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Inside Baseball | Bill Shaikin / SUNDAY REPORT

They didn't just monkey around

July 15, 2007|Bill Shaikin

There will be no fifth anniversary party, at least not at Angel Stadium. The guests of honor would not be available.

They are your 2002 World Series champion Anaheim Angels. They're still in uniform, most of them, scattered across North America. They're in Anaheim and Toronto, in Minneapolis and San Francisco, in Chicago and Miami, in Houston and New York, in Seattle and Boston, in Phoenix and Milwaukee and St. Louis.

Just for fun, name the '02 alumni in each of those cities. Extra credit if you get the guy in Miami.

Five years from now, the Angels can round them all up and celebrate. Today, we explore a question no one could answer at the victory parade: How many of those guys had career years?

From the national reaction at the time, you might have thought 25 guys had career years.

So much has changed for the Angels since then. They win every year. They sell three million tickets every year. It is not a joke to say the best player in baseball might play for the Angels next season, or to say they might pay him $30 million a year.

If they win this season, no one would call it a fluke. Back then, even after they won, the Angels were portrayed as a lucky little club, with a rally monkey as the star. Career years, no?

No.

"I don't know if a bunch of guys had career years -- except me, and I hope that wasn't a fluke," said pitcher Jarrod Washburn, who started Game 1 of the playoffs and World Series.

"No one that year had a crazy good year, did they? It was a bunch of solid years. We didn't really have guys with crazy numbers throughout the lineup, or a great starting pitching staff. We basically had 25 guys with solid years."

That they did. Washburn hasn't matched his 3.15 earned-run average, and he hasn't come close to winning 18 games again. Adam Kennedy, the second baseman, hit .312 and his best since then is .300 in 2005. Ramon Ortiz posted a career-best 3.77 ERA.

That's it: Three guys had career years.

Right fielder Tim Salmon had his last good season, far from his great ones. Left fielder Garret Anderson had a better year in 2003. Center fielder Darin Erstad had his career year in 2000.

Shortstop David Eckstein put up virtually identical numbers for the Cardinals in 2005. Third baseman Troy Glaus, the World Series MVP, put up better numbers in 2000 and 2001.

First baseman Scott Spiezio hit more home runs and drove in more runs in 2003. Designated hitter Brad Fullmer hit 32 homers for the Blue Jays in 2000, 19 for the Angels in 2002.

Catcher Bengie Molina hit a career-low .245.

"Bengie Molina didn't have his most steady offensive year," Kennedy said, "but he won a Gold Glove and handled an average pitching staff tremendously. That pitching staff wasn't full of stars."

Washburn, Ortiz, Kevin Appier and Aaron Sele pale in comparison to John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar, Jered Weaver and Bartolo Colon. The bullpen shined in 2002, but closer Troy Percival had his career year as a setup man, in 1995. Francisco Rodriguez didn't show up until September, but Brendan Donnelly and Ben Weber pitched as well or better in 2003.

Off the bench, Orlando Palmeiro hit .300, Shawn Wooten .292, Benji Gil .285. Solid bench, balanced lineup, few major injuries. Not career years.

"I don't know that there was anybody that played so far beyond our expectations you would call it an aberration," General Manager Bill Stoneman said.

Said Anderson: "We just played together well that year. The '95 team stands out to me as a lot of guys having career years."

Ah, yes: Salmon batted .330, with 34 home runs; Tony Phillips hit 27 homers; J.T. Snow hit 24; Jim Edmonds scored 120 runs.

And the Angels, with the most prolific offense in club history, coughed up an 11-game lead.

In 2002, Glaus led the Angels with 30 home runs. Kennedy led the team in batting, from the No. 9 spot.

"We played perfect baseball," Kennedy said. "We did no wrong for four months of the year. We didn't beat ourselves. It was really fun. It was almost too easy."

In 2004, Manager Mike Scioscia thought he had his best offense, with Vladimir Guerrero and Jose Guillen imported to supplement Anderson, Glaus and Salmon. Injuries struck, with a vengeance.

"That team was together for one game," Scioscia said.

One game. Kennedy had a career game in the 2002 American League Championship Series, hitting three home runs in the victory that clinched the Angels' spot in the World Series.

There will come a time for him to rewind, to reflect, to celebrate. These days, he watches that video only when he needs a reminder of what his swing ought to look like.

"Sometimes it's more frustrating," Kennedy said. "Why can't I just do that?"

It was almost too easy, as he said. But the ring was no fluke.

*

Where are they now?

In Anaheim: Anderson, Rodriguez, John Lackey, Jose Molina, Scot Shields, Chone Figgins. In Toronto: Glaus. In Minneapolis: Ortiz. In San Francisco: Bengie Molina. In Chicago: Erstad. In Miami: Alfredo Amezaga (extra credit!).

In Houston: Palmeiro. In New York: Sele, Scott Schoeneweis. In Seattle: Washburn. In Boston: Donnelly. In Phoenix: Jeff DaVanon. In Milwaukee: Matt Wise. In St. Louis: Eckstein, Kennedy, Spiezio, Percival.

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bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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