In an effort to tilt the balance of power in the American League West in their favor, the Angels added balance and power to their lineup Thursday by acquiring designated hitter Dave Parker from the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Dante Bichette and an unspecified minor leaguer.
The addition of Parker, a left-handed hitter with a .293 average for his career, gives the Angels formidable muscle from both sides of the plate. With a projected batting order of Luis Polonia, Luis Sojo, Wally Joyner, Dave Winfield, Parker, Gary Gaetti and Lance Parrish, the Angels have home run potential to match that of Oakland’s Mark McGwire-Jose Canseco duo.
“That’s an awful lot of pop from three back to seven or eight,” said Parker, who will join the Angels Saturday in Tucson for a game with the Cleveland Indians.
“When I was with Pittsburgh, we had a very good lineup. But this is a little like Oakland’s lineup in 1989. . . . Hopefully, it will work out for the Angels the way it did in Oakland.”
Parker, who will turn 40 in June, hit .289 last season with 21 home runs and 92 runs batted in, feats for which he was named the American League’s top designated hitter for the second successive season. He is in the second year of a two-year contract with a one-year option and was negotiating with the Brewers for an extension.
But Milwaukee owner Bud Selig was reluctant to renegotiate a contract, fearing that such a move might undermine his status as president of the Player Relations Committee and anger his fellow owners.
Parker earned $1 million in 1990 and will earn $1.4 million this year. The Angels have an option to renew his contract next season at the same figure or buy him out for $225,000. General Manager Mike Port said he has not precluded an extension for Parker.
Unlike A’s outfielder Rickey Henderson, who reported to camp late when Oakland refused to recognize his claim that market changes required them to renegotiate his four-year, $12-million contract, Parker reported early to Milwaukee’s camp in Chandler, Ariz. He has, by all accounts, been unstinting in his efforts to get into shape after undergoing his fourth arthroscopic procedure on his left knee last winter, and he hit the second of two spring home runs against the Angels on Wednesday.
“If people think Rickey Henderson is a steal, then I’m a double steal,” Parker said.
It was a steal of second base in a meaningless spring exercise that sold Port on Parker’s talent, fitness and diligence.
“Within the last couple of weeks, we had (Preston Gomez) watching him,” Port said. “In an intrasquad game, he was on first and the first baseman was playing back, so he decided, ‘what the heck’ and he stole second. In an intrasquad game. . . .
“He projects pride and wanting to win,” Port said. “He’s one of those rare individuals who not only wants to win, he takes that out between the white lines and will do everything he can to beat you.”
The 6-5, 250-pound Parker ranks among baseball’s active leaders with 2,592 hits, 328 home runs and 1,434 RBIs. He also is renowned as a winner--he played on Pittsburgh’s 1979 World Series championship team as well as Oakland’s runner-up team in 1988 and championship team in 1989--and as a team leader.
"(Being a leader) has been the role I’ve played everywhere I’ve been,” said Parker, who played more than 11 seasons for Pittsburgh before moving on to Cincinnati, Oakland and the Brewers.
“It was the same thing in Oakland--they were looking for that. This leadership (label) that everyone tags me with is evidently something I have naturally. I’m just being Dave Parker and doing what it takes to win.”
The talented but immature Bichette, 27, was often an enigma to the Angels. On Thursday, his last day as an Angel, he was scolded by coaches Bobby Knoop and Bruce Hines for missing the cutoff man on throws from the outfield during a drill. Bichette was not assured of a job this season, and he didn’t help himself by going 0 for 16 this spring.
Squeezed out of the right field job last spring when Winfield was acquired from the New York Yankees, Bichette often pouted about not playing regularly, which irked Manager Doug Rader. Bichette’s batting average plummeted, too, and he finished at .255 with 15 home runs and 53 RBIs.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “I’m hoping to go over there and make an impact. Gosh, I’m excited right now and a little nervous.
“I could see (a trade) coming. I respect the Angels for doing it for me and letting me go somewhere I’ll have a chance to play. . . . I respect Doug as much as anybody I ever met. Off the field we got along pretty well. A lot of (the friction between them) was me being frustrated with not playing and him being frustrated with me being frustrated.”
Rader said the trade was partly motivated by knowing Bichette would have a chance to play regularly with the Brewers.
“With the outfield we have now, if we use him sporadically or as a DH, is that the right thing?” Rader asked. “We wish him nothing but the best. The bottom line is we needed a left-handed power hitter in our lineup, and Dave Parker can provide that.”
“This balances our lineup to where we’re extremely potent offensively, and we’re extremely potent emotionally and intangibly,” Rader said.
Said shortstop Dick Schofield: “I don’t think we have anyone in our lineup who can keep up with Canseco and McGwire. They’ll both hit 30 to 40 homers. But Lance hit 25 last year and Wally has hit 30 before and Winny, too. Realistically, all those guys will hit 20-25.”