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!
#57 – Scott Spiezio
Scott Spiezio, Spiez Head, Spee zeee oh! This is the player that is an Angels Legend, remembered for being in the right place, at the right time, and delivering. As the great movie The Sandlot said, “Heroes get remembered, but Legends never die.” He is immortalized in Angels lore. For he is the one who has a chair painted red for what he did.
Spiez Head was signed in free agency in 2000 after Oakland cut him. Staying in the AL West, he didn’t improve in his first two seasons despite the massive offensive uptick the rest of the team undertook in the 21st century. (Wonder what happened at the turn of the century!) It wasn’t like he was bad (he was a 99 OPS+ hitter two years in a row, literally just a smidge below average). It was alright with the team was as strong offensively as it was, and Spiez Head played many positions (1B, 2B, 3B, LF, RF, and DH). His versatility did have value despite the cumulative -0.1 defensive WAR he put up. There was one moment in 2001 that contained some foreshadowing…
Then 2002 came, and his time to shine arrived. Posting his best season by far, it was like he KNEW that the 2002 squad was special. A dyed redhead is never late or early, but peaks precisely when he needs to. Spiezio garnered a 115 OPS+, finally getting the opportunity to play over a full season (571 PA, the most he had gotten since 1997). He had the second-best OBP that season on the team behind only King Fish at .371, and his bWAR was the best of his career, at 2.5.
That was the regular season, and even with his newfound hitting abilities, he was not on anyone’s radar. This was the year GA hit 56 doubles, Glaus his 30 home runs, 7 of the 9 regulars had an OPS+ over 100, with Salmon leading the way at 133, and Brad Fulmer had a slugging over .500. Spiezio wasn’t a middle-of-the-order hitter, and four other players hit more home runs than he did that year. He was under the radar as the depth piece that would appear only when he needed to. Just as planned.
The 2002 ALDS is when he arrived. It was the first postseason for the Angels since 1986, and the first time Anaheim was given so much attention since Disneyland opened. The only thing in their way was the dynasty of the MFY, who won 4 World Series recently and lost a close one the year before. Despite the Angels wining 99 games, they were still David up against Goliath.
So what did Spiez Head do in Game 2 when the Angels were down in the series? He hit a home run off Andy Pettitte. He hit a double off of Weaver the Elder, and he had 7 total bases in a 8-6 victory in NY. What about Game 3? Down 5-6 with two outs in the 7th, he drove the tying run in. The Angels would win 9-6. In Game 4? He pushed a 2-out RBI in the bottom of the 5th to extend the rally in a 9-5 win, completing the first postseason series win in Angels history. Scott had a 1.137 OPS that series. It was a 17 PA small sample size, but he hit .400, coming up big in that series.
The Minnesota Twins beat the Moneyball Oakland A’s to earn their spot in this series. After losing Game 1, the Angels were battling in Game 2. Spiez Head did his part, hitting two doubles and stealing a base in the 6-3 victory.
Game 3 is when he took his (relative) break, drawing a walk in a close 2-1 win. That is when the Twins fell apart, as the Angels squashed them in game 4, winning 7-1. Spiez was a part of it as well, hitting a double, a 2-out RBI, and even an intentional walk in the game.
Game 5 is remembered as the Adam Kennedy 3 home run night, and rightfully so, but Scott tied the game up in the 5th with a home run and drove in two more in the bottom of the 7th to secure the win and the trip to the World Series. He finished with a 1.068 OPS in the ALCS. That is the definition of clutch.
At the 2002 World Series, Scott Spiezio was not hidden anymore. Sure, the spotlight was more on the others, with Tim Salmon doing his part of getting the spotlight as the longest tenured Angel. Adam Kennedy was also kept in focus due to that 3 home run game. Spiezio’s status as the secret weapon that he was was a bit dicey, since at the World Series EVERYONE gets interviewed, but Scott did his best to keep the eyes off him while ensuring the team got to the promised land.
In Game 2, after a heartbreaking Game 1, he delivered in the offensive shootout. A 1st inning single gave the Angels a 4-0 lead. In the 5th, he once again helped the team by getting a sac fly to bring them within one. It was a team effort, and the Angels won 11-10.
In Game 3, Spiez Head brought out the unorthodox and used the Giants giant field against them, hitting a two-run triple in the 3rd. Then he added another run in the 4th for good measure. The game was basically over at that point, and the Angels would win 10-4.
