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Farewell Garret Anderson

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By Peter Karl/Special to LAist

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim great and Southern California native Garret Anderson has called the curtain on his 17-year playing career after being unable to find work as a 38 year-old free agent.

‘Wait, Garret Anderson played 17 years of Major League Baseball?’ Yes. And don’t be ashamed if you only remember a handful of them.

Growing up in Los Angeles as a three star athlete at Kennedy High School in Grenada Hills, Anderson’s natural baseball ability was undeniable at a young age. He was drafted by the California Angels out of high school in 1990 and made his big league debut at age 22 in 1994. He played almost his entire career in front of his hometown fans. But that still didn’t make him a crowd pleaser.

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A baseball fan’s heart sings for passionate antics. In Boston, Red Sox Nation adores a goateed loud mouth named Kevin Youkilis for his fiery attitude and blazing temper. In Baltimore, the bubbly Vladimir Guerrero, Anderson’s former Angel teammate, will be loved like he his everywhere he plays because of the perpetual smile he constantly shines on the field. Garret Anderson, on the other hand, was never like these guys, nor did he want to be. He hardly smiled. He never lost his temper. He just did his job, very quietly, and very well.

He was best known for his natural ability to hit to the gaps. Anderson had a beautifully effortless swing. Dodger fans will remember the smooth stroke of Robin Ventura and any baseball fan knows the seamless uppercut of Ken Griffey, Jr. Combine the two, and you have the silky left-handed swing of Garret Anderson. With the Angels, Anderson never posted a batting average below .280. He made fantasy baseball owners drool on their keyboards.

Although he didn’t end his career there, Anderson hangs up his cleats in the Anaheim clubhouse where essentially authors the offensive records book. Over 15 seasons with the Halos, Anderson holds the club records for hits (2,368), RBI (1,292), runs (1,024), doubles (489), total bases (3,743), games played (2,013) and at-bats (7,989). But for Anderson, who is known his humble, classy character, it was never about individual achievement. His three All-Star selections (’02, ’03, 05), two Silver Slugger awards (’02, ’03), and All-Star Game MVP award (’03) take a backseat to the World Series Championship Anderson helped the Angels win in 2002.

“As far as my proudest achievement, it couldn’t be anything I’ve done individually because I couldn’t share it with my teammates,” Anderson told MLB.com, “The World Series is definitely something I’m most proud of because there’s a lot of good players I know who never got a chance to play for one. So that’s one of the things I hold near and dear because I got to experience that with 24 other guys.”

As you digest his servings of humble pie, recall two of Anderson’s most memorable personal moments. If you’re an Angel fan, these should not be forgotten.

  • In 2003, Anderson used the All-Star game as his personal showcase. He stunned baseball by winning the Home Run Derby with 22 home runs and beating Albert Pujols in the final round. The next night, he helped the American League defeat the National League 7-6 and was named the All-Star game MVP.
  • On August 21, 2007, Anderson became just the 13th player to record 10 RBI’s in a game, including a grand slam and a three run home run. The Angels pounded the NY Yankees 18-9.
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Nonetheless, Anderson’s ultra-calm demeanor made him a polarizing figure amongst Angel fans. His consistency was appreciated, but his haters found his relaxed playing style frustrating to root for. Anderson prompted a heated debate over the Angel’s faithful: Professional or Passionless?
Evidently, Anderson recognized this misunderstanding and responded to it in the press release announcing his retirement last week:

“To the Angel fans, I want to apologize for being somewhat difficult to read at times and thank you for your support even still.”

Angels manager Mike Scioscia even reflected on Anderson’s tranquil approach to baseball, "Garret was an incredible player, one with a calm demeanor and quiet confidence that allowed him to excel in this game," he said.

It also cannot be ignored that Anderson had one major downfall to his game. He had an uncanny ability to avoid taking ball four. Anderson was notorious for his lack of plate discipline resulting in an awful career walk rate of 4.7 percent. In the long history of Major League Baseball, 256 players have amassed at least 8,000 plate appearances in MLB history. In that group, Anderson ranks 251st in walk rate. It’s a stupefying statistic, but it’s not enough to deny him entrance to the Angels Hall of Fame one day.

Garret Anderson can still walk proudly away from the game, even though he can’t say he did the same on the field.