Selecting Oakland Athletics' All-Time Dream Team

Nick HouserCorrespondent IIApril 17, 2013

Selecting Oakland Athletics' All-Time Dream Team

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    If the Oakland Athletics put together a dream team of the best player they've ever had at each position, who would start on that team? Some of the answers might surprise you.

    The Athletics have called Oakland home since 1968. In the last 45 years, this franchise has won four World Series titles and finished at the top of their division 15 times. A total of 12 men who have played in Oakland are now in the Hall of Fame. The A's retired the numbers of five of those 12 men.

    The organization is rich with history.

    It's difficult to put a list such as this together because of such a remarkable and successful timeline. The dynasty of the 1970s was consistent, winning three World Series in a row. The late '80s team had plenty of names, but won just one World Series ring. Then there's the team of the early 2000s, stockpiled with young up-and-comers who, though they didn't win much in the postseason, will still go down as some of the greatest.

    This dream team reflects all three eras.

     

    All statistics provided courtesy of Baseball-reference.com.

Criteria

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    Let's clear one thing up to start: to be on this list, you must have been a member of the Oakland Athletics. The Philadelphia and Kansas City versions have been omitted.

    So you won't see Jimmie Foxx on this list.

    Secondly, a player had to have spent considerable time in Oakland. Here I'm defining "considerable" as at least three years.

    So you won't see Johnny Damon in center field.

    Third, with the exception of DH, you must be listed as and have played the majority of your career in the designated position.

    So while fans in 2008 may have voted Joe Rudi as one of the best A's outfielders of all time, his natural position is left field, so he won't appear as the all-time center fielder.

Catcher: Terry Steinbach

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    Also considered: Gene Tenace

    Picking the all-time best Oakland A's catcher is a very difficult task.

    On the one hand, you have Terry Steinbach. An extremely consistent hitter, you knew exactly what you'd get from Steinbach. During 11 years with Oakland, he hit a combined .275 with 132 home runs (12 per year average). The guy modeled consistency.

    On the other hand, you have Tenace, who played in Oakland for eight years. "Fury Gene" is a tricky pick, simply because he played inconsistently in those first four years, then exploded the last four. For example, he averaged 50 games between 1969-72. Over the next four years he played in at least 158 games, three out of four times—as a catcher.

    His home runs were in the mid-20s. He walked over 100 times. He produced around 70 RBI per year.

    So, do you take the consistent guy with decent pop, or the workhorse with power and a good eye?

    I couldn't decide, so I dug deeper.

    Looking at defense, it's still very close. Tenace held a .986 fielding percentage and caught runners 36 percent of the time. Steinbach's fielding percentage at catcher checks in at .989. He too caught base stealers 36 percent of the time.

    How about the fact that Tenace won three World Series rings and Steinbach only earned one?

    That should be somewhat relevant, but check out the postseason batting of both men—Tenace hit .158 to Steinbach's .281.

    Realistically, you can't go wrong with either guy, but in this case we'll go with Steinbach because you know exactly what you're going to get—consistency.

First Base: Mark McGwire

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    Also considered: Jason Giambi

    Pull up both men's stats side-by-side and you might be shocked to find how similar they are.

    Mark McGwire is a Rookie of the Year award winner. Giambi finished 2000 as league MVP.

    In 12 years with Oakland, McGwire averaged 96 hits, 30 home runs, 78 RBI, 71 walks and 87 strikeouts. He left Oakland with a career .260 average.

    Giambi only spent eight years in Oakland, but averaged 138 hits, 25 home runs, 89 RBI, 80 walks and 84 strikeouts per year. He maintained a .300 average with the A's.

    Overall, Giambi produced better.

    So why take McGwire here? Well, first of all, as you'll see, we're not done with Giambi yet. McGwire mans first because of his glove. His .993 fielding percentage at first is only a tick higher than Giambi's, but Big Mac does have one Gold Glove to show for his efforts.

Second Base: Mark Ellis

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    Others considered: Dick Green

    Surprised?

    Check out the all-time roster of Athletics players and, outside of Green, you won't find more continuity at second than Mark Ellis. In less time, however, Ellis did more.

    Ellis beats out Green in nearly every category, and Ellis had four years less to do so.

