LA Angels: Where Are The Angels Now 2002 Edition
Game Seven of the 2002 World Series was the day I fell in love with the LA Angels. Such a perfect script, the star-studded Giants against the never-say-die Angels. Even today, “Erstad says he has it!” sends chills down my spine. Those guys were my heroes. So where are our heroes today? Here’s a little update on some of our boys in red.
Darin Erstad- The Heart
Erstad was one of the most vital pieces of the LA Angels 2002 team. His relentless effort and willingness to do anything for the team gave hope no matter what the score was. Diving, sliding, and sprinting all over the field, Erstad played the game how it should be played. It was so fitting to see him catch the final out.
Erstad has stuck with what he is good at. He has been coaching at his alma mater the University of Nebraska since 2011 (head coach since 2012). He was an All-American outfielder at Nebraska, but also was the punter for their football team, winning a national championship with the 1994 team.
Erstad has an overall record with176 wins and 117 losses. He has taken his team to the NCAA Regional rounds twice in five years but has failed to advance past that round so far. His team has also yet to win the Big 10 Conference, but they been runner-ups three times during Erstad’s tenure.
Erstad was one of few candidates for the Dodgers’ head coaching position last offseason. However, Erstad chose to stay in Nebraska instead of pursuing the chance at coaching a major league club.
“For what I feel in my gut and my heart (about) what’s right for my family, it’s why I moved back here, to raise our kids in Lincoln, Nebraska,” Erstad said to local reporters after making his decision. “I love the sun going down and hearing the kids in the neighborhood, the basketballs bouncing, kids playing tag in the dark. That has a lot of value to me. I grew up with that. I want my kids to grow up with that.”
Forever wearing red; whether he’s in Anaheim or Nebraska. Erstad has stayed in touch with the game, and has always been and always will be that small town boy we love.
John Lackey- The Rookie
John Lackey is one of two players from the 2002 team to still be playing in the majors (the other being relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez). In fact, Lackey is back in the Fall Classic with the Chicago Cubs. However, his role could not be more different.
In 2002, Lackey was the rookie stud rookie who the team had complete faith in. Now, he is the Cubs’ fourth starter is not valued for his on-the-field production. Now, he is valued for his veteran presence in the clubhouse. Lackey has won two World Series titles, and he has pitched both series-clinching games. With youngster Kyle Hendricks getting the call for the Cubs in Game 7 tonight, you can bet your bottom dollar he will be taking in any and all advice Lackey can throw his way.
Whether the Cubs win or lose Game 7, this could very well be the end of the road for Lackey. He is 38 years old, and did recieve Tommy John surgery in 2012. Still a solid back-of-rotation player, Lackey may be able to hurl through one final season to play out his contract with the Cubs. Even with his age going up, he has been able to keep his ERA low enough. Lackey also became the sixteenth player in MLB history to record a win against every major league team after defeating the Cardinals this season.
Whether Lackey goes out on top with a third ring or grinds through one final season, it has been a fine career for the young stud from Texas. Hopefully, he has done enough to receive some votes for the Hall of Fame.
Garret Anderson and Tim Salmon- The Veterans
Anderson and Salmon are perhaps two of the most iconic Angels of this century. Anderson and the original Mr. Fish both played for the Angels for a handful of years after the World Series. Anderson was released in 2008, and Salmon retired an Angel in 2006.
Anderson went on to play for the Braves and eventually the Dodgers as a reserve outfielder. He would be released later in the season. He has been inducting into the Angels’ Hall of Fame while receiving one vote for the MLB Hall of Fame.
Salmon retired with a plethora of Angels’ records in 2006. He is the clubs all-time leader in homeruns, runs scored, walks, and slugging percentage. His number 15 has not been retired by the Angels, but no player has worn it since Salmon’s final game for the Halos.
Tim Salmon also founded the Tim Salmon Foundation. This is Salmon’s way of assisting charities who help abused and at-risk children in the Orange County area, along with faith-based organizations. The charity hosts an annual golf tournament as well. Many current and former Halos participate yearly, swinging a club instead of a bat.
The two players rank atop the Angels’ all-time RBI leaderboard, with Salmon ranking second to only Anderson. Both also continue to work for the Halos. They have joined the pregame and postgame crew for home games, sometimes also traveling with the team.
Troy Percival- The Closer
“We were just thrilled [about taking the lead in Game 6] because we knew we had Percy coming on in the ninth,” shortstop David Eckstein said in a documentary about the 2002 season. Percival was perhaps the most consistent player on the Angels 2002 team.
The team’s closer since the 1996 season, Percival had his best season as a closer in 2002. He had 40 saves, a 1.92 ERA, and had 68 strikeouts. This carried over into the postseason, where he was completely dominant. Percival went 7 for 7 in save opportunities throughout the postseason, which was absolutely vital given the Angels’ comeback mentality the entire season.
