The California Angels are bracing for a fan backlash this season caused by the departure of popular first baseman Wally Joyner.
"Sure, there's this mystique about Wally," Angels president Rich Brown admitted, "and I suspect that will linger on. He's a fan favorite. There's no denying that."Season ticket sales are lagging slightly behind last year's total, and Joyner's decision to sign with Kansas City is viewed as a factor.
To combat post-Joyner depression, the Angels seek help on two fronts: they want fans to understand that Joyner wasn't pushed into free agency, and they want Lee Stevens or Alvin Davis to seize the spotlight at first base.
"I read in the newspaper that Wally felt Jackie Autry did not like him," Brown said. "I can tell you that Jackie Autry and Wally ran into each other maybe three times in six years, and it was always very cordial. And I can also tell you that nobody in their right mind, and it's a given that the Autrys are in their right mind, offers somebody $16 million if they don't like him. It just isn't done. The fact is, we wanted Wally, and we tried desperately to keep him. If we didn't like him, we wouldn't have made the attempt. But he's gone, and we have to go on."
Brown and the Autrys can only hope someone steps forward to erase the memory of Joyner, just as Joyner himself did when he replaced Rod Carew in 1986.
"Rod Carew is a Hall-of-Famer," Brown said, "but the funny thing is, when you replace somebody - no matter how good they are - with somebody who puts up extraordinary numbers, fans tend to forget who was in the position before.
"Wally was a .300 hitter, close to 100 RBIs, 20 home runs - we're going to have to get that output out of at least one or two individuals to make up for losing him, so it's going to hurt. I don't know what kind of year Stevens is going to have, what kind of year Alvin Davis is going to have. But Wally may be forgotten after these people have great years. If they don't have good years or great years, Wally Joyner may be on the tip of our tongue every day of the season."