#91 - John Candelaria, LH Starting Pitcher
The Angels were in the thick of the 1985 pennant race when they acquired Big John the Candy Man. His Angel career was almost a disaster, pockmarked by injuries and an awful teammate squabble that saw him get traded away in 1987. But in the middle of it were 10 critical and dominating wins in the heat of 1986 campaign. The Angels almost took the West in 1985. They took it, due in part to the Candy Man, in 1986.
Perhaps most of all, Candelaria's acquisition in 1985 signaled that Angels' management WAS going for it. The hope for the future that it gave Angel fans was a rare treat in what was about to become a 16 year abyss between postseason appearances.
Let Rob McMillin of the fabulous 6-4-2 Blog fill in the details...
Coming to the Angels as part of a salary dump from the Pirates in 1985, John "Candy Man" Candelaria was 31 by the time he got to Anaheim. Candelaria had been a solid number two in the Pittsburgh rotation for almost a decade, but financial concerns and a change of ownership with the Bucs forced a midseason trade. Candelaria, along with teammate George Hendrick, had grown disenchanted with the Pirates, who in the space of a decade had gone from perennial contenders to cellar dwellers.
Candelaria's first appearance with the Angels didn't go as well as he might have hoped, an August 4 game against the Twins in which he surrendered four runs over five innings. But his so-so performance was perhaps understandable: the game was his first start in over a year, and in any event, was overshadowed by an Angels victory in which Rod Carew collected his 3,000th career hit. Candelaria missed his next turn in the rotation, and finished weakly, posting a 3.80 ERA for the Angels that year.
He started 1986 in pain, elbow trouble limiting him to four spring training appearances; he got the hook in his first regular season appearance at the Kingdome after only two innings and four runs. His sore left elbow kept him off the mound for three more months, but he roared back with a 2.55 ERA on the season, pitching a complete game 3-hit shutout against the Mariners in August as if in revenge. Angel fans from that era will probably remember the Candy Man's two games against Boston in the ALCS, the first one a brilliant seven-inning triumph in Game 3 -- and the second, heartbreaking Game 7 when the Angels lost the ALCS, melting down for a staggering seven unearned runs on errors by Dick Schofield and Gary Pettis. Candelaria didn't survive the fourth in Game 7, leading to another offseason of questions, retirements, free agency, and pain.
In 1987, his ERA nearly doubled. Annoyed with the team's collapse, as he did in Pittsburgh, the disgruntled Candelaria requested a trade -- which the Angels granted in September, to 1986's champions, the Mets.