Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Anaheim's All-Time Baseball Team

The team I originally, back in the summer of 2010, selected for the Los Angeles Dodgers' region might have been the best of the 30. The one for the region of the Whatever They're Calling Themselves These Days Angels of Anaheim, however, is no slouch.

20. Anaheim's All-Time Baseball Team

The Angels' region is limited to 2 California Counties, Orange and Riverside. Still, that area contains 5.2 million people, so there is a potential for a good talent pool. There's lots of good hitting, and some stellar defenders. The pitching is pretty good, especially in the bullpen, and they're deep behind the plate, so those pitchers won't be wanting for handlers.

1B Mark Grace of Tustin. Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, so I missed him the first time I was looking for players on this list, but I caught him before it could first be posted. Remember: It's not where the player was born that qualifies him for one of these regional teams, it's where he was trained at baseball.

No player had more hits in the 1990s than Grace, who collected 2,445 for his career, including 511 doubles and 173 home runs. His lifetime batting average was .303, OPS+ 119, 3 All-Star Games, 3 Gold Gloves.

He helped the Chicago Cubs reach the postseason in 1989 and 1998, before finally winning a World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 -- defying one of baseball's oldest "curses": Not that of the Billy Goat, but "the Ex-Cub Factor." Three of more former Cubs on a World Series roster means a team will lose. From the Cubs' last Pennant in 1945, it's only been overcome 3 times: The 1960 Pirates, the 2001 Diamondbacks, and the 2008 Phillies -- that last only because both the Phils and their opponents, the Tampa Bay Rays, had exactly 3 ex-Cubs. (Grace also led the Cubs to the 1990 World Championship, hitting a home run in the clinching Game 6, oddly enough at his "home park," then named Anaheim Stadium, now Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Hit it off a pretty good pitcher, too, the Angels' Bert Blyleven. But that was only a movie, Taking Care of Business.)

Grace became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2009. Should he get in? According to Baseball-Reference.com, their Hall of Fame Monitor, for which a "Likely HOFer" is at 100, has Grace at 60, well short. Their Hall of Fame Standards, for which the "Average HOFer" is at 50, has Grace at 38, a bit short. Their 10 Most Similar Batters to him include just 1 player who is in, Enos Slaughter; but also 3 who arguably should be in, Keith Hernandez, Mickey Vernon and Al Oliver. Also a previous Cub 1st baseman, Bill Buckner.

Honorable Mention to Alvin Davis of Riverside. The 1984 American League Rookie of the Year, he sometimes seemed to almost singlehandedly make the Seattle Mariners respectable. Hence, he, not Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Edgar Martinez, Ichiro Suzuki or, God forbid, Alex Rodriguez is still known as "Mr. Mariner." He had a career OPS+ of 127, and 2 100-RBI seasons. He was the first inductee into the Mariners Hall of Fame.

Strangely, in 1991, when he was just 30, he stopped hitting, going from a .283 batting average the season before to .221. He was out of baseball a year later. This must be the hitting equivalent of Steve Blass Disease: No known injury, illness, substance abuse, personal issue, nothing -- he just... stopped... hitting. He returned to Riverside, as head baseball coach at Martin Luther King High School, and is back with the Mariners as a roving minor league instructor.

Honorable Mention -- already -- to Mark Trumbo of Villa Park. In just 3 full seasons with his hometown Angels, he's nearly won an AL Rookie of the Year, made an All-Star team, hit 95 home runs and driven in 284 runs. He's 28, so he could be one of the biggest stars of the late 2010s.

2B Jeff Kent of Huntington Beach. Not the most likable guy, but he had a 123 OPS+, 2,461 hits, 8 100-RBI seasons in a 9-year span, 5 All-Star berths, and the 2000 National League Most Valuable Player award. His 377 home runs are the most by a second baseman.

