The Oakland Athletics have a history of talented and interesting players.
The club was born in Philadelphia in 1901, left for Kansas City in 1955, and finally settled in Oakland in 1968. They are the proud owners of nine world series titles, trailing only the Saint Louis Cardinals (10) and the New York Yankees (27).
37 Athletics are enshrined in the baseball hall of fame and there are certainly more to come.
My criteria for this list includes: statistics, defense, aura, and longevity with the team.
There's no scientific formula here, but be assured, I conducted thorough research.
I'll only take into account players statistics when they were on the A's, dismissing contributions they made with other teams. The numbers listed will reflect this.
I will also include non-players (managers, announcers, etc.) that had a significant impact on the organization.
Without further ado, here are the Top 25 Oakland Athletics.
Center Field 1978-1987
Murphy didn't put up spectacular offensive numbers, but he was probably the best defensive center fielder of the 80's winning six consecutive gold gloves from 1980-1985.
His offensive efficiency wasn't too bad either. Per 162 games played, he averaged 20 home runs, 73 RBI's, and 77 runs.
Starting Pitcher 2000-2004
"Mark is one of those talents that my 11-year-old daughter could scout. It didn’t take any brains to scout, draft and develop Mark Mulder." -Billy Beane
There are some people who just look like they would make a good pitcher. Mark Mulder is one of those guys. Possesing an intimidating 6' 6" and 215 pound frame, it certainly made sense why the A's drafted him second overall in the 1998 draft. Luckily, he didn't dissapoint.
After a shaky rookie campaign in 2000, Mulder was one of the best pitchers in baseball over the next four years. He averaged 18 wins from 2001-2004 and had a sub 3.50 ERA, excluding the 2004 season.
He was selected as an all-star twice for the A's.
Starting Pitcher 1972-1975
He was compared to Sandy Koufax early in his career because they both had fantastic curveballs and were each left-handed (they were both Jewish too). But while he may not have lived up to those lofty expectations, he had a great career in his own right.
As a member of the A's he enjoyed tremendous individual and team success. The A's won three World Series in his short stint with the team and he collected 77 wins while boasting a 2.92 ERA.
He was selected to the all-star squad twice.
Third Base 1966-1976
Listening to A's broadcasts throughout the years, I've noticed Sal Bando's name come up quite a bit. And since Ray Fosse (A's announcer) had been a teammate of Bando's, he must have held him in high regard.
Serving as the captain of the A's in the early 70's, he was an integral part of their success. He led the club in RBI's three times and was honored with four all-star selections.
He ranks 9th all-time on A's list in home runs (192) and 5th in RBI's (796).
Starting Pitcher 1988-1994
Since winning 27 games in his Cy Young season of 1990, Welch is the last player to have won 25 games. During that season he also compiled a 2.95 ERA, pitched 238.0 innings, and helped lead the A's to the World Series against the Reds.
In his first three seasons for the A's he never won less than 17 games or pitched under 200 innings. He won one World Series with Oakland in 1989 and was selected as an all-star in 1990.
"Campy" was small in stature (5'10, 160 pounds), but that didn't deter him from having a great career with the A's. In his 13 seasons with the team, he racked up five all-star selections, three World Series rings, and a Babe Ruth award (similar to the World Series MVP). He's the A's career leader in games (1,795), hits (1,882), at bats (7,180), ranks 2nd in steals (566), and 3rd in runs (983).
Third Base 1983-1992
Lansford was one of those hard-nosed players you wanted on your team. You knew everyday he was going to go out there and give it his all. He was very solid at every aspect of the game and had a team-first mentality. In 1989, he was selected to the all-star team and in 1992 he won the Hutch award (presented to the player who has the most fighting spirit).
He's tied for 10th in A's history in hits (1,317) and 10th in steals (146).
As much as I loved Ramon Hernandez and Jason Kendall, Terry Steinbach is the greatest catcher in Oakland A's history. Not only was he a good hitter, but he was greatly underrated defensively. There were six years with the A's where he ranked in the top four in runners caught stealing, five years he ranked in the top four in assists, and in 1994 and 1995 he ranked 1st and 4th respectively in fielding percentage.
He batted .275 for his career with the A's and was selected as a member of the all-star team three times.
His best season came in 1996 when he hit 35 home runs and drove in 100 RBI's.
Starting Pitcher 2000-2006
Zito is one of the most interesting characters in recent baseball history. His interest in yoga and Zen practice, collection of stuffed animals, and various other idiosyncrasies has added luster to his public image. He doesn't necessarily fit the prototypical "jock" image, which is why a lot of people are drawn to him. And while there are those who think he may be strange or overpaid, on thing is for certain, he's not boring.
