The Oakland A’s are a Northern California fixture just like wine or the Grateful Dead. They’ve had what one could call a funky past and a progressive present. Colorful ownership, big bats, and avant-garde playing style is what the Athletics franchise has been about for over 50 years. Their success in the past has carried them a long way and has given them respect across the league. Let’s talk about the players who’ve been the reason for the success.
Rickey Henderson was in essence the perfect leadoff hitter. If he didn’t start the game off with a long ball, getting him on-base was even more of a chore. The speed demon would easily swipe second or third, just making a pitcher’s life a nightmare. Henderson did this 867 times as an Athletic with his most coming in 1982, stealing 130 bases, which is a record for the live-ball era. The Man of Steal is also a member of the 3,000 hit club, a six-time all-star as an A, and the 1990 Most Valuable Player. It’s hard to say but there will never be a player like Rickey Henderson again. Baseball doesn’t rely on the stolen base anymore, making Henderson’s style of play obsolete.
Dennis Eckersley practically invented the closer role. Before him, the role wasn’t very established and was in the hands of a long reliever. Eckersley was dazzling as a closer and was on the Oakland A’s 1989 World Series championship team. He in fact closed out the series. He earned recognition for his success on the field winning both the Cy Young and MVP awards in 1992. In that season alone, he led the majors with 52 saves, and had a 1.91 earned run average. Between 1988-1992, he had 220 saves. He is now rightfully a member of Cooperstown and the reason why players like Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen have jobs.
Jim “Catfish” Hunter
Catfish was a member of the first great Oakland Athletic teams in the early 1970s. Charlie Finley was the owner who instructed his players to grow their hair out, to bring fans to the game. Shaggy haired Hunter was the ace of the staff, leading the team to win three straight ‘ships between 1972-74. He arguably had his best season in 1974, winning 25 games, and displaying a 2.49 ERA. Hunter also received the Cy Young award that year. He is now in Cooperstown.
Most people think of Mr. October as a member of the New York Yankees, but prior to that, he was a key piece of the early seventies Oakland Athletics. Yes, he was also on the juggernaut that won three straight from ’72-’74. He captured the Most Valuable Player award in 1973, leading the league in home runs with 32, runs batted in with 117, a .531 slugging percentage, and a .931 on-base plus slugging. As an Athletic, he appeared in six all-star games and hit as many as 47 home runs in 1969. Jackson is now famous for being the all-time strikeout king. Regardless, he is a member of the Hall of Fame.
The Oakland A’s always seem to be revolutionizing the way baseball is played. Some may disagree with the list and wonder where players like Miguel Tejada are. The response I have is that none of those early 2000s teams had any success outside of the regular season. Besides, the players mentioned above are all members of Cooperstown.