#86 - TONY PHILLIPS - U
The Angels almost won the west in 1995 and were in a dead-heat late in 1997. Tony Phillips was an integral part of these two exciting also-ran clubs. He arrived in the clubhouse of the California Angels in a trade during the second week of 1995 and left as a free agent only to return to the Anaheim Angels in a trade in May of 1997.
His exit that year was less than graceful. Here is A LINK to an extensive story about what transpired after the August 9, 1997 game at Edison Field of Anaheim. Tony Phillips was busted for smoking crack at the Ivanhoe Motel in the shadow of Disneyland. The bottom line is that he let down his team and he let down the fans of the team. And yet this fall from grace is a small thread in the fabric of Angels lore.
You're never going to see a plaque at Angel Stadium for this whole ugly incident. There is never going to be a bronze statue of Mo Vaughn with the quote "I don't see no friggin' flags flyin' over Edison Field". Don Sutton kept his spot int he 1987 pitching rotation by calling the cops on John Candelaria, who left the airport drunk in his Benz when the road trip flight landed in Ontario but it won't be a fifth inning trivia question that Mark Gubicza attributes to Dean Chance anytime soon.
It is up to the fan base and the fan sites like the one you are reading. Traitorous malcontents like Jose Guillen are condemned to an eternal hell in our collective consciousness only if we relive the lore. And so while the anti-sublime terribleness of Tony Phillips letting his team down by hand-jobbing his personal demons (I refuse to call it a battle, it is a pursuit of cheap pleasure like a fifteen dollar massage parlor happy ending) may have cost the 1997 Angels a shot at the playoffs, adding the Ivanhoe Motel to the tragic column of our lexicon should not count against what the man did for the team.
Tony Phillips accrued 5.6 Offensive Wins Above Replacement in 1,130 Plate Appearances as an Angel. In 1,113 Plate Appearances, Albert Pujols has earned 5.4 oWAR. Phillips holds the Angels single season record for walks. Mike Trout had 110 walks in 2013 but that could not surpass Tony's 113 in 1995. Coincidentally he and Trout are currently (as of October, 2013) tied for 35th place in club history with 186 Walks apiece. Tony did it in 1,130 PA while it took Trout all of 1,490 PA to get that many.
Tony's 119 runs scored in 1995 ranked third most ever for an Angel when he set it and is still seventh eighteen seasons later. He was an electric player in his short time in Anaheim and contributed more than many superstars and alleged franchise greats. He smoked crack at the wrong time of year with the wrong people but it only makes the mention of his name something that needs to be passed on to the generations who will never have to sit through a game with the dreaded striped and winged jersey of the late 1990s insulting our taste as it taints our team. Pass the pipe if they ever try to adopt something so insane again. Meanwhile it will always be Tony Phillips to the rescue of any dull conversation about the team we love.