The Big A: Decade's Best

Can you believe its 2009 already? With a slow news week, now seems like the perfect time for a retrospective.

And mindful to the old "There's no I in team" cliché, let's take a look at some individual seasons that served as bright spots even when the team wasn't doing so hot. Here's a decade's worth of vintage performances.
2000 - Darin Erstad (.355 average, 240 hits, 25 home runs, 100 RBI, 28 steals)

This is the kind of season for which players sell their souls to the devil -- the intense Erstad could literally hit a double rolling out of bed from April to October 2000. Challenging George Sisler's former single-season hits record 257 hits (his season-ending 240 stands as 13th all-time,) the gritty Erstad flashed serious power and speed as well. Beats out an MVP, Cy Young winner and history-maker for the best season on this list, in my opinion. 

2001 - Troy Glaus (.250 average, 41 home runs, 108 RBI, 10 steals)

In what was the calm before the World Series storm, Glaus, currently with the St. Louis Cardinals, anchored the '01 Angel bunch with a carnivorous power display. Despite the lousy average, the third basemen stepped up as the chief offensive producer on a mediocre squad, his power number particularly impressive considering the entire lineup, sans Garret Anderson, had down years. 
2002 - Troy Percival (1.92 ERA, 40 saves, 68 Ks in 56.2 innings; 3 World Series saves)

Any turbulent ninth innings Fontana's finest misguided the team through in previous seasons were washed away by a dominant campaign in which the fire baller was the exclamation point to the World Series champion Angel squad. Untouchable in the regular season, Percival's saves in Games three, six and seven of the Fall Classic cemented the closer's legacy off Gene Autry Way.
2003 - Garrett Anderson (.315 average, 29 home runs, 116 RBI; Home Run Derby champion)

He makes it look so easy, doesn't he? In the wake of a massive World Series hangover from most of the roster, Anderson continued producing at his usual All-Star pace, earning a spot on the American League squad in the midsummer-classic, which was held in Chicago's Comiskey Park. There, he made his impact felt by defeating slugger Albert Pujols in the Home Run Derby, showing America the talent Angel fans had become accustomed to.
2004 - Vladimir Guerrero (.337 average, 39 home runs, 126 RBI, 15 steals; Voted AL MVP)


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Well helloooo Vlad! In the first year of arguably the team's best free agent signing ever, Guerrero emerged from the baseball purgatory that was French Canada to make an immediate MVP-like impact onto the roster, literally. Guerrero's presence markedly elevated the game of his teammates. His clutch bat -- highlighted by a six-home run tear during the season's final week -- helped the team win a dogfight of a pennant race with the incumbent division champion A's. When the dust settled, Guerrero had captured the AL MVP award and the Angels had their first division championship in 18 years and, more importantly, a legitimate franchise player to hang their hopes on.
2005 - Bartolo Colon (21-8, 3.48 ERA, 222 innings; Voted AL Cy Young winner)

Can't say I was overly impressed with Colon's (expensive) four years on the team, but at least he brought home some hardware. Recording the second 20+ win season of his career, the portly pitcher captured baseball's highest honor over perennial contenders Mariano Rivera and Johan Santana.
2006 - Francisco Rodriguez (1.73, 47 saves, 98 Ks in 73 innings)

Rodriguez was actually better in '06 than his record-breaking '08. Rodriguez was instrumental nailing down saves in convincing fashion for a solid 89-win squad, with a minuscule 1.09 WHIP.
2007 - John Lackey (3.01 ERA, 19 - 9, 219 innings)

How many pitchers can claim to have started and won Game 7 of the World Series -- as a rookie? Lackey's swift ascension to Angel royalty hit a few roadblocks after the fact, with some mediocre years in '03 and '04, as he was learning his craft at the big league level. After some respectable campaigns in '05 and '06, the Texan put it all together in '07, establishing himself as one of the elite pitchers in the AL.
2008 - Francisco Rodriguez (2.24, 62 saves, 77 K in 68.3 innings)

While a number of players contributed fine campaigns in the team's 100-win season, breaking Bobby Thigpen's long-standing-record 57 saves -- by five -- puts Rodriguez on a different level. With no injuries and limited meltdowns, Rodriguez was integral to the team's continuity and momentum in the team's runaway win of their division.

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