    Now throw in Ellis' glove.

    His ho-hum defense ranks him second among active second basemen in fielding percentage with a .991 average. That same number gives him the fourth-best fielding percentage of all second basemen throughout history. Perhaps his single-season record breaking .997 mark in 2006 helped.

    He wasn't flashy. He rarely ever even talked. But he sure can play ball.

Shortstop: Miguel Tejada

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    Others considered: Bert Campaneris

    Here's another position you really can't pick incorrectly. It really depends on if you're a purist or a historian, or if you simply want the best no matter the circumstances.

    When the A's transferred from Kansas City to Oakland, Campaneris manned shortstop. He spent nine of his best years in California's Bay Area, in addition to another four years with the Kansas City A's.

    Campy kept a batting average around .270 year in and year out. Minus one year of 22 home runs, he never overwhelmed in the power department. Still, he garnered a ton of hits and then consistently stole between 40-60 bases per year. Campaneris' name always managed to make its way into the top 30 of the MVP discussion.

    How can you outdo that?

    Well, Miguel Tejada finished a season in the top 20 in MVP races seven times, four with the A's. In 2002, Miggy earned Most Valuable Player honors.

    Tejada didn't steal nearly as many bases as Campaneris did, but he gained more hits, had more power and drove in more runs.

    It's worth noting that there are clouds over Tejada's legacy. He has admitted to HGH use. So again, if you're a purist and want to throw out all admitted cheaters, Campaneris is your guy. If you're the type of fan who believes that everyone throughout history, or at least specifically in the Steroid Era, is a cheat, then Tejada is the best shortstop Oakland has ever seen.

Third Base: Sal Bando

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    Others considered: Eric Chavez, Carney Lansford

    Man, how do you pick this one?

    Lansford came to Oakland in his prime and hit over .300 three times. He also played in 145 games or more five times. The guy consistently racked up the hits, had decent power and produced quality RBI and stolen bases.

    It's difficult to breeze over Chavez's six-consecutive Gold Glove awards.

    In his glory years (2000-06), Chavez averaged just under 30 home runs and 100 RBI per season. Between that kind of production and power, combined with the defense, Chavez stands as one of the greatest third baseman to don green and gold. 

    Bando slides in over both though, barely. Maintaining a healthier career, Bando suited up in 150 games or more eight times with Oakland. He played in 160 games or more four times. He averaged a ton more RBI, home runs and walks per season than Lansford and was just under Chavez's production.

    A four-time All Star with Oakland, Bando has finished a season No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 in MVP discussions. Gold Gloves are great, but three top-five MVP finishes is fantastic.

Left Field: Ricky Henderson

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    Others considered: None

    Be honest. Is there a discussion here?

    Rickey Henderson's Baseball-reference.com page yields dozens of records.

    He's a Hall of Famer. He's a 10-time All Star. He won the AL MVP in 1990 and finished in the top 10 five other times. He finished a single season in the top five for wins above replacement (WAR) seven times.

    Furthermore, Henderson owns the record for most runs scored (2,295) and the second-most walks (2,190). Oh yes, and he stole a ton of bases too (a record 1,406).

    According to the A's website, the Man of Steal is the franchise leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, walks, total bases, stolen bases and seasons with the franchise.

    Conversation over.

Center Field: Dave Henderson

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    Others considered: Tony Armas, Dwayne Murphy

    Each of these three men bring different qualities to the table.

    In his last three season, Armas acquired tons of power, boosting all of his home run and RBI numbers. But his batting average is, well, very average.

    Murphy is the consistent batter of the three. With a good eye, he walked more often than the others and struck out less often per at-bat. His average hovered around .250, his home runs around 20.

    Dave Henderson spent only four years in Oakland, but he made the most of them.

    Hendu averaged more hits, runs, doubles, home runs and RBI then the other two mentioned above. He walked less and he struck out more, but overall he hit .275 while with the A's. Overall, he's your stereotypical A's player—a 20 home run hitter who strikes out often.

Right Field: Reggie Jackson

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    Others considered: None

    Just like Rickey Henderson in left field, there's no better hands-down greatest of all time right fielder than Reggie Jackson.

