Life is all about choices.
That's one of the few things I've learned during my time on Planet Earth.
Choices are important because they're the crux of this little thing we humans call free will. Without free will, human beings amount to nothing more than robotic, fish-like creatures swimming through life according to no rhyme or reason, unable to recognize their existence as individuals.
One thing I've noticed recently is a lot of people's inability to make choices. And I'm not talking big choices here—I'm talking little, trivial choices.
Like when I ask someone: "What's your favorite movie?," and they respond with, "I don't know, there are to many to name."
Now don't get me wrong—I enjoy my fair share of films...but if I were asked to choose a favorite, I think I'd be man enough to give a legitimate answer.
When asked for a favorite movie, there's no reason you can't list a couple. But make no mistake about it: Someone's asking because they want an answer—not a shrug and a cop out.
When you can't give someone an answer to their question because you don't know enough about the subject matter, people will forgive you for your lack of knowledge. But when you can't answer someone's question simply because you're not willing to think long and hard enough about it, it makes you look foolish and cowardly.
I'm not trying to be cruel here, but that's the honest truth. History, after all, has dictated the rules of the game, not me. Deciding on a course of action is essential to the advancement of humanity itself—and the people who have pushed mankind forward were willing to make choices in the most dire of circumstances.
If Martin Luther King hadn't been willing to risk his life and organize peaceful resistance, we still might have segregation today in the South.
If FDR hadn't been willing to get the U.S. involved in World War II, all of Europe might be speaking German.
And if Branch Rickey hadn't been willing to take a chance on a black second baseman from Georgia, the national pastime wouldn't be...well, the national pastime.
The point is: Life is all about choices. And if you're too scared to make one, you shouldn't be surprised when the best opportunities life has to offer wave goodbye.
For those of you who'd like to sharpen up on your choice-making skills, I've got an exercise for you: Make the best "all-time" team for a single franchise that you can possibly fathom.
Here are the ground rules:
1) You may select any franchise you like, EXCEPT for the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, or St. Louis Cardinals.
2) For position players, you must select one catcher, one first baseman, one second baseman, one third baseman, one shortstop, one left fielder, one center fielder, and one right fielder. If the franchise you selected plays in the American League, you may also choose a designated hitter.
3) For hurlers, you must select five starting pitchers (including at least one southpaw), one left-handed middle reliever, one right-handed middle reliever, one setup man, and one closer.
4) In constructing your roster, you must decide on both a team and a corresponding city. Hence, if you choose the San Francisco Giants, you may not select Christy Mathewson as a pitcher—and if you choose the New York Giants, you may not select Barry Bonds as your left fielder.
5) You may choose any ballplayer you wish who played at least one full season for the franchise you selected. However, please keep in mind that only seasons played for that franchise in particular are relevant for this exercise. Hence, if you select the Detroit Tigers, you should probably opt for Al Kaline over Juan Gonzalez.
Those are the rules—let the games begin.
The franchise I'm selecting is the Oakland Athletics. I'm doing this for two reasons: loyalty and pitching.
I moved out to the Bay Area in the fall of 1989, about a month before the World Series. I was six years old—and the A's and Giants were both hotter than hell.
On the playground, everyone was talking baseball. Will Clark or Mark Mcgwire? Kevin Mitchell or Jose Canseco? The debates raged while us little boys and girls (but mostly boys) played pickle, handball, and three flies up.
It was a truly exciting time to be in the Bay, let alone as a young child who had just relocated to California.
As the new kid at school, it wasn't long until I was asked the inevitable question on everyone's mind: Are you an A's fan or a Giants fan?
Not for the first time and not for the last, I was forced to make a choice in life. That choice would dictate my baseball sentiments for years to come.
Moving out to the mid-Peninsula, the majority of people I became acquainted with that October were Giants fans. Upon meeting me, they wasted no time in trying to convert me to their worldview.
They said that the Giants were a team of upstanding individuals, comprised of clean-cut family men like Will Clark and Robby Thompson—while the A's were a team of selfish punks and criminals, led by the likes of Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco.
I was told that the Giants had character guys, like "Big Daddy" Rick Reushel—while Dave Henderson, Walt Weiss, and the rest of the A's players lacked true spirit.
However there was something that these people didn't see—a cold, hard, truth that made the idea of rooting for the Giants unappealing in the end. Part of me wanted to ignore it...but the smarter part of me wanted to embrace it full on like a new wife.
That truth—of course—was that the A's were a helluva lot better than the Giants. And furthermore, that the only reason these suckers were rooting for the Giants was because everybody else they knew was doing just that.
