The Angels, determining that the working relationship of senior vice presidents Dan O’Brien and Whitey Herzog had deteriorated beyond repair, fired O’Brien on Friday.
Bill Bavasi, the Angels’ farm director the last 10 years, will replace O’Brien. Bavasi, son of former Angel general manager Buzzie Bavasi, will work under Herzog as general manager. The Angels are expected to announce Bavasi’s promotion, and an entire restructuring of the front office, by Wednesday.
The Angels decided to fire O’Brien on Thursday night in a meeting of owners Gene and Jackie Autry, and President Richard Brown. Brown convinced the Autrys that it was counterproductive to have O’Brien and Herzog in their current roles and recommended that O’Brien be fired.
“It was not a blame on any individual or individuals,” Brown said. “But the blame is on our system because it wasn’t working to our satisfaction.
“At this point in time, we believe a restructuring will allow Whitey to finish in a most expeditious manner our overall goal of becoming a perennial contender.”
The Herzog-O’Brien conflict was set in motion by the Angels two years ago when they appointed Herzog as vice president in charge of player personnel. Herzog was told that he would be in charge of all baseball operations, but O’Brien carried the title of vice president in charge of baseball operations and never relented in his duties, creating the impression within baseball that no one was in charge.
“It was doomed from Day 1,” Angel Manager Buck Rodgers said. “This doesn’t surprise me at all. It was just a matter of time when someone would emerge in this thing.
“When you get two guys in command like that, I mean, I’ve never seen it work yet. They are two good baseball men, but it’s hard to succeed when you don’t have one guy in control. You have to have a No. 1 guy.”
The Angels became a constant source of frustration for agents and other clubs trying to deal with them because no one knew who was in charge.
“The Angels have always been one of the most discombobulated organizations,” said Chuck Berry, Luis Polonia’s agent, reflecting the feeling of many agents. “It’s been impossible to get any decisive action from them.”
Brown, in fact, is annoyed that O’Brien wasn’t able to reach a two-year agreement with Chili Davis before the home stand. Davis’ value rose again Wednesday when he hit two three-run homers, providing him with a career-high 102 runs batted in.
Brown actually recommended that O’Brien, 64, be fired during spring training, according to one source, but the request was rejected by Jackie Autry. She had hoped that O’Brien and Herzog could coexist in their roles. But O’Brien met privately with Autry a few weeks ago and vented his frustration with Herzog, virtually forcing a decision.
This time, Brown was stronger in his conviction that O’Brien should be fired, and Gene Autry concurred. O’Brien, who was earning $250,000, was told of the firing about 9 a.m. Friday morning, and he was told to clean out his office and clear the premises by 2 p.m. JoAnne Story, O’Brien’s secretary, also was fired.
“I was really hoping that Dan would soften his demands,” said one front-office executive. “Whitey wanted Dan to work alongside him, but Dan wanted to be in charge.
“It was really a power struggle. It was a question the whole time who was really in charge, and it became obvious this year that it wasn’t going to work out.”
Herzog, who will make $800,000 next year, will now be vice president in charge of baseball operations and will continue to operate primarily out of his home in St. Louis. Bavasi, 35, will handle day-to-day administrative duties in the Angel offices.
Herzog has yet to decide on a new farm director, but Jay Hankins, a special assistant to General Manager Lee Thomas of the Philadelphia Phillies, is considered the leading candidate if the Angels hire outside the organization. Angel minor league coordinator Joe Maddon and special assignment scout Darrell Miller are the leading candidates within the organization.