Angels Franchise 4 Debate. Should Garrett Anderson be in it?


Leading up to the all-star break Major League Baseball asked each of the thirty franchises fan bases to vote for who they considered the four best players in their team’s history from a list of eight players. Some teams like the Rockies and Marlins who have only been around since 1993, had a hard time compiling a list of well-known players. Teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Reds, Tigers and other original teams had a hard time only choosing eight and leaving legends off of their lists. Somewhere in the middle of those teams fell the Angels franchise four.

A team known more for its name changes than its big name players rolled out a list with some pretty talented names on it. The all-time strikeout king Nolan Ryan leading the way for the Angels. Other nominees on the list for consideration included Garret Anderson, Brian Downing, Chuck Finley, Jim Fregosi, Vladimir Guerrero, Tim Salmon, and a young man named Mike Trout. During the voting process most of the names fluctuated from making the final cut, but one name remained the same, Nolan Ryan. Known as the “Ryan Express” for his invisible fastball, to date he is the best player to put on an Angels uniform. (Keep in mind Trout still is only in his fourth season but is on pace to take Ryan’s place in franchise lore.) When the Angels’ final franchise four list came out it was Nolan Ryan, Vladimir Guerrero, Mike Trout, and Tim Salmon as the club’s best four players.

Were these the right choices though? Ryan was a no brainer.  Ryan tops the Angels list in multiple statistical categories including complete games, shutouts, and of course strikeouts. Ryan also is second in wins including two 20 win seasons and he also pitched four of his seven no hitters as a Halo. Vladdy won an AL MVP award in 2004 as an Angel and is likely a first ballot Hall of Famer , was another obvious choice to make the cut. That leaves the final two. Without question Mike Trout has had one of the best starts to a career this sport has ever seen. However, he is only three and half years into it and like any other player is just an injury away from having his career altered, if not ended. Given the lack of star-studded talent on this list though and with what Trout has done and hopes to continue to do we can go ahead and add his name to the list as well. That leaves one more name.

Is Tim Salmon really one of the four best players to put an Angels’ jersey? Salmon was the first Rookie of the Year award winner for the Angels in 1993, and the only one until Trout came along. He played his entire career as an Angel, which is something rarely seen anymore. He played for the Gene Autry’s California Angels, the Disney periwinkle blue Anaheim Angels and the Arte Moreno owned Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He played on some horrendous Angels teams and also was a big part of the 2002 World Series championship team. But what do his numbers look like? He ended his career with 1674 hits, 299 home runs, and 1016 RBI. Baseball people are all about numbers and going off of just numbers alone Salmon’s are pretty mediocre. What about the big name players the Angels had in the late 70’s and into the 80’s and early 90’s like Reggie Jackson, Don Baylor, Dave Winfield, Rod Carew and Frank Robinson? Jackson had good numbers, but his best years were in Oakland and as a Yankee. Baylor was good but not great even though he won the MVP in 1979. Winfield only played 2 seasons for the Angels. Rod Carew had a nice career as an Angel, playing 7 years and batting over .300 in five of those seasons, but he will always be known for what he did with the Twins (7 batting titles). Frank Robinson only played 2 seasons for the team. Honorable mention goes to Alex Johnson for being the Angels only player to win a batting title. The fact remains that the Angels just do not have stand out names that have put up standout numbers as Angels for a long enough time to deserve consideration for the honor of the Franchise Four.

Of the four remaining players from the contenders list that did not make the franchise four list, Garret Anderson is a standout in my mind. Of his seventeen years as a major league player, fifteen of them were played as an Angel to Salmon’s fourteen. Of Anderson’s 2529 career hits, 2368 of them came as an Angel to Salmon’s 1674 hits. Anderson hit 272  home runs, drove in 1292 runs and had a .293 career batting average. He like Salmon also played for all three of the different ownerships and team names. Not to mention he was a 3 times all-star and 2 time silver slugger award winner. Again baseball people are all about numbers so why when the numbers are so lopsided for Anderson did he get the franchise four snub?

    Reason number one being because it was a fan vote and fans vote with their hearts and not with the numbers and facts. Salmon was easily more of a fan favorite of the two. Anderson always had a persona about him that he did not care. He rarely showed emotion and appeared at times that he was just going through the motions, whereas Salmon played with expressions on his face and wore his emotions on his sleeve. Anderson was very close to the vest when it came to such things. Salmon was known as Mr. Angel. He played his whole career in Anaheim and was a leader of the team. Do the intangibles make up for Salmon’s lack of production on the field? Some would say yes. However baseball is about numbers and it always will be. Going off of numbers the Angels franchise four to this point I think it should have been Nolan Ryan, Vladimir Guerrero, Mike Trout (reluctantly because of his short career thus far), and Garrett Anderson. Let the great debate begin …