Oakland Athletics' All-Time 25-Man Roster

Benjy EgelCorrespondent IISeptember 11, 2013

Oakland Athletics' All-Time 25-Man Roster

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    The Oakland Athletics have a history of excellence, with four World Series trophies and 16 playoff seasons since moving from Kansas City in 1968. Along the way, a number of A's have become stars at O.Co Coliseum.

    Seven different Athletics have won the American League Most Valuable Player award, and five have won the Cy Young award. The best of the best form the A's all-time lineup, pitching staff and bullpen.

    Only players from the Oakland era were considered for the all-time roster. Players were ranked on how well they performed for the A's, so Hall of Famers like Billy Williams, who came over after a career with the Chicago Cubs, were disregarded.

Catcher: Terry Steinbach

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    Armed with a rocket behind the plate, Steinbach threw out 44 percent of would-be base stealers in three different seasons. He was a three-time All Star, winning the game's MVP in 1988.

    Never considered much of a power hitter, Steinbach surprised the baseball world by crushing 35 home runs and driving in 100 runs at 34 years old. He hit .275 in 10-plus seasons with the A's.

    Nowadays, Steinbach's late power surge would draw questions of steroid use. But despite being on the same team as proven juicers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, he has never been connected to PEDs.

     

First Baseman: Jason Giambi

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    The A's shaggy-haired, menacing first baseman made pitchers fearful from the moment he stepped into the batter's box.

    Opposing hurlers couldn't pitch around Giambi because of his terrific plate discpline, but anything in the strike zone might end up over the fence.

    He absolutely killed American League pitching in 2001, slashing .342/.447/.660 while leading the league in walks and on base percentage for the second year in a row.

    Giambi hit more than 20 home runs in all six full seasons with the A's, spanning 1996-2001. He won the 2000 AL MVP with 43 homers, 137 RBI and a .333/.476/.647 batting line.

Second Baseman: Mark Ellis

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    Why Mark Ellis? Why not?

    Tony Phillips only became a star after joining the Detroit Tigers. Dickie Green batted above .270 only twice in Oakland. Ellis hit double-digit home runs in five consecutive seasons and slashed .316/.384/.477 in 2005.

    Green was considered a wizard with the glove, but Ellis' .990 fielding percentage with the A's trumps Green's .985 mark. Ellis led the majors in fielding percentage twice, including 2006 when he made just two errors in 632 chances.

Shortstop: Miguel Tejada

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    Juiced or not, Miggy's bat anchored the A's lineup in the early 2000s. He worked himself into the "League's best shortstop" conversation monopolized by Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

    Tejada won the 2002 MVP with 108 runs scored, 34 home runs and 131 RBI. Despite placing in the top 20 in MVP voting three other times, he never made another All-Star team because of the heavy competition at short.

    His defense never rivaled Ozzie Smith's, but Tejada's fielding percentage was always around .975, respectable for a shortstop.

Third Baseman: Eric Chavez

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    The A's have had a number of strong hitters at third, including Sal Bando and Carney Lansford. But neither Bando nor Lansford won six consecutive Gold Gloves in the hot corner.

    Chavez was arguably superior on offense as well. He hit at least 20 home runs every year from 2000-2006, and drew a league-high 95 walks in 2004 despite missing 37 games.

     

Left Fielder: Rickey Henderson

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    Who else but Rickey to man left?

    The greatest leadoff hitter to play the game spent 14 of his 25 major league seasons with the A's, leading the AL in stolen bases nine times.

    Rickey holds both the single-season and career records for stolen bases, won the 1990 AL MVP and has the most career runs scored in baseball.

    Something about playing for the A's brought out the best in Rickey. During his fourth tour with Oakland in 1998, he swiped 66 bases and drew a league-high 118 walks at the age of 39.

    Rickey's unmatched blend of power and speed at the top of the lineup earned him a spot in Cooperstown. His 2009 induction speech was humble and heartfelt, not the cocky, third-person dialogue fans were used to hearing.