The consequences of my choice became clear: I could become a mindless sheep and root for the Giants like everyone else, or follow the spirit of the individual full throttle and root for the team across the bay.
I chose the latter—and the rest is history. And let me tell you: Seeing the A's wallop the Giants 4-0 and watching everyone around me crawl back into their cowardly sheep holes was one of the greatest moments of my life.
The A's proved the power of choices in that World Series. They could have allowed the massive earthquake that struck the Bay to ruin their chances of winning their first ring in fifteen years—but instead they stayed calm and collected, playing the best baseball of their lives.
Meanwhile, I proved to myself that at least once in awhile, I was capable of making good choices. Seeing as the A's were a solid selection back in 1989, I see no reason to ditch them in this exercise.
The second reason I'm choosing the A's is because of pitching. The hardest part of picking an all-time team for any club is finding quality pitching across an entire rotation and bullpen—and the A's happen to have three great eras of pitching to choose from.
The A's had great pitching in the early- to mid-1970's, great pitching in the mid- to late-1980's, and great pitching in the late-90's and early-00's. I challenge anyone to find an eligible team that offers such an abundance of brilliant hurlers to choose from.
So there you go: Loyalty and pitching—that's why I'm going with the A's.
Without further ado, I present to you the all-time Oakland Athletics roster:
1) Rickey Henderson (CF)
Career Stats (25 seasons): .279 BA, .401 OBP, .419 SLG. 297 HR, 1115 RBI, 2295 R. 2190 BB, 1694 SO, 1406 SB.
Career Honors: 1st all time in stolen bases and runs scored. Most career homeruns by a leadoff hitter. Gold Glove Award winner in 1981. AL MVP in 1990.
Peak performance w/ Oakland: 1990—.325 BA, .439 OBP, .577 SLG. 28 HR, 61 RBI, 119 R. 97 BB, 60 SO, 65 SB.
Comments: The most brilliant thief and powerful leadoff man in the history of organized baseball—'nuff said.
2) Miguel Tejada (SS)
Career Stats (11 seasons): .287 BA, .343 OBP, .478 SLG. 256 HR, 1019 RBI, 929 Runs. 449 BB, 821 SO, 66 SB.
Career Honors: AL MVP in 2002.
Peak performance w/ Oakland: 2002—.308 BA, .354 OBP, .508 SLG. 34 HR, 131 RBI, 108 R. 38 BB, 84 SO, 7 SB.
Comments: Inconsistent defensively and could learn some patience at the plate, but 2002 is unquestionably one of the best offensive years for a shortstop in league history.
3) Jason Giambi (DH)
Career Stats (13 seasons): .291 BA, .412 OBP, .539 SLG. 362 HR, 1173 RBI, 1042 R. 1115 BB, 1178 SO, 16 SB.
Career Honors: Led league in OBP in 2000, 2001, and 2005. AL MVP in 2000.
Peak performance w/ Oakland: 2000—.333 BA, .476 OBP, .647 SLG. 43 HR, 137 RBI, 108 R. 137 BB, 96 SO, 2 SB.
Comments: Juiced or not, Giambi had some incredible years with the A's. A phenomenal combination of patience, precision, and power behind the plate.
4) Mark McGwire (1B)
Career Stats (16 seasons): .263 BA, .394 OBP, .588 SLG. 583 HR, 1414 RBI, 1167 R. 1317 BB, 1596 SO, 12 SB.
Career Honors: Lead league in HRs in 1987, 1996, 1998, and 1999 and SLG in 1987, 1992, 1996, and 1998. Gold Glove Award winner in 1990.
Peak Performance w/ Oakland: 1996—.312 BA, .467 OBP, .730 SLG. 52 HR, 113 RBI, 104 R. 116 BB, 112 SO, 0 SB.
Comments: He may not want to talk about the past, but Big Mac could hit the ball further in the late 90's than anyone to ever step into the box.
5) Jose Canseco (LF)
Career Stats (17 seasons): .266 BA, .353 OBP, .515 SLG. 462 HR, 1407 RBI, 1186 R. 906 BB, 1942 SO, 200 SB.
Career Honors: Rookie of the Year in 1986. AL MVP and first 40 HR/40 SB man in MLB history in 1988.
Peak Performance w/ Oakland: 1988—.307 BA, .391 OBP, .569 SLG. 42 HR, 124 RBI, 120 R. 78 BB, 128 SO, 40 SB.
Comments: Where would the heart of the order be without Jose to provide the supplies?
6) Reggie Jackson (RF)
Career Stats (21 seasons): .262 BA, .356 OBP, .490 SLG. 563 HR, 1702 RBI, 1551 R. 1375 BB, 2597 SO, 228 SB.