Everyone knows Game 6. Game 6 was when all the magic happened. It was scoreless going into the 5th, and the Angels were facing elimination, but it was still anyone’s game. Then Kevin Appier fell apart. He allowed a home run. A double by Lofton. All of a sudden, the Angels were down two. Soth had seen enough and brought in K-Rod, but this was not the reliever’s day. K-Rod would allow 3 more runs, all while the Angels bats sat quietly. With the score 5-0 in the 7th, the MLB staff was already putting the trophy in the visitor’s clubhouse.
Meanwhile, Russ Ortiz was pitching a gem. The Angels had scored 31 runs so far in the World Series yet were still being shut out. But Ortiz finally ran out of gas. After getting one out in the 7th, he gave up back-to-back hits, so Mr. Toothpick Dusty Baker pulled him for Felix Rodriguez. He knew Spiez Head was red hot and needed his best guy out there. Famously, Dusty Baker gave Ross Ortiz the game ball, going against tradition and angering the baseball gods, who punished him severely.
Spiezio watched this happen. The Rally Monkey was on display. Scott Spiezio was up, with only 8 outs to go and only a 3% chance of winning, something had to be done now before it was too late. He was the perfect man for the job. Fangraphs Clutch details how well players perform in high leverage, with most players between -1 and 1. In 2002, Scott Spiezio was at 1.59. That was the best on the team, and the 11th best in MLB that year. Ignoring the postseason. And we don’t forget how clutch he was in the postseason.
Every World Series has that moment of immortality. While it is usually the best that are involved, sometimes, it is the guy that no one expects. Spiezio had one home run in the ALDS, one in the ALCS. He had one in the World Series. For he had to ration it. The time was to use it and after fouling off pitch after pitch, the 9th one came. We all know what happens next.
The game wasn’t over yet. The Angels were still losing. This could have all been for naught. But that is what teammates are for. Erstad and Glaus would get the runs needed. Spiez Head? He was IBB-ed. Donnelley was perfect, and Percy slammed the door. There was going to be a game 7.
Perhaps the reason why other teams do not know of Scott Spiezio the way they know of Gibson or Freese is because it wasn’t a walkoff, it wasn’t in Game 7, and it didn’t win the day. But that isn’t what Spiezio was for. He was there to keep hope alive, to kick-start the Angels offensive engine. This is a team that scored 41 runs in the World Series.
In Game 7, he scored the tying run when he ran home after Molina doubled. It was all the production he needed. He did his part. The Angels would win 4-1 thanks to GA and a stellar pitching day. In the series, the Giants outscored the Angels 44-41, but that doesn’t matter. The only thing that mattered in the end was 4-3.
Spiezio didn’t win the MVP of the World Series. But that home run in Game 6 is the most memorable part of it, and Spiez Head is the one most revered.
2003 and After the Angels
The World Series made him a legend, and so he did his best to live up to it in 2003. A 1.54 CLUTCH score showed he still had it in him, although offensively he took a dip across the board. He still played many positions, and he still was above-average, but without a postseason to look forward to, it wasn’t the same.
That next postseason appearance wouldn’t be with the Angels. He left in free agency to Seattle, and the Mariners drained anything good he had left, releasing him in the end. Continuing with the tradition of Angels-Cardinals overlap, Spiez Head ended up with St. Louis, and in 2006 he did that magic thing again. Teaming up with Eckstein once again, that team won the World Series over the Detroit Tigers.
Over his four seasons and 2000 plate appearances, Spiezio was a 105 OPS+ regular season hitter, the 31st-best in Angels history, and a mark tied with GA’s. His regular season Win Probability Added was 4.1, the 24th best. This is a cumulative stat, and shows how well he did with the playing time that he had. His 6.3 BWAR isn’t in the top 50, nor are most of his stats. He isn’t this high for the regular season; he is here because in the 2002 playoffs, he was CLUTCH. And that is what matters.
Spiez Head got some recognition beyond Anaheim. He got an appearance on a tv show with Adam Kennedy and David Eckstein. He also got to be on Letterman.
He did face some demons though. $$He dealt with addiction as explained in the Athletic. $$ “It’s either you’re gonna make it from that point … or you don’t exist anymore.”
Scott Spiezio still makes appearances at Angel Stadium. In fact, I saw him at the last game I went to; he took some photos at the chair with some people. Nice to see him there, he still cares about the game and the team.
There are cases to be made for Tim Salmon, Garret Anderson, and Vladimir Guerrero to receive statues outside Angel Stadium. And they definitely do deserve them. But if you ask me, the first one I want is that of Scott Spiezio. Because he’s the one who delivered the most when it mattered the most.