While Southland baseball fans are fretting over what they will do without J.T. Snow and Delino DeShields--maybe, enjoy the sport again?--there have been plenty of other things warming up the local hot stove.
Speaking of which, why is it called a hot stove league? Are there playoffs? Is there a championship game, perhaps sponsored by Tappan? How have we missed this? Must have been shown on TV.
This is not to be confused with the Freeway Series, those three games every spring where fans pay exorbitant rates to watch players who travel here from Arizona or Florida just to be told they are being cut.
Their new series, created by the recent labor peace, will feature fans paying exorbitant rates to watch real players, in real games.
Which, this year, could include a real fistfight between Terry Collins and Bill Russell over the honor of Tom Lasorda.
The Angels can keep the Dodgers out of the playoffs, and vice versa, which would certainly be a nice switch from the Angels keeping the Angels out of the playoffs.
Which brings us back to this hot stove stuff.
The Angels have spent the off-season in the headlines.
The Dodgers have spent the off-season in Latin America.
The Angels have changed their clubhouse culture by importing a handful of bad losers and hot tempers.
The Dodgers have fostered their clubhouse culture by re-signing their important players and teaching their young ones.
Which approach is right? So far, both are.
The Angels needed another bat, a couple of arms, and more toughness and smarts.
They have done just that, from new Manager Terry Collins, to new third base coach Larry Bowa (one of best minds in the game), to new third baseman Dave Hollins, to pitchers Mark Gubicza and Allen Watson.
Now that his diabetes and hand injuries are in check, Hollins can be an all-star again, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 85 if sound.
With a decent lineup around him for the first time in his four-year career, left-hander Watson is a potential 15- or 20-game winner, not to mention a good influence on Mark Langston and Chuck Finley.
This is a guy who is so intent on staying tough in the off-season, he jogs through cemeteries near his home in Queens, N.Y.
"Just give me the ball," he said Saturday, already wearing his game face. "My goal is to pitch 200 innings. You do that, you keep your team in the game. You don't, you don't."
The Angels have done so well--yes, better to trade Chili Davis a year too early than a year too late--that they need to make just one more move.
Not to be intrusive or anything, but they need to trade for . . . CECIL FIELDER! NOW!
It's either that, or spend the summer watching Hollins and Darin Erstad and Jim Edmonds share first base.
Fielder may not be aesthetically pleasing, but he's prettier than that.
Fielder, who went to Nogales High in La Puente, is only 33. And he can still swing as big as his belt size, as New York Yankee fans will attest.
Fielder has demanded that the Yankees trade him, meaning they must move him by March 15 or lose him, bringing the price down.
The Angels and Disney need to show they are willing to pay that price.
"We're still scrambling here," Bill Bavasi, Angel general manager, promised.
The Dodgers are in the same position, with several good moves completed, but one more needed to make them all work.
They have remained true to their philosophy by using the winter leagues to groom a fifth starter (Chan Ho Park, earned-run average below 1.00 in the Dominican Republic) and third outfielder (Roger Cedeno or Karim Garcia).
They have shown their regard for the important little things by re-signing three nondescript members of the team who did not fold in the pennant race--relievers Mark Guthrie and Scott Radinsky and shortstop Greg Gagne.
Within days, they are expected to add the power-hitting third baseman they could have used in that race by signing free agent Todd Zeile.
For their final move, not to be intrusive or anything, they need to trade for . . . TONY PHILLIPS! NOW!
If Brett Butler retires as expected, they will need a leadoff hitter.
With DeShields gone, they need a veteran second baseman with a better attitude.
Phillips can fill each of those roles, after inspiring the Angels in 1995 and the Chicago White Sox last season.
If no outsider is found, then those jobs will be filled by rookie Wilton Guerrero, a converted shortstop receiving extra attention in the Dominican Republic.
"The question is, can he make that step?" said Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president. "That is what we are finding out."
Just find out now. Not in June.
The only bad move by either team so far has been the changing of the Angels' first name from "California" to "Anaheim."
No offense, but it makes them sound too small. In keeping with the organization's new image, they should have changed it to something brasher, bolder.
Something like "Los Angeles."