Yesterday, we reviewed and reminisced about the Angels tenure of future Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, the second-ranked Angels acquisition.
Today, we cap the countdown itself--though there will be a review/wrapup installment coming hereafter--with the player voted as the greatest acquisition in Angels history.
In the 1971 offseason, the Angels had an aging shortstop, Jim Fregosi. It became clear his best days were about to be behind him, but he was at the point where he could still be in his prime if he steered clear of the injury bug. The Angels looked to cash in on this opportunity. The New York Mets sidled up with a heck of a trade package, and without any hesitation, general manager Harry Dalton pulled the trigger. Jim Fregosi to the Mets. To the Angels, went Don Rose, Leroy Stanton, Frank Estrada, and a young'n with control issues by the name of Nolan Ryan.
NOLAN RYAN, STARTING PITCHER
138-121, 3.07 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 2416 K, 10 K/9, 6.3 H/9, 156 CG, 40 SHO, 115 ERA+, 37.6 WAR (4.7 average, 8 seasons)
Lynn Nolan Ryan, of lowly Alvin, Texas. The pride of that town whose time in the Mets organization brought him a World Series ring, but not much else, other than being a mid-rotation starter with a wild arm and not too much upside--clearly to the point where he was assessed to be worth 25% of Jim Fregosi. The Angels liked the package because of the pitching depth it contained, but few could've guessed what Ryan would do as an Angel.
His first season saw him go 19-16 with a 2.28 ERA (2 runs per game on average, and he lost 16 times. Ridiculous), finishing 8th in AL Cy Young voting and 30th in AL MVP voting, netting his first All-Star appearance. His 1973 season was something absurd, however. Two no-hitters, 21-16, 2.87 ERA, an all-time single-season record 383 strikeouts, 1.22 WHIP--and somehow, runner-up for the AL Cy Young. 1974 was a large parallel to 1973, Ryan increasing his win total to 22 and his ERA slightly increased to 2.89. 1975 saw his ERA increase over half a run to 3.45, but he still bagged an All-Star appearance.
1976 was, statistically speaking, his "worst" Angels season, although not really "bad" aside from the wins and losses: 17-18, 3.36, 327 K, 21 CG, 7 SHO. That's bad?
In 1977, Ryan pitched to a 2.77 ERA, which, among other stats, bagged him a 3rd-place Cy Young finish and an All-Star nod, but that increased almost a full run in 1978 to a 3.72 mark, with no recognitions. 1979 saw him go 16-14 (which will be referenced below), with a 3.60 ERA; in his lone Angels playoff appearance, he pitched a stellar game, striking out 8 and allowing three runs (one earned) in seven innings, but getting the loss.
After the 1979 season, Buzzie Bavasi, the Angels' then-GM, glanced at Ryan's record and stated that a 16-14 pitcher "can be replaced with two guys going 8-7." This comment is universally ridiculed in the present day, and in hindsight Bavasi called it "indisputably the worst move I ever made as a general manager of any team." Ryan went on to pitch 14 more seasons (9 with the Astros, 5 with the Rangers, whose hat he would wear on his Hall of Fame plaque), three more no-hitters, and break the all-time strikeout record (ending at 5,714). The way Angels management treated him is a likely factor into his decision to spurn them with an immortalized plaque--and well...we deserved it.
He went on post-baseball to buy the Texas Rangers in the summer of 2010, becoming the principal owner in that offseason when Chuck Greenberg sold his controlling interest to Ryan. He never won a Cy Young in his career, but when you hold numerous all-time records, I doubt you care.
In voting, Ryan received 14 first-place votes, five second-place votes, one third-place vote, one sixth-place vote, and one eighth-place vote, for a total of 257 points.
Regardless of what Angels fans think of him now, he is indisputably among the greatest Angels of all time, and according to this countdown, the greatest acquisition in their history. I may not like how he shunned the Angels after his career, but I do respect that he was one of the greatest players to grace the Halo in baseball history, and I will admit that I plan to (whenever the time should come) name my firstborn son after him. I have that much reverence for what he did in an Angels uniform. And many other fans do as well. Thanks for the no-hitters, the strikeouts, and the memories, Nolan.