Career Honors: Lead league in HRs in 1973, 1975, 1980, and 1982 and SLG in 1969, 1973, and 1976. AL and World Series MVP in 1973.
Peak Performance w/ Oakland: 1969—.275 BA, .410 OBP, .608 SLG. 47 HR, 118 RBI, 123 R. 114 BB, 142 SO, 13 SB.
Comments: Jackson's speed is often overlooked, as is the extent of his dominance as a slugger. Having Mr. October in the six spot is a privelege, to say the least.
7) Terry Steinbach (C)
Career Stats (14 seasons): .271 BA, .326 OBP, .420 SLG. 162 HR, 745 RBI, 638 R. 418 BB, 938 SO, 23 SB.
Career Honors: All Star in 1988, 1989, and 1993.
Peak Performance w/ Oakland: 1996—.272 BA, .342 OBP, .529 SLG. 35 HR, 100 RBI, 79 R. 49 BB, 115 SO, 0 SB.
Comments: Tossup between Terry and Gene Tenace—but Steiny was more sound defensively and hit for a higher average.
8) Eric Chavez (3b)
Career Stats (10 seasons): .269 BA, .347 OBP, .486 SLG. 227 HR, 762 RBI, 710 R. 550 BB, 866 SO, 47 SB.
Career Honors: Gold Glove Award winner in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Peak Performance w/ Oakland: 2001—.288 BA, .338 OBP, .540 SLG. 32 HR, 114 RBI, 91 R. 41 BB, 99 SO, 8 SB.
Comments: Gets the nod over Carney Lansford and Sal Bando for his stellar defensive abilities, which this squad could badly use.
9) Bert Campaneris (2b)
Career Stats (19 seasons): .259 BA, .311 OBP, .342 SLG. 79 HR, 646 RBI, 1181 R. 618 BB, 1142 SO, 649 SB.
Career Honors: Lead league in SB in 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970, and 1972.
Peak Performance w/ Oakland: 1970—.279 BA, .321 OBP, .448 SLG. 22 HR, 64 RBI, 97 R. 36 BB, 73 SO, 42 SB.
Comments: Can't hit for shit, but at least he can run. His speed and smooth defensive skills translate nicely to second base, and round out a team that for the most part lacks such fundamentals.
1) Tim Hudson (R)
Career Stats (9 seasons): 134 W, 66 L, .670 WPG. 3.50 ERA, 4.49 lgERA, 128 ERA+. 1265 SO, 571 BB, 1739 H.
Career Honors: Led league in Wins in 2000 and 2007.
Peak performance w/ Oakland: 2003—16 W, 7 L. 2.70 ERA, 4.26 lgERA, 158 ERA+. 162 SO, 61 BB, 197 H.
Comments: Hard to believe that Huddy is the best picher in Oakland history, but that's what six stellar seasons in a row will do for you.
2) Vida Blue (L)
Career Stats (17 seasons): 209 W, 161 L, .565 WPG. 3.27 ERA, 3.53 lgERA, 108 ERA+. 2175 SO, 1185 BB, 2939 H.
Career Honors: Led league in ERA in 1971. Cy Young Award winner and AL MVP in 1971.
Peak performance w/ Oakland: 1971—24 W, 8 L. 1.92 ERA, 3.33 lgERA, 183 ERA+. 301 SO, 88 BB, 209 H.
Comments: Vida may have put more candy up his nose than River Phoneix and John Belushi combined, but at his peak with Oakland he was one of the finest pitching specimens the league has ever seen.
3) Catfish Hunter (R)
Career Stats (15 seasons): 224 W, 166 L, .574 WPG. 3.26 ERA, 3.39 lgERA, 104 ERA+. 2012 SO, 954 BB, 2958 H.
Career Honors: Led league in Wins in 1974 and 1975, and ERA in 1974. Cy Young Award winner in 1974.
Peak performance w/ Oakland: 1972—21 W, 7 L. 2.04 ERA, 2.85 lgERA, 140 ERA+. 191 SO, 70 BB, 200 H.
Comments: Four straight 20 win seasons from 71' through 74' and 4-0 in the World Series make Catfish quite the Oakland ace—let alone a number three.
4) Dave Stewart (R)
Career Stats (16 seasons): 168 W, 129 L, .566 WPG. 3.95 ERA, 3.94 lgERA, 100 ERA+. 1741 SO, 1034 BB, 2499 H.
Career Honors: Led league in Wins in 1987, and Complete Games in 1988 and 1990. World Series MVP in 1989.
Peak performance w/ Oakland: 1990—22 W, 11 L. 2.56 ERA, 3.72 lgERA, 145 ERA+. 166 SO, 83 BB, 226 H.
