Players bucking Angels, too


California Angels management already has had its say about the state of the team, firing manager Buck Rodgers several weeks ago. Now the players are beginning to express their discontent. Clubhouse leader Chili Davis has let his productive bat do his talking for the first 2 1/2 months of play, but he took aim at the club's philosophy after a two-homer performance Thursday. "People can say what they want, but what we're doing right now is rebuilding and trying to save money," Davis said. "I know it will upset some people, but that's a fact. Miracles happen, guys bond together, but you've got to be realistic. We're a couple of hitters and pitchers away. We're probably going to have to sacrifice this year." Club officials still hold out hope of competing in the mild, mild West, but the Angels are 10 games under .500. "You can't buy a new Mercedes for $5,000," Davis said. . . . Just when it looked like the Texas Rangers were taking control of the division, they lapsed into another losing streak. On deck: The Mariners, who will put their 10-25 road record against the Angels' 13-22 home record tonight.

AL Central

They're in first place, they're on a tremendous roll and -- finally -- they are for real. The Cleveland Indians, who have not appeared in the World Series since 1954 and never have appeared in a league championship series, could be headed for both if they continue to make mincemeat of the rest of the league the way they have the past 10 days. The Tribe has a club record 18-game winning streak at Jacobs Field and easily the best home record in the majors (23-7). They're one game under .500 on the road, but they have found their stride and are putting some distance between themselves and the rest of the division. . . . The once-dominant Chicago White Sox, meanwhile, have picked the wrong time for a lengthy slump, dropping into the middle of the pack with last week's five-game losing streak.

AL East

Has everyone gone insane? The Orioles are right in the thick of the AL East, but the owner recently blasted the manager, the manager hates the media and the media has been speculating on the possible replacement of last year's AL Manager of the Year while his team is eight games over .500. Earth to everyone: Lighten up now or a season-ending strike might be a blessing. . . . Everything's relative, of course. Just ask Toronto's Cito Gaston, who is getting his first taste of last place, and Boston's Butch Hobson, whose team is falling faster than the asking price of the San Diego Padres. Both would happily trade places with Oates.

NL East

The moment will be frozen in Jeff Fassero's memory for the rest of his life. Now you see it -- a no-hitter and a chance for a tiny piece of baseball immortality -- and now you don't. The Montreal Expos left-hander thought he had caught Carlos Garcia's two-out, ninth-inning line drive. He thought he had a no-hitter in hand, but the ball had glanced off his glove. It took him a moment to realize he hadn't caught it, and that moment may have cost him the no-hitter. Once he realized his mistake, he ran the ball down, but his throw to first base was a split-second too late. It was the second time this season an Expo lost a no-hitter in the ninth. . . . Of course, the Expos haven't lost much else. They continue to press the first-place Atlanta Braves for the top spot in the NL East and are 2 1/2 games ahead of the best of the Central and West contenders in the wild-card derby.

NL Central

Chicago was rocked by the news that another of its sports heroes had chosen to retire prematurely. Eight months after Michael Jordan walked away from the NBA in the prime of his career, Ryne Sandberg walked away from the Cubs because he was struggling at the plate and had lost his desire to continue playing. It was portrayed as an unselfish act -- giving up about $15 million in future earnings -- but it might not look that way to some of his young teammates, who now have a far lesser chance of salvaging the season.

NL West

If things aren't already going badly enough for the once-favored San Francisco Giants, third baseman Matt Williams is beginning to lose momentum at the plate. Williams, who leads the league with 23 home runs, is in a 5-for-37 slump and sat out yesterday. . . . The Los Angeles Dodgers had a chance to push the upstart Colorado Rockies down in the standings, but lost the weekend series and kept the West too close for comfort. . . . Never figured to be saying this, but even the San Diego Padres cannot be completely counted out of the West race. The youthful Padres climbed over the .500 mark (18-17) at home this weekend. Now, if only the frustrated friars can play a little better on the road (8-24), they might be able to lure back their disenchanted fan following.

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