A fan favorite for his all out style of play, Jim Edmonds made the mediocre 1990s a little more exciting for Angel lovers. His astounding catches were of their time as cable news began broadcasting sports highlights on a daily basis regardless of regional team affiliation. While he wasn’t the lone great Halo player of the decade, you might have thought so if all you watched was cable television as his diving catches were the only things from Anaheim with a national profile year in and year out in the 1990s.
Ironically for all the attention paid to his glove, he made a much bigger mark in Anaheim with his bat. Jim Edmonds had one of the most productive four-season stretches in Angels history. He had come up in September of 1993 and saw action in 18 games. The strike-shortened 1994 season saw him play all “year” but with nothing much to go on save his youth and, the most important thing to Angels management at the time, his affordability. In 1995, though, there was no mistaking that the Angels had a star on their hands. Edmonds made the All Star team and garnered MVP votes for a season in which he hit 33 home runs and had an .888 OPS. The tragedy of blowing an eleven game lead left him unfazed and his 1996 season was great, one of the few highlights of a lousy down year.
Between 1994 and 1998 Edmonds hit 111 home runs and won two gold gloves. He accrued 17.8 Offensive Wins Above Replacement and 3.6 Defensive WAR on top of that in that short period of time. Three of those four years, 1995, 96 and 98 saw Jim accrue WAR totals that remain in the club’s Top 40 All Time single season WAR marks. His 20.5 WAR overall as an Angel is 14th in the all time list for position players – but here is the thing about how shocking it was the they traded him, in hindsight of course because WAR had not been invented yet – that ranked FOURTH all time in club history for a position player at the time. Imagine the fourth greatest offensive player on your club is 29 years old and you trade him for Kent Bottenfield and Adam Kennedy!!!
Well here are the reasons why… along with his ups, his downs were surfacing. He refused to play thru pain and then held off getting surgery for an injury until just before spring training, taking him out of the lineup in 1999 until August. After having contended late into the season in 1998 and with expectations sky-high in the Spring of ’99, Edmonds returned in August to a decimated, backbiting club. The media turned on Edmonds and framed him as a “me-first” clubhouse brat. How much of this was orchestrated by team management is hard to say. It was truly rare in that day and age for the LA Times or OC Register to report such scandals absent a dramatic incident, but report it they did until the club was emboldened enough to trade Edmonds just around the time he was getting expensive and turning 30.
That he went on to have an amazing career in St. Louis after his long injury history and being over 30 it kind of seemed astounding then… ahhh but with Mark McGwire as his teammate it seems elementary now. But regardless of his shameless egocentrism, Jim Edmonds put up numbers few Angels ever got close. His .498 slugging percentage as a Halo is tied with Tim Salmon’s for third all time by an Angel and his .356 On Base Percentage is fourth behind Tim and Vladimir Guerrero. His .290 Batting Average ranks tenth and in the hearts of Angels fans who saw him play in the Dull ’90s he ranks as high as the sky… except for those of us who read the papers closely back then and still spit when we hear his name, visions of the stereotypical egomaniac “I” instead of “Team” selfish talent gone to his head type of player.