In assessing the firing of Terry Collins by the Angels at the end of the 1999 season, I decided to take a look at that particular team itself. As everyone knows, 1999 was slap dab in the middle of the higher-profile part of the steroid era, a year after the “legendary” McGwire-Sosa home run chase and the beginning of BALCO turning Barry Bonds into the Incredible Hulk.
Mo Vaughn was discussed as one of the players mainly responsible for Collins’ firing, and that automatically got me thinking. Vaughn joined the Angels for the 1999 season. It is widely known that Vaughn’s rampant steroid use in Boston was what fueled his 1995 MVP season with the Red Sox. Vaughn was an extremely powerful hitter in the late 1990s, much of which was fueled by his supposed association with Jose Canseco during that MVP year in Boston. Vaughn parlayed that power-hitting success into a big free agent contract with the Angels prior to the 1999 season. Of course, this automatically made Vaughn one of the higher-profile players on the team given his $11 million salary. In doing so, could it just be that Terry Collins could have been outed in Anaheim due to his disapproval of a steroid culture in the Angels clubhouse? Just let’s piece this together, shall we?
Even though Chuck Finley has never been officially cast as a steroid user, there was a major accusation in his divorce proceedings involving his steroid use. Finley spent almost his entire career with the Angels, and was an excellent left-hander throughout most of his career. However, he was let go by Anaheim after that season, and ended up in Cleveland after that season was over. Finley did hold on for a few more years (in his late 30’s), including stints in Cleveland and St. Louis.
Jim Edmonds did not play until August 2 of the 1999 season, but he was traded to the Cardinals after Collins was let go. Edmonds hit 51 home runs combined in the 1997 and 1998 seasons, but in 2000? Edmonds hit 42 home runs in St. Louis and came in fourth in the MVP voting. Kind of impressive for a guy coming off a serious injury in 1999 – no? Edmonds has never been cast as a user, but his spike in home runs seems odd given the circumstances.
Randy Velarde was traded at the trading deadline in 1999 to Oakland after spending several years with Collins as his manager. Of course, Velarde was cast as one of the major customers of BALCO during those few years. Oh yeah, and Velarde had a career-high 711 at-bats and a career-high of 16 home runs in 1999, at age 36. With Collins’ fate in the balance, it seems to make sense that Velarde would be traded if Collins had a problem with what he was doing to further his career.
Then finally, we have Troy Glaus. Glaus played his first full season in 1999 at the ripe age of 22, after being a 1st round pick of the Angels a few years before. Glaus hit 29 home runs in his rookie year before hitting 47 and 41, respectively, in his next two seasons. Glaus has been discussed as a steroid user throughout his career as well – perhaps his power numbers spiked with help from Mr. Vaughn?
I recently read Collins shrugging off questions about his stint in Anaheim, saying that he really can’t say anything more about it and doesn’t want to talk about it. This seems to be a valid reason as to why he’d be hush about that 1999 season. It would be difficult for a manager to discuss exactly what got him fired and divided his clubhouse, especially if it dealt with such a scandalous reason.
Now as we know, every team had users on it, and this has been discussed ad nauseum by everyone from writers to fans. However, the theory that Mo Vaughn came in with some sort of “steroid culture” that ruined the team and was highly disapproved of by Collins is believable. All we hear about is Collins’ hard-nosed personality and respect for the game. What would drive a team apart faster than a team with a growing amount of users and a manager that highly disapproved of what their players were doing to win?
Two of the players to speak out on Collins’ behalf were Darin Erstad and Tim Salmon. Salmon was a well-known power hitter and former Rookie of the Year whose career declined at a normal progression at age 35. Erstad was an Angel for most of his career, and was a fan favorite there for a long time. While it is quite possible that these guys were users as well, it is telling that two long-time Angels and good clubhouse guys would come out on his behalf. I would trust what guys like them have to say over morons like Mo Vaughn.
I know very little about Collins, and of course this is all just speculation. However, it is an angle that has not been discussed in the media, perhaps out of fear. Mo Vaughn did not step out of the dugout during that brawl in Cleveland because of a divide in the clubhouse and disapproval of the team itself. Could it have been for certain reasons that haven’t been discussed yet? I’d love to know what everyone thinks about this, because it does hold some water in a way.