In his six full seasons with the A's (excluding his rookie year) Zito threw at least 200 innings and recorded a sub four ERA in every season except 2004. He's ranked 11th in A's history in wins (102) and 8th in strikeouts (1,096). In 2002 he won the AL Cy Young and was selected as a member of the all-star team three times.
Left Field 1967-1976, 1982
Rudi's another one of those players that's not going to blow you away with statistics, but for the A's and the A's fans, he was every bit as valuable as any other member of the team. Some examples of this were his run-saving catch in the ninth inning with Oakland leading 2-0 in game 2 of the 1972 World Series, his solo shot earlier in the game, and his go-ahead home run in game five of the 1975 World Series that sealed it.
He hit .272 in his career for the A's and averaged 19 home runs and 85 RBI's per 162 games played. He's been selected to be an all-star three times and is a three time gold glove winner.
Rudi's best season came in 1974 when he hit 22 home runs, 99 RBI's, and had a .293 batting average.
General Manager 1998-present
He's taken a lot heat lately for his team's mediocrity in recent seasons, but considering the amount of injuries and the low payroll he has to work with, it's hard for me to point the finger of blame in his direction. Since the the best-selling book Moneyball was released in 2003, it seems like a lot of teams are implementing some of the same principles (using sabermetrics and other efficient tools to scout players) that Beane used to make his team successful in the early part of the decade and he's had to suffer the backlash. I truly believe, however, that Beane is still the best GM in baseball and that us A's fans will have more to cheer about in the near future.
Tejada was the spark that ran the Athletics. Everything he did was electric. From his diving backhand stops, to his rifle throws, to his violent swings, you couldn't keep your eyes off him.
His infectious smile and genuinely modest personality didn't do much to quell my admiration for him either.
From 2000-2003 "Miggy" was one of the best hitters in the game. In those four years he averaged 31 home runs, 116 RBI's, and had a .282 batting average. In 2002 he won the AL MVP and was selected to his first all-star game.
Starting Pitcher 1999-2004
Tim Hudson doesn't posses an intimidating frame, but what he lacks in physical prowess, he certainly makes up for in heart. He's the master of getting out of tough situations and willing his team to victory even when he doesn't have his best stuff. But when he's on, his cutter is one of the best pitches in baseball.
In six seasons with the green and gold he compiled 92 wins and a 3.30 ERA. From 2000-2003 he recorded 15 wins or more and was in the top ten in the Cy Young voting for three of those years. He's had a winning record every season in his big league career.
He was twice an all-star for the A's and he led the AL in victories with 20 in 2000.
Third Base 1998-present
Chavez is one of those players that have a "what if" attached to their careers. He's played in a total of 154 games the past four seasons and only 64 in his last three. His latest injury has even provoked the uncomfortable question about whether he will ever return to play again.
Anyone that saw him play earlier this decade, however, knows the tremendous talent "Chavy" possesses. From 2000-2005 Chavez averaged 30 home runs, 98 RBI's, and hovered around a .280 batting average. He won six consecutive gold gloves from 2001-2006 and a silver slugger award in 2002. He ranks 6th on the A's all time list in home runs (230), 5th in extra base-hits (532), and 7th in RBI's (787).
Starting Pitcher 1986-1995
There's only one player that could have made this list solely based on the way they look at people. Stewart used everything he had to his advantage when he was a pitcher and his signature stare down was one of his most intimidating weapons. I even get the shakes just imagining staring back at him from the batter's box.
From 1987-1990 Stewart posted 20 wins or better and averaged a 3.20 ERA. He was an all-star, a World Series MVP, and was twice the ALCS MVP. He ranks 9th in A's history in wins (119) and 7th in strikeouts (1,152).
On June 29, 1990 he pitched a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Designated Hitter 1985-1992, 1997
Canseco may have been "Juiced" and a snitch to a lot of players, but he was a tremendous power hitter in his time. I can't say he's been as successful in his mixed martial arts career.
In nine seasons with the A's he racked up five all-star selections, rookie of the year, three silver sluggers, and an MVP. He ranks 4th in A's history in home runs (254), 6th in RBI's (793), and 7th in slugging percentage (.507).
If you never got the chance to hear Bill King call a game, you've missed out on one of the greatest experiences in sports.
