Top 100 Angels: #56 Don Baylor

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!

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A member of the Angels Hall of Fame, Don Baylor can be summed up most by his production on the field as a member of the Halos. He also came back in 1986 as a Red Sox player and hit one of the most heartbreaking home runs in Angels history.

Baylor signed with the Angels in 1977 and played six strong seasons, culminating in the MVP award in 1979, when the Angels won the division for the first time. That season, Baylor managed to lead the Majors in both runs and runs batted in, a feat that demonstrates the abilities of both yourself and your teammates. Over those six years, Baylor had 3536 plate appearances, slashing .262/.337/.448/.785, good enough for an OPS+ of 118. He loved to crowd the plate, as evidenced by his career mark of 267 HBPs. He led the Majors seven times in that category.

Baylor didn’t hit well in the 1979 postseason, as the Angels lost to Baltimore. He returned to Anaheim in 1986, with the Angels up 3-1 in the ALCS and one out away from the World Series, and hit a home run to pull Boston within one. They would later win the game, the series, and go on to Bill Buckner-land.

In 2014, Baylor became the Angels pitching coach, a position he occupied for two seasons. Under Baylor, the Angels launched a prolific offense in 2014, leading them to 98 wins, and Mike Trout won his first AL MVP award. Baylor was inducted to the Angels Hall of Fame in 1990. He passed away in 2017.

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RexFregosi
Super Member
4 years ago

He should be much higher than #56 – makes no sense whatsoever for instance he’s behind Lynn. WTH?

What he meant bringing the the first title here is incalculable

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
4 years ago

He was just before my time but a guy my dad admired. He was clearly well respected as a hitting coach, and I (sadly) had a great view the night of the fateful first pitch.

I always love a guy who gives back. These lists are subjective and Groove’s meaning to the Angels warrants a spot this high, even if the advanced numbers might not.

Eric_in_Portland
Legend
4 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

I’m surprised he’s this low but that’s good. It means we’ve had lots of great players through the years.

RexFregosi
Super Member
4 years ago

He has to be in the Top 20 of my list

tanana40
Super Member
4 years ago

Loved the “Grove” and miss him.

Guest
4 years ago

Yes, 1979 was tough, but in the 1982 ALCS, Baylor had a .350 OBP and ten RBI in the five game series.

He won the Roberto Clemente Award in 1985 for the charitable work he did to help children with cystic fibrosis, which includes his “65 Roses” golf tournament that Doug DeCinces and Bobby Grich have kept going after Baylor’s passing.

Baylor came up to the big leagues with the Orioles when Frank Robinson was the heartbeat of their team. Baylor looked up to Frank and tried to emulate him. Part of that emulation was making the hit-by-pitch part of his offensive game. Another part was to become the clubhouse leader. Being the new guy on the team in 1977, Baylor waited until 1978 to thrust himself as the clubhouse leader. In 1977 he saw that the Angels, as a team, were resigned to losing, and early in 1978 Baylor told the team that wasn’t going to fly while he was there. Baylor did not accept anything less than a player’s best. If he saw someone slacking, he would chew that player out and demand his best.

Without Baylor’s behind the scenes leadership, the Angels don’t finish second in 1978 or first in 1979.

Like HalosFanForLife, I would have placed Baylor much higher than #56.

...Rev Halofan
Editor
Trusted Member
4 years ago
Reply to 

You cannot measure “behind the scenes leadership”… for example, when you look at how terrible the Angels bats were with Baylor as hitting coach earlier this decade, if you like Baylor you discount that maybe he was partly to blame while if you play devil’s advocate you could then extrapolate that his terrible numbers as hitting coach reflected a lousy leadership that translated into not making it in 78 or all the way in ’79… see what i did there?

JackFrost
Super Member
4 years ago
Reply to 

Have to agree with Apple here. The intangibles with Baylor were very important. This is the kind of stuff somebody born in the 90’s who is simply looking at career numbers would not understand. One would have had to see Baylor play a large number of games and understand the team culture during his tenure to have a true appreciation of his value. It is the same kind of myopic thinking that puts Bengie Molina down below 50 that puts Don this low.

Based alone on the fact that he is one of only three MVP players the Angels have ever had he’d have to be way higher on this list. When I begin to see the players listed above him on this list it will seem even more ridiculous.

HalosFanForLife
Trusted Member
4 years ago

I coach an 11 year old youth baseball team. Our leadoff hitter prides himself on getting hit by pitches. (He had twice as many last-season over the rest of the team combined. 24 I think.) I call him Baylor. He was the master. I always remember him getting clutch hits in key situations. I would have suspected him to fall in the top 20, but of course, they created this list comparing data and not memories. One of my favorites for sure.

...Rev Halofan
Editor
Trusted Member
4 years ago

Actually calculating on statistics alone Don “Groove” Baylor is much lower on this list. I had to bump him up into the “sentimental fifties” as it is, really.

Also remember he was a member of the 1986 Red Sox – fwiw.

And he was my favorite player after Brian Downing on the 1979 team but, wow some of his numbers when measured with advanced metrics are weak. ANYONE could have had his RBI totals with the lineup he hit cleanup for .

Born_in_59
Member
4 years ago
Reply to  ...Rev Halofan

Granted that Baylor came up to the plate with about a hundred more men on base than anyone else on the team, he also drove in close to 20% of them. As far as I can tell, on that team only Dan Ford was more successful in that regard. Also, Baylor’s RBAT score (batting component of Baseball Reference WAR) led the team though it was only slightly better than Downing and Grich who both had a lot fewer trips to the plate. So while I understand the comment, I’m not so sure just anyone would have been as successful.