Comments: Four straight 20 win seasons from 87' through 90' and a lifetime 2.84 post-season ERA ain’t too shabby for your #4 starter.
5) Barry Zito (L)
Career Stats (8 seasons): 111 W, 74 L, .600 WPG. 3.65 ERA, 4.48 lgERA, 123 ERA+. 1207 SO, 629 BB, 1378 H.
Career Honors: Led league in Wins in 2002. Cy Young Award winner in 2002.
Peak performance w/ Oakland: 2002—23 W, 5 L. 2.75 ERA, 4.65 lgERA, 169 ERA+. 182 SO, 78 BB, 182 H.
Comments: Going purely by the numbers, Zito is unquestionably one of the best five Oakland pitchers ever. What’s more, having two lefties in a rotation like this—let alone one with a blazing fastball and the other with a mind-numbing hook—is sure to be devastating on opposing squads.
Right Handed Middle Reliever: Bob Welch
Career Stats (17 seasons): 211 W, 146 L, .591 WPG. 3.47 ERA, 3.68 lgERA, 106 ERA+. 1969 SO, 1034 BB, 2894 H.
Career Honors: Led league in Wins in 1990 and Shutouts in 1987. Cy Young Award winner in 2002.
Peak performance w/ Oakland: 1990—27 W, 6 L. 2.95 ERA, 3.72 lgERA, 126 ERA+. 127 SO, 77 BB, 214 H.
Comments: Like a fine wine, Bob Welch just got better with age. Interestingly enough, he gave up drinking early in his career; perhaps sobriety helped him become the only hurler to win more than 25 games since 1972.
Left Handed Middle Reliever: Mark Mulder
Career Stats (7 seasons): 103 W, 57 L, .644 WPG. 4.11 ERA, 4.48 lgERA, 109 ERA+. 829 SO, 403 BB, 1326 H.
Career Honors: Led league in Wins in 2001, Complete Games in 2003 and 2004, and Shutouts in 2001 and 2003.
Peak performance w/ Oakland: 2002—19 W, 7 L. 3.47 ERA, 4.65 lgERA, 134 ERA+. 159 SO, 55 BB, 182 H.
Comments: Like many top notch A’s hurlers, Mulder had four straight seasons of excellence in Oakland from 2001 to 2004. The fact that he’s serving as a middle reliever on this team speaks to the strength of it’s rotation.
Setup Man: Rollie Fingers
Career Stats (17 seasons): 114 W, 119 L, .491 WPG. 2.90 ERA, 3.47 lgERA, 119 ERA+. 829 SO, 403 BB, 1326 H, 341 SV.
Career Honors: Led league in Saves in 1977, 1978, and 1981. Cy Young Award winner and AL MVP in 1981.
Peak performance w/ Oakland: 1973—7 W, 8 L. 1.92ERA, 3.56 lgERA, 185 ERA+. 110 SO, 39 BB, 107 H, 22 SV.
Comments: You know you’ve got a killer bullpen when your setup man has nearly 350 career saves.
Closer: Dennis Eckersley
Career Stats (24 seasons): 197 W, 171 L, .535 WPG. 3.50 ERA, 4.06 lgERA, 116 ERA+. 2401 SO, 738 BB, 3076 H, 390 SV.
Career Honors: Led league in Saves in 1988 and 1992. Cy Young Award winner and AL MVP in 1992.
Peak performance w/ Oakland: 1990—4 W, 2 L. 0.61 ERA, 3.72 lgERA, 606 ERA+. 73 SO, 4 BB, 41 H, 48 SV.
Comments: With all due respect to Eric Gagne and Trevor Hoffman, 1990 may in fact be the most off-the-charts season a closer has ever had. What’s truly craziy though is that wasn’t even the year Eckersley won the Cy Young and MVP award.
TEAM STRENGTHS: Speed, Power, Pitching, and Playoff Experience.
The middle of the order is as good as they come at hitting dingers, while the top and bottom of the order are as good as they come at swiping bags. Both the rotation and bullpen are solid across the board, and nearly every player on the roster is vastly familiar with getting it done in the post-season.
TEAM WEAKNESSES: Defense, Egos, Charlie Finley, and Roid Rage.
Ricky and Campy are playing out of position, while Jose and Reggie are error-generating machines as the corner outfielders. Throw a bunch of mustaches and syringes into the mix and you've got one crazy clubhouse on your hands.
So there you have it—the all-time Oakland Athletics.
Think you can find a franchise whose all-time roster can beat mine? Construct your team now!
(Writer's note: the idea for this article was inspired by fellow Bleacher Report member Ari Glick)