It's harder to explain why an announcer belongs on this list, but perhaps by displaying an excerpt from one of his most famous calls you can get a better idea why I included him. Before King joined the A's, he was an announcer for the Raiders. Here's his description in the final seconds of a game against the San Diego Chargers in 1978:
"The ball, flipped forward, is loose! A wild scramble, two seconds on the clock...Casper grabbing the ball...it is ruled a fumble... Casper has recovered in the end zone!!! The Oakland Raiders have scored on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play! Madden is on the field. He wants to know if it's real. They said yes, get your big butt out of here! He does! There's nothing real in the world anymore! The Raiders have won the football game! The Chargers....they don't believe it. Fifty-two thousand people are stunned. This one will be relived forever!"
First Base 1995-2001, 2009
At one point in his career he was my hero, at another point, he was my arch-nemesis. I'm still bitter about Giambi signing with the Yankees, especially after we had recently lost to them in the playoffs twice, but at least now I can acknowledge how great a player he was for our organization.
Giambi is one of those rare hitters that has power, patience, and a good batting average. In six full seasons for the A's Giambi never hit under 20 home runs, had only two seasons where his RBI total was under 100 (81,79), and never batted under .290. His OBP was either above .400 or hovered around it for the majority of his time with Oakland.
He won the an AL MVP, a silver slugger award, and was selected to two all-star teams while he was a member of the A's. In franchise history he ranks 8th all time in home runs (198), 4th in slugging percentage (.531), and 6th in OBP (.406).
Relief Pitcher 1968-1976
The Dodgers were the first team to show interest in Fingers, but he chose to sign with the A's instead because LA already had such a talented staff he felt he felt he wouldn't get the chance to pitch. Not only did they end up gaining a great arm, but they got a future hall of fame mustache too. He won three world series with the A's, including world series MVP in 1974.
Rollie ranks 2nd on the A's all time list in saves (136) and 9th in ERA (2.91).
He was inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 1992.
My favorite manager for the A's was Art Howe, but if I had to choose the greatest manager, it would be this guy. He's always tinkering with lineups (having the pitcher bat eighth instead of ninth) and looking for that edge that will help his team. He's got a great mind (has a law degree) and is highly respected among his players.
He won manager of the year twice with the A's and took them to the world series three times, winning once.
First Base 1986-1997
Along with the other "Bash Brother" on the list, McGwire's career has been tainted in many fans eyes through his use of PED's (performance-enhancing drugs). And while I don't condone the use of such substances, I also don't believe they can magically make you a great hitter.
McGwire is ranked 1st on the all-time A's list in home runs (363), 4th in RBI's (941), 4th in walks (847), and 10th in runs (773).
Starting Pitcher 1969-1977
Bill James, noted baseball historian, said that Blue was the hardest thrower of his era besides Nolan Ryan. His fastball often reached triple digits and even though he had an above average change-up, he hardly ever needed it. Blue captured the Cy Young and MVP in 1971, pitched a no-hitter in 1970, and was a six time all-star (three times with the A's).
He ranks 8th in A's history in wins (124), 6th in strikeouts (1,315), 9th in complete games (105), 5th in shutouts (28), and 12th in ERA (2.95).
Relief Pitcher 1987-1995
Initially a starter, Eckersley became the A's closer when their all-star Jay Howell was sidelined with an injury in 1987. For the next five seasons, he established himself as the top closer in baseball. In 1992 he won the AL Cy Young and MVP. He was selected as a member of the all-star team four times between 1988-1992.
He ranks 1st on the A's list in saves (320) and 7th in ERA (2.74).
He was inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 2004.
Right Field 1967-1975, 1987
Whenever I think of Reggie, it's usually of his almost comical follow through. He also happened to be a heck of a player. In ten seasons for the A's he racked up six all-star selections, an MVP, a world series MVP, and three world series rings.
He ranks 3rd in A's history in home runs (269), 8th in slugging percentage (.496), and 8th in RBI's (776).
He was inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 1993.
Starting Pitcher 1965-1974
I knew Jim Hunter was a great pitcher before I began doing research for this list, but I always thought his mustache and nickname were what earned him a lot of his notoriety. While they may have made for interesting discussion, a quick glance at his career cleared that notion right up.
Hunter is an eight time all-star, five time world series champion, and Cy Young award winner. He's 5th all-time on the A's list in wins (161), 5th in strikeouts (1,520), 4th in shutouts (31), 8th in complete games (116), and 15th in ERA (3.13).
He was inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 1987.
Left Field 1979-1984, 1989, 1990-1993, 1994-1995, 1998
Rickey Henderson is the greatest leadoff hitter of all-time. His knack for getting on base, stealing bases, and his tremendous passion for the game were what made him great. He's the all-time major league baseball leader in walks, runs, stolen bases, and leadoff home runs. His awards included ten all-star selections, a gold glove, and an MVP trophy.
He was inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 2009.