#19 - ADAM KENNEDY, 2B
Adam Kennedy was a top prospect traded by the St. Louis Cardinals along with pitcher Kent Bottenfield to the Angels for outfielder Jim Edmonds. At the time Edmonds was one of a surplus of outfielders that the Angels had. Darin Erstad, Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon were all under club control longer than Edmonds would be. Meanwhile, it had been a long time - fourteen years, since the Angels had had a long-term solution at second base.
Bobby Grich retired after the 1986 season. In between Grich and Kennedy taking the field in 2000 only Johnny Ray held the position down for more than two seasons. Often an offensive black hole, the list of part-time Angels reads like a rejected edition of Trivial Pursuit: Mark McLemore, Justin Baughman, Randy Velarde, Luis Alicea, Damion Easley, Torey Lovullo, Luis Sojo, Rob Wilfong and even Harold Reynolds were dropped into the Keystone position in the hopes of cobbling together a lineup and a defense, all to varying degrees of mediocrity.
He was 24 years old when he started playing for the Angels. He was 30 when he was declared a free agent and signed back with the Cardinals. In seven seasons with the Angels he appeared in 992 games, ninth most by an Angel. His 8.3 Defensive WAR ranks seventh in club history. His 176 doubles are the tenth most ever by a Halo and his 32 triples the fifth most. On the infield dirt he stole 123 bases, seventh most. Usually batting near the bottom of the order, he provided a great left handed upper-cut swinging bat to the lineup.
On September 20, 2004, Adam was injured as Ichiro Suzuki slid into his wrist at 2B. He missed the last twelve games of the season and the postseason. The Angels went quietly in three games to the Red Sox. Considering that Gary DiSarcina's coincidental injury in August of 1995 is mythologically tied to that Angels team's epic collapse, it boggles my mind that nobody makes the connection of AK's absence in the 2004 ALDS to the three losses that occurred there and then.
While it is difficult to prove a negative, starting Alfredo Amezaga as your October Second Baseman pretty much seems in hindsight to be handing the series to the opponent. And to look objectively at Kennedy's stats as an Angel without being a fan might question his ranking n this list so high - There are fifteen position players with more WAR as an Angel and nine pitchers. But there are three reasons why this reliable Angel is ranked a little higher than his numbers might indicate.
On October 13, 2002 Adam Kennedy hit three home runs in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. The first home run was as solo shot that cut the 2-0 Twins lead in half. The second home run gave the Angels the lead. The Twins fought back. The third home run game the Angels a lead they would not relinquish in the game that put them into the World Series for the first and (through 2013) only time.
For a team that was once one strike away from the Series to be denied the trip for sixteen years, the man who assured them that trip with a superhuman (he had hit seven HR that season) feat should be a little higher on this list than statistics indicate. Getting it done should count for something forever. Adam Kennedy is the man who got it done.