#90 - George Hendrick, OF
George Hendrick was a little too old and a little to slow to be the George Hendrick of legend when the Angels got him. Trading for a semi-marquee player like Hendrick reinforced hoe for the franchise in the Summer of 1985. He showed up and produced during the Angels' 1986 Division title. So for all of these things, he is one of the 100 Greatest Angels.
BUT there is a little something else to consider. George was a coach on the Angels when he accidentally hit Gary DiSarcina in the arm with a fungo bat on the first day of Spring Training. Broke the arm. Gary missed half a season, batting .229 in the 81 games he played that season. He was injured for most of 2000, and in August of that year the Angels picked up David Eckstein on waivers from Boston. So in a weird but quite traceable domino effect, George Hendrick slips ahead of some other one and two year Angel wonders for his accidental delivery of the X-Factor Sparkplug to Anaheim.
The 6-4-2 L.A. Baseball Blog's maestro, Rob McMillin, has a lot to say about George...
The 1985 Angels weren't a major market team, but in August 1985 they benefited from the Pirates' case of high-priced veteran fatigue with George Hendrick, whom the Bucs signed just the offseason before. Hendrick, a four-time All Star (twice with Cleveland and twice with St. Louis) was hitting .230 by the time the Bucs decided they were through with him. The Angels, who had started a youth movement that year, made an abrupt 180 to pick up some offense. The formerly steady Hendrick seemed like the guy to provide it, or if not, at least like he was plausibly a guy who could come back. Between 1973 and 1985, Hendrick had posted no fewer than 16 home runs a year, and only three years previously had driven in 104 runs and come in sixth in slugging percentage in the National League.
In addition to Hendrick, the blockbuster trade moved frontline starter John Candelaria and solid reliever Al Holland into the Angel roster as well. Gene Mauch said, "When you add three quality people while losing two, you must be better off," but quality was an eye-of-the-beholder thing. For Pittsburgh, the move was as much a salary dump as it was a matter of getting the disgruntled veteran Hendrick off a team he no longer wished to play for. The Angels didn't get much out of him that year, collecting an unimpressive five hits for the balance of the season.
So when the Angels went into 1986 with the plan of giving Hendrick the full-time right field job, it met with immediate skepticism in the press. Mauch snapped back, "George Hendrick is too good to be relegated to a part-time role or accused of being done." The Angels pointed to a thigh muscle injury that prevented him from going all-out on the field when he was with Pittsburgh, but the reality was much more pedestrian: having taken on his three year contract and traded away young regular outfielder Mike Brown, there was little else the Angels could do.
Amazingly, it worked. In 1986, Hendrick had the last good year of his career, hitting .272 while pasting 14 homers and driving in 47, all while playing essentially part time (he only appeared in 102 games). Like Kevin Appier, he arrived late to a (division) championship team and provided a needed boost, only to discover how quickly his decline was about to come. Also like Appier in 2002, his postseason provided a foretaste of what the Angels were about to get from him in regular seasons to come: Hendrick went 1-12 (.083) in the ALCS, the worst postseason mark of his career. In April, he broke his finger on a hit-by-pitch that the umpire refused to give him; Hendrick ended up missing two months, hitting sporadically over the balance of the year. He played out his 1988 on a diffident, losing (75-87), fourth-place Angels squad, now hitting fifth and sixth, and retired the next year.
Thanks Rob... The only thing I have to add to that is that Joe Maddon just selected George as a coach for the Devil Rays, so we shall see what domino-magic GH has in store for West Florida.