The Los Angeles/California/Anaheim Angels have played almost 60 seasons of baseball. As the baseball world is suspended due to circumstances outside its control, it is time to look back at the history of this organization. There have been many talented players to put on the uniform, and we at Crashing the Pearly Gates wish to highlight the best who have ever represented the Angels. Without further ado, here we go!
In an era of splashy free agent signings, Carney Lansford was a home-grown Angels product who contributed from the outset. He debuted on April 8, 1978 at the age of 21 and finished in third place in the 1978 AL Rookie of the Year vote, He was a core bat for the team’s first ever division winner the next year. The league adjusted to him during the team’s disastrous 1980 season (he was so-so, especially compared to his 1979 performance) so the Halos cut bait and traded him to Boston for Rick Burleson and Butch Hobson that offseason.
The Lansford trade turned out to be a great bust. Better analytics today wouldn’t allow this trade to occur among even the least stat-savvy clubs (although something tells me we’d find a way to do it, ugh). Burleson cost a lot and got hurt, Hobson was worthless. Lansford had compiled 7.1 WAR as an Angel (his terrible defense cost a chunk of the 9.6 offensive WAR he delivered here) in three seasons. He would go on to accrue 35.6 Offensive Wins Above Replacement over twelve seasons, two in Boston and then ten with the Oakland Athletics, beating up on the Angels for much of that tenure.
Carney Ray Lansford scored 114 Runs with the ’79 division winners, at the time it was the third most in a season for an Angel and is still tied for twelfth place in franchise history for a single season. His 188 hits that year, two more than league MVP and teammate Don Baylor, were the second most ever by an Angel then and is still tied for eleventh place on the club. No Lansford, probably no division title that season. Yes We Can’t Without Carney.
Even though it was obvious Lansford was going to be a terrific player, I would have made the Boston trade. Shortstop is arguably the most important defensive position, and the Angels had to resort to a 35 year old Freddie Patek play SS in 1980 and a 37 year old Bert Campaneris in 1979.
Rick Burleson was a fantastic defensive shortstop. He led the league in assists in both 1980 and 1981, and he led the league in double plays by a shortstop in both 1980 and 1981.
The Rooster was also a decent hitter for a shortstop. From 1974 to 1981, the only AL shortstops with a higher OPS than his .692 were Toby Harrah, Roy Smalley, Robin Yount, and Alan Trammell. In 1981 with the Angels, Burleson had a 112 OPS+, the best of his career.
Hobson was a bust, but the next year, CAL picked up Doug DeCinces to play third base. It’s just too bad Burleson had to shred the rotator cuff in his throwing arm and have his baseball career ruined.
There seem to be many such lopsided trades in Angels history, aren’t there?