The Angels finished the regular season with a record of 99-63, 4 games behind the Oakland Athletics in the American League West standings, but qualified for the franchise's first ever Wild Card playoff berth to return to the postseason for the first time since 1986. Outfielder Garret Anderson led the team with 123 runs batted in and a .539 slugging percentage, was selected for the AL All-Star team, and won the Silver Slugger Award. Jarrod Washburn went 18-6 with a 3.15 earned run average to anchor a pitching staff that allowed the fewest runs in the league.
2002 was also notable as the season in which the Angels debuted their present-day uniforms, colors, and halo insignia, which replaced the widely ridiculed "periwinkle" uniforms and "winged" insignia they had worn since 1997. It was also the last full season the team was owned by The Walt Disney Company, which sold its controlling interest in the team to present-day owner Arte Moreno in May 2003.
February 7, 2002: Clay Bellinger was signed as a Free Agent with the Anaheim Angels.
July 31, 2002: Alex Ochoa was traded by the Milwaukee Brewers with Sal Fasano to the Anaheim Angels for players to be named later and Jorge Fábregas. The Anaheim Angels sent Johnny Raburn (minors) (August 14, 2002) and Pedro Liriano (September 20, 2002) to the Milwaukee Brewers to complete the trade.
With their win on Mon. September 26, 2002, the Angels clinched their first (and only to date as of 2010) Wildcard berth. At this time, the Angels would be in the postseason for the first time since the 1986 season.
The 2002 American League Division Series featured the Wildcard winner Anaheim Angels and the AL East champion New York Yankees. The series began on October 1, 2002 with the Angels splitting the first two games at Yankee Stadium. The Angels then proceeded to win the next two games, earning their ticket to the ALCS and winning their first postseason series in franchise history.
The series was notable as being the first (and as of 2011 only) time since the 1995 inception of the wild card in Major League Baseball that two wild card teams would vie for the title. It was also the fourth World Series played between two teams from California (after 1974, 1988, and 1989, when the Giants last went to the World Series), and the first such series to not include the Oakland Athletics. It was also the last Series to be played in a full seven games until 2011.
The American League champion had home field advantage during the World Series.
Note: Major League Baseball's playoff format automatically seeds the Wild Card team 4th. Normally, the No. 1 seed plays the No. 4 seed in the Division Series. However, MLB does not allow the No. 1 seed to play the 4th seed/Wild Card winner in the Division Series if they are from the same division, instead having the No. 1 seed play the next lowest seed, the No. 3 seed.