SI Vault
April 10, 1972
Dick Williams, manager of the Oakland A's, would not discourage the other five teams from playing their 162 games, but lie is pretty certain how things will turn out in his division. "I like this ball club," he says affectionately. The A's finished 16 games ahead in the West a year ago and there is plenty to like, with or without Vida Blue, he of the epic contract dispute with Owner Charles O. Finley.
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April 10, 1972

Nobody's Blue In Oakland

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A healthy May would be a steadying influence on a pitching staff headed by 17-game winner Dick Drago and 15-game winner Mike Hedlund. Paul Splittorff, who pitched from late June to early September with an ERA of 1.41, should be the third starter, and Monty Montgomery, who joined the team late in the season and was seined upon in only two of the 21 innings he pitched, could be the fourth.

John Mayberry, acquired from Houston, might add some power to the gentle-swinging Royals infield, and Otis in the outfield has superstar potential. Last year he led the league in stolen bases with 52, hit .301 and led his team in home runs (15), RBIs (79), total bases (246) and game-winning hits (14).

The California Angels, who spent much of 1971 fighting among themselves, are now prepared to take on outside opponents. They may be overmatched. At least their troubles this season are physical—no power—not mental. Gone are Alex Johnson, Tony Conigliaro, General Manager Dick Walsh and Manager Lefty Phillips, four of the protagonists of last year's ugly drama. But gone also with Johnson and Conigliaro is the hitting the team sorely requires. In new General Manager Harry Dalton and Manager Del Rice the Angels have at least acquired two leaders who are accustomed to winning. "I did not leave the Orioles to come into a bad situation," says Dalton. "This won't be one." So far, at least, it is not.

"There's real unity here," says Pitcher Andy Messer-smith, who won 20 games for last year's disunited malcontents and, until the changes were made, wanted to be traded. "Everyone is trying now. It's great to be on this team."

Messersmith is one of the good Angels. So is lefthander Clyde Wright, who pitched the same number of innings (277) as Messersmith and had the same ERA (2.99) but four fewer wins. Nolan Ryan, obtained from the Mets in a trade for Jim Fregosi, will be another starter if he ever locates the strike zone. Rudy May is a good Angel and he knows where the strike zone is. It's just that he is about as unlucky as his namesake on the Royals. What else can you say about a man who injures his shoulder, as May did last year, tripping over his own dog?

The Angel infield will benefit from both the bat and the glove of Leo Cardenas at shortstop, who came to California from Minnesota in a trade for Pitcher Dave LaRoche. He joins an apparently set infield of Jim Spencer at first, Sandy Alomar at second and Ken McMullen at third. The outfield is less settled, but scheduled for left and adding zest will be Vada Pinson, who came from Cleveland in the Alex Johnson transaction.

Whatever zest Minnesota has left rests with its aging mainstays, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva and Jim Perry. The pitching collapsed ingloriously last year, leaving the division champions of 1969 and '70 in fifth place, 26� games behind the A's. Perry, who won 17 and lost just as many, will be available again, but at 35 he is not the Cy Young Award winner of two seasons ago. Manager Bill Rigney also has Jim Kaat, who won 13 and lost 14, and young Bert Blyleven, who won 16 and lost 15. LaRoche, a lefthander, will join the busy Wayne Granger in the bullpen.

Killebrew and his 515 home runs will be back at first base and Rod Carew, a .300 hitter, will be at second, but the rest of the infield, particularly shortstop, looks like a bus stop. The outfield is built around Cesar Tovar and Oliva, who played much of last season with torn cartilage in his knee yet still managed to win his third batting championship. The knee was operated on in September, and Oliva still was moving slowly during spring training. If he is not fit, the Twins will not be, either.

Come the worst, Minnesota should still be fitter than the Texas Rangers, who made the jump from Washington, D.C. to Arlington. Texas, and from the league's Eastern to the Western Division, but improved only their economic situation. Texas has welcomed them warmly.

The move west has at least made it possible for Owner Bob Short to abandon his practice of hiring so-called gate attractions, e.g., Denny McLain. Curt Flood, in the hope of luring the unsuspecting into his stadium. A major league team, even a facsimile of one, is enough of a draw in Arlington. Short and Manager Ted Williams now can content themselves with teaching their youngsters. Seven of the players in the Rangers' spring camp were first-round draft choices, among them Pitcher Pete Broberg, 22, and Outfielder Jeff Burroughs, 21. As the season neared the lone Ranger with a reputation, Frank Howard, ended his hopeless holdout. And Don Mincher, who hit .280, and Ted Kubiak, a dependable infielder, will add some spice to the green team Short and Williams will serve the customers.

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