With the first official Hall of Fame cap honor going to former LA Angels AL MVP Vladimir Guerrero, questions started circulating asking when more Angels icons could become bronzed in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
With 40-year LA Angels front office stalwart Tim Mead now heading the Hall of Fame, how close could it be, and whom? Mead will not have any pull to get any Angels into Cooperstown, but if you know him, you know Mead will welcome any former Angel with open arms.
Many of these candidates that are listed are players that the Angels were not their main team, but it does not make them any less worthy. There have been numerous players who have made the Hall of Fame that made at least a stop in Anaheim. Most notably on this list is Nolan Ryan, Dave Winfield, Reggie Jackson, and Don Sutton. Now let’s examine the others on this list who are becoming eligible in the next couple of years.
First, let’s look at some border lines. Bobby Abreu may have been unimpressive for the Halos but had a career of 18 seasons in Houston, Philadelphia, both Los Angeles clubs, and both New York clubs. He swiped 400 bases, had 2500 hits, doubled on 574 occasions, and drove in over 1300 runs. Abreu scored nearly 1500 times as well. Not to mention his .291 career average and almost 300 home runs. Add a Silver Slugger then throw in a Gold Glove and his case becomes even more alluring. Eligible on the 2020 ballot, it is almost promised he would wear a red cap, but likely with a P on the front of it.
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Another former Angel up for 2020 eligibility is Raúl Ibañez. Angels fans remember him as a glorified DH late in his career, but a heck of a career it was. A clutch player who in parts of 19 seasons accumulated 305 home runs, close to 2100 hits, and over 1200 runs batted in.
In eight different seasons he went over 20 home runs. In four of those he also had 100 or more RBIs while playing primarily left field and first base. Ibañez authored a not too shabby .272 average over that time with Seattle, Kansas City, Philadelphia, NYY, and the Angels. Seattle seems like the obvious choice here, hmm, let’s move on.
Let’s skip to 2021 where former Angels also hover in hopes of being immortalized in the MLB hall clouds. How about former pitcher Dan Haren? In a career spanning from 2003 to 2015, he was an All-Star three times with stops in St. Louis, Oakland, Arizona, Washington, Miami, Chicago(Cubs), and both Los Angeles namesakes.
Three seasons saw him strikeout over 200 batters with two more seasons at near misses of 192 each. Haren won 153 games while leading the league in strikeout per walk ratio and games started three times too. He also summed up two top 7 Cy Young finishes to go along with a 3.75 earned run average. A fascinating cap case if he did make the cut, since Haren never spent more than three seasons with any club(3 in OAK, 3 in LAA).
Not impressed yet? Fine, how about perennial All-Star Outfielder Torii Hunter? Yeah, now you’re at attention! Boasting a .277 batting average, over 350 homers, plus a solid 2,500 hit sum, Hunter is definitely toward the top of the heap on this list. Additionally, Hunter had 195 stolen bases, two Silver Slugger awards, and eclipsed 20 home runs in 11 different campaigns with Minnesota, Detroit, and the Halos.
Still not impressed? Phew, tough crowd… how about the fact that only Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays, and Andruw Jones have more Outfield Gold Gloves? Nine such awards are garnered in Hunter’s trophy case, with five All-Star selections, oh, and two Silver Slugger’s just for kicks. We all assume a Twin Cities cap would be his choice, but he did play five years in Orange County… so you’re telling me there’s a chance? Yes, a small one.
Now onto the more likely to wear a Halo above their enshrinement category and 2023 eligibility. He was big, he was bad(in a good way), his name was and probably still is… Mike Napoli. “Nap” as Halo faithful so affectionately referred to him, has 20 or more jacks in 8 of his 12 ML seasons. He ended with 267 home runs overall, and a World Series ring from his Boston stop.
