John McNamara is a soothing fellow, the perfect analgesic for a California team that emerged from the American League playoffs with its players' psyches battered and World Series hopes shattered. After the Angels blew a two-game lead over Milwaukee, the players questioned Manager Gene Mauch's tactics and the Little General announced, "I shall not return." In Mauch's wake comes a veteran manager who is nowhere near as intense as Mauch. "I try to understand and know the players," says McNamara, who won one division title in nine-plus years with three teams. "Learn what makes them tick. I found out early that the players make a manager. I live by that."
This laissez-faire philosophy seems perfect for a veteran team. Spring training sessions were run at less than Mauch speed: Practices ended an hour earlier this spring than last. "Guys here have been going to spring training for 10 or 12 years," Reliever Andy Hassler said. "Everybody knows how to pace himself."
McNamara inherits some dangerous hitters. Rightfielder Reggie Jackson (.275, 39 home runs and 101 RBIs) and Third Baseman Doug DeCinces (.301, 30 and 97) won Silver Slugger Awards. Only Milwaukee struck more home runs than California's 186. The Angels led the majors in sacrifice hits (114), the hallmark of Mauch's one-run-at-a-time offense. "There were times when I disagreed, but that was Gene's philosophy, and it worked," says Second Baseman Bobby Grich. "I don't think you'll see Johnny Mac put on the bunt sign in the third inning. Because of that the team will play a looser type of game. You're not stepping up to the box thinking, This is going to be a 2-1 game, so I've got to get a hit right now.' The overall psychology of pressing for one run does put more pressure on a ballclub."
Fewer sacrifices are in the offing, but so are fewer RBIs. DH Don Baylor, who had 93 ribbies, including 21 game-winners, sold his services to the Yankees. Jackson will replace him, with rightfield going to either free-agent acquisition Ellis Valentine or perennial star-of-the-future Bobby Clark, depending on who heals more quickly. Chronic tendinitis in his left Achilles kept Valentine off the field for two weeks of spring training. A back injury forced Clark home from the Venezuelan League early, and it flared up during camp.
But compared to the bullpen, rightfield seems settled. The Angels earned but 27 saves last year, fewer than either Dan Quisenberry or Goose Gossage had. One of the mainstays in relief, Righthander Don Aase, tore up his elbow on July 17 and won't be back until '84, if then. Doug Corbett, acquired from Minnesota in May, lost his confidence and the form that had helped him save 40 games the previous two years. If he doesn't regain it, even McNamara may have trouble relaxing.