Center Fielder: Dwayne Murphy

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    Murphy patrolled the outfield with Henderson for most of the 1980s, complementing Rickey's speed with his power. The Merced native hit 153 home runs with the A's, including 33 in 1984.

    While he could hold his own at the dish, Murphy was most valuable to the A's on defense. He won six consecutive Gold Gloves from 1980-1985 and threw out 14 runners in two seperate seasons.

    With Tejada at short, Chavez at third, Henderson in left and Murphy in center, the A's left side of the diamond would have a reserved spot in ESPN's Web Gems.

Right Fielder: Reggie Jackson

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    Reggie was a rare power threat in the "Pitcher's Era," where Hall of Fame hurlers like Jim Palmer, Gaylord Perry and Bert Blyleven sawed up American League bats.

    Since even slap hitters like Rod Carew had trouble getting on base, Reggie cut his losses and swung for the fences. He popped 253 home runs from 1968-1975, but also struck out 1,083 times, well on his way to the career record of 2,597 whiffs.

    In Reggie's second full season, he led the league in runs scored and OPS while blasting a career-high 47 home runs. He took home the 1973 MVP with a .293/.383/.531 slash line and 7.8 WAR.

Designated Hitter: Jose Canseco

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    Before the tell-all books and ridiculous Twitter account, there was Canseco the man, capable of depositing balls over the fence with one quick swing.

    When Canseco was 23 years old in 1988, he became the first player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in one season. He won the AL MVP with a career-high .307 batting average and .391 OBP, and led the league in slugging percentage, home runs and RBI.

    Canseco drove the A's to a 104-58 record in '88, 13 games above the second-place Minnesota Twins. He averaged over 37 home runs per year in seven-plus seasons with the A's.

Bench: Mark McGwire

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    McGwire stroked 217 home runs from 1987-1992, including a league-leading 49 bombs as a rookie. Injuries cost him most of two seasons, but he rebounded with 39 homers in 1995 and 52 in '96.

    A lack of contact is the only McGwire backs up Jason Giambi. While both hitters were skilled at drawing walks, McGwire's swing-from-the-heels approach resulted in a .260 batting average with Oakland.

    Big Mac could platoon with Giambi at first base against left-handers, like Brandon Moss and Nate Freiman on the current A's. If nothing else, he would be the first bat off the bench.

     

Bench: Joe Rudi

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    Rudi's performance and leadership were instrumental on the A's World Series runs. He hit a go-ahead home run in Game 2 of the 1972 Falls Classic, then robbed Denis Menke of a game-tying hit in the video above.

    Despite not having game-breaking speed, Rudi was great at stretching singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He was just as skilled at taking away extra-base hits, winning three straight Gold Gloves from 1974-76.

    As a two-time AL MVP runner-up, Rudi is a solid fourth outfielder for the A's all-time team.

Bench: Gene Tenace

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    Every team needs at least one backup catcher, and Tenace earned his spot with four 20-homer seasons from 1973-1976.

    Most casual fans remember Tenace for being the first player to hit home runs in his first two World Series at bats, or being part of Champ Kind's catchphrase in Anchorman.

    Thirty years before Billy Beane's obsession with walks, Tenace was working pitchers and getting on base any way he could. He had over 100 walks in three seasons with the A's, and hit .255 with a .395 OBP in 1975.

Bench: Bert Campaneris

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    Let Reggie, Giambi and Canseco swing for the fences. Campaneris' slash-and-run technique is a refreshing change of pace off the bench.

    The utility man led the AL in stolen bases three times with the A's, topping out at 62 swipes in 1968 and 1969. His home run total only reached double digits in 1970, when he hit 22 dingers.

    Campy's defensive versatility off the bench is more useful than another big bat. He famously played all nine positions in one game, and could fill any hole around the diamond.

Starting Pitcher: Vida Blue

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    Throughout his six-year reign atop the American League, there was no touching Vida Blue.

