In 2012, former Angel great Tim Salmon received five official votes for the Baseball Hall of Fame. But with the current ballot crowded with so many Hall-worthy candidates, it seems unlikely that Angel greats Darin Erstad and Troy Percival will receive even that small token of recognition in this year’s vote for the Hall of Fame. (Update: Percival got four votes, Erstad got one!)
Ersty and Percy are both on the Hall of Fame ballot for a reason though, and that is because both players achieved things on the baseball field that few major leaguers have the ability to achieve.
Darin Erstad was an incredible fielder who played Gold Glove caliber defense throughout his career. He won the award three times while an Angel, as an outfielder in 2000 and 2002, and as a first baseman in 2004. He led the American League in hits in 2000, a season in which he hit .355 and became the first and only player to drive in 100 RBI from the leadoff spot.
Darin was a two time All-Star who finished his 14-year career with a slash line of .282/.336/.407 and 179 stolen bases. During the playoffs, Erstad was somehow able to turn up his game, slashing .339/.368/.492 in 29 postseason contests. He hit a leadoff home run in the eighth inning of Game Six of the 2002 World Series to bring the Angels within one run of the Giants, even though he had a fracture in one of the bones in his wrist that would require surgery in the offseason.
And of course, the image of Darin drifting to his left for the final play of Game Seven, calling off right-fielder Alex Ochoa, and then catching the ball with two hands will be forever etched into the memory of Angel fans.
It’s fitting that the man who threw the pitch that got Kenny Lofton to hit that fly ball, Troy Percival, is on the same ballot as his long-time teammate. Troy was a four time All-Star with the Angels. He came in fourth in Rookie of the Year voting with a 1.95 ERA as the set-up man for closer Lee Smith in 1995. He took over the closer role the next year and flew with it. Year after year for the Angels, he would lean in for the sign, squinting to pick up his catcher’s fingers, and then with the help of his high leg kick and powerful drive off of the rubber, pound the strike zone with upper nineties heat.
Percival finished his career with a 3.14 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and 358 saves, which is the ninth most in Major League history. Like Erstad, Percival also came through for the Angels in the postseason, throwing ten strikeouts against just one walk in nine games, converting all of the seven save opportunities he faced.
Both men are currently enjoying their positions as manager of their alma mater’s baseball teams: Erstad with the University of Nebraska and Percival with the University of California, Riverside.
Looking Towards Next Year: Four former Angels will be eligible for the 2016 Hall of Fame ballot — Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds, Troy Glaus, and Jose Guillen.