He bounced around a lot -- the Mets gave up David Cone to get him in 1992, and gave him up to get Carlos Baerga in 1996, both bad trades -- but he reached the postseason with 4 different teams, reaching the World Series with the San Francisco Giants in 2002.

He is now eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame. B-R's HOF Monitor has him at 122 (meaning he should definitely be in), while their HOF Standards has him at 51 (which would also qualify him).

Their 10 most similar batters to him include 3 who are in (Jim Rice, Ryne Sandberg and Ron Santo), 2 more who could make it (Scott Rolen and Carlos Beltran), 1 still active who has an outside shot (Adrian Beltra), 2 who came close by won't make it (Dave Parker and Andres Galarraga), and 2 who are tainted and don't have the career numbers anyway (Miguel Tejada and Luis Gonzalez).

Honorable Mention to Ken Hubbs of Riverside. He won the NL Rookie of the Year and Gold Glove with the Chicago Cubs in 1962. He was killed in a plane crash right before spring training in 1964. He was only 22. We'll never know.

SS Joseph "Arky" Vaughan of Fullerton. Born in Clifty, Arkansas (hence the nickname), he was one of the most underrated players in the game's history. This is partly due to having played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1930s and early '40s, a small market (as we would say today), and except for a 1938 collapse the Bucs didn't even come close to a Pennant. To make matters worse, he played in the same position in the same city as Honus Wagner, so even while some have called him the 2nd greatest shortstop ever, he was only the 2nd greatest in his own team's history.

In 1935, he batted .385, and put together a lifetime batting average of .318 with an OPS+ of 136. The Pirates traded him to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1942 -- a year after they won a Pennant. With Pee Wee Reese ensconced at short, Vaughan was moved to 3rd base, but was soon, like Reese, drafted into World War II. By the time he came back, his batting eye had begun to fade, and while he did appear in the 1947 World Series for the Dodgers, 1948 was his last year, at age 36. Unfortunately, in 1950, at only 40 years old, he died in a fishing accident. And because he wasn't around to toot his own horn, it took until 1985 for him to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

3B Tim Wallach of Huntington Beach. Part of those nice-but-not-great Montreal Expo teams of the 1980s with Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, and (for a while) Gary Carter. Twice he led the NL in doubles. He hit 260 home runs despite playing nearly all his home games in the Montreal Olympic Stadium and Dodger Stadium, 5 All-Star berths, 3 Gold Gloves.

LF Dusty Baker of Carmichael. Johnnie B. Baker Jr. is his full name (apparently, the middle initial doesn't stand for anything), and Johnnie B. very good. He was on deck for the Atlanta Braves when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run. He came into his own with the Dodgers, twice an All-Star, including a fantastic catch in the 1981 All-Star Game. He won 3 Pennants and the 1981 World Series with the Dodgers, had a lifetime OPS+ of 116, 242 homers and almost 2,000 hits.

He's also the manager of this team, having taken the San Francisco Giants to a Pennant (a rare occurrence) and nearly did the same the next year with the Chicago Cubs (since 1945, a seemingly impossible occurrence). He also managed the Cincinnati Reds to a pair of NL Central Division titles. And he made the toothpick a far cooler baseball accessory than former Kansas City Royal shortstop U.L. Washington ever did.

Honorable Mention to Ryan Klesko of Westminster. He had a career OPS+ of 128, and 278 home runs. He helped the Atlanta Braves reach the postseason 5 times, and the San Diego Padres twice.

CF Jim Edmonds of Fullerton. He was one of the few Orange County natives to play for the Angels, and he made some of the most amazing catches the position has seen this side of Willie Mays. He was a great hitter, too, with 386 home runs despite playing most of his home games at Anaheim Stadium and the second Busch Stadium, 4 100-RBI seasons, and a great OPS+ of 131.

A 4-time All-Star, 8 Gold Gloves, he reached the postseason 7 times -- one of the few to do it with both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cubs. He won the 2006 World Series with the Cards, but was gone from the Angels by the time they won it all in 2002. Still active, with the Milwaukee Brewers; Baseball-Reference.com has his HOF Monitor at 88 and HOF Standards at 39. He'll be eligible in 2016. Considering his hitting and his fielding, I think he'll get in eventually.

