This Lineup Looks Like Last Place
Angel disappointment of the day: Otis Nixon just said no, following the lead of Bobby Bonilla and Wally Joyner. And who wouldn’t consider that company preferable to the one Nixon briefly considered joining?
You can’t choose your relations, but you can choose your teammates--at least in your free-agent year--and this was how the decision-making process played out for Nixon, an Atlanta Brave today and again tomorrow:
In the outfield: David Justice . . . or Von Hayes? Ron Gant . . . or Junior Felix?
In the infield: Terry Pendleton . . . or Gary Gaetti? Sid Bream . . . or Lee Stevens?
And if that didn’t swing the balance, Nixon could hardly miss when sizing up the respective prospects for 1992.
With the Braves: A return to the World Series.
With the Angels: A return to 1961.
A week ago, the Angels arrived in Miami spouting grandiose plans. More speed! More power! More runs! More games in October!
They returned home with an expansion team.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 1992 California Angels . . . or is that the 1993 Colorado Rockies?
No one in this lineup drove in more than 66 runs last season.
No one in this lineup hit more than 19 home runs.
The home runs came courtesy Parrish--and at no slight cost. Parrish batted .216, struck out 117 times in 119 games and was Public Enemy No. 2 in the Doug Rader purge, checking in right behind Dave Parker. Gaetti had the 66 RBIs--19 less than his total in 1990. Subtract both players from this lineup, along with Brooks (16 home runs, 50 RBIs) and you are left with six regulars who combined for seven (!) major-league home runs in ’91 and 129 RBIs--or four less than Cecil Fielder.
Stevens: 0 home runs, 9 RBIs in 1991.
DiSarcina: 0 home runs, 3 RBIs.
Hayes: 0 home runs, 21 RBIs.
Felix: two home runs, 26 RBIs.
Polonia: two home runs, 50 RBIs.
Sojo: three home runs, 20 RBIs.
Stevens and DiSarcina have defense arguments; both spent the first five months of the season in Edmonton. But Felix and Hayes both slumped horribly through an assortment of injuries, Felix hitting 13 fewer home runs than he had in 1990, Hayes hitting 17 less.
Glad Whitey Herzog was able to squeeze those winter meetings in between his Arkansas fishing and Colorado skiing expeditions.
On a team that needs to restock for the future, Herzog brought in a 33-year-old right fielder with a recently broken arm and a 35-year-old designated hitter who underwent surgery for a herniated disk in September. On a team desperate for speed, he traded the Angels’ best pitching prospect, Kyle Abbott, for Hayes (nine stolen bases in 1991) and dealt the club’s top reserve, outfielder Dave Gallagher, for Brooks (three steals).
Herzog says getting Hayes and Brooks is “better than nothing.”
Buck Rodgers says getting Hayes and Brooks has placed the Angels in “a plus situation.”
Forget what the Angels say. Listen to reaction in New York and Philadelphia, from where Brooks and Hayes hailed and failed. Mets officials were stunned by the Angels’ interest in Brooks, considering the condition of Brooks’ lower back. Lenny Dykstra, when informed that Hayes had been dealt to California, reportedly exclaimed, “Great trade for us. Who’d we get?”
The Angels, meanwhile, are left with a lineup that has nothing, not one strength, going for it.
Where it’s young (Stevens and DiSarcina), it’s almost totally unproved.
Where it’s proven (Hayes, Brooks, Parrish, Gaetti), it’s on the wrong side of the hill.
Where it’s fast (Polonia), it can’t handle a fielder’s glove.
Where it can field (Sojo), it can’t run.
There’s no way to hype this lineup and look yourself in the mirror the next day. Richard Brown, the Angel president and front-office referee, can’t. After the Otis nix on Thursday, Brown conceded that a book on the Angels’ 1992 season, as projected right now, would not be one he’d want to read. Brown’s main consolation: “The book has not been written (yet).”
But where will future chapters take the Angels?
Back to Dave Winfield, whose 28 home runs and 86 RBIs look awfully re-signable right now?
Back to Danny Tartabull, just in time to finish runner-up again, this time to the Chicago White Sox or the San Diego Padres?
Or over to Chicago Cubs center fielder Jerome Walton, who fills the apparent lone requisite of the new Angel management team--he plays for a National League East club that no longer wants him?
Right now, the Angels’ text takes them all the way to last place. Same place they finished last season, same place they finished the 1987 season.
And they say there are no dynasties anymore.