Inside Baseball

August 11, 2002

Almost Heaven
The Angels are in the playoff hunt thanks to players like
lefthander Jarrod Washburn

Standing in front of his locker before last Saturday's 5-4 win
over the Yankees, Angels shortstop David Eckstein gazed around
the home clubhouse at Edison Field and chuckled. "The best thing
about our team," he said, "is that we're not glamorous. We're a
bunch of guys who have had to find success the hard way."

One of the best examples is 27-year-old lefthander Jarrod
Washburn. A native of Webster, Wis. (pop. 623), Washburn has
become one of the top starters in the American League and was
13-3 through Sunday.

After splitting a four-game series with New York last weekend,
Anaheim stood three games back of the Mariners in the AL West and
was tied with the Red Sox in the wild-card race. While much of
the credit for the Angels' success--they were on pace to win a
franchise-record 96 games--goes to outfielders Darin Erstad and
Tim Salmon, the rejuvenated starting rotation (4.09 ERA, fourth
best in the AL) led by Washburn was equally deserving.

Although his dreams of major league stardom began when he was a
youngster, Washburn was anything but a prodigy. His only
opportunity to play baseball after graduating from Webster High
in 1992 was at Wisconsin-Oshkosh, but, "even they didn't come
after me," Washburn says.

In two seasons with the Titans he went 15-2 with a 1.97 ERA and
helped lead them to the Division III national title in 1994.
After striking out 89 in '95 and earning second-team All-America
honors, Washburn was drafted in the second round by the Angels.
He quickly moved through the organization, developing late
movement on his exceptional fastball, and made his big league
debut in June '98.

Washburn pitched well in parts of three seasons with Anaheim
(17-10, 4.46 ERA in 45 games combined), but a variety of injuries
sent him to the disabled list four times between March 2000 and
April '01, limiting his effectiveness. He wound up 11-10 with a
3.77 ERA in 30 starts last year. After undergoing physical
therapy during the off-season, Washburn reported to spring
training healthy and confident. With the addition of veteran
righthanders Kevin Appier (9-9, 4.22 at week's end) and Aaron
Sele (8-7, 4.61) to the rotation, Washburn was sure the Angels
could contend in the AL West.

"I knew we'd be in this position," Washburn says. "All you had to
do was look around. Yeah, we're a team of misfits. But we're
misfits who know how to play."

Home Runs Skyrocket
The Wind Tunnel In Arlington

With 175 home runs hit at The Ballpark in Arlington through
Sunday, including 37 last week, the home of the Rangers has
become the major leagues' No. 1 launchpad. The Ballpark was on
track for 240 homers this season, up from 233 last year (second
only to the 268 hit at Coors Field) and 209 in 2000. You might
say the jump in dingers happened by design. Before last season
the Rangers enclosed an area of club seats high in the stadium
behind home plate, and the new construction altered the wind
patterns in The Ballpark. The resulting jet-stream effect pushes
fly balls out toward right and right centerfield. --Albert Chen

Rebuilding in Detroit
Sometimes the Truth Really Hurts

During a July 19 talk with season-ticket holders, Tigers
president and general manager Dave Dombrowski provided a rare
peek inside the team's rebuilding process, and it wasn't pretty.
Delivering zingers as if he were the emcee at a Friars Club
roast, Dombrowski named seven veteran players--outfielder Bobby
Higginson; infielders Damion Easley, Dean Palmer and Craig
Paquette; and pitchers Matt Anderson, Danny Patterson and Steve
Sparks--whom he said were untradable because they were overpaid
and underachieving. Lamenting the degree to which those players
had hamstrung his ability to repair the franchise, Dombrowski
laughingly challenged his audience: "If you can trade [them],
call me tomorrow."

Although the talk wasn't a savvy public relations move, his
comments, for which Dombrowski apologized three days later, were
dead-on. At week's end the hapless Tigers (41-69) were in last
place in the American League Central, 27 games out of first.
Since Dombrowski replaced Randy Smith as G.M. on April 8, his
mission has been to unload as many of those veteran contracts as
possible (the seven players named will earn about $40 million
next season) as part of an overall restructuring of the
organization.

In truth Dombrowski appears to have made several shrewd personnel
moves. In five trades he has obtained several promising players,
including first baseman Carlos Pena (.305 and 17 RBIs in 26 games
with the Tigers) and outfielder George Lombard (.269, five stolen
bases in 33 games). In addition budding closer Franklyn German
(16 saves in 41 1/3 innings at Double A Midland before the trade
from the A's on July 5) and infielder David Espinosa (44 RBIs and
26 stolen bases for Class A Stockton before his July 23 trade
from the Reds) are prospects who will be counted on down the
road. Says one American League executive, "Given the hand he was
dealt, he's done a good job."

Dombrowski remains cautious in his assessment of a club that he
predicted would be competitive this season. "We need to add more
talent and depth to the organization," he says. "We have a ways
to go. It's a long-term project." --Daniel G. Habib

COLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER Washburn anchors a veteran staff that had the fourth-best ERA in the American League. COLOR PHOTO: BRAD MANGIN Losses and criticism have frustrated the Tigers, including catcher Brandon Inge.

On Deck
NEXT UP IN THE WEEK AHEAD

PLAYOFF PUSH The wild-card-chasing Red Sox enter a crucial
nine-game stretch starting on Friday, facing the Twins at Fenway
and then heading west to play the Mariners and Minnesota again.
There is some good news for Boston fans: Manny Ramirez hits for a
higher average (.348) against Minnesota than against any other
American League team and has more RBIs (92) against the Twins
than any other AL club except the Royals (also 92). And Nomar
Garciaparra has more home runs (14) and RBIs (58) against Seattle
than against any other opponent.

CHASING HISTORY As Barry Bonds closed in on his 600th career home
run, he approached a three-game series at Pac Bell against his
old team, the Pirates, beginning on Friday. At week's end Bonds,
who hit 176 home runs for Pittsburgh from 1986 through '92,
needed two homers to join Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and his
godfather, Willie Mays, in the 600 club.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)