The Mount Rushmore of the Los Angeles Angels of Ahaheim

1982 Fleer #461 Bobby Grich - I love '82 Fleer. The photos were quite unusual, and this one is no exception, showing Grich about to enter his stride. I also love the shot of the other photographer sitting in the background

Just to be clear, this poll includes all iterations of the Angels franchise, including the Anaheim Angels, California Angels, and Los Angeles Angels dating back to 1961.

This team had a couple of long post-season droughts from 1961 to 1978 and from 1987 to 2001. In 2002 they broke through and won the World Series, part of a string of 6 playoff appearances in 8 years. Lately, though, they’ve been playing second fiddle to the other 1961 expansion team, the Texas Rangers (whom we’ll look at next.)

Before you click through, see if you can guess who the all-time team leader in WAR is…hint: it’s a pitcher.

Here are the Angels’ leaders in WAR among batters:

Rk Player WAR/pos From To
1 Jim Fregosi 43.3 1961 1971
2 Tim Salmon 37.1 1992 2006
3 Brian Downing 35.3 1978 1990
4 Bobby Grich 32.9 1977 1986
5 Darin Erstad 30.4 1996 2006
6 Garret Anderson 23.7 1994 2008
7 Chone Figgins 21.0 2002 2009
8 Vladimir Guerrero 21.0 2004 2009
9 Troy Glaus 20.7 1998 2004
10 Jim Edmonds 19.1 1993 1999
11 Doug DeCinces 17.5 1982 1987
12 Wally Joyner 17.4 1986 2001
13 Rod Carew 16.2 1979 1985
14 Adam Kennedy 16.1 2000 2006
15 Torii Hunter 15.2 2008 2012
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/29/2012.

Fregosi’s probably not the first guy you thought of…Tim Salmon, Darren Erstad, and Garret Anderson are really the only guys here who played most or all of their careers with the Angels. The vast majority of the rest of these leaders had a lot of success elsewhere.

Let’s take a look at pitchers:

Rk Player WAR From To
1 Chuck Finley 48.7 1986 1999
2 Nolan Ryan 37.6 1972 1979
3 Frank Tanana 32.5 1973 1980
4 Jered Weaver 25.6 2006 2012
5 Mark Langston 24.4 1990 1997
6 John Lackey 22.9 2002 2009
7 Mike Witt 19.6 1981 1990
8 Dean Chance 19.1 1961 1966
9 Jarrod Washburn 18.7 1998 2005
10 Troy Percival 16.2 1995 2004
11 Francisco Rodriguez 15.5 2002 2008
12 Andy Messersmith 13.6 1968 1972
13 Kirk McCaskill 13.3 1985 1991
14 Kelvim Escobar 13.3 2004 2009
15 Jim Abbott 12.9 1989 1996
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/29/2012.

There’s your franchise leader–Chuck Finley. It’s just a shame that he wasn’t around when the Angels won the championship, or else he’d get the first spot on the monument.

We’ve got to consider Mike Scioscia as well–the manager during the team’s best run. Scott Spiezio also comes to mind for his contributions to the 2002 run.

Please vote for 4:


The Mount Rushmore of the Los Angeles Angels of Ahaheim — 46 Comments

  1. Jim Fergosi is one of those guys who belongs in the “Hall of Very Good”. He was a childhood favorite of mine. Ryan and Tanana were a great combo, and gave my Negamco Baseball A’s fits in the middle 70’s.

  2. For me, Fergosi, Salmon & Finley are relatively easy picks- Fergosi was the teams first big star, Salmon has long been a favorite of mine and Finley’s ex- might show up so they’re in. After some internal deliberation I decided that since I didn’t vote to put Ryan in as a Met, Astro or Ranger that this was where he belonged. Apologies to the always under-appreciated Bobby Grich, fellow North Dakotan Darin Erstad and long-time Angel Garret Anderson.

  3. Fregosi even has the highest WAR/100 PA’s amongst the top 10 batters. Er-f’in-go:

    Fregosi, Finley, Ryan, and Salmon. 3 of 4 from the ur-gun-EYE-za-shun and the 4th (Ryan) became a star after a brief time in NY and, oddly enough, was acquired for the franchise’s first star, Fregosi.

