Nava/Gentry and Two Angel Platoons that Actually Worked


Instead of making every Angel fan’s dream come true this past off-season by signing one of the premium free agent left fielders to fill up the Halo roster’s largest pot hole, owner Arte Moreno decided to go for the cheap patch and sign outfielders Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry, both coming off of injury filled, low performance seasons to platoon in left field.  Well, the heat and traffic of the grueling season finally wore away at this patch and the Angels designated for assignment both Nava and Gentry, exposing once again the pot hole that sits out there in left field.

In 59 games this season, Nava and Gentry had combined to hit one home run, have just 15 RBI, and post a lowly .293 on-base percentage.  It was a platoon hampered by injuries and ultimately done in by less than expected performance when they were in the lineup.

So this was a bust.  But there were two occasions when the Angels tried out a platoon, and it worked extremely well.

The first was in 1962, in the second year of the Angels’ existence.  The Angels had the wildly popular Steve Bilko to play first base for them, but at this stage of his career, he was mostly successful only against left-handed pitchers, so manager Bill Rigney penciled him in every time the Halos faced one.  The man Rigney put in the lineup at first base when the Seraphs faced a right-handed pitcher was Lee Thomas, a slugging youngster who came in third in Rookie of the Year voting the season before.  The veteran Bilko and the young Thomas packed quite a punch for the Angels at first base that season.  They combined to hit 25 home runs, have 93 RBI, score 75 runs, and post a terrific .379 OBP to help the Angels chase the Yankees all summer long for the the American League pennant.

The other platoon the Angels had that paid impressive dividends was the George Hendrick/Ruppert Jones combination of 1986 in right field.  Both were older players nearing the end of their careers, but manager Gene Mauch mixed and matched these two perfectly to get the most out of the right field position that season.  Hendrick and Jones combined to hit 25 home runs, have 75 RBI, score 90 runs, and post a .331 OBP while manning the number nine spot on the field.  Not only did they produce on the offensive side of their game, but they came through defensively for the Angels all season long as well.  They combined to have ten assists, and if they had been one person, that would have been good for third best in the league behind only Jesse Barfield and Harold Baines.

Hendrick and Jones’ efforts as the right field platoon helped the Angels win 92 games that year and secure their third AL West division title in eight years.

So although Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry fell a little flat this season as platoon mates in left field, sometimes there is a little magic to be had in a platoon situation.

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