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!
#38 – David Eckstein
Angels and great shortstops, they go together like Star Wars and aliens. It just doesn’t feel right when they are apart. The early 2000’s was David Eckstein’s time to be that guy. After being picked off waivers from Boston in 2000, Eck was instantly a fan favorite.
Eckstein’s 2001 rookie year was rather remarkable and saw him finish 4th place in AL Rookie of the Year voting, 4.2 bWAR, steal 29 bases, lead the league with 21 hit-by-pitches (a franchise-record surpassing Don Baylor’s 18 in 1978) and sacrifice hits, all with above-average defense at the hot stove.
For Angel fans, it is 2002 that makes us remember the diminutive David Eckstein: a player who gave it his all every game. Eckstein, plunked to start the 21st game of the 2002 season (following the infamous 6-14 start, of course), hit grand slams in back-to-back games in the games that followed. Surely, the Blue Jays weren’t expecting that one from a guy with 5 career home runs and a slugging percentage just more than his OBP. In doing so, Eckstein did something that has only happened 24 times in MLB history.
After a terrible start, the Angels in May went 19-7, in large part to their hot-hitting leadoff hitter, and went on to win 99 games. Eckstein’s 27 hit-by-pitches led all of baseball, as did his sacrifice hits for the AL. He walked more than he struck out, stole 21 bases, and put up 5.2 bWAR. It was the kind of performance that made you think he was everywhere, and voters rewarded him with 11th place in the annual MVP voting.
Angels made the most of it. It is known. The thundersticks were special for the Angels and the fans. Not just because they are AWESOME, but for David Eckstein in particular. The whole crowd cheered him on with giant X’s throughout the stadium. The ALDS and ALCS went smoothly for Eck, getting on base by any means necessary. Eckstein had a rough World Series but walked and ended up scoring in game 7. The Disney-owned Angels went on to win their first championship ring.
Eckstein regressed heavily at the plate in his last two years as an Angel. Among Angels shortstops, he ended up with the 26th most bWAR for hitters, 19th most defensive WAR, 3rd most HBP, 8th most sacrifice hits, 17th most SB, and the 4th best OPS (min. 5000 PA).
Four years isn’t the longest tenure, but for the grit, the positive attitude, the work ethic, and taking one for the team, he will always be remembered of fondly, and for those reasons he is #38 on our Top 100 Angels.