O'Brien Calls Rader’s Status a ‘Non-Issue’ : Angels: Manager’s job reportedly in jeopardy. Abbott’s strong performance against Twins ends losing streak at seven.
The gaping hole in the ceiling of Doug Rader’s office was repaired Wednesday, but the roof may still cave in on the Angel manager.
Addressing widespread reports that Rader would be fired Wednesday or Thursday, Angel Senior Vice President Dan O'Brien said Rader would not be dismissed today. However, O'Brien declined to respond when asked if Rader would keep his job for the rest of the season.
“Now you’re talking October,” O'Brien said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a non-issue. . . . There is no possibility (that Rader’s firing is imminent). Beyond that, I can’t tell you anything. I think it’s a non-issue.”
Rader’s fate became an issue during a seven-game losing streak that dropped the Angels into last place in the American League West. That slide ended Wednesday, as Wally Joyner’s two-homer, five-RBI outburst supported a superb effort by pitcher Jim Abbott and lifted the Angels to an 8-1 victory over the Twins before a crowd of 30,726 at Anaheim Stadium.
After the game, Rader shuffled the charts on his desk as usual, showing no signs of strain. His main concern, he said, was that the rumors might divert the players from the task of erasing a deficit of 11 games.
“More than anything else, it’s unsettling; no one is sure what’s going to happen,” said Rader, whose contract runs through 1992. “But my only real concern is that the players aren’t affected or distracted.
“One thing for sure is I’m a realist and I’m certainly willing to accept responsibility for things. I’m a man. I just hope it doesn’t affect the players and staff. It could be disruptive. As far as affecting me personally, it doesn’t. But I also understand people have to be held accountable for their performance.”
Asked if O'Brien, team President Richard Brown or owners Gene and Jackie Autry had indicated that he was accountable for the Angels’ disappointing season, Rader said no. He also said he hasn’t asked their opinions.
Possible candidates to replace Rader include Buck Rodgers, a former Angel and former manager of the Montreal Expos; Whitey Herzog, and Gene Mauch, the former Angel manager who has served as an unofficial adviser to the Autrys.
Brown didn’t visit the Angels’ clubhouse before or after Wednesday’s game, as he often does, and he didn’t return phone messages.
“It’s like in school,” Rader said, smiling. “You know what your grades are. You shouldn’t have to walk up to the bulletin board to see them posted. You should know how you did on the exam.”
Rader’s players gave the 47-year-old manager a passing grade.
“If anything happens, I think it would be a mistake,” said Joyner, who tagged Minnesota starter Jack Morris (13-9) for a bases-empty home run in the fifth inning and connected off Terry Leach with two men on base in the seventh for his first two-homer game since Oct. 3, 1987. “It’s not Doug’s fault we all went into a slump. It’s not Doug’s fault we all stopped hitting. If it does happen, I think it would be the wrong decision.”
That Rader’s future is the subject of speculation “is a shame,” outfielder Max Venable said. “Any time a team goes bad, the manager takes the burden. It’s the old saying: Is it easier to get rid of 25 players or get rid of the manager? It’s not fair. It never has been and it still isn’t. Doug has done a great job.”
Winning to save Rader’s job wasn’t the team’s motivation Wednesday, according to Venable. “I’m sure a lot of guys were aware of the talk,” he said, “but it was just out of respect that we wanted to go out and win. It’s not his fault, what’s happened. Look around here. It’s 25 guys.”
As much as the losing streak was caused by an offensive slump--the Angels hit .215 in the seven losses--Wednesday’s victory was sparked by a hitting spree. The Angels scored four times in the third inning off Morris, including two runs on Dave Parker’s home run, and then Joyner’s first homer gave them a 5-0 lead.
It was an unassailable lead because of Abbott’s sharpness. “He set and dominated the pace of the game,” Twin Manager Tom Kelly said. “We really had no chance against him.”
Keeping his slider down and his pitches well mixed, Abbott gave up only one hit through eight innings. That was Dan Gladden’s liner in the third inning, which struck Abbott in the left hip before caroming toward second base.
Abbott tired in the ninth, especially after he didn’t get a 2-and-2 strike on Chuck Knoblauch, and then gave up a double to the Twin second baseman. Knoblauch scored on Chili Davis’ ground single to left, which extended the former Angel’s hitting streak to 16 games. Abbott left to a standing ovation and watched from the dugout as Bryan Harvey struck out Shane Mack and got Kent Hrbek to ground out to second base to end the game.
“I didn’t feel overly strong today, but maybe that was good--maybe I had more life, more movement on the ball,” said Abbott, who became the first Angel starter to record a victory at home in 10 games, since Mark Langston was a 2-1 winner over the Baltimore Orioles on July 16.
Abbott added: “This was nice for us. We take a day off (today) and maybe we can regroup a little bit and make it interesting. . . . I don’t know if it’s real smart to start laying a whole lot of significance on one victory. Everybody knows the position we’re in. It’s just a win. I hope it puts us in the right direction.”
If it put Rader in a safer position, so much the better, the players said. “Hopefully (talk of his firing) isn’t true,” catcher Lance Parrish said. “If it does happen, we’ve let Doug and the rest of the coaching staff down by the way we’ve played. Maybe this is the start of something big. When you win big like this, it instills confidence that you are capable of playing like this.”
MARSHALL RELEASED: Former Dodger Mike Marshall becomes a former Angel when the team grants his request to be released. C6