Napoli also had layovers in Cleveland, Texas, and you better believe, Anaheim. While later becoming a first baseman, he was a catcher early on in Angel-land. So his .267 average, less than 1200 hits, and 27.2 career WAR don’t knock your socks off? To be fair, there are other players whose numbers are far superior still sitting on the sidelines waiting for a call(cough, Bobby Grich, SERIOUSLY HOF, SERIOUSLY?!), but Nap spent 5 of those 12 in red.
One of the Angel favorites in recent memory has to be the dream weaver, Jered Weaver. Talk about a competitor. Weave never had the best arsenal or the highest velocity but still ended up with a no-hitter and was a vital part of any Angels success running through their last playoff season in 2014. He pitched 12 seasons, but really, 10 effective ones before his body began to breakdown from injuries and a deceptively awkward delivery on the mound.
Weaver finished up with the Padres, but clearly enjoyed his three All-Star selections as an Angel with roots in Long Beach too. Weaver led the American League in wins with 20 in 2012 and 18 in 2014. His 3.63 ERA is more than respectable, as are his 150 victories and close to 1700 strikeouts. A modern day defining Angel that certainly would reflect that with a Cooperstown cap.
Want someone a little closer to the finish line? Okay, okay- let’s talk about John Lackey. One memory of Lackey includes him balling out against San Francisco in the 2002 Game 7 clincher for his second win of the postseason, after bailing guys like Ramon Ortiz out of jams(and being left out of the ALDS rotation).
Another memory is to start 2009 when he was ejected against Texas… throwing just two pitches. A foreshadowing to the way the year would end. With due respect, before his unceremonious departure after being pulled by Mike Scioscia from a game the Angels then barely escaped from 7-6(4-0 when yanked) over the Yankees in Game 5 of the 2009 ALCS,
Lackey was the bridge from his rookie campaign in 2002 through to future Angels Ace Jered Weaver in 2009. Lackey was an Anaheim Angel and Los Angeles Angel for 8 seasons of his 17-year career. It is not mincing words to say that Lackey is a freakin’ gamer. He ended up with 3 World Series rings, all of which included clutch moments with him on the mound(ANA, BOS, CHC).
Lackey has an ERA of 3.92, 188 victories, and 2300 strikeouts. He also has a postseason resume consisting of a 3.44 ERA, 8 wins(2WS), 114 strikeouts, and 7 strikeouts per 9 innings in 29 appearances. If Lackey does get a call to the hall, will his reflections include Anaheim, or will his cap go to a lesser tenure by which he’d rather be defined?
Okay of all the hopefuls, and maybes, and sentimental please please-ies… there is one lock on this list. His named is K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez. It’s not just a cute nickname. This guy was a flame thrower with one of the sickest breaking balls Angels fans have ever known. Six times he has been an All-Star, and won five games.
AS A SET UP man to Troy Percival in 2002’s World Series run. In practically 1000 games over his career, Frankie has an ERA of 2.86. Yes, you read that correctly. He has 437 saves and set a single season record with 62 as an Angel in 2008. He did go on to pitch for the Mets, Brewers, Orioles, and Tigers… but, come on. K-Rod is K-Rod because his Angels career was literally filled with one gasp inducing strikeout after another over 7 seasons, more than double his tenure with any other ball club.
He had four other seasons with 40 or more saves, and two more between 35-40. Only Lee Smith(478), Trevor Hoffman(601), and Mariano Rivera(652) have more career saves than Rodriguez, and he has played two seasons less than all of them. Our next Halo Hall of Famer could be enshrined by Tim Mead; will there be a K next to the A?
Other barely Angels on the ballot include names like Outfielder Shane Victorino(2xWS PHI, BOS), Brandon Phillips(FLD% LDR x3), First Baseman Mark Teixeira(3xAS, 5GG), Starting Pitcher Tim Lincecum(2CY’s, 4xAS, 3xWS SF), and Closer Huston Street(2.95ERA, 324SV).
Let’s see if any of these names will make it into Cooperstown. If they do we know Tim Mead will be there to welcome them with open arms.