Much like Erstad, Percival would bounce around the league for a few more seasons, only to retire in 2005 (and again in 2009 after a comeback attempt). Percival spent time with the Angels’ as a special assignment pitching coach. That only lasted a short period of time though, as he requested his contract to be voided so he could attempt a comeback to the league.
Once Percival called it quits for good, he began working as a volunteer pitching coach for Riverside Polytechnic High School. In 2012, he accepted the role of head varsity coach at his alma mater Moreno Valley High School. After two years there, he signed on with the University of California Riverside as their head coach.
He has not seen the same success Erstad has though. Percival has coached his team to a 41-69 record the past two years (16-32 in conference play). However, the program has seen a small turnaround as the team went 12-12 in Big West Conference play, good enough for fourth in the conference.
Percival will forever been a Halo legend. Although he was not a lifer like Salmon, any closer pitching for the Angels knows who’s shoes they must fill, and how big those shoes are.
Players make good seasons. Coaches turn those good seasons into great ones. The coaching staff for the 2002 Angels churned out 3 future big league managers. Mike Scioscia was able to keep the Angels competitive for the next decade, even with the talent from the 2002 team leaving fairly quickly.
Scioscia would lead the team to five American League West titles in the next six years. While the past two years have been dreadful, Scioscia has kept the Angels competitive for most of his tenure. His future may be in doubt, but two years of bad baseball does not mean Scioscia does not deserve his due diligence.
Pitching coach Bud Black would continue being one of the best in the league at his job. He stayed with the Angels until 2006. Then, in 2006, Black was one of the top candidates for head coaching positions around the league.
He interviewed with the Giants, but would eventually end up signing with the San Diego Padres. He spent eight seasons with the Padres before being fired 65 games into the 2015 season. His peak as a manager was in 2010, when he won the National League Manager of the Year Award. Black now works as a special assistant to Angels’ general manager Billy Eppler.
Ron Roenicke served as the Angels’ third base coach from 2000-2006. He would stay with the team as a base coach and bench coach until 2010, when he accepted the manager job from the Milwaukee Brewers.
His first season was an amazing success, as he lead the Brewers to a 96-66 record along with the NL Central title, their first in 29 years. His success would not last though, as the club went downhill over the next two years. After starting the season 7-18, Roenicke was released. He was signed as the Dodgers’ third base coach later in 2015, but would end up back in Anaheim as the third base coach in 2016.
Bench coach Joe Maddon has undoubtedly been the most successful of the crew. He has led the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series in nearly seventy years, and is on the cusp of winning their first since 1908. He spent 31 years in the Angels’ organization as a player and coach. In 2006, he landed his first manager job in 2006, when he accepted an offer from the Tampa Bay Rays.
With a manager always selling top players for top prospects, Maddon had a 754-705 record. After leaving Tampa Bay in 2014, he signed on with the young, promising Chicago Cubs. World Series favorites each of the past two years, he has finally capitalized and reached his first World Series. The Cubs are young and arguably have the best manager in the game, so a Maddon dynasty could be in the making.
The Rest of the Bunch
While the 2002 team did have its share of stars, the rest of the team was just as valuable. David Eckstein, the kid shortstop who overcame so many struggles growing up (his book Have Heart is a tremendous read for any baseball fan) played for the Angels until 2004.
He then signed with the St. Louis Cardinals where he won another World Series ring, along with the World Series MVP award. After starting off poor in the first two games, Eckstein would go on to hit 7 for 11 with 4 RBI’s and scored 3 runs in the rest of the series. Eckstein would then go on to play for a few more teams, retiring in 2012. He now works with his wife Ashley in Florida.
2002 World Series MVP Troy Glaus would play with they Angels until 2004. He always provided an enormous boost of power in the Angels’ lineup, but concerns of health made the Angels resist resigning him. Glaus would play for a handful of teams until 2010, when he would retire from baseball after a disappointing final season with the Atlanta Braves. He has since stayed away from baseball, residing with his wife and son in Florida.
The three run homerun Scott Spiezio hit in Game 6 of the World Series is what changed momentum permanently in the Angels’ favor. However, Spiezio’s career would begin to decline after his tenure with the Angels ended. He had the worst two seasons of his career with the Seattle Mariners, then attempted a comeback with the St. Louis Cardinals. He never was more than a reserve player, but he did win a second ring in 2006 with Eckstein, Percival, and Jim Edmonds. He eventually suffered from substance abuse in 2007, and never was able to make a comeback from that.
The great Angels team of 2002 will never be forgotten. They have all taken different paths all over the country, but their hearts still belong to Anaheim.
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