Sunday, October 31, 2004

"Troy Glaus is a monster."

The listener was me; the speaker had been a high school classmate and teammate of mine, one of two that were playing baseball for UCLA (this one didn't really make it; the other one lettered for two years and then left the team to pursue football only, in which he was a starter and has been bouncing around NFL practice squads for a couple of years).

It was fall, 1996; my classmate and I were freshmen. Troy Glaus would be drafted the following June by the Angels.

I hadn't followed UCLA baseball for a couple of years at this point, though I had in the early 90s, so this was the first time I had heard of him. It was odd to witness the star of your high school team speak in awe of another player. Right away, I knew Troy Glaus was something special. Over the course of that year, I read of Glaus' exploits, and was ecstatic when the Bruin shortstop was drafted by my team. How often do you get a chance to root for you college and your pro team simultaneously?

Being a large, powerful man, the Angels immediately moved him to thirdbase, which was fine, especially because he was represented by Doug DeCinces, great Angel of yore -- Glaus, at the time, was dating DeCinces' daughter (his son, Tim, was a catcher on the Bruin baseball team). I remember DeCinces in the booth for an inning of an Angel telecast that year, praising Glaus, predicting great things. Unsurprisingly, Glaus ripped through the minors.

Do y'all remember Troy's first major league at-bat? It was against Bret Saberhagen, another local boy that I liked (and one I have met). In one of Bill James' old books, he wrote about how Sabes would always, early in a game, set a right-handed batter on his ass by coming up and in in a threatening, yet safe, way.

Sure enough, the first pitch Glaus saw in the majors was up at his shoulders and knocked him down. The next pitch was a breaking pitch down and away; Glaus knocked it down the rightfield line for a double. Right away, he demonstrated that he wasn't going to be intimidated, and that he was a force to be reckoned with.

Sure, he did struggle for the rest of that cup of coffee, in 1998. He was a little bit better the next year, and then in 2000 broke out -- he homered, he walked, he was better than Cats. He's never really matched that season, but he has obviously been very productive since then.

We also saw him at his best in the 2002 post-season, hitting 344/420/770 in 16 games, knocking in possibly the two biggest runs of the season, or maybe even the biggest runs in the history of the Angels (it certainly is arguable, but the Game 6 double off Robb Nen has to be on the short list).

When he first was coming up, I said that his upside was Mike Schmidt (which is some upside), and his downside was Matt Williams. So far, he's been somewhere in between -- in fact, check out his Top 10 comparables through age 27 listed at BB-ref. He's been a fine player, and the only real limitation on his value will be if his shoulder doesn't allow him to play third base anymore. I'm sad to see him go, as an Angel fan and a Bruin; it's never easy to see the only World Series MVP in the franchise's history be shown the door at age 28.

Hopefully, he won't end up on some team I hate. So fare thee well, Troy, Angel fans will always be grateful, and wish you the best of luck.

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