Garret Anderson returned to Anaheim last week to play against his former team for the first time in his career. Anderson is currently a Los Angeles Dodger but is best known for his time with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Anderson spent more than 14 seasons with the Angels and is the franchise’s all-time leader in games, at bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBIs, extra-base hits and total bases.

Seeing his name at the top of nearly every Angels statistical leaderboard, it’s easy to automatically put Anderson at the top of the list of all-time Angels. But looking closer at Anderson’s numbers and the player that sits under Anderson’s name in most categories, it becomes easier to say that Anderson is not the best all-time Angel.

Tim Salmon, the Angels long-time right fielder, is not only Mr. Angel, having played his entire career with the franchise, he is the all-time Angel. 

When comparing the two players based on what they did on a per-season basis and how much they made out of their total at bats and plate appearances, Salmon beats out Anderson nearly every time.

The clearest way to separate Salmon from Anderson is to compare their OPS numbers throughout their careers as Angels.

OPS is simply the sum of a player’s On-Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Percentage (SLG). OPS is an imperfect and artificial statistic, as it doesn’t actually measure any one specific achievement or skill, but it is a quick and straightforward picture of an individual player’s performance level.

Starting with the 1993 season (his first full year) and continuing through the 2006 campaign, Salmon’s OPS was under .800 only twice. In 2001 Salmon posted a .748 OPS. That year Salmon hit just .227 but still managed to walk 96 times for a .365 OBP.

Bothered by bad knees in 2004, Salmon appeared in just 60 games and posted a .628 OPS. At this point it looked like Salmon’s career was over. But after sitting out 2005, Salmon signed a minor league deal with the Angels and earned a part-time role for the 2006 season.

That year Salmon played in 76 games with 244 plate appearances. He posted an .811 OPS. Salmon’s career-high 1.024 OPS came in 1995. During his career, he surpassed the .900 mark another five times.

Salmon retired with a career .884 OPS, good for 79th on the all-time list. Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew also had a career .884 OPS. In case you’re wondering, Babe Ruth’s 1.164 OPS is the best.

Anderson played in 341 more games with the Angels than Salmon. That is equivalent to more than two seasons. During his time with the Angels, a time that spanned over 14 seasons, 2,013 games, and 8,481 plate appearances, Anderson posted a .796 OPS.

Anderson’s highest OPS came in the 2003 season. That year the Angels’ left fielder posted an .885 OPS. The previous year, Anderson had an .871 OPS.

Anderson was somewhat a model of consistency. He posted an OPS of at least .743 every year with the Angels. Except one. His OPS topped .800 six times.

In all of the years that both Salmon and Anderson were full-time players, Anderson had a higher OPS only twice. In 2001 Anderson posted a .792 OPS, 44 points higher than Salmon. In 2003, Anderson’s .885 OPS was 47 points higher than Salmon’s .838 OPS.

Among Angel players with more than 1500 plate appearances, Salmon is second behind Vladimir Guerrero’s .927 OPS as an Angel. Of course, Salmon had almost twice as many plate appearances with the Angels as Guerrero.

And in 112 postseason at-bats, Guerrero hit two home runs and posted a .740 OPS. Meanwhile, Salmon, in his one postseason appearance, hit four home runs in 59 at-bats and posted a .908 OPS.

Anderson is 14th on that Angel OPS list, sitting right behind Wally Joyner, Juan Rivera and Doug Decinces.

But Salmon’s worth to the Angels goes far beyond numbers on the field. Even when he wasn’t the team’s best player, he was always its foundation. Even though he wasn’t the most vocal player, his leadership could never be denied.

When Salmon joined the Angels in late August 1992, he saved a dying franchise that was drowning in poor play and mismanagement. In recent years the Angels had lost, or let go, productive or up and coming players like Wally Joyner, Chili Davis, Brian Downing, Dante Bichette, Mike Witt, and Lance Parish.

In their places, the team brought in washed up players like Dave Parker, Hubie Brooks, and Von Hayes.

With Gary DiSarcina, who played his first full season in 1992, paving the way, Salmon’s arrival gave the Angels new life and paved the way for a new era in Anaheim. For the next decade, Salmon led a core group of exciting and talented players that included DiSarcina, Anderson, Jim Edmonds, Troy Percival, Darin Erstad, and Troy Glaus.

And while the 1990s would have its own share of disappointments and bad luck for the Angels—mainly the postseason would continuing to elude the team—those core players would prove to be vastly popular among the Anaheim faithful.

Led by Salmon, much of that core would stay together long enough to finally make the postseason and win a World Series title in 2002. Since that time, the Angels have become the dominant team in the American League West and a perennial contender.

With all of the success the Angels have had since 2002, it’s somewhat surprising that Salmon participated in only one postseason. The Angels missed the playoffs in 2003. Salmon was not healthy for the 2004 postseason.

That year, due to manager Mike Scioscia’s urging, Salmon kept trying to fight through his injuries and remained on the active roster even when he was clearly unable to perform at a high level.

Of course in 2005 Salmon was never healthy, partly due to waiting so long to have the surgery he kept putting off the year before. The Angels missed the playoffs in 2006, Salmon’s last year.

In 2004 the Red Sox were such a powerhouse and seemingly a team of destiny, so it’s difficult to imagine that one player could have made much difference. And there’s not much anyone could do against the four straight complete games from White Sox pitchers.

But it’s hard not to wonder what Salmon’s patience and calm demeanor would have meant to the Angels, especially in the aftermath of the infamous Josh Paul play.

Many great players have worn an Angels uniform. Many were past their prime by the time they got there. Some were gone before they reached their prime. A few even played for the Angels during their prime.

But when you talk about the Angels, one name stands out above all others. Salmon, but you can call him Tim.


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