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MISUNDERSTOOD EDMONDS STARS IN ST. LOUIS.

Byline: Joe Haakenson

ANAHEIM - Jim Edmonds loved the Angels and hated them at the same time.

That's why his emotions were mixed when he was traded March 23 to the Cardinals. He was crying one minute, celebrating the next.

And now, to no one's surprise, Edmonds is becoming a superstar. He's at the top or near the top of almost every offensive category in the National League: Eleven homers, 28 RBI, .406 average, 34 runs, 31 walks, .532 on-base percentage, .792 slugging percentage, etc., etc., etc.

And now a six-year, $57-million contract with the Cardinals.

Edmonds always has been a megastar waiting to happen. The Angels knew it and so did everybody else in baseball.

That's why the Angels fielded so many calls about Edmonds and why his name popped up in trade rumors so often. Edmonds always said he would have liked assurances from the front office he wouldn't be traded. But those assurances never came until the very end, when it was too late.

Former GM Bill Bavasi never gave Edmonds that security because in the business of baseball it doesn't make sense. He learned that from his father, Buzzie, the former Dodgers and Angels GM.

Buzzie watched over the years how Edmonds was handled and how Edmonds reacted to his situation. And he thought about contacting Edmonds.

``I've seen (Mickey) Mantle, Duke (Snider) and (Willie) Mays,'' Buzzie said last year when Edmonds was still an Angel. ``(Edmonds) can catch the ball like all of 'em. I was going to write him a note, but I didn't. I wanted him to know I went through the same thing with Duke.

``Every two weeks, the New York papers said Duke was going to be traded. Duke wanted me to assure him I wouldn't. But I said I couldn't do that. What if somebody offered me two 20-game winners, and I made the trade? Then you'd call me a liar.''

Edmonds was an All-Star and won two Gold Gloves while with the Angels, but he never reached his potential. A lot of it had to do with injuries, which played a big role in what his teammates thought of him.

The Angels in recent years were broken up into distinct cliques, and one of those cliques couldn't stand Edmonds' demeanor. Dave Hollins, Gary DiSarcina, Darin Erstad and coach Larry Bowa were the old-school, down-in-the-dirt hardballers. You get hit by a pitch, you rub some dirt on it and keep going.

They'd see Edmonds crash into the wall making a catch, roll around like he was hurt, then get up and smile. It drove them crazy.

They misunderstood Edmonds, just as it seems he misunderstood the Angels' front office, whether Bavasi was in the GM's seat or Bill Stoneman.

Hearing his name mentioned in rumors didn't necessarily mean he was being shopped, or unwanted or unappreciated. It meant teams were asking about him. And when you're a team that has four outfielders, one of whom isn't a favorite among teammates, word gets out.

But Edmonds seemed to look at it as being unwanted.

If Edmonds was unwanted and the Angels didn't know his value, Stoneman would have traded him to the A's for a package of minor-leaguers when he had the chance. Instead, Stoneman held out and got pitcher Kent Bottenfield, an All-Star and 18-game winner in 1999, and second baseman Adam Kennedy, who is hitting .304 and is a top candidate to win the AL Rookie of the Year award.

The Angels knew what they had in Edmonds. After all, they could have traded him for Mark McGwire a few years ago and didn't do it.

Now, Edmonds and McGwire are teammates. Both grew up in Southern California, Edmonds in Diamond Bar, McGwire in Claremont. Both have children living in Southern California.

McGwire is the single-season home-run champion and shooting for Hank Aaron's all-time record. Edmonds is house hunting in Missouri. Meanwhile, Edmonds' name and face are larger than life on the outfield fence at Edison Field, because the fans voted him onto the Angels' all-time team.

Right up there alongside Chuck Finley. The Indians' Chuck Finley. But that's another story.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

``They should just start the games in the eighth or ninth inning here. That's when all the weird things start happening.''

Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutierrez

on Chicago's beleagured bullpen

STAT OF THE WEEK

Steve Trachsel, Tampa Bay

Trachsel, who lost 18 games for the Chicago Cubs last season, has tossed a pair of 1-0, three-hit shutouts in his last two starts. He beat Pedro Martinez and Boston last Saturday and ``El Duque'' Hernandez and the Yankees on Thursday.

CAPTION(S):

2 boxes

Box: (1) Quote of the week (see text)

(2) Stat of the week (see text)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 14, 2000
Words:792
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