It's never easy to abandon ship, even when your already crippled
vessel has just been blasted broadside by the enemy. "We're
taking on water," Anaheim Angels general manager Bill Bavasi
said on June 30, "but we're not bailing out. I still think we're
in this thing."
His club had just been swept in three games at home by the
American League West-leading Texas Rangers, who had outscored
Anaheim 32-5 in the process. Two days after the series ended,
the Angels placed righthander Ken Hill on the disabled list with
a tender elbow; he was the second Anaheim starting pitcher to
hit the DL in a week and the 15th Angel to be disabled this
season. Going into the All-Star break, Anaheim trailed Texas by
6 1/2 games.
Despite Bavasi's optimism, lefthander Chuck Finley, a mainstay
of the Angels' rotation for 12 years and the franchise leader
with 158 wins, has hinted that he wouldn't mind climbing into a
lifeboat and setting a more direct course for the postseason. "I
want to win," says Finley in a proclamation that rockets him to
the top of the list of pitchers who might be dealt before the
July 31 trading deadline. "I want to get things going here the
right way, or go somewhere where it's going that way now."
Finley's frustration is understandable. No other pitcher has
spent more time with his current club than the 36-year-old
Finley has with Anaheim, meaning no pitcher has endured more
snakebit seasons. The Angels haven't made the postseason since
1986, Finley's rookie year.
If Bavasi puts Finley on the block, the lefthander can choose
where he wants to chase a title: As a 10-year veteran who has
been with his team for at least five seasons, Finley can't be
traded without his approval. Two likely playoff combatants, the
Indians and the Yankees, would love to get their hands on him.
Cleveland's team batting average against southpaws at the break
(.283) was 17 points lower than its mark against righties. The
Indians' lust for Finley stems from a desire to keep him away
from New York--and because he's a Yankee killer. Finley is 16-9
lifetime against the Bronx Bombers.
Bavasi says any decision on whether to move Finley won't be made
until July 31 nears. "Around the deadline we'll be getting back
Ken Hill and [starter] Tim Belcher and [outfielders] Tim Salmon
and Jim Edmonds," he says, reeling off the names of a few of the
fallen Angels. "If we get a little more consistency, we should
be right back in this thing."
Another factor that will affect potential deals is how well
Finley pitches in the days ahead. Going into the break, he was
5-9 with a 5.66 ERA, and although he beat the Rockies last
Friday for his first win since June 2, he lasted only 5 1/3
innings, giving up five runs. There's also the contract issue.
Finley will be a free agent after this season, so any team that
trades for him may be coughing up prospects to rent him for
What will ultimately decide the matter is Anaheim's performance
in the next two weeks. "I'm not someone who thinks the grass is
always greener on the other side," Finley says, "but after a
while you have to wonder what you're trying to accomplish here.
I might feel like I missed out on something if I stay and things
keep going the way they've been."
COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO GREAT ESCAPE? The 36-year-old Finley is willing to leave Anaheim for a shot at the postseason.
A Move in Their Future?
Angels lefthander Chuck Finley isn't the only player who may
change teams by midnight EDT on July 31. Here are five others
(in approximate order of teams' interest in them) who might want
to have their bags packed as the trading deadline looms.
LF Bobby Higginson, Tigers
Possible Suitor: Yankees
The Deal: The Bronx Bombers need to shore up the position;
Higginson auditioned by hitting .385 in 12 games against them
SP Kenny Rogers, Athletics
Possible Suitors: Mets, Reds
The Deal: Though a free-agent-to-be, the lefty starter with a
respectable 4.02 ERA will draw nibbles from postseason
SP Kevin Appier, Royals
Possible Suitor: Red Sox
The Deal: Name pops up every year, but these are the
hang-ups: injury history and K.C.'s demand for a package of
1B Eric Karros, Dodgers
Possible Suitors: Braves, Red Sox
The Deal: Los Angeles may unload Karros and his $5.5 million
salary so that struggling catcher Todd Hundley can move to
SP Andy Pettitte, Yankees
Possible Suitors: Angels, Reds, Mariners
The Deal: Lefty is being actively shopped; one scenario has
him being swapped for Finley