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Angels' title team leads All-Decade squad
Angels' title team leads All-Decade squad
By Rhett Bollinger
ANAHEIM -- The 2002 Angels were certainly the franchise's best team of the past decade, having won 99 games en route to taking down the Giants in a riveting seven-game Fall Classic to capture the organization's only World Series title.
So, it's no surprise that when a panel was created to name the 2000-09 Angels All-Decade Team position-by-position, players from that 2002 club dominated the list.
In fact, the panel -- consisting of Angels vice president of communications Tim Mead, communications manager Eric Kay, radio broadcaster Terry Smith and former star Tim Salmon -- selected seven position players from that team as well as two starting pitchers and two relievers.
It was no easy task, however, to formulate the All-Decade team with a player at each position, including designated hitter, as well as five starting pitchers, a setup reliever and a closer.
There were a few no-brainers, of course, with left fielder Garret Anderson -- the club's all-time leader in hits, runs, RBIs and games played -- a lock in the outfield along with right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, who was named American League MVP in 2004 in his first year with the club. Manager Mike Scioscia, who captained the World Series champions and led the way during a very successful decade, gets the obvious nod as All-Decade skipper.
Same with starting pitchers John Lackey, the club's ace for much of the decade, Jarrod Washburn, the club's ace before Lackey, and Bartolo Colon, who spent four seasons in Anaheim and won the AL Cy Young Award in 2005.
The most difficult decision revolved around the bullpen, as both Troy Percival and Francisco Rodriguez were both elite closers with the club, while Scot Shields was perhaps the best setup man in the AL for much of the decade.
But after much discussion, it was decided to make Percival the club's All-Decade closer based on his tenure during the Angels' World Series title run and his 177 saves and 3.05 ERA in five years.
K-Rod was then relegated to the role of setup man based on the fact that he burst onto the scene as an unhittable 20-year-old reliever in 2002 and served as Percival's lead-in for two seasons before becoming a closer in 2005.
Angels All-Decade team
It was a tough call to leave out Shields, who had a 3.03 ERA in nine seasons with the club, but Rodriguez was simply the better pitcher with a 2.35 ERA and a much higher strikeout rate during his time with the Angels.
It was also difficult to pick the franchise's top starting pitchers after Lackey, Washburn and Colon, but the panel went with right-hander Jered Weaver, who is still on the roster and sported a 51-27 record and a 3.73 ERA during the past decade, and right-hander Kelvim Escobar, who had a solid 3.60 ERA in four seasons with the team before shoulder problems plagued him in his last two years.
Current starters Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders were also heavily considered, but Santana wasn't as consistent as the others, and Saunders' 4.22 ERA couldn't outweigh his 48-22 career record.
The entire infield, as well as the catcher, comes from the 2002 club, with Bengie Molina behind the plate, Darin Erstad at first base, Adam Kennedy at second base, David Eckstein at shortstop and Troy Glaus at third base.
Glaus' inclusion was also one of the tougher calls, with the panel giving him the nod over the recently departed Chone Figgins.
Figgins has Glaus beat in defense, speed and batting average, but Glaus brought the prototypical power, hitting 152 homers in his five years with the club during the decade, and his .368 on-base percentage was higher than Figgins' .363. Glaus also had the benefit of being named the MVP of the 2002 World Series, while Figgins mostly struggled in the postseason.
Molina had some competition with current catcher Mike Napoli, but during Molina's time with the club, he was still one of the elite defensive catchers in the league and he played in nearly twice as many games with the Angels as Napoli.
Eckstein and Kennedy, two fan favorites from the 2002 title team, made the team fairly easily, with Orlando Cabrera being Eckstein's main competition at shortstop. Eckstein, however, got the nod based on more time with the club and the fact he excelled during the '02 postseason.
Erstad was actually the only position player to get consideration at two positions, as he made contributions as the club's center fielder and first baseman but ultimately got the nod at first, where he won the Gold Glove in '04.
It left room in the outfield for Torii Hunter to sneak in at center field, despite playing just two seasons with the club. Hunter, however, made those seasons count with two Gold Gloves as well as a Silver Slugger and an All-Star selection in '09.
Finally, Salmon, perhaps the most beloved player in Angels history, was awarded by being named the club's All-Decade designated hitter after serving in that role late in his career. Salmon, who also spent time in right field, batted .269 with 103 home runs and 356 RBIs in six seasons during the decade.
So while choosing Angels' All-Decade Team was a difficult task for the panel and is sure to raise plenty of debate, there's no question the team includes some of the franchise's all-time greats and pays homage to the Angels' World Series-winning team in 2002.
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.