    I wonder what percentage of fans in the ’60’s even realized how much of a star Fregosi really was. In 1964, 3rd greatest season ever by a 22 year old SS, as measured by WAR, behind only A-Rod and Ripken

  4. What! No Bo Belinsky? Sic transit. . . .

    I agree with Hartvig: this is the place for Ryan. But during his California days, I felt his pitching was all heat and no light (I’m sure I would have changed my worldview to accommodate it if he’d stayed a Met). What I did like was the team he made with Tanana – really dynamite in those days – so I picked them together. Fregosi and Salmon were my others. Regrets to Grich.

    Jim Abbott should have his own mountain.

    • Dead on with my picks. However, if Bo Belinsky’s wife would show up via time machine from the ’60s, he’d have a strong case.

  5. Ryan, Salmon and Fregosi, who gets votes for being an excellent player and bringing Ryan back in the trade with the Mets.

  6. It’s odd that a franchise that’s been around as long as the Angels doesn’t have a readily identifiable superstar associated with them. The Mets have Seaver, the Royals have Brett, the Padres have Gwynn, the Brewers have Yount. The Angels have no one to compare to those guys. As far as I know, they’ve always had plenty of money to retain their own free agents. And being in LA ought to give them an advantage as well. But for some reason, they’ve never had “that guy”.

    • I had a similar thought. It’s a team that has resources and have used it to buy talent over the years, going back to Baylor, Reggie, Bostock up to today with players like Hunter, Wilson and of course Pujols. I kept expecting to find their Seaver or Brett.

      Nolan Ryan comes the closest. I still associate him with the Angels more than any other team.

      From what I’ve seen so far, maybe Mike Trout will be that player if we have this poll again in fifteen years hence.

      • Good thoughts everyone. I agree that Ryan is probably the best fit. But it seems like he became a better pitcher after he left the Angels. Plus, he was only there for 8 years.

        I actually think Jered Weaver could become that guy but we’ll have to see how he bounces back from his current injury.

    • Good point, Ed.

      It seems the Angels have always suffered from “the grass is always greener somewhere else” syndrome, preferring to acquire other team’s free agents (usually when they’re past their prime), rather than retaining their own talent. So, they acquire top flight stars in mid-career (e.g. Grich, Carew, Lynn, Jackson, Guerrero, Pujols, etc.), but hang on to almost none of their own talent past the age of 30 (Salmon, Anderson, anyone else?).

    • Well, even if he wasn’t a star on the same level as Seaver or Brett or Gwynn, Tim Salmon did spend his entire career with the Halos, so he’s got that going for him… which is nice. I don’t think of Erstad anywhere else, either. But you have a point, it’s not like Geoff Zahn is threatening to join this group. A lot of their guys had strong years with the Angels, and a similarly-strong stint elsewhere. I think of Carew as a Twin as much as an Angel, for example. I think of Frank Tanana as a Tiger. They’re like a whole team of Fred McGriffs.

      I think one of the Angels’ problems here is that the Dodgers are in the same town and have a ton of guys associated with them, even if you skip the Brooklyn years. Maybe none of them are on a par with Koufax or Robinson or Snider, but you still have a lot of recognizable names from those 70’s and 80’s clubs: Russell, Cey, Garvey, Hershiser, Valenzuela, Sutton. More recently you’ve got Eric Karros, now you’ve got Kemp and Ethier.

  7. I went with Scioscia, Grich, Finley and Salmon, though I could have easily been persuaded to drop any of them for Fregosi, Ryan, or Tanana.

    I have a feeling if we do this again in 10 years, Jered Weaver will supplant Chuck Finley.

  8. I’m not sure which is cause and which is effect, but it seems like the Angels being, until 2002, a losing franchise was related to their inability to retain/attract mega-star players. Despite having a few good years peppered around, to me this was a team in the 70s, 80s, and 90s that had the stink of being a bunch of losers. What happened in 1986 cemented it for many, I think. Now maybe it was simply that they couldn’t attract key players and produced sustained results, or maybe it was their inability to produce well that prevented them from getting/keeping great players. Maybe a bit of both.

