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2 Anaheim Angels Why mess with success? The gritty world champions return intact and unspoiled

March 31, 2003
March 31, 2003

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March 31, 2003

Baseball Preview 2003

2 Anaheim Angels Why mess with success? The gritty world champions return intact and unspoiled

Like many gluttonous champions before them, the Angels discovered
the spoils of victory. One minute they're anonymous clock
punchers, and the next they own the key to the city and are on
everybody's A-lists. But this being a team on which the mascot has
the highest Q rating (that would be the Rally Monkey, who turned
down a movie deal and has his own trademark), the cities that
presented their keys to Anaheim players were the megalopolises of
Jamestown, N.Dak.; Abilene, Texas; and Norco, Calif.--the
grateful hometowns of centerfielder Darrin Erstad, pitcher John
Lackey and third baseman Troy Glaus, respectively. And those
red-carpet invitations? Rightfielder Tim Salmon was asked to
appear at a bar mitzvah, and pitcher Jarrod Washburn got an offer
to address the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association.

This is an article from the March 31, 2003 issue

Here's all you need to know about the Anaheim clubhouse culture:
Less than an hour after the Angels had defeated the Giants in
Game 7 of the World Series in October, Erstad, unravelling tape
from the broken hand he played with, said in a solemn tone, "Now
comes the hard part."

A reporter asked, "What are you talking about?"

Replied Erstad, "We'll have to work twice as hard to do it
again."

And so after a short winter break the team that Madison Avenue
never met gathered on a February morning for its first full
workout in Tempe, Ariz. Every player was in full practice
uniform, seated on folding chairs in front of their lockers. It
was 8:20 a.m.--10 minutes before the scheduled start of the
meeting called by manager Mike Scioscia. "Usually you spend the
first part of spring training getting to know guys. We don't have
to go through that," Salmon said before the meeting.

Of the 565 postseason at bats taken by Anaheim last fall, the
players who accounted for all but 11 of them are back. The
pitchers who obtained all 420 playoff outs are back. "The only
difference," Salmon says, "is we have John Lackey and Frankie
Rodriguez for a whole season. That's like adding two free
agents."

Rookie pitchers Lackey and Rodriguez were a combined 7-1 in the
postseason. The rest of the staff was 4-4. Lackey, who was
called up from the minors June 28, was 11-4 in 21 total
regular-season and postseason starts, including the first Game 7
World Series win by a rookie in 93 years. Only six years ago he
was playing first base for Grayson County College in Denison,
Texas.

Called up on Sept. 15, Rodriguez pitched only 5 2/3 innings
before the season ended, but it was enough to convince the Angels
to employ a loophole in eligibility rules to get him on their
playoff roster. Anaheim was 10-1 in the postseason when he
pitched, 1-4 when he didn't. Including his regular-season cameo,
Rodriguez obtained 41 of his 73 outs (56%) by strikeout. This
year the Angels intend to use him as the Yankees initially used a
young Mariano Rivera, eating up the seventh and eighth innings to
set up the closer.

The spontaneous combustion of Rodriguez and the Eddie
Haskell--style mischief of angel-faced shortstop David Eckstein
contributed to Anaheim's misleading Little Team That Could image.
"It wasn't incredible," Scioscia said of Anaheim's season. "We
were a good team. I thought we were a good team that played well,
a championship-caliber team, and we proved it."

Not only is that team intact, but the Angels also remain stocked
with players in their prime. Besides Salmon, 34, the other eight
every-day players are 30 and younger. Only Kevin Appier, 35, has
mileage issues in the rotation.

With young legs to exploit, Scioscia runs an old-school National
League--style game. No manager in the AL attempted more sacrifice
bunts (68), squeeze plays (six), hit-and-run plays (128, the most
in either league) or called on more pinch hitters (141) than
Scioscia did last year. Only the Mariners (195) attempted more
stolen bases than the Angels (137). No team in baseball was
tougher to strike out. "Everywhere I went, from Angels fans to
die-hard Giants fans, so many people said it was incredible to
watch a team play such an unselfish style of baseball," says
Scioscia. "It gave me a great feeling to be associated with those
guys."

The Angels are a rare defending champion in the era of free
agency. Thanks not only to a $20 million payroll increase but
also to their ditchdiggers' work ethic, they haven't changed a
bit. --T.V.

COLOR PHOTO: JEFF GROSS/GETTY IMAGES (2) LITTLE BIG MAN The 5'8" Eckstein was a pest at bat, leading the AL in getting hit by pitches, and he's improving in the field.COLOR PHOTO: JEFF GROSS/GETTY IMAGES (2) RODRIGUEZ

IN FACT
Angels batters struck out a major-league-low 805 times last year,
the fewest strikeouts by a team in a nonstrike season since
1992.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Angels

"This is a team that can do everything: manufacture runs, steal,
hit-and-run, bunt. They'll do what they have to do to get a run
early.... The bullpen is battle-tested, but the rotation is
average at best. They need one starter to step up, and that guy
has to be Ramon Ortiz. Jarrod Washburn is a great No. 2 starter
on any team, but he's not a No. 1 yet. Kevin Appier's a
workhorse. I thought he was going to break down when he was in
Oakland, but he's still going.... Francisco Rodriguez was no
fluke. His stuff is electrifying; he'll be a closer down the
line. They needed another lefty in the bullpen, and I'm surprised
they didn't go out and get one.... Troy Glaus is awesome. He's
right there when you talk about elite power hitters.... David
Eckstein maximizes his ability. He has a below-average arm but
has great accuracy. Adam Kennedy can hit, but he'll never be a
Gold Glover.... Bengie Molina looks out of shape. He'll be pushed
by his brother, Jose, but when it's all said and done, Wil Nieves
may be the best of their catchers.... Give me nine Darin Erstads
and we'll battle you every day. Tim Salmon finally relaxed last
year after pressing for so long. He should have another good
year."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2002 statistics

BATTING ORDER

SS Eckstein
CF Erstad
RF Salmon
LF Anderson
3B Glaus
1B Spiezio
DH Fullmer
C B. Molina
2B Kennedy

DAVID ECKSTEIN

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 124 .293 8 63 21

DARIN ERSTAD

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L 83 .283 10 73 23

TIM SALMON

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 81 .286 22 88 6

GARRET ANDERSON

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L 19 .306 29 123 6

TROY GLAUS

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 39 .250 30 111 10

SCOTT SPIEZIO

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 99 .285 12 82 6

BENGIE MOLINA

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 255 .245 5 47 0

ADAM KENNEDY

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 111 .312 7 52 17

BENCH

ERIC OWENS[#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 215 .270 4 37 26

BENJI GIL

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 300 .285 3 20 2

DESIGNATED HITTER

BRAD FULLMER

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 138 .289 19 59 10

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

LH Jarrod Washburn 23 18 6 6.4 1.17 3.15
RH John Lackey 91 9 4 6.0 1.35 3.66
RH Kevin Appier 83 14 12 5.9 1.35 3.92
RH Ramon Ortiz 62 15 9 6.8 1.18 3.77
RH Aaron Sele 197 8 9 6.2 1.49 4.89

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Troy Percival 43 4 1 40 1.12 1.92
RH Francisco Rodriguez*(R) 111 2 3 6 1.02 2.57
RH Ben Weber 169 7 2 7 1.18 2.54

[#]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Triple A stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 157)

MANAGER
Mike Scioscia
fourth season with Anaheim

2002 RECORD
99-63
second in AL West