The Oakland Athletics are an interesting case. They’ve been around for 121 years and have been involved in 18,702 contests. In that time, they’ve made 29 trips to the postseason and won 15 pennants. They have nine World Championships and 45 players who’ve worn their uniform are enshrined in Cooperstown. However, in spite of all these successes, they have an all-time losing record. So, they’ve definitely had a roller coaster history. The following represents those who have played a role in keeping the metaphorical car at the top of said coaster. Let’s get into it!
Oakland Athletics All-Time Infield
Catcher: Mickey Cochrane
.321/.412/.490, 37.9 WAR, 1,167 G, 1,317 H, 823 R, 250 2B, 59 3B, 108 HR, 612 RBI
Mickey Cochrane helped to define the dominance the Athletics showed at the end of the 1920’s. He played a key role in helping lead the team to back-to-back World Championships in 1929 and ’30. Despite being underwhelming defensively, his bat was rarely a problem. He won the 1928 AL MVP Award and finished in the top ten in voting on three other occasions. However, his best overall season came in 1931, when he hit .349 with 17 homers and 160 hits. He helped lead the Athletics to 107 wins and a pennant. Even though they failed to win their third straight World Title, Cochrane’s legacy is definitely cemented.
First Baseman: Jimmie Foxx
.339/.440/.640, 61.2 WAR, 1,256 G, 1,492 H, 975 R 257 2B, 79 3B, 302 HR, 1,75 RBI
Jimmie Foxx did not burst onto the scene. In fact, for his first three years in Philadelphia, he played in a combined 97 games. However, in those years, he went 58-171 (.339) and began proving his worth. By 1929, his second full season, he’d begun putting together a Hall of Fame career. He picked up back-to-back MVP Awards in 1932 and ’33. He also posted back-to-back seasons of 160+ RBI and OPS+ numbers over 200. A three time All-Star, he was one of the reserve players at the first ever All-Star Game in 1933. Staggering offensive numbers pushed him to being one of the greatest players in baseball history.
Second Baseman: Eddie Collins
.337/.423/.437, 57.4 WAR, 1,156 G, 1,308 H, 756 R, 172 2B, 85 3B, 16 HR, 496 RBI
Eddie Collins could do three things: put the ball in play, put the ball where the outfielders weren’t, and blaze trails on base. From 1912-1914, Collins was one of the national toasts of the game. He hit .346 during those seasons with 554 hits and a .166 OPS+. His strikeout numbers were minuscule (262 in over 3,800 at-bats). He was also an unselfish player, retiring from the game with the all-time career number for sacrifice bunts (512). Add to that his speed (373 stolen bases) and his great defense and you have one of the greatest ever.
Shortstop: Bert Campaneris
.262/.314/.348, 49.0 WAR, 1,795 G, 1,882 H, 983 R, 270 2B, 70 3B, 70 HR, 529 RBI
Yet another speedy middle infielder, Bert Campaneris shot out of a cannon during his first full season in 1965. That year, he began a streak of five straight 50+ steal seasons. He led the league in the category for four of those years. He’d go on to post a total mark of 566 stolen bases as an Athletic, second only to someone else who you will seee on this list. He also holds the all-time Athletics hits mark (1,882). Yet another reason for his inclusion is the fact that he brought star power to a franchise in desperate need of it. While the Athletics languished in Kansas City, Campaneris gave people a reason to come to the ballpark.
Third Baseman: Sal Bando
.255/.359/.418, 52.1 WAR, 1,468 G, 1,311 H, 737 R, 212 2B, 25 3B, 192 HR, 796 RBI
Sal Bando was a workhorse, plain and simple. The sixth round draft pick out of Arizona State certainly proved himself in this manner. Three times in his Oakland career, he played in all 162 games. Not only that, but he offered terrific offense and above average defense as well. During the heyday of the early 1970’s, Bando made three straight All-Star appearances. He finished in the top five in MVP voting three times as well. Add to that a 30 homer season in 1969, a 295 total base season in 1973, and a 6.7 dWAR and you have the best third baseman in Athletics history.
Oakland Athletics All-Time Outfield
Left Fielder: Rickey Henderson
.288/.409/.430, 72.7 WAR, 1,704 G, 1,768 H, 1,270 R, 289 2B, 41 3B, 167 HR, 648 RBI
If anyone has defined Oakland Athletics baseball, it’s Rickey Henderson. The Hall of Famer spent 14 combined seasons in the Bay Area, putting up staggering numbers. This is especially true when it comes to the basepaths. He stole 867 of his all-time leading 1,406 career stolen bases while in Oakland. He holds the all-time Athletics records for WAR, oWAR, runs scored, stolen bases, and walks. To wrap it all up, he’s the only Athletic to ever be on base over 3,000 times. Simply put, Henderson is the greatest Athletic ever, and it’s really not even close.
