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Baseball
Tim Kurkjian
September 16, 1991
From Bad to Worse
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September 16, 1991

Baseball

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An interim manager has never guided a major league team to a pennant while filling in for a disabled manager, but it may well happen this year, largely because the Jays have overcome several injuries to key players. They've played most of the year without their best starting pitcher, Dave Stieb; third baseman Kelly Gruber missed one third of the season; and closer Tom Henke was out for seven weeks. Now they are being managed by Tenace, the team's batting coach, whose only previous managerial experience came in 1988, when the Class A Prince William (Va.) Yankees went 22-39 with him at the helm.

Tenace is loud, tough and unafraid to criticize his players, even to reporters. Gaston is quiet, calm and reserved, especially to reporters. "Gene is more vocal," says pitcher Jimmy Key. "He's the type of manager who, when you've done something wrong, will meet you in the dugout and tell you."

Some players fear that Tenace may be too abrasive. What happens if they stumble in September or in the playoffs, and Tenace starts blasting away at players who aren't used to being criticized? One player says Tenace is trying too hard, over-managing and too often stressing that the Jays need to "reach down deeper." According to the player, in one meeting Tenace told the Jays just to have fun, but then said, "The last 30 games will be a war."

The Blue Jays are winning that war; at week's end, they had stretched their lead over the Red Sox in the American League East to 5� games. Moreover, Toronto was 13-6 since Tenace took over.

One member of the organization thinks Tenace is as good a skipper as Gaston, and despite his inexperience, Tenace is growing more comfortable in the job every game. "Cito and I are very similar in our hitting philosophies and our managing philosophies, but we're not totally alike," says Tenace. "I'm very aggressive. When someone makes a mistake, I confront the individual. You can't win championships by making a lot of mental mistakes. That's the way I was taught by Dick Williams." Tenace helped Williams win his first World Series with Oakland in 1972 by hitting .348 with four homers and nine RBIs while winning the MVP award.

When asked if he was worried that he could be too assertive, Tenace said, "I'm discreet about it. I don't jump in a guy's face and embarrass him in front of anyone. They're professionals. They're looking for leadership. They're looking for someone who'll criticize them. When I played, I didn't mind constructive criticism from the manager."

Phoning It In

By hiring Whitey Herzog to run their baseball operation, the Angels, who at week's end were next-to-last in the American League West, almost insured that they will be contenders in 1992. There's no better talent evaluator than Herzog, who becomes the No. 2 man in the organization behind owners Gene and Jackie Autry. But his hiring—he got a three-year contract worth approximately $800,000 a year—has one strange wrinkle: Herzog said he wouldn't live in California, so, with the help of a fax machine, he will run the Angels out of his home in suburban St. Louis.

Herzog had talked with representatives of the expansion Colorado Rockies about running that team but jumped at California's offer. Herzog inherits a club that isn't far from contention and that has a good manager in Buck Rodgers. The Angels may yet finish in the cellar, but if they do they would be the first last-place club with three 15-game winners: Chuck Finley (17-8 through Sunday), Mark Langston (16-7) and Jim Abbott (16-8). Since 1900, only seven last-place teams have had two 15-game winners.

Still, work needs to be done. The day after announcing Herzog's hiring, California released designated hitter Dave Parker, who, at 40, finally looks as if he's finished. First baseman Wally Joyner can be a free agent after the season; Herzog will have to persuade him to stay with the Angels. Shortstop Dick Schofield will also be eligible for free agency, but he wants to remain with California. Catcher Lance Parrish and third baseman Gary Gaetti both look to be past their primes. The farm system is thin, so Herzog, a fearless trader in the past, will certainly be active on the telephone.

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