  9. I am curious to see how Garret Anderson does in this poll. I have long been a detractor of his–to me this is a guy with some similarity to Joe Carter. He was given a lot of RBI opportunities in his career and did reasonably well but his raw number totals are deceptive. Career OPS+ of 102 (!)

    BUT, this poll isn’t about how good he was as a player–it’s about how liked he was as an Angel and/or how well he represents the team…for many Angels fans he was the face of the franchise for years.

    • I feel like if only Angels fans were in this pole Anderson would be up there, which got me thinking that the real essence of a poll like this should be based on games played, not WAR.
      Here are the Angels with 1000 G with the franchise:

      2013 Garret Anderson
      1672 Tim Salmon
      1661 Brian Downing
      1429 Jim Fregosi
      1320 Darin Erstad
      1222 Bobby Grich
      1086 Gary Disarcina
      1086 Dick Schofield

      Seeing that plus the WAR leaderboard I would go with Anderson, Salmon, Finley and Fregosi (close call between Fregosi and Ryan)

  10. Outside of my hometown Jays, this the hardest one yet for me (and for the opposite reason, cited by Ed in comment #8 above). Ryan, I guess, even though I’ve already picked him for the Astros (should have held off). Salmon and Downing for longevity + good play. I should go with Fregosi under the first-career-star rule, but I’ll take Finley instead.

  11. I’m surprised to see Anderson getting a lot more votes than Erstad. I associate both of them, along with Salmon as the stars/core of the team that won the Series. Erstad played for the Angels for 11 years and put up 30.4 WAR, significantly above average, with a number of all-star level years. Anderson played for them 15 years and put up 23.7 WAR. That’s a great long career, but it’s a long career as basically a borderline everyday player on average.

    I debated hard between Darin Erstad, Bobby Grich and Nolan Ryan for the fourth spot after Finley, Salmon and Fregosi. I eventually went with Grich, but Erstad’s contributions to their championship run, and being one of the key faces of the franchise during that win almost tipped me in his favor. Anderson has those same intangibles, but nowhere near the on-field contribution, so I don’t really get why people are voting him in, unless they are focusing primarily on that era and *also* putting in Erstad.

    Was Anderson really that much more famous and identifiable as an Angel during those years? I don’t think so. I always loved Darin Erstad and what he represented as a player and thought he was every bit what the Angels were about during that time of excellence. If anybody deserves a second spot from that time after Tim Salmon, it’s Darin Erstad.

    • M Sullivan @16: Regarding your point about Erstad and Anderson compared to average level instead of compared to replacement level, I note that b-ref now includes a Wins Above Average (WAA) number in the player pages in addition to Wins Above Replacement (WAR). WAA numbers are not yet searchable in the Play Index, so far as I can tell, but one can check them player by player. In the case of Anderson and Erstad, the WAA numbers fully confirm your observation, Michael: Anderson ends up with a slightly net negative WAA for his Angels career as a whole, while Erstad is definitely on the plus side of WAA for his Angels career. WAA numbers seem to me to be a quite legitimate additional sabermetric factor worth considering in these Rushmore-type debates. Hey, Sean if you are listenting — how about adding WAA to the stats searchable with PI?

  12. Granted that I’m too young to remember Ryan as pitching for anyone but Texas, but I associated him much more strongly with both Houston and Texas than with the Angels. He’s FROM Texas after all, and now he runs the team… it’s hard for me to shake that, I guess.

    I’m willing to acquiesce to your guys’ knowledge on the Halos, though; never did stay up late enough to care about what their team did.

    • I can certainly understand the Texas connection. He also did become a better pitcher in his later years, but the reputation of who and what we think of when we think of the Ryan Express comes from his days with the Angels. It’s where he established himself as the see-fastball, hit-fastball gunslinger, who set the MLB single-season strikeout record, as well as at the time the single-game record, and actually did throw a baseball at 108.1 mph. He pitched more games and innings for the Angels than any one team.

