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Angels Go Looking for Mr. Right

Larry Himes knows all about major league managers. He just fired one: Jim Fregosi, the man now considered the leading candidate for the once-again vacant Angel job.

Himes is a former Angel house man himself. He was the team’s scouting director until the Chicago White Sox offered him the general manager’s position shortly before the 1988 season. Since then, Himes has been faced with all sorts of difficult duties, including handing Fregosi a pink slip and now finding someone to take Fregosi’s place.

Which brings us to the Angels. Like Himes, they’re in the shopping business. They need a manager who can resurrect a franchise, who can breathe new life into a team. Otherwise, it’s back to the depths of the AL West with their familiar friends, the Seattle Mariners and the Texas Rangers.

Himes isn’t sure whom he’ll choose as the new White Sox manager, but he is sure of his hiring criteria. And while he declined to venture a guess as to the Angel needs, he did provide a managerial ingredients guide that should be copied and memorized by Angel General Manager Mike Port.

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According to Himes’ rankings, a manager should have:

1) High standards.

2) A strong work ethic.

3) Communications abilities.

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4) Organizational skills.

5) The ability to delegate responsibility and authority among his coaching staff.

6) An energetic personality.

7) Intuitive baseball knowledge and skills.

8) Public relations savvy.

9) A stable home life.

10) Innovative and creative talents.

11) A self-motivating style.

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12) Major or minor league managerial experience.

That about covers it. About the only thing missing from Himes’ list is the ability to cure world hunger and to find a vaccine to wipe out cancer. Otherwise, send those resumes to Big Larry, c/o The Chicago White Sox.

Maybe Himes’ point is this: Before you can finish high in the standings, you’ve got to start high with your standards. Thus, this detailed, if not impossible, list of wanted attributes.

“I think the standards of the manager are the standards the employees will adjust to,” Himes said. “I think high standards beget high standards.”

Either this is the philosophy of the year or worthless corporate chatter. Whatever it is, maybe the Angels ought to consider it, what with the way things have gone for them the past two seasons. They finished last in 1987 with Gene Mauch, the very definition of experience, and fourth with Cookie Rojas, the very definition of inexperience. Now what?

At least one American League general manager, who asked that his name not be used, said the Angels desperately need someone with personality and pizazz.

“I would think they need to have somebody who’s kind of an outgoing guy, a guy who has a little get-up-and-go about him, some enthusiasm,” said the general manager. “No knock on (Mauch), but he had his own way and his own style. He was somewhat reserved in some areas. And I don’t know what kind of job Cookie did, but I know he was quiet as a player.

“I just sense that they need a (Tommy) Lasorda type of guy, kind of a cheerleader.”

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The general manager senses right. If ever a team needed an attitude adjustment, this is the one. Subtract Brian Downing, Bob Boone and Johnny Ray from the Angel lineup and you’ve got a team in need of a heart transplant.

But would Fregosi be the right guy?

“Fregosi is an old Angel,” the general manager said. “He certainly would have a feel for things. Jim, I think, had to handle a very difficult situation in Chicago this year. I think that if he (is available), he should be somebody (the Angels) ought to think about. I think I would.”

As for the recently fired Rojas. . . . “I think Cookie had a great baseball background, but he never really managed up here. You’re playing with fire if you’ve got a guy who doesn’t have some minor league background. But that’s just my opinion.”

So the Angels took a flyer and crashed. Now what?

Hank Peters, president of the Cleveland Indians, suggests that a number of qualified candidates are available. They won’t score A’s in every one of Himes’ categories, but they’ll come close. Among the names: Bucky Dent, who managed the Yankees’ triple-A team in Columbus; Johnny Oates, recently hired as first-base coach for the Orioles; John Hart, recently fired as Orioles’ third-base coach; Joe Sparks, who spent last season as manager of Montreal’s triple-A team in Indianapolis; and Jim Lefevbre, third-base coach of the Oakland Athletics.

“You’re not going to get a guy who’s 100% perfect, just like you won’t with a player or general manager,” Peters said.

John Schuerholz, general manager of the Kansas City Royals, looks for managers with experience, leadership abilities, a knowledge of the game and communications skills. His is sort of the abridged version of Himes’ checklist.

“If they put me on the moon, I would look for the same things,” Schuerholz said.

But Schuerholz did emphasized the need for the general manager and the manager to work as a team.

“It’s essential,” he said. “If a general manager and a manager happen to be in a rowboat and one rows one way and the other rows the other way, all they’ll do is go in circles.”

Which, as luck would have it, brings us to the Angels once again. The only place the Angel rowboat seems to be going these last few seasons is down. Perhaps Schuerholz, like Peters, would like to throw the Angels a lifeline in the form of some more names.

No way, Schuerholz said. He knows better.

“Each general manager has a list that he keeps in his top drawer,” he said.

Now if we could just find a key to Port’s office.


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