    Blue's league-best eight shutouts, 1.82 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 8.7 K/9 earned him the 1971 AL MVP in his first full season. He finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting in three other seasons with Oakland, and helped the A's win three consecutive World Series.

    Six years was not enough to vault Blue into the Hall of Fame, however. As mentioned in Reggie Jackson's slide, the early 70s were a pitcher's era, so Blue's stats must be taken with a grain of salt.

Starting Pitcher: Tim Hudson

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    If Hudson had a decent bullpen, he would be considered better than Curt Schilling. As ESPN's Mychael Urban reported, relievers squandered 26 potential wins in Huddy's five-plus years with the A's.

    Hudson has to settle for a 92-39 record with the A's, including a 31-8 start to his career. He peaked in 2003 with a 16-8 record, 2.70 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.5 WAR and fourth place in AL Cy Young voting.

    A pitcher who thrived in the Steroid Era, Hudson was the most consistent member of the Big Three. He led the AL in Quality Start Percentage in 2001 and 2003.

Starting Pitcher: Catfish Hunter

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    Hunter was money in the playoffs, going 7-2 with a 2.55 ERA in 12 starts for the A's. He and Vida Blue were baseball's best 1-2 punch the early 1970s.

    He began his Oakland career with a perfect game in 1968, and finished with the AL Cy Young in 1974 while leading the league in wins, ERA and WHIP.

    Hunter's video game-like accuracy paved the way for control pitchers like Greg Maddux. His love of strikes resulted in plenty of home runs, and Hunter shares the record for most gopher balls surrendered in an inning.

Starting Pitcher: Dave Stewart

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    After bouncing around in a number of relief roles, "Smoke" finally became a starter at the age of 29. He stayed atop the Athletics' rotation from 1986-1992, winning at least 20 games four times.

    During his four-year stretch of dominance, Stewart finished in the top four in Cy Young voting every season.

    Stewart had a knack for coming up big in key games, especially against Boston Red Sox enemy Roger Clemens. 

    Additionally, Stewart was a renowned tough guy who wasn't afraid to throw some punches. With Stewart, McGwire and Canseco ready to mix it up, the A's could hold their own in any fight.

Starting Pitcher: Ken Holtzman

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    Bob Welch or Mark Mulder could've taken the last spot in the rotation, but Holtzman gets the nod because of his postseason success. He went 4-1 with a 2.55 ERA in eight World Series games, and had four extra-base hits in 12 at bats.

    A Jewish lefty, Holtzman was always measured against Sandy Koufax. He never lived up to the unreasonably lofty hype, but Holtzman was a very good pitcher with the A's from 1972-75.

    Holtzman was actually better than Blue or Hunter in 1973, going 21-13 with a 2.97 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 5.4 WAR. He won 77 games in four years with the A's.

Long Reliever: Bob Welch

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    Welch came over from the Los Angeles Dodgers when he was 31, and won 61 games while leading the A's to three consecutive pennants from 1988-90.

    He was the best pitcher on the A's 103-win team in 1990, going 27-6 with a 2.95 ERA and taking home the AL Cy Young.

    So why doesn't Welch get a spot in the starting five? Simple: he wasn't good for long enough, and was never great. Welch never had a FIP below 3.46 with Oakland, and became an average pitcher immediately after winning the Cy.

Middle Reliever: Barry Zito

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    Lefty relievers are supposed to be a little funky, and Zito collected stuffed animals, skateboarded and traveled with a purple satin pillow while on the A's. Statistics aside, he fits the bill.

    Before his struggles with the San Francisco Giants, Zito was stifling opponents as a member of the Big Three. He won the 2002 AL Cy Young with a 23-5 record and 2.75 ERA.

    Zito and Mark Mulder had nearly identical stats for the A's, but Mulder was Type A personality who might chafe at a move to the bullpen. Oakland would use Zito primarily against lefties, where his reliance on breaking balls would be more effective than Mulder's heat.