      • I think a lot of people always thought of Ryan as a freak talent-they only other contemporary player I can compare to him would be Randy Johnson, who also was able to harness things as he got older. He averaged 6.1 BB/9 for the Mets, and 5.4 BB/9 for the Angels-through the first 13 seasons of his career. And honestly-he was a freak talent. His career ERA+ was 112, he had only three seasons above 140 (two of which were less than 200 innings) which isn’t exceptional, yet he had all those strikeouts, no hitters, etc.

        • Yes, but to me, Ryan’s talent seemed coupled with self-indulgence: for so many years he didn’t seem to have an interest in moving beyond his one-dimensional talent. Extraordinary as that was for the record book totals, it did not translate into added wins for his team. I remember years ago, perhaps during his Houston days, totaling up Ryan/team W-L percentages and finding that nothing seemed added in terms of his actual decisions. (Of course, with the more detailed records about ND starts, etc., and technology beyond pencil, yellow pad, and long division, those old calculations could be proved wrong.)

          • I’ve gone back and forth on Ryan over the years. I used to take the side he wasn’t as great as he was made out to be (he wasn’t because his press clipping exceeded his results), but then when it became more common among some to question if he was delivering any value (yeah, there were people like that), then I found myself on the other end of the discussions.

            The thing is, we want Ryan to be greater than his final won-loss record indicates because he was one of more supremely and uniquely talented pitchers to ever play the game. He was as fascinating to watch as the knock-out puncher in boxing. He could strike out just about any batter, at any time, no matter how great the hitter. Yet he had that flaw. He walked too many people.

            Yet the won-loss record, which used to be his enemy is less so today as there is a better understanding of pitcher wins and losses. Ryan suffered in a similar way as Bert Blyleven did, hurt by many low-scoring games.

            ERA+ has its flaws and doesn’t tell the whole story. It’a always just a beginning point. Ryan does much better on WAR and FIP. His career FIP, over 27 years, is 2.97. Lower than contemporaries, including Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Bert Blyleven and others.

            I’d be happy to have Nolan Ryan on my pitching staff. Any version of him from the California Angels forward.

          • What makes Ryan so fascinating is that his record appears to be a hybrid of certain aspects of the most dominating pitchers coupled with aspects of others who had very long careers but didn’t necessarily achieve the same level of dominance. He had all those K’s and no hitters, and that incredibly low h/9 inning ratio, but then, when you compare his overall ERA+ and his seasonal highs for ERA+ he doesn’t look like a dominant pitcher, just a good one with great longevity. He’s tied for 270th in lifetime ERA+. On a seasonal level, he’s not better than more “ordinary” long career types: Gaylord Perry, 22 seasons, lifetime ERA+ of 117, three seasons above 130 (all above 140). Moyer 25 seasons, ERA+ of 103, 2 seasons above 130, Phil Niekro, 24 seasons, ERA+ of 117, 4 seasons above 130 (all above 140), Spahn, 21 years, ERA+ 119, two great seasons of 178 and 180, then nothing above 130. Fergie Jenkins, 19 years, 115 lifetime, 2 seasons above 130. If you think of more “dominant” pitchers like Pedro, Gibson, Clemens, Maddux, Grove, Walter Johnson, etc. he’s just not in their class for sustained high level performance

  13. Where’s the only MVP the Angels have had?

    No Don Baylor? #Fail

    Also, you should probably put Pujols as a consideration.

    • Vladimir Guerrero won the MVP in 2004 with the Angels.

      Baylor’s 1979 MVP was one of the weaker selections in recent memory. Still, Baylor would be a decent addition to the choices.

  14. 1. Surprised not to see Gene Autry for consideration.

    2. Tim Salmon won’t be regarded as one of the greats but he’s a ridiculous class act. Being an Angels fan, I’m intimately versed on how fair-weather the fans can be here. And in Salmon’s first interview after winning the series, he thanked the fans. The same fans who barely pulled 2 million in attendance during his career. The same fans who would later go on to boo Scot Shields.

  15. Nolan Ryan became Nolan Ryan with the Angels, he is obvious.

    The other three are Jim Fregosi, Tim Salmon and Chuck Finley.

    Finley makes it largely due to the presence of Tawny Kitaen
    in the locker room after games in the early 90’s.

    If you don’t know who I am talking about watch Bachelor Party.

