All-Time Greatest: Los Angeles Angels [of Anaheim]

The team known as the Angels have gone through a series of name changes – some of which were quite controversial – but, have always been located generally in the Los Angeles area.  Baseball had a home in LA dating as far back as 1903.  In fact, it was the “Los Angeles Angels” who were a part of the PCL league (a minor league) for more than 50 years.  But, as far back as 1940, attempts were being made to bring professional baseball to LA.  After multiple failed attempts were made to bring an existing American League team to LA, the Brooklyn Dodgers, of the National League, arrived after the 1957 season.  Then, in 1960, both the American League and National League agreed to expand their leagues with two expansion teams each (primarily in an attempt to keep the “Continental League”, a potential 3rd professional league, from becoming a reality).  Initially, they agreed to only expand to cities that didn’t already have professional teams.  But, that agreement fell apart, and when the National League announced they were going to expand by adding a team in New York – the Mets – the American League announced plans to add a team in LA, which would begin play in 1961.

Gene Autry was the owner of the franchise for its first 36 seasons.  Ownership has changed hands a couple times since then, including a period in which they were owned by Disney, and now they’re in the hands of Arturo Moreno.  These changes to ownership have also often coincided with a change in the name.  They were the

Los Angeles Angels

until 1965 – a name chosen by Autry, which actually dates back to the PCL minor league team.  After construction of a new stadium in Anaheim was complete, they changed their name to the

California Angels.

When the city of Anaheim donated a large portion of the money for renovations to the stadium in 1997 (shortly after Disney purchased the team), part of the agreement included having Anaheim in the name.  So, from 1997-2004, they were the

Anaheim Angels.

When Moreno bought the team in 2005, he changed the name back to the Los Angeles Angels, but the agreement with the city of Anaheim forced the inclusion of Anaheim in the name – thus, the much disputed, and convoluted name –

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

As a whole, the team has enjoyed minimal success in 53 seasons.  Until 2002, they had only reached the playoffs 3 times (’79, ’82 & ’86), and never made it to the World Series.  But, from 2002-2009, the team made 6 playoff appearances, and won the World Series in 2002 (its only appearance).  They’ve retired 3 players’ jersey numbers, and there is really just 1 Hall of Famer who spent a large portion of his career with the franchise.  Here are what I believe to be the top 5 players for the Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Angels.

jim-fregosi5. Jim Fregosi (’61-’71) – an inaugural member of the franchise, Fregosi had his jersey retired in 1998.  When he left the team after the ’71 season, he owned several team records, including hits, doubles, runs, and RBI.  A six-time All-Star at shortstop, his best season came in ’67, when he was an All-Star, won the Gold Glove, and finished 7th in the MVP race.  Even today, he still ranks 5th on the team’s all-time runs scored list (691), 5th in hits (1408), 5th in doubles (219), 1st in triples (70), 8th in RBI (546), and 5th in runs created (741).

4. Vladimir Guerrero (’04-’09) – even though he only played 6 seasons in LA/Anaheim, Guerrero made a big impact.  He made 4 All-Star appearances, finished in the top 3 in MVP voting three times, and won the MVP in 2004 (one of only two Angels to ever win the award).  He holds the team record for career batting (.319), as well as SLG (.546), OPS (.927), and OPS+ (141), and ranks 3rd in OBP (.381).  And, in spite of a significant disadvantage in plate appearances, he still ranks in the top-10 on the team’s all-time list in hits (8th), total bases (7th), doubles (7th), home runs (5th), RBI (6th), and runs created (7th).

Angels v Mariners3. Tim Salmon (’92-’06) – from 1993-2000, Salmon was at the heart of the Angels’ lineup, and produced some excellent numbers.  He won Rookie of the Year in ’93, and had two top-10 MVP finishes in ’95 & ’97.  In that time, his 162-game average was a .294/.396/.532/.928 stat line, with 34 HR and 112 RBI.  And, even though his career was beginning to be hampered by injuries, he was an integral piece of the team that won it all in 2002.  He hit .346 in the World Series, with 2 HR, 5 RBI, and a 1.067 OPS.  On the Angels’ All-Time lists, he ranks 2nd in OBP (.385), 2nd in SLG (.498), 2nd in OPS (.884), 2nd in runs (986), 2nd in hits (1674), 2nd in doubles (339), 1st in HR (299), 2nd in RBI (1016), 2nd in OPS+ (128), and 1st in runs created (1206).

2. Troy Percival (’95-’04) – a 4-time All-Star, Percival never led the league in saves.  But, when he retired in 2009, he was one of just 8 players in baseball history to have more than 350 saves.  This is primarily because from ’96-’04, he averaged 35 saves per season.  He, too, was an integral part of the World Series team, as he saved 3 games in the series, including the final 2.  Percival ranks 3rd on the Angels’ all-time ERA list (2.99), 1st in WHIP (1.10), 1st in K/9 (10.43), 1st in saves (316), 7th in K/BB ratio (2.69), and 1st in ERA+ (157).

NolanRyan1_display_image1. Nolan Ryan (’72-’79) – here we have our first repeat appearance.  As you may recall, Ryan also appeared on the Astros‘ top-5 list.  And, while he wasn’t at the top of Houston’s list, due to the time in his career when he came to Houston, there’s no question he belongs at the top of the Angels’ list.  In his 8 seasons with the Angels, Ryan led the league in strikeouts 7 times – 5 times eclipsing 300 K’s for the season, a feat that has only been accomplished by anyone 34 times since 1900.  He set the record in 1974 by striking out 383 batters.  Ryan, who coincidentally was traded by the Mets to the Angels in a deal for Jim Fregosi, made an immediate impact with the Angels at the age of 25.  He led the league in strikeouts, set the record for the lowest H/9 in history at 5.26, and had a 2.28 ERA – the second lowest by a starting pitcher in franchise history.  Ryan threw 4 of his 7 no-hitters while with the Angels – two in ’72, one in ’73, and one in ’74, which tied him with Koufax for the most in a career.  In ’74, he twice struck out 19 batters in a single game, which was then the record.  He appeared in 5 All-Star games, and finished in the top 3 in Cy Young voting three times.  He led the league in K/9 seven times, and H/9 five times.  On the Angels’ all-time list, Ryan ranks 4th in ERA (3.07), 2nd in wins (138), 2nd in H/9 (6.27), 2nd in K/9 (9.97), 1st in K’s (2416), and 1st in shutouts (40 – 2nd place has just 24).

That’s my list – tell me what you think about it in the comments below.

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