Commentary

Time is now for the Angels

Greatest Angels are in the present -- or at least recent -- tense

Updated: August 16, 2010, 8:08 PM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Putting together an all-time Los Angeles Angels team is a challenge, not because there are so many players to choose from, but because there are so few.

Losing teams don't generally have great players.

From 1961 to 1979, the Angels never made the playoffs. Except for a brief spell between 1979 and 1986, they had a forgettable history. Then something happened: General Manager Bill Stoneman hired Mike Scioscia. Though 2010 isn't going so well, this has been a golden age for Angels baseball.

The Angels had some Hall of Fame players on their rosters, but they usually got them well past their primes in an effort to boost attendance. Reggie Jackson arrived when he was 36 years old, had one good season and then did what you would expect: He faded.

The Angels currently have eight members in their Hall of Fame and only two of them, Nolan Ryan and Rod Carew, are in baseball's Hall of Fame. You could argue that both of those players did their best work in other uniforms. Eventually, Vladimir Guerrero will join those two in Cooperstown.

[+] EnlargeRod Carew
AP Photo/Rod BorenThe Angels didn't land him in his prime, but Rod Carew had plenty left to offer when he signed as a free agent before the 1979 season.

As short on history as the Angels might be, their past and present are dotted with some premier players. Here is one man's attempt to capture the best of them, an all-time Angels team. Let the debates begin:

Lineup:

Rod Carew, 1B: The Angels didn't land him in his prime, but unlike Jackson, he had plenty left to offer when he signed as a free agent before the 1979 season. Carew was a .314 hitter as an Angel and was an All-Star every season with them but one.

Bobby Grich, 2B: By the time he retired, his numbers weren't flashy, but he was the heart and soul of the team just when the Angels began to be competitive. He and Brian Downing were the only Angels on the team's roster during their first three Western Division championships. He stood out for his power in an era when second basemen didn't hit for much.

Vladimir Guerrero, RF: Quite simply, the greatest Angel of all-time. He's likely to be a Hall of Famer and will be one of the few who played his prime seasons in Anaheim. He combines a rare ability to hit for high average and big power. He was the centerpiece of the Arte Moreno era.

Garret Anderson, LF: His laid-back style limited his popularity at times, but he had rare consistency at the plate. He had huge hits during the team's World Series run and remains the Angels' career RBI leader. He edged out Tim Salmon.

Tim Salmon, DH: One of the best players never to play in an All-Star game, Salmon did a lot of his work in the second half, helping the team in pennant races. He's got to be on the list, because he played his entire career as an Angel.

[+] EnlargeVlad Guerrero
John Cordes/Icon SMIVladimir Guerrero is likely to be a Hall of Famer -- one of the few who played his prime years in Anaheim.

Torii Hunter, CF: You could make an argument for Jim Edmonds here, but Hunter had as many Gold Gloves as an Angel (two) and was slightly more productive at the plate, largely because he has stayed healthier. He has been an All-Star in two of his three seasons in Anaheim.

Troy Glaus, 3B: He could never quite replicate that monster 2000 season, in which he mashed 47 home runs. Being named in the Mitchell report also taints his legacy, but he was one of the biggest talents the Angels' system has ever produced. His prodigious natural power has endured even in the testing era.

Jim Fregosi, SS: Another player whose numbers don't completely tell the story. He was an original Angel and, in part because the team had so little talent early on, a six-time All-Star. He also managed the 1979 club that was the first to reach the postseason.

Bob Boone, C: By the time he came to the Angels at age 35, he wasn't quite the hitter Bengie Molina eventually would become, but he won three Gold Gloves well past his prime and was the glue to the Angels' pitching staff.

Starting pitchers

Nolan Ryan The Angels had one of the greatest pitchers of all-time in his prime, from age 25 to 32. Between 1972 and 1979, Ryan averaged 17 wins and 302 strikeouts per season and had a 3.07 ERA. Four of his seven no-hitters came with the Angels.

Chuck Finley: He won at least 16 games in four out of five seasons from 1990 to 1993, impressive since he played for a team that rarely contended. From 1986 to 1999, he averaged 12 wins and had a 3.72 ERA.

John Lackey: Some Angels fans won't be thrilled to see him show up on this list, but he won 102 games for the Angels, averaged 13 wins, finished third in Cy Young voting in 2007 and won Game 7 of the World Series.

[+] EnlargeJohn Lackey
Jerry Lai/US PresswireJohn Lackey won 102 games for the Angels, including Game 7 of the World Series.

Frank Tanana: He was a teenager when he came up with the Angels in 1973 and from then until 1980, he averaged 13 wins, had a 3.08 ERA and got Cy Young votes in three seasons. His 1976 season was one of the best ever by an Angels pitcher.

Mike Witt: He won 114 games for the Angels, made two All-Star teams and finished third in Cy Young balloting in 1986. He had some bad years, but was a force from 1984 to 1988, winning in double digits every season.

Closer

Troy Percival: A four-time All-Star, he was eclipsed at the end of his Angels career by the brilliance of Francisco Rodriguez. He did it for longer than Rodriguez and was far more popular among Angels fans and, frankly, players.

Manager

Mike Scioscia: Before Scioscia arrived, the Angels had been to the playoffs just three times in 39 seasons. Since he arrived, they have been six times in 11 seasons and won their only World Series. It's not even close.

Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

ALSO SEE