They've got the names, all right—Jackson, Carew, Lynn, Baylor, Burleson, Grich.... You name 'em, they've got 'em. What the Angels don't have is time, because age, that most relentless of pursuers, is threatening to catch up with them before they can win a pennant race. If Ken Forsch is their Opening Day pitcher—which he should be—and if Don Baylor starts in leftfield—which he wants to—the Angels will field a starting lineup that averages 33 years of age per man. True, they may be a bit long in the tooth, but in Reggie Jackson, who is 35, the Angels feel they have the one element that has been missing from their star-studded and star-crossed host all these years.
Manager Gene Mauch is hoping that if the other veterans can just get Jackson to October, he'll get the hits that will win the big ones the Angels have traditionally lost. And Reggie, who can be otherwise, has been a charmer all spring, a cheerful gadabout pumping life into a corps sorely lacking esprit. But as his new pal, Baylor, ruefully observes, "Reggie can't pitch." And if age doesn't do the Angels in first, their sorrowful pitching may.
In Forsch, who won 11 games in '81, they have a quality pitcher. After him.... Mauch is counting on gangling Mike Witt to improve on the 8-9 record he had last year when he was a rookie and on Geoff Zahn to lower his 4.42 ERA. The fourth and fifth starters could well be Bruce Kison, coming back after elbow surgery, and little (5'9") Angel Moreno, a rookie who impressed Mauch in a brief stay at the end of last season. The bullpen is solid with righthander Don Aase and lefthander Andy Hassler.
The rest of the Angel lineup reads like a guidebook to the shrine at Cooperstown. It lists four American League MVPs—Jackson, Fred Lynn, Rod Carew and Baylor—and 11 former All-Stars. The infield of Carew on first, Bobby Grich at second, Doug DeCinces at third and Rick Burleson at short is as deft defensively as it is potent offensively—a .291 overall average last year. DeCinces, acquired from the Orioles, is one of the game's finest defensive third basemen and can be dangerous as a hitter. DeCinces feels Burleson and Grich constitute the game's best double-play combination.
Lynn, infirm and ineffective last year, will need to cover a lot of turf in centerfield, because Jackson in right is no gazelle and the leftfielder is a mystery man. Baylor would like to play there, but his weak throwing arm makes him better suited for DH. Brian Downing, ostensibly a catcher, considers himself a leftfielder now that the Angels have acquired both Bob Boone and Joe Ferguson. Ed Ott, another catcher, is on the disabled list. The most intriguing leftfield candidate is Tom Brunansky, a powerful 21-year-old who had 47 homers and a .321 average in the minors the past two seasons. Brunansky is the Angels' future. The past is quite forgettable. The present is now or never.