Middle Reliever: Huston Street

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    Two months after making the majors in 2005, Street poached the closer's job from Octavio Dotel. He won Rookie of the Year by allowing five earned runs in 59.1 innings from April 23 to September 6.

    While Street had just 16 saves in 2007, he compiled a 2.88 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 11.3 K/9.

    Street suffered from a number of injuries with Oakland, and was ousted from the ninth inning by rookie Brad Ziegler in 2008. Still, three-plus seasons as the A's closer is an eternity in the age of Billy Beane's wheeling and dealing. 

Middle Reliever: Grant Balfour

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    The final chapter of Balfour's story with the Athletics has yet to be written. For now, he is a fiery anchor in the back of the bullpen.

    In three years in the A's bullpen, Balfour's ERA has hovered around 2.50. He began as Andrew Bailey's set-up man in 2011, took over as closer last year and had trouble keeping his job from Ryan Cook.

    At 35 years old, Balfour is completing his first full season as closer. He has 37 saves in 39 opportunities through September 10, and made his first All-Star team in July.

Middle Reliever: Jason Isringhausen

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    Trading Billy Taylor for Isringhausen was one of Beane's best moves. Once Izzy was freed from the pressure of "Generation K," he became a shutdown reliever.

    After joining the A's midway through 1999, Isringhausen had a 2.13 ERA and was named the A's closer down the stretch. He made his first All-Star team the next season, and twice shut down the New York Yankees in the ALDS.

Set-Up Man: Rollie Fingers

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    On nearly any other ballclub's all-time roster, Rollie Fingers would be penciled in as closer. On the A's, his responsibility is the eighth inning.

    Fingers pitched over 110 innings in all eight seasons with the Athletics, making four All-Star teams.

    Unlike modern closers Billy Koch and Andrew Bailey, Fingers got better after leaving the A's. In the strike-shortened 1981 season, he led the league with 28 saves while compiling a 1.04 ERA and 0.87 WHIP.

Closer: Dennis Eckersley

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    The best closer in history not named Mariano Rivera, Eckersley slammed the door for the A's from 1987-1995, finally leaving when he was 40 years old.

    Eck's WHIP was under 1.00 in five consecutive seasons, and he bagged the 1992 AL MVP with 51 saves, a 1.91 ERA and 10.5 K/9.

    He was even better in 1990, when the A's made it to the World Series before losing to the Reds. Eckersley's 48 saves, 0.61 ERA, 0.61 WHIP and 18.25 K/BB remain the gold standard for relief pitchers.

    For all of Eckersley's dominance, he occasionally had problems in the postseason. Everyone knows about Kirk Gibson's hobbling homer in the 1988 World Series, but Eck also served up key hits to Roberto Alomar in 1992 and Joe Oliver in 1990.

Overview

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    Batting Order:

     

    Henderson, LF

    Chavez, 3B

    Giambi, 1B

    Canseco, DH

    Jackson, RF

    Tejada, SS

    Murphy, CF

    Steinbach, C

    Ellis, 2B

     

    Bench:

     

    McGwire, 1B

    Rudi, OF

    Tenace, C

    Campaneris, UTL

     

    Starting Rotation:

     

    Blue, LHP

    Hudson, RHP

    Hunter, RHP

    Stewart, RHP

    Holtzman, LHP

     

    Bullpen:

     

    Welch, RHP

    Zito, LHP

    Street, RHP

    Balfour, RHP

    Isringhausen, RHP

    Fingers, RHP

    Eckersley, RHP

     

    Strengths:

     

    The lineup has enough power to light up the entire Bay Area. Seven of the nine hitters are home run threats, with Steinbach and Ellis the exceptions.

     

    Weaknesses:

     

    Only one lefty (Zito) in the bullpen. Also, Tejada, Giambi, McGwire and Canseco are all screwed if a drug tester comes around.

     

    Glaring omission:

     

    Sal Bando was a steady offensive contributor for many years, but four subs are enough. Campaneris won the last spot because of his defensive versatility.