Angels Hope for Clear Sailing While Herzog Is Raising Caine

The White Rat is now the big cheese. Dorrel (Whitey) Herzog has won his in-suite power struggle with Danny O'Brien and is now busy making baseball personnel decisions, left and right, for the wait-until-next-century California Angels.

One of Herzog's first decisions was to flash dollar signs--$ for a fastball, $$ for a curve--to left-handed pitcher Joe Magrane, confirming that once again this club will have more southpaws than a kennel.

His next decisions?

--Whether to keep Luis Polonia.

--How to keep Chili Davis.

--Yes or no to J.T. Snow.

And, the question all of Orange County as well as the entire baseball-loving United States of America is asking. . . .

-- Vince Coleman?

All of which should make this an action-packed off-season for Whitey, who reports only to Angel President and CEO Richard M. Brown and to the forlorn old owner, Gene (I'm Back in the Fifth-Place Saddle Again) Autry.

At least we know the Angels won't place lower than fifth in 1994.

There is no lower than fifth in 1994.

All in all, this has not been such a lousy season for the Angels. On the contrary, they have won more games than the American League champions of 1987 and 1991 (Minnesota) and 1988 through 1990 (Oakland), proving how quickly fortunes can turn. The Angels also were contenders until the bullpen's collapse and Snow's private avalanche, and actually played some pretty decent ball.

Nevertheless, nagging reminders of dead-head Angel decision-making persist: Bryan Harvey (45 saves); Dave Winfield (21 homers, 3,000th hit); Dante Bichette (21 homers, 43 doubles, .310); Devon White (15 homers, 41 doubles, 33 stolen bases, 113 runs scored); Wally Joyner (15 homers, 36 doubles, .292); Mark McLemore (157 hits, .282); Gary Gaetti (11 homers) and, if you are so inclined, Jim Abbott (no-hitter, nine more victories than Russ Springer).

The Angels are powerless (fighting Boston for lowest home run total in the league); pathetically lacking in relief pitching (39 saves as a team); have no regular among the league's top 35 hitters (Chad Curtis is 36th) and--here comes a statistic you have to see to believe--as of Sept. 25 have only two pitchers who have reached the magic five- victory mark.

Go to work, Whitey.

With regard to Magrane and Coleman, it could be that Herzog is unconsciously intent on reconstructing the St. Louis Cardinal organization that once thrived under his helmsmanship. He could be like Capt. Queeg, eager to account for the pilfered strawberries aboard the Caine in an attempt to re-create the greatest nautical triumph of his career, the case of the missing cheese.

Polonia wants a cool three-mil per year. Why? Because he is hitting in the low .270s, with one home run. This is the sorry state of major league baseball today. (Where have you gone, Henry Aaron? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.)

It might be different were Polonia one of baseball's great glove men, or if he clubbed 20 homers like Rickey Henderson, or even if the Angel center fielder at his side was a slugger. But no, Polonia wants three bills because he singles and steals bases. Which is exactly what Vince Coleman does for a living, probably at reduced prices.

What's that? You say you like happy-go-lucky little Luis and wouldn't want some bum such as Vincent Van Felon in your outfield? Hey, for those who have forgotten, Polonia didn't exactly come to the Angels as the winner of the Mother Teresa impersonator contest. Don't suffer from selective memory here. If Steve Howe can have seven chances, the least we can give Vince Coleman is a couple.

(But if he ever pulls anything like that again, bang, zoom, to the moon with him.)

Chili Davis, solid hitter, solid citizen, should be kept. On some clubs, he's a handyman. On the Angels, he's Ted bleeping Williams. I only hope he isn't insulted by being asked to take a pay cut when Magrane is rolling in dough. The Angels need Davis for many reasons, not the least of which is to keep from becoming one of the whitest crews this side of the America's Cup.

J.T. Snow? Give this kid a break. He hit a dozen homers. That's more than any Angel hit except Davis and Tim Salmon. That's more than all but a couple of Dodgers got. And Snow didn't even play a full season. He's a rookie who hit two-twenty and change, so what? Eric Karros isn't exactly crowding .300, you know. He isn't even crowding .260. And he's a star. To speak license plate, JT MAY B2.

It's Herzog's call.

In the lair of the White Rat, there is so much to do.

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