#24 - MARK LANGSTON, P
At the time it was the biggest free agent signing in club history. On December 1, 1989, Mark Langston signed a seven-year, thirty-million dollar contract with the Angels. What did it give the team?
Well they thought they were getting the strikeout ace of the decade. It instead got them an innings-eater with two fantastic seasons, two league average seasons, two injury-marred half-seasons of league average pitching, a terrible first season and a forgettable nine-start final season.
Along the way Langston racked up lots of counting stats and would pitch sublime gems at times. But he had a talent for never showing up when a game meant much. George Steinbrenner famously called Dave Winfield "Mister May" to contrast his lack of heroics in the clutch with "Mister October" Reggie Jackson. That would apply perfectly to Langston. In the middle of a the season when the division was fluid he would dominate with an apparent effortlessness that seemed a to be a streamline to Cooperstown. Down the stretch he never seemed worth a spot on the roster.
Most famously he was the loser in a pitchers' duel with Randy Johnson in the one-game playoff to determine the winner of the 1995 American League West. The Angels choked up an eleven-game lead in mid-August to force a tie in the division at the end of the season.Langston - stellar early in the season, went 2-4 down the stretch as the team tumbled and then lost the fifth game of that stretch in that play-in tiebreaker. It was actually the best game he had pitched in two months for the first six innings but it just wasn't meant to be, perhaps, as choking seemed encoded in the man's DNA.
His 1991 and 1993 seasons ranks as the tenth and second best WAR for an Angels pitcher in team history. The Anegls neevr threatened for anything close to a division title in those years. He ranks fifth all time in WAR for pitchers but compare him with the player who ranks fourth - after the 2013 seasons, Jered Weaver has almost exactly the same amount of playing time with the Halos as Langston had - 1,474 innings pitched to 1,445 IP. Weaver had 33.4 WAR to Langston's 26.2, so no mistaking dominance can take place.
To make a case for Langston, though, consider that in 30 more innings pitched as a Halo arm, Ervin Santana amassed only 12.9 WAR. and so it goes... some glimmers of greatness and some unclutch cliff dives put the talented Mister Langston higher on the Top 100 than Magic but a big step away from immortality.