#66 DONNIE MOORE - P
Donnie's place in Angels lore looms tragically - you cannot tell the story of the franchise without telling his tale of glory and woe. In calculating this Top 100 Angels list it seemed time to rank him based on his statistical accomplishments being more heavily weighted than the power of the narrative of the "Donnie Moore Game" and its aftermath.
On our Top 100 Angels List compiled after the 2005 season he ranked #34 all time (LINK) and #58 on the one we published after the 2008 season (LINK). In the Halos Heaven compendium TOP 50 ANGELS (Amazon Link) published after the fiftieth season of Halos baseball (2010) we ranked him #46 as his story is important even if his raw statistical accomplishments were not nearly that impactful.
So why is he ranked 66th after the 2013 season? A combination of where he ranks statistically and what his impact on the club's history was. To tell the tale form the climax, Donnie Moore was the reliable Angels closer who got the team to within one strike of going to the World Series before surrendering a home run that would lead to the team blowing the ALCS. What became known as "The Donnie Moore Game" was Game 5 of the American League Championship Series and it took place on October 12, 1986. It devastated the franchise.
Things took an even eerier turn for Moore personally. By the summer of 1989 he was out of baseball form injuries and deep in debt. He was moody and unpredictable, escalating tension with his family when he shot his wife and then shot himself dead. His wife Tonya survived. While his own bad decisions played a major role in his world collapsing around him, the irresistibly archetypal tale that he started down this tragic path that Sunday afternoon in Anaheim was told and re-told.
But before all that he was a relief pitcher for the Angels. He was a symbol of hope. After mediocrities like Dave La Roche and Mark Clear manning the loser position, Donnie Moore was the first great Angels closer since Bob Lee in the early sixties. Twenty years without late relief is a long time for a franchise and Donnie was hugely popular during his first season as a Halo - 1985. He had come over from the Braves with some promise, sixteen saves and an ERA under three in 1984, but also would be 31 on opening day and didn't have a great track record in the eight other seasons he had been in the bigs.
But in 1985 he was awesome. He threw 103 innings in 65 games, with 31 Saves and an ERA of 1.92. He as 8-8 though... belying the stats with those eight losses to show a certain unclutchness. But with an ERA+ of 2.17 he was an All Star and got votes for the Cy Young (placing sixth) and the AL MVP (placing seventh). The Halos lost the division by one game that year, so had Donnie not lost two of those eight games, had he held just two out of eight leads, the Angels would have gone to the playoffs that year.
His 1986 was not as amazing but was still one of the then-great season by an Angels reliever. He threw 72 innings in 49 Games, had a 4-5 record with 21 Saves. His ERA+ was 139 but his K/9 was 2.41, down a whole strikeout from the 3.43 K/9 in 1985. The walks were up to 2.7 BB/9 - up from 1.8 BB/9 in 1985.
So the warning signs were there. By October he was out of gas and the fates were disturbed. What more can you say?
Overall Donnie Moore ranks sixth in Angels history with 61 Saves. His 133 Games Finished ranks fifth in club history. His 1985 was one of the greatest seasons by an Angels relief pitcher of all time - The Adjusted ERA+ of 217 is second best ever, the 57 Games Finished is the fifth most ever, 1.835 BB/9 is tenth best in club history and the ERA of 1.92 is the third best ever in a single season by an Angel.
Of course, the stellar 1985 might have taken its toll on him enough that he slowed down in 1986... and at a cost of unimaginably historic proportions.