#43 - Jim Abbott, LH SP
Few stories in baseball history are as inspiring as that of Jim Abbott. Born with a stub for a right hand, he never spent a day in the minor leagues, going from Michigan University to an April 8, 1989 appearance at Anaheim Stadium. He lost that game, and many others, finishing a ten year major league career with a record of 87 - 108. In his two stints with the Angels, he was 54-74 (oddly tied for 7th place in losses with Mark Langston and Kirk McCaskill). His 1991 and 92 seasons saw him at his best with an ERA+ of 142 and 144. But with similar stats, the inconsistency of the Angel offense gave him two disparate records: 18-8 in `91 and 7-15 in '92, despite an ERA of 2.77 versus 2.89 for 1991. Maddening to say the least. And a little disheartening to be sure.
After a stint with the Yankees that produced a memorable September 1993 no-hitter, he returned to the Angels in a prospect-packed 1995 trade. As much as everyone wanted to root for him, it was obvious that he plain stunk. He went 2-18 in 1996.
Jim Abbott had a great 1991 and a few other good seasons with the Angels, but he holds an inspirational place in every Halo fan's heart. If he did what he did with his disability, get off your ass and do something great with your fabulous situation. But Abbott's is also a cautionary tale of betting with your heart instead of your head - while everyone wanted the underdog of all underdogs to win, the big picture's script never seemed to cooperate entirely. Results matter as much or more than the inspirational poetry of overcoming the obstacles to get to the show - what happens outside the chalk lines flavors what happens in them, but don't mistake the appetizer for the meal.