent home.

"The kids are in school," he says, "and I grew up in the Valley and have lived in Southern California all my life. Home is here."

A woman sees him in a restaurant and walks over to ask whether he will be back with the Angels. He can only smile and say he doesn't know.

These family things are never easy.

--

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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