Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Darin Erstad

Pending his physical, Darin Erstad is off to the White Sox. Part of sort of doesn't care, considering I may not be able to watch much baseball next year, and though I could watch the White Sox fairly often, doing so, which requires listening to Hawk Harrelson and Darin Jackson, would probably result in me being forced to blow my brains out. So chances are that's not going to happen.

Still, there's no denying Darin Erstad's place in Angels lore. In 2000, he put together one of the finest seasons in Angels history, hitting .355/.409/.541 with 25 homers, 39 doubles, and an amazing 100 RBIs from the lead off spot. In that season, against the Yankees, he provided one the most memorable moments in the team's regular season history when he saved the game by making an amazing catch in left field in the bottom of the tenth before slamming the eventual game winning home run in the top of the 11th (props to Mo Vaughn, whose two out, three run homer off of Mariano Rivera in the top of the ninth sent the game into extra innings).

But no single at bat was ever as important as his eighth inning lead off home run in game six of the 2002 World Series against the Giants. The Angels had already cut a five run lead to three in the previous inning. But they still had a two run deficit to contend with, and with one swing of the bat, Erstad crushed a 1-1 change-up over the right field wall, and gave everyone just a little more hope. I want go so far as to say it gave the outcome an air of inevitability, but suddenly the Angels trailed by one with the heart of the lineup coming up against a depleted Giants bullpen.

His enduring image in an Angels uniform? For me, it would have to be watching him settle in under Kenny Lofton's fly ball to right center that ended the 2002 World Series. 29 years of Angels fandom (for me, anyway), culminated in that one moment.

It's a cliche to say that Erstad was "scrappy" or "a gamer", but honestly, I can think of very few players who fit that description better. There was a never a time when he gave less than everything he had. He rotated between three different positions, winning gold gloves at two of them, because that's what the team asked him to do. Not every major leaguer would do that. And players like that are invaluable because sometimes you need that flexibility to move pieces around the guys who can't or won't move.

Darin Erstad, along with Tim Salmon, epitomized the 2002 Angels. He'll always be remembered fondly by Angels fans, not only for the way he represented the Angels on the field, but off the field as well. I wish him luck on the South Side.

1 comment:

Jaun beniquez said...

With the Matthews Jr. signing there was just no room for Erstad anymore. Unfortunately sometimes you lose quality individuals when you upgrade.