    To rattle off some quick stats on Jackson, he received MVP votes in seven of his 10 years with Oakland, winning the title in 1973. That year he led the league in runs, home runs, RBI, slugging percentage and OPS. In his best years with the A's, he averaged 32 home runs and 91 RBI.

    Mr. October helped the A's win three consecutive World Series titles too.

Designated Hitter: Jason Giambi

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    Others considered: Jose Canseco, Dave Kingman

    Technically, Jason Giambi played first base. But this is the designated hitter we're talking about here, and it is the dream team after all.

    Giambi and Canseco are also somewhat similar. The biggest difference is that while Canseco averaged more home runs, Giambi walked 30 times more and struck out 40 times less.

    It's worth sacrificing five home runs per season in favor of less strike outs, more walks and a better batting average overall.

Starting Pitcher: Catfish Hunter

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    When Catfish Hunter left Oakland, he finished with a 161-113 record (.588 win percentage). Additionally, he amassed 21 wins or more in a five-year stretch between 1971-75.

    He's a Hall of Famer, All-Star, Cy Young award winner and three-time World Series champion.

Starting Pitcher: Vida Blue

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    Vida Blue joined the A's in 1969 as a 19-year-old rookie. Two years later, he won the Cy Young and the Most Valuable Player awards.

    During that campaign, he won 24 games, lost just eight and maintained a 1.82 ERA. He also struck out 301 batters, completed 24 games and pitched eight shutouts.

    But it wasn't a one and done for Blue.

    Not only would he be in the top 10 for the Cy Young award four more times, he also won 20 games or more two more times.

    With Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue going one and two, it's no wonder the A's won three straight World Series.

Starting Pitcher: Dave Stewart

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    What Catfish and Vida are to the early 70s A's teams, Dave Stewart is to the late 80s.

    A four-year stretch between 1987-90 will go down as the most memorable time for Stewart's stint with Oakland. During that period, he won 20 games or more every year. He also averaged 10 complete games—going the distance in a third of the games he started.

    It's the only time he's ever placed in Cy Young rankings, but he did it all four years (third, fourth, second and third, respectively).

Starting Pitcher: Tim Hudson

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    The only time Tim Hudson has earned less than double-digit wins in his entire career was in 2009. He only pitched in seven games total that year.

    In his rookie season with the A's, he earned an 11-2 record, placing him fifth in Rookie of the Year voting.

    He followed that up with a 20-6 record and second place in Cy Young voting. His overall 92-39 record as an Athletic is downright impressive.

    Not to mention Huddy claimed the designation of ace during the "Big Three" era.

Starting Pitcher: Ken Holtzman

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    Also considered: Barry Zito, Bob Welch, Mark Mulder

    The first four starters are clear. The fifth spot is a battle.

    These four pitchers are so similar that it's tough to give the nod to one. Unfortunately, there's no four-man rotation for one spot, so let's look at each of them side by side.

    Mulder, Zito and Welch averaged a record of 16-9 in their best years as an Athletic. All of them had an ERA between 3.50 and 3.92.

    Ken Holtzman on the other hand, averaged 19 wins per year. He wasn't a Cy Young winner like Zito or Welch, but he sure was a workhorse. While the others pitched around 200 innings per season, Holtzman racked up around 270. And in more innings per season, he kept his ERA lower (2.92).

    More innings, more wins, more effective ERA—Holtzman snags the last spot.

Closer: Dennis Eckersley

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    Others considered: Rollie Fingers

    Fingers and Dennis Eckersley are different (yet similar) in that Fingers nailed down his Hall of Fame career after leaving the A's while Eck's career took off once he arrived in Oakland.

    Between 1968-71, Fingers bounced around from starter to closer. Let's throw those numbers out.

    In five years as a solid closer, he averaged about 21 saves per year. His strikeout numbers are three times his walks, and he kept a solid 2.50 ERA in the span between 1972-76.

    From 1987-95, Eckersley averaged 36 saves, locking down over 40 four times.

    His efforts put him in the Cy Young and MVP discussions four times. In 1992, he won both awards as a 37-year-old closer, mind you.

    Take Eck as your all-time greatest closer and "settle" with Fingers as the setup man.