So, after flipping past the ads for shaving cream, Stetson aftershave, and a pager that will send you live scores ("All for just pennies a day!!"), I came to a section titled "Guys to Watch". Most of the players listed were the well known stars of the day -- Cal Ripken, Greg Maddux, Mo Vaughn, Rickey Henderson, etc. -- but #6 were the "Three Amigos" of the New York Mets. Within their write-up, Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen, and Paul Wilson were compared to Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Nolan Ryan. How many fantasy baseball teams were ruined by those three? Isringhausen went 6-14 with a 4.77 ERA, Wilson finished 5-12 with a 5.38 ERA, and Pulsipher was injured and didn't pitch.
A few pages later I came across an article titled "The Next Ones" with the tagline of "They pop up every spring, fresh with the promise of limitless talent. Here are our picks from the '96 crop" The first player written about was Paul Wilson. I have to admit, I remember buying into the Wilson hype as at the time I was a part of a Strat-O-Matic league that met once a month to play games face-to-face. Wilson was on my team and I know I turned down at least three trade offers for him. He was going to DOMINATE. Oh well. Turning the page I'm greeted with an extreme close-up of Alex Rodriquez's face. The first line of text reads, "You might not recognize Alex Rodriquez". From that angle I would certainly hope not. Not unless you were an aging pop star. The article states, "The 20-year-old Mariner is the prototypical shortstop; lightning speed, soft hands, a cannon on his shoulder, and enough range to herd cattle. He's also got power -- 20-homer power, according to scouts." 20-homer power? He must have bulked up a bit after this was written. (By the way, in 1996 A-Rod led the majors with a .358 batting average and hit 36 HR, 123 RBI, 141 Runs, 15 SB finishing 2nd in MVP voting). The last profile of rookies to watch was the Angels Garret Anderson:
"As a kid in Granada Hills, Calif., Garret Anderson passed summer days in his grandmother's yard, pitting his swing against the leaves on a nearby tree. All that pruning paid off in 1995, when the 24-year-old tested his stroke on major league pitching. He hit .321, socked 16 homers, and drove in 69 runs for the Angels, just missing out on Rookie of the Year honors."
The next paragraph made me laugh out loud:
"The leftfielder made it look easy -- so easy that some observers mistook his on-field calm for laziness."
In the American League preview, Peter Gammons made the following picks:
Gammons Actual Winner MVP Ken Griffey, Jr. Juan Gonzalez Cy Young Mike Mussina Pat Hentgen Rookie Derek Jeter Derek Jeter ERA Randy Johnson Juan Guzman (2.93) HR Frank Thomas Mark McGwire (52) RBI Albert Belle Albert Belle (148) Saves Jose Mesa John Wetteland (43)
Gammons also predicted the Angels would win the West division. "The Angels simply have terrific talent; Tim Salmon, Jim Edmonds, and Garret Anderson form the best young outfield in the league, J.T. Snow is a premiere defender who can hit, and Gary DiSarcina is an all-star shortstop. They'll be back." Huh, no Peter, they won't. The 1996 California Angels finished last in the AL West with a record of 70-91, 19.5 games behind the division winning Texas Rangers. It was hard for Gammons to predict the Angels would finish the year with the second fewest runs scored and the second highest team ERA after the outstanding offensive team from 1995 scored 801 runs (2nd) and hit 186 HR (also 2nd). The '96 Angels used 3 different managers (Marcel Lachemann, John McNamara, and Joe Madden), but none were able to get the Halos on the right track. The young outfield Gammons mentioned in his article, and DH Chili Davis had good seasons hitting a combined .291 with 97 HR and 331 RBI. Even Rex Hudler muscled up and hit 16 HR while batting .311. But as good as these players hit, they couldn't overcome the awful starting pitching. The Angels re-acquired Jim Abbott during the '95 season and they traded for Jason Grimsley during the off-season, however both players failed to perform. Neither pitcher had an ERA below 6.80 nor won more than 5 games. In fact, Abbott was terrible in '96, losing 18 games (winning 2) and running up an ERA of 7.48 in 23 starts. It could have been worse if not for the great job some of the regulars did in the Angels' bullpen. Led by Troy Percival who saved 36 games, during which he struck out 100 batters in just 74 innings, and set-up man Mike James (2.67 ERA in 69 games).
Within the team write-up, the magazine stated,
"...And here's the kicker -- and it's a big one. The best off-season trade took place in the owner's box; a new 21st-century boss (Disney) for an old cowboy (Autry). Stocked with astute businessmen, Disney won't spend Steinbrenner money, but it won't take nearly that much to make a difference."
Yikes. I may be wrong, but in my opinion when Disney bought the Angels it was the worst thing that has happened in the history of this club. The ugly uniforms (periwinkle?), the cheerleaders, Tony Taveras, and most importantly...their philosophy on the importance of marketing instead of winning. It can be argued that the Disney crew were primarily responsible for the 2002 championship, but I think that happened in spite of Disney, not because of Disney.
And finally, an article co-written by recent Angel-hater Rob Neyer titled "Numbers That Count". They introduce the statistic, "SLOB" which stands for slugging percentage multiplied by on-base percentage. They write, "The product is the perfect offensive hitting statistic, one that lets you compare and evaluate a high-average singles' hitter with a low-average slugger in terms of the bottom line - how many runs they are capable of producing." Sorry, but I've never heard of SLOB other than in this one instance. I have heard of OPS (on-base + slugging), but SLOB must not have caught on. Some of the other ground-breaking statistics mentioned are pitcher's Run Support, a closers Save Percentage, road splits, Bill James' fielder's Range Factor, and starting pitcher's W-L Percentage Differential. How far we statheads have come from the dark ages of those pre-sabermetric days. How did we get by without VORP? Or BABIP? Or even Runs Created? I want my FanGraphs!