The Angels have secretly voted for an Aug. 16 strike date if a labor agreement is not reached, and according to a source in the Major League Players Assn., it probably will be the date selected for all teams to strike.
The Angels, who ended the first half of their season Sunday with a 9-6 victory over the New York Yankees, would not publicly discuss their vote. The player association wants the strike date to be kept a secret, at least for now.
But several Angels, on the condition of anonymity, revealed that they were presented with three strike dates: Aug. 16, Sept. 2 or Sept. 16. Most of the clubs, including the defending World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays, have also voted for the Aug. 16 date, according to the official.
"We were told this was the best time," one player said, "because the owners want their games to be played on Labor Day weekend. That's a big-money maker for them.
"So we're hoping it won't last more than a couple of weeks, but if it goes past Labor Day, who knows, the rest of the season might be wiped out."
Don Fehr, executive director of the player association, is scheduled to brief members of the executive council today in Pittsburgh, and might privately reveal the decision. But no public announcement is expected.
"I think there will be a strike date set," said Langston, who will be in Pittsburgh today as the Angel player representative. "You hope it doesn't come down to it, but history suggests it will."
The looming inevitability of a strike leaves the Angels (38-51) in a precarious situation. They have only 29 games remaining until the probable strike date, and remain five games behind the Texas Rangers in the dreadful American League West.
"There's a little urgency now because of the uncertainty of the season," Angel shortstop Gary DiSarcina said. "But at the same time, you can't take for granted that there will be a strike, and say, 'Ah, none of this matters anyway.' "
The strike might significantly affect General Manager Bill Bavasi's plans to improve the club for the second half, and he doubts that any major moves can be made with the pending strike.
"The best thing would be to go on strike right away, or at the end of the season," Bavasi said, "but this could end it. I know I won't shift guys now unless it becomes absolutely necessary.
"If this (Aug. 16 strike date) is true, you might not even see people talking about trades, let alone making them. Then again, who knows, people might treat this like September without the trade restrictions."
The Angels, who won four of their last six games and ended their longest trip of the season with a 5-8 record, realize the next month is critical.
"To play as bad we've played, and be only five games out," Angel starter Chuck Finley said, "you should put your hands together and thank whoever you want to thank--the realignment gods.
"A lot of guys feel like we're not in a pennant race, because all guys remember is how bad we are. But it's far from over. We've got to look at creeping close to .500 now. We'll come back and play a few weeks, and then probably go on strike. So we've got to come back strong after the break."
The Angels have hope because they are in a division that does not have a team with a winning record, and not once this season have all four teams won on the same day.
But while it has caused embarrassment, it also has provided promise.
Angel owner Gene Autry even telephoned Manager Marcel Lachemann after Sunday's victory, congratulating him on the trip, omitting the team has the second-worst record in the American League.
"It finished up a lot better than it started," Lachemann told Autry. "It very well could be the start of things."
The Angels, who produced 14 hits and prompted the demotion of Yankee starter Terry Mulholland (6-7, 6.65 earned-run average) to the bullpen after the game, were most enthused by first baseman J.T. Snow's performance.
Snow, who was batting .187 with only three extra-base hits until Sunday, went three for four with a career-equalling high four runs batted in, including a two-run homer.
"When you start struggling," Snow said, "you put a lot of undue pressure on yourself. You have a tendency to try to do too much, and that's what I was doing.
"I took a little page out of (catcher) Chris Turner's book. When he went five for five, he said, 'I'm just going to go up there and hack, and forget about my average.' "
Who knows, if Snow gets hot again, and the Angels can reel off a string of victories, they might even alter their perception.
"I was talking to some (Yankee players) the other night," said Finley (7-8), who yielded nine hits and four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, "and I got the feeling under their breath that they were laughing at our division, and at our team.
"It was like they were saying, 'What do you expect to do with that lineup? You've got to be kidding me.' I get the feeling that's how people are looking at us.
"So what if we're under .500, it's still the same race."