Today’s Random Player From The Baseball Project That May Or May Not Amount To Anything is Tim Salmon. Salmon was originally drafted out of high school in the 18th round by the Atlanta Braves in 1986. He opted to go to Grand Canyon University instead and three years later was drafted again, this time in the third round by the California Angels. Ten picks later another really good player was taken – John Olerud. Other players of note in that draft: Frank Thomas (seventh overall), Charles Johnson (10th), Mo Vaughn (23rd), and Chuck Knoblauch (25th).
After getting his feet wet in the big leagues in 1992 he was the everyday right fielder for the Angels. In 1993 he hit .283/.382/.536 with 31 homers and won the Rookie of the Year Award unanimously (the vote in the NL was also unanimous, with Mike Piazza taking the honors).
In 1995 the Angels surprised many. The previous year they were 21 games below .500 before the strike and not much was expected out of any team in the division. But the Angels got off to a strong start and were 20-13 after May and went into the All-Star break tied for first in the AL West. The came out of the break on fire, winning 17 of 20 games after the break and after a 5-4 win against Seattle on August 2 they held an 11 game lead in the division. The lead seemed big enough that Angels manager Marcel Lachemann actually announced his postseason rotation before the calendar turned to September. On August 16 they still held a 10 ½ game lead on the division, but trouble was brewing. The Mariners had just gotten their young star Ken Griffey Jr. back from the disabled list after fracturing his wrist. Combining his return with Edgar and Tino Martinez, Jay Buhner, and the left arm of Randy Johnson the Mariners were ready to go the opposite direction the Angels were heading. On September 1 the day started with the Mariners 7 ½ games behind the Angels. The Mariners went 20-9 from that day until the end of the season, including the one-game playoff for the division title while the Angels were just 24-34 after July. The playoff game started innocently enough, but in the bottom of the seventh the wheels came off for the Angels. The Mariners loaded the bases with two out and then Luis Sojo shattered his bat. The ball was fair and somehow got by J.T. Snow and went into the Angels bullpen. Salmon gathered the ball and tossed it into Mark Langston who attempted to throw out a hustling Joey Cora. Langston’s throw went to the backstop and Sojo scored, making the score 5-0. Seattle added four more runs in the eighth and the Angels’ collapse was complete. The Angels go six more seasons without postseason play, but they finally did win the pennant in 2002, ultimately taking the World Series from the San Francisco Giants in seven games. In Game 6 the Angels trailed 5-0 in the seventh and things were looking bleak. Then Scott Spezio hit a three run homer in the seventh then after Darrin Erstadt homered in the eighth, Salmon singled to represent the tying run. He was pinch ran for and after a another single Troy Glaus launched a double to the wall in left center and the Angels had the lead. They won the game and the series. It’s also the last time the Halos have been to the Fall Classic.
Injuries would start to take their toll on Salmon as after 2003 he would only play 136 more games. Salmon currently sits second all-time in games played for the Angels. He’s the team’s all-time homerun leader and also leads in walks. His OBP, slugging percentage, and OPS all place third in franchise history. I’ve been including my Hall of Fame Rating with these players to give a sense where they stand. Salmon’s is 49.06. My baseline is 60.00, so obviously Salmon falls short, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he was a fine player. Overall in 14 years he hit .282/.385/.498 for a 128 OPS+, and though he never made an all-star team, he did twice finish in the top ten of the MVP voting.