Honorable (sort of) Mention to Lenny Dykstra of Garden Grove. Whatever his flaws, he led both the Mets and the Phillies to Pennants, either of which is an incredible accomplishment. Known as "Nails" in Flushing and "Dude" (which is what he called everyone else) in Philly, he had a career OPS+ of 120, and twice led the NL in hits.

Injuries and booze cut short his career, his last good year (the Phils' Pennant year of 1993) coming at age 30, and he was done at 33. And his serious legal and financial troubles have now sent him to prison. But from Poughkeepsie to Rehoboth, from Montauk to Wildwood to Lancaster, a lot of people love the guy. His son Cutter Dykstra is currently in A-ball in the Washington Nationals' minor-league system, and is in a relationship with The Sopranos actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler. Last summer, they became the parents of a son, Beau Kyle Dykstra.

RF Bobby Bonds of Riverside. Son Barry, a left fielder, grew up in San Mateo, in Giants territory while his father played there. Barry produced such an amazing career, it's easy to forget how good Bobby was.

Although he struck out 187 times in 1969 and 189 times in 1970, both new MLB records (since broken), Bobby was also the 2nd player, after his Giant teammate Willie Mays, to surpass the 300 mark in both home runs and stolen bases -- 332 homers and 461 steals. (Barry, of course, became the first 400-400 man, and the first 500-500 man.) In 1973, Bobby missed by 1 homer becoming the first single-season 40-homer/40-steal man. (There are now 3, namely Barry, Jose Canseco and Alex Rodriguez... uh, wait a minute... ) Bobby was also the All-Star Game MVP that season.

His lifetime OPS+ was 129, and he won 3 Gold Gloves. True, a lot of teams got rid of him, but a lot of teams wanted him, too. After the 1974 season, the Yankees traded the beloved Bobby Murcer to get him. Despite 32 homers and 85 RBIs (not bad when your "home" park is Shea Stadium), the Yanks traded him after just 1 year to the Angels, getting the much-needed Mickey Rivers and Ed Figueroa in the process. He'll never make the Hall of Fame, but he's not that far below it: Baseball-Reference.com has him at 36 on its HOF Standards.

DH Mike Sweeney of Ontario. For a long time, he was the only reason to watch the Kansas City Royals. He got hurt so often that, on the parody-song website AmIRight.com (to which I also contribute), a song was posted, to the tune of "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd," that goes, "Attend the tale of Sweeney's bod."

He batted .300 5 times, with a peak of .340 in 2002. He picked up a whopping 144 RBIs in 2000. His career OPS+ is 118, and he hit 215 career home runs despite playing most of his home games at Kauffman Stadium. He made 5 All-Star teams, and not just because at least one Royal had be selected.

C Gary Carter of Fullerton. The Camera Kid delighted a lot of people with the Montreal Expos, and annoyed the hell out of some people (me, for example) with the Mets. But he was a legit HOFer, with a 115 OPS+, 324 homers (a great number considering he was a catcher and most of his home games were at the Montreal Olympic Stadium and Shea), 4 100-RBI seasons, 3 Gold Gloves (despite sharing the NL with Johnny Bench and Ted Simmons), and 11 All-Star appearances (including 2 MVPs).

The Expos retired his Number 8 (for all the good that did, as the Washington Nationals put it back in circulation after the move); incredibly, the Mets have not, even though he's currently 1 of only 2 HOF players they can legitimately claim (Tom Seaver's the other). And, yes, I posted that picture of him in an Expo uniform to piss off Met fans.

Honorable Mention to Del Crandall of Fullerton. Imagine, he's no longer even the greatest right-handed hitting catcher from Fullerton. An 8-time All-Star, he won the NL's first 4 Gold Gloves for the position. He was part of the attack that led the Milwaukee Braves to the 1957 World Championship, the 1958 Pennant, and a Playoff for the Pennant in 1959.