  16. I think it is interesting that Ryan played four all four of the initial expansion franchises–and no one else. With the exception of the Mets, he has a case to be on each of their Mt Rushmores.

  17. Got to go with the first face of the franchise and the long time hero Fregosi and Salmon. Then I like Downing just because he was the first lead off hitter I remember who was put there to get on base and not just because he was fast. Lastly of course is Sam Axe.

  18. I know Carew is one of the choices, but to me he’s a Twin. He won all seven of his batting titles and his MVP as a Twin.

    Looking at his record, one thing jumped out at me that I think must be rare. He won a batting title in 1972 by hitting “only” .318 that year. That’s lower than his career batting average, which got me to wondering. How many players in the history of the game have won a batting title with an average lower than their final career average? Cobb did it and so did Gwynn. Anyone else?

    • Excellent question. Looks like Cobb actually did it twice, which is insane.

      As far as I can see so far, you’ve got Ted Williams, 1947 (.343) and 1958 (.328) both below his .344 career average; and Edd Roush, .321 in 1919 below his .323 career average.

      • Lifetime BA higher than league-leading BA:
        – Billy Hamilton; 1891 – .340, lifetime – .344
        – Dan Brouthers; 1892 – .335, lifetime – .342
        – Elmer Flick; 1905 – .308, lifetime – .313

        Carew, Cobb, Gwynn, Roush and Gwynn already mentioned.

        If we’re talking OBA, Ted Williams did it four times; SLG, Babe Ruth did it three times and Williams twice.

  19. Ryan – since this is the only team I would include him for
    and Percival over Tanana.

    Special nod to Dean Chance for early franchise success.

  20. I am surprised that Mike Scioscia has not gotten more votes. In the twelve years since he became the Angels manager in 2000, he has:

    – 6 playoff appearances
    – 3 ALDS appearances
    – World Series win (2002)
    – .547 W/L%
    – two ‘Manager of the Year’ Awards (2002, 2009)

    He’s been the manager during their most successfulperiod ever, that sounds like “face of the franchise” to me.

  21. Fregosi, Finley, Ryan, and Dean Chance.

    I wrote-in Chance on the poll, but it looks like the write-in option doesn’t exactly work. I think the vote just comes up as “other.”

    Chance was an original Angel, and his era+ in 1964 has only been bettered 15 times since then.

    He had back-to-back 2 hitters, and a string of three shutouts in a row.
    He also followed up a 15 strikeout 2-hitter with a 14 inning shutout ND performance.

    One odd thing – his player page lists the year as being 200 era+.
    But the all-time era+ leaders have the year at a 198.

  22. I am biased in that I became a baseball fan in 1980 so my frame of reference is biased towards the last 32 years. My top 4 in no particular order are Grich, Downing, Fregosi and Finley. Grich defined everything cool about the California Angels, they brought in veterans that knew how to play the game the right way even when the team didn’t have the best results on the scoreboard. Downing was one of the forerunners of the modern infatuation with OBP as a stat. Looking back at his history, Fregosi is arguably the greatest Angel ever as defined by modern metrics. You need a pitcher and Finley is it, he won 200, Tawny Kitaen, plus pop culture immortality in the TV show Burn Notice. finley nudges out Ryan jsut by a hair since he is so identified with the Texas franchise right now and it just doesn’t seem like the right time. If I could do a top 10, I would add Ryan, DeCinces, Bob Boone (who along with Carlton Fisk defined catching in the AL pre-Pudge), Salmon, Joyner and Tanana.

  23. Just shocked that Carew is not getting more love on this list. As a long-time SoCal resident, I remember the days when he was the ONLY bright spot in watching an Angels game – we could usually cheer about Rod getting a hit if nothing else. He played over 800 games and hit .314 over that span. Salmon deserves to be there. No doubt about his contributions. Weaver, as good as he is and probably will be, need not be considered so highly just yet. And he gets ranked higher than Glaus? Injustice. Ryan is Ryan, and pretty much ranks up there at the legendary level no matter where he was or when. Finally I have to give a nod to Scioscia, just for bringing one home, which is something that many true Angels fans thought would never be.

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