#22 Francisco Rodriguez, RH RP
In the Summer of 1998, there was a bidding war for a young Venezuelan phenom, all of 16 but throwing 95 MPH darts into the bullseye. Props to the Disney regime for going all the way up to $900,000 to win the bidding war and sign young Francisco Rodriguez. Nearly 4 years to the date of his signing he made his Major League debut, having converted to relieving and, in the thick of a pennant race, standing out like no pitcher in baseball.
It isn't a stretch to imagine the Angels playoff also-rans in 2002 with Al Levine, the pitcher Frankie replaced on the 25-Man roster. With what K-Rod has done subsequently, it isn't hard to imagine recent Oakland teams closing the A.L. West Gaps and taking our two recent division titles as well.
In his three full seasons with the Angels, Frankie has:
...An ERA+ of 140 in 59 games (86 innings) as a set-up man in 2003
...An ERA+ of 252 in 69 games (84 innings) as a setup man and fill-in (12 Saves) closer in 2004
An ERA+ of 157 with 45 Saves in 58 Games (67+ innings) as THE Closer in 2005
And if considering that 2 of those above seasons led to Division titles and one an ALDS victory over the Yankees, there was, of course, Frankie's 2002 postseason.
With almost no scouting reports, the 5 innings major league service gave the other teams no clue as to what lay ahead of them. A 20 year-old with a wicked slider and knee-bending curveball, that's what. Frankie went 5-1 in 11 postseason games, benefiting from being the pitcher of record when the 2002 team's knack for beating starting pitchers and middle relievers kicked in. But his 28 strikeouts in 18+ innings sure helped seal the deal. He also had 3 saves in the 2005 postseason, 2 against the Yankees - including the elimination Game 5 in front of the home town fans, and the next night in Chicago for Game 1 of the ALCS, the only defeat suffered by the White Sox that October.
Frankie's 59 Saves are already 4th all time in Angels history. His 45 Saves led the American League in 2005 and were 2nd place all-time single season among Angel relievers. His 69 appearances in 1994 was 4th most for a single season, with his set-up man Scot Shields setting the record in 2005 with 78.
Among our Top 40 voters, blogger Shredder of the L.A. Seitz Blog and Angel Lifer Brent Carter both voted Frankie All Time Angel #19. Newly appointed L.A. Times Opinion Section Keyboardist Matt Welch held the pre-Chavez Pride of Venezuela in higher esteem, slotting him in at #16 All-Time. By the way, A Halos Heaven congratulations to Mr. Welch for bringing a little Reason to the Opinion section of the Chicago Tribune of Spring Street.