Not to cast aspersions on Joe Torre, but the Milwaukee edition of the Braves did seem to decline when injury struck Crandall in 1961, leading to Torre's rise as their starting catcher. Crandall returned to Milwaukee in the 1970s to manage the Brewers, and also managed the Seattle Mariners in the 1980s.

Honorable Mention to John "Chief" Meyers of San Bernardino, a Native American who starred for the New York Giants in the 1910s, reaching 3 World Series with them and, incredibly, another with their arch-rivals, the Brooklyn Dodgers, although was on the losing side in each. Had there been an All-Star Game at the time, he would have made it several times.

Honorable Mention to Lance Parrish of Diamond Bar. An 8-time All-Star, the most productive hitter with the 1980s Detroit Tigers, he did seem to stop hitting after signing as a free agent with the Phillies in 1987. He revived his career somewhat with his hometown Angels, and finished with 324 home runs, a great total for a catcher.

SP Steve Busby of Fullerton. He won 16 games, including a no-hitter, for the Royals in 1973, when they were not yet ready to really contend. He won 22, including another no-hitter, in 1974. He won 18 in 1975. All this, and he was just 25, and the Royals were just about ready to take the AL by storm.

But he got hurt, appearing in just 53 more games, his last at age 30. The Royals played 43 postseason games over the next 10 seasons, by the end of which Busby was 35 and could still have been a contributor; but he appeared in a grand total of none of them. One of the true what-if stories of baseball: If a healthy Busby, rather than Pomona native Doug Bird, had been on the mound against the Yankees in Game 5 in 1977 and Game 3 in 1978, maybe the Royals win those Pennants. He finished with just 70 wins; given a relatively injury-free career, he could have had another 200 in his arm.

SP Randy Jones of Fullerton. In 1974, he lost 22 games for an awful Padres team. But in 1975, he won 20 for a team that was not much better. In 1976, he won 22 -- including 16 by the All-Star Game, enabling him to start it against Mark Fidrych. Sports Illustrated had him on the cover as a "THREAT TO WIN 30." Boom, hit by the Dreaded SI Cover Jinx. (Then again, in the next season's spring training, so was Fidrych.)

He was also famous (or infamous) for his hairstyle, so curly that it reminded people of Harpo Marx -- or, as malaprop-prone Padre broadcaster Jerry Coleman said, "On the mound for the Padres is Randy Jones, the lefthander with the Karl Marx hairdo." To that point, Jones had won 57 games, for a weak team, and was only 26. His injury problems weren't as bad as Busby's, but he only won another 43 games in the majors, finishing up with the Mets in 1982, age 32.

He became a broadcaster for the Padres, who retired his Number 35, and was elected to the San Diego Hall of Champions, the city's sports hall of fame. Like Boog Powell, Greg Luzinski, Luis Tiant and Gorman Thomas, he has opened a barbecue stand at his team's ballpark. Not to be confused with the Randy Jones who was Dave Brubeck's drummer, or with the Randy Jones who's played in the NHL, and definitely not to be confused with the Randy Jones who was the cowboy in the Village People.

SP Dave Stieb of Santa Ana. Still the greatest pitcher in Toronto Blue Jays history, his Number 37 has not been retired, but he is honored (or, since it's Canada, "honoured") at the Rogers Centre's "Level of Excellence" display. He won 176 games, with a career ERA+ of 123 and WHIP of 1.245. He pitched a no-hitter in 1990 after several close calls. A 7-time All-Star.

He pitched in the ALCS for the Jays in 1985 and 1989; although injury kept him off the postseason roster in 1991 and 1992, he did receive a World Series ring in 1992. Ironically, the next season, his last full season, was with the Chicago White Sox, and they made the ALCS and lost to the Jays.