Center Fielder: Dwayne Murphy
.247/.356/.402, 31.7 WAR, 1,213 G, 999 H, 614 R, 129 2B, 20 3B, 153 HR, 563 RBI
Dwayne Murphy makes this list as the holder of the best WAR for any center fielder in Athletics history. His bat wasn’t as stellar as some, but his defense was outstanding. A 6.1 dWAR and six consecutive Gold Glove Awards speak to this. However, he wasn’t completely dead at the plate. His best overall season came in 1984 when he slugged 33 homers while putting up a career best 132 OPS+. In the end, though, it’s his defense that places him among the best to play in Oakland.
Right Fielder: Reggie Jackson
.262/.355/.496, 48.0 WAR, 1,346 G, 1,228 H, 756 R, 234 2B, 27 3B, 269 HR, 776 RBI,
Reggie Jackson could flat out crush a baseball. This was what he spent the better part of a full decade doing in Oakland. The Hall of Famer made six of his 14 career All-Star appearances with the team and helped lead them to three straight World Series titles. In one of those years (1973), he picked up an MVP Award by hitting .293 and leading the league in homers (32) and RBI (117). His combined OPS+ of 145 ranks sixth on the team’s list. Despite being extremely prone to the strikeout and a categorically horrible defender, Jackson’s other accomplishments are enough to land him a spot on this list.
Designated Hitter: Al Simmons
.356/.398/.584, 51.2 WAR, 1,290 G, 1,827 H, 969 R, 348 2B, 98 3B, 209 HR, 1,179 RBI
Al Simmons burst onto the scene, hitting .308 with 183 hits during his rookie season (1924). Though he never won an MVP Award, he finished in the top ten six times. During his 12 illustrious years with the A’s, the Hall of Famer posted the team’s all-time mark in average, RBI, and extra base hits (655),. He’s second in doubles and triples and third in offensive winning percentage (.757) and WPA (44.1). He never posted an average under .300 during his regular seasons with the club and took home back-to-back batting titles in 1930 (.381) and ’31 (.390).
Eddie Plank holds the all-time Athletics pitching mark in WAR (74.5), wins (284), complete games (362), and shutouts (59). He did all this while posting a 2.39 ERA and a 120 ERA+. Next, we have Lefty Grove. He holds the highest winning percentage, to go along with his 195 wins and 2.88 ERA. He’s only the second Athletic to ever post a 30-win season. His 151 ERA+ is best all-time and he has the highest Win Probability Added among A’s pitchers (55.3).
Third on the list is Rube Waddell, the all-time A’s leader in ERA (1.97) and FIP (1.86). He did this while notching 131 wins, a 147 ERA+, and 1,576 strikeouts. During all of his six seasons in Philadelphia, he led the American League in whiffs. Finally, we have the only pitcher on this list not in Cooperstown, Eddie Rommel. He actually has a slightly better WAR than Waddell, owing to his 171 wins. Spending his entire 13-year career with the Athletics, he posted a 3.54 ERA and a 121 ERA+. His best season came in 1922, when he won 27 games and finished second in MVP voting.
Next to Henderson, Bob Johnson is the greatest left fielder in team history. During his heyday, he was a prime power hitter, posting nine consecutive seasons of 20 or more homers. He was a five-time All-Star and finished in the top ten in MVP voting on one occasion. Next, we have Home Run Baker. He was aptly nicknamed because he hit a ton of home runs during an era when such events were scarce. For four straight years (1911-1914), he led the AL in dingers. During this time, he combined to hit 42 of them.
Catfish Hunter is fifth on the team’s all-time wins list (161). He posted an ERA of 3.13 and an ERA+ of 105 and made eight All-Star Games. In 1974, he won the AL Cy Young Award, leading the league in wins (25), ERA (2.49), and WHIP (0.986). Finally, we have the team’s greatest closer, Dennis Eckersley. In 1987, when he got to Oakland, they transitioned him to the bullpen and he flourished. Over nine seasons, he compiled a staggering 320 saves with an ERA under three.
Manager: Dick Williams
This is a controversial choice, especially to all the Connie Mack fans out there. However, the Athletics experienced way more consistent success under Dick Williams. They had a higher winning percentage, a much higher average rank, and exponentially more games over .500. He’s the only manager in team history to have an average rank of 1.0 in the standings. They won back-to-back World Championships and won 101 games in his first season managing. Mack helmed the team throughout the majority of his life and the truth is that he didn’t win half the games he managed. Despite only being in Oakland for three seasons, Williams held the team and helped lead them through some massive years.
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Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx, Eddie Collins, Bert Campaneris, Sal Bando, Rickey Henderson, Dwayne Murphy, Reggie Jackson, Al Simmons, Eddie Plank, Lefty Grove, Rube Waddell, Eddie Rommel, Bob Johnson, Home Run Baker, Catfish Hunter, Dennis Eckersley, Connie Mack, Dick Williams