Rings show Angels are classy champs

ON BASEBALL

Baseball

April 06, 2003|By PETER SCHMUCK

In the afterglow of their surprising 2002 World Series championship, the Anaheim Angels never lost sight of how they got to the mountaintop.

The organization presented World Series rings to the players during pre-game ceremonies on Tuesday and held a private ceremony Wednesday to give them to other club employees.

The only group of employees that was not represented Wednesday was the organization's traveling scouts, but that's the best part of the story.

The Angels made rings for every fulltime and parttime scout, and scouting director Donny Rowland has been directed to travel wherever necessary to present them personally to each scout who played a role in building the 2002 team.

What a classy move, considering that the contribution of the advance scouts and area scouts often gets overlooked in the excitement of a successful season.

"We're going to make sure everyone gets them hand delivered," said Tim Mead, vice president for communications. "Our goal is to not have one ring mailed -- including Alex Ochoa and Lou Pote, who are playing in Japan."

The Walt Disney Co. budgeted $500,000 to make sure no one felt left out after the Angels won the first world title in the franchise's 42-year history.

It might turn out to be a parting gesture, however. Disney is expected to sell the franchise soon.

Sniffing sea level

When the Texas Rangers spoiled the Angels' home opener with a 6-3 victory last Sunday night, it marked the first time that they have been above .500 since April 15, 2001.

They have been above sea level for a total of just four days -- including the day off after the opener -- since signing superstar shortstop Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252 million contract.

Still worth it

It's not that A-Rod isn't doing everything he can to help the Rangers win. He hit his 300th career home run on Wednesday night to become the youngest player in history (27 years, 249 days) to reach that plateau.

"It's just a testament to how hard I work," Rodriguez said. "The first one-third of my career, I'm very proud of. The next two-thirds I hope I can keep up the same pace. I think I'm getting better with age and I'm going to continue to work hard."

Wait a minute. Did he say the next two-thirds? Imagine what that 900th home run ball will be worth on eBay.

Probably a lot more than No. 300. Rodriguez figured that he would have to do some hard bargaining to get the ball back from the fan who caught it at Edison International Field, but he didn't even have to make an offer.

The unidentified fan, in keeping with good bleacher etiquette, threw the ball back on the field.

Bad decision. Very bad decision.

Bad karma

While we're on the subject of bad decisions, what was Mike Bordick thinking when he honored a request to send his game glove to the Hall of Fame after finishing the 2002 season with a string of 110 errorless games?

Baseball players are a superstitious lot who seldom change equipment when things are going well, but Bordick broke that unwritten rule and paid the price on Wednesday night.

In his first appearance for the Toronto Blue Jays, he made an error that broke that streak and a record streak of 544 errorless chances.

"Hey, maybe I should call [the Hall of Fame] up," Bordick said after the game. "Give me that thing back."

Stupid injury of the week

San Diego Padres pitcher Jay Witasick (C. Milton Wright) is on the shelf with a sore arm after straining his forearm throwing out (literally) a heavy bag of garbage that contained a watermelon.

That doesn't happen every day, but Padres general manager Kevin Towers didn't even seem surprised after a spring in which he lost his best hitter (Phil Nevin) and one of the game's top closers (Trevor Hoffman) to severe injuries.

"I've had guys fall out of deer stands," Towers said. "So a watermelon, to me, is not as crazy."

That reference was to pitching prospect Carlton Loewer, who broke his leg falling out of a tree while hunting a couple of years ago.

Big prediction

Philadelphia Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt recently predicted that newly acquired slugger Jim Thome could team with Pat Burrell to hit 100 home runs this season.

It's possible, but two teammates have combined to hit the century mark in home runs only five times.

Here's a quick review: 115 -- Roger Maris (61) and Mickey Mantle (54) in 1961; 110 -- Barry Bonds (73) and Rich Aurilia (37) in 2001; 107 -- Babe Ruth (60) and Lou Gehrig (47) in 1927; 101 -- Mark McGwire (70) and Ray Lankford (31) in 1998; 100 -- Alex Rodriguez (57) and Rafael Palmeiro (43) in 2002. The Phillies record is held by Schmidt and Greg Luzinski, who combined for 77 in 1977.

Not exactly paths of glory

The Arizona Diamondbacks scored just six runs in their first three games of the season, but it wasn't for lack of opportunities. They might have added a few more runs if eight runners hadn't been thrown out on the bases.

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