SP Mike Witt of Buena Park. The only Angels pitcher to throw a perfect game, and the only pitcher to go 27-up-27-down with his "hometown team." He did it against the Texas Rangers on September 30, 1984, the final day of the season, although it wasn't quite enough to get the Halos into the postseason, losing a tough AL West race to the Royals. He did appear for the Angels in the 1982 and 1986 ALCS, but never reached the World Series. Injuries left him a wreck by 1990, and he won only 117 games.

SP Darryl Kile of Norco. He pitched for postseason teams with the 1997 Astros and the 2000 Cardinals, having won 133 games by age 33. But he suffered a heart attack during the 2002 season and died on a Cards' roadtrip to Chicago. He also pitched for the Colorado Rockies; none of the teams for which he pitched has ever officially retired, but neither have they reissued, his Number 57.

Honorable Mention to Phil Hughes of Santa Ana. Okay, he finally washed out for the Yankees last year. But he helped them win the 2009 World Series, went 18-8 and reached the All-Star team in 2010, and won 16 games in 2012. He's finally on the Minnesota Twins, the team that wanted him as part of a trade package for Johan Santana in the 2007-08 off-season. In the 6 seasons since, the Yankees have appeared in the LCS 3 times, and the Twins and the Mets (the team that did trade for Santana) a combined total of exactly none. (The Twins, at least, have been to

Hughes is 56-50 for his career, and doesn't turn 28 until June; Santana is 35, has appeared in just 21 major league games since September 2, 2010, is by no means guaranteed a spot on the Baltimore Orioles' roster come Opening Day, and may have thrown his last major league pitch. So anybody who is thinking the Yankees made a mistake by not trading Hughes and someone else for Santana 6 years ago is a fool.

RP Trevor Hoffman of Anaheim. For a time, he was baseball's all-time leader in saves, finishing with 601, and he is still the NL's all-time leader. Strangely, though, he only led the NL in saves in 2 seasons, 1998 and 2006. In 1998, he led the Padres to the Pennant. Coming in to the tune of AC/DC's "Hell's Bells," "Trevor Time" became the most intimidating time in the League, especially in the postseason, when 64,000 fans would pack Jack Murphy Stadium, waving their white towels. Of course, he had to pitch to Scott Brosius in the World Series...

His career ERA+ is a whopping 141, his WHIP a nasty 1.058. He will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2016. Maybe he was never better than Mariano Rivera, but he was better than just about every other reliever of the 1990s and 2000s, and the only bad thing I can say about him is that he bears a striking resemblance to my ex-brother-in-law. The Padres have retired his Number 51.

Honorable Mention to Al Hrabosky of Anaheim, probably the greatest player to actually grow up in the town where the Angels have been based since 1966 (although, with a little irony, he was born up the coast in Oakland -- Mark Trumbo was born in Anaheim). He wasn't great for long, pretty much just from 1974 (with the Cardinals) to 1978 (with the Royals), before injuries took their toll. But for that brief time, "the Mad Hungarian" was one of the game's most intimidating relievers and greatest characters. He only saved 97 games, but 22 of those led the NL in 1975, when he also led in winning percentage at .813 (13-3). He also won 64 games, and twice finished in the top 5 in NL Cy Young voting. He has gone back to St. Louis as a Cards broadcaster.

Honorable Mention to Troy Percival of Moreno Valley. He saved 358 games, 316 of them for his "hometown" Angels, and led them to the 2002 World Series, the team's first Pennant and first World Championship. Baseball-Reference's HOF Monitor and HOF Standards aren't very good guides for relievers, as so few are actually in the Hall yet, but their Monitor has him at 96 out of 100 -- their Standards has him at 14 out of 50 (which tells me it's much more weighted toward starters).

Honorable Mention to Heath Bell of Tustin. Now with the Rays, he's saved 168 games, including an NL-leading 42 with the 2009 Padres. He's a 3-time All-Star.

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