The Oakland Athletics have had their ups and downs throughout this past decade. When most people think of the A’s today, their domination of the early 70’s or late 80’s isn’t what typically comes to mind. The Athletics are known as that team who was in “Moneyball” but the best players in their franchise history come much before the Billy Beane era in Oakland. Here are the players I think should be on the Oakland Athletics Mount Rushmore:
Rickey Henderson, the best base stealer of all time, easily makes the A’s Mount Rushmore. He prides himself on being an Athletic, even going as far as pushing for them to get their new stadium. Henderson accumulated 68.6 fWAR as an Athletic, the highest of any player to play for Oakland. Rickey’s 1406 stolen bases is the most in a career for a player by a mile. He helped the Athletics win the 1989 World Series and was the ALCS MVP. Henderson’s career .401 OBP and ridiculous speed made him a nightmare for pitchers when he was on the base paths. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 and his number 24 retired by the team, he sits comfortably as one of the greatest A’s of all-time.
The first player number the A’s ever retired, Jim “Catfish” Hunter was a part of the 1970’s powerhouse. The team even has an award named after him which is given to the “most inspirational player.” He had four straight 20 win seasons as an Athletic, with a 3.06 ERA and 27.3 fWAR, which is third highest for pitchers in Oakland history. Catfish Hunter threw the ninth ever perfect game in baseball history when playing for the team in 1968, the first season they moved from Kansas City to Oakland. Hunter’s dominance on the mound and extreme durability is how the A’s were able to win three straight World Series, totaling 50 complete games in the regular season from 1972 to 1974.
Vida Blue has the highest fWAR of all pitchers in Oakland Athletics’ history (36.6) by far. Like Catfish Hunter, he also was a huge part of the A’s winning in the early 1970’s. In his time with the A’s, he had a 2.95 ERA, 1315 strikeouts and 105 complete games (both second most in Oakland Athletics team history behind Catfish Hunter). In 1971, Blue won both the Cy Young and the MVP award. He was considered one of the best pitchers in the league during his time with the A’s, due to the fact that he threw a high-velocity fastball, which cements him a spot on their Mount Rushmore.
Dennis Eckersley was extremely intimidating when he stepped onto the mound as the closer for the Oakland Athletics in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Another Hall of Famer, Eckersley began his career as a starter and became a closer in 1987, his first season with the A’s. He had his number 43 retired by the team and got his one World Series ring with them in 1989. He even won both the Cy Young and MVP with the team in 1992 where he got 51 saves with a 1.91 ERA and an insane 30.1% strikeout percentage. He’s also the A’s all-time saves leader with 320. However, his time spent with other notable organizations like the Boston Red Sox keeps him off the A’s Mount Rushmore.
Bert Campaneris, another Oakland Athletics’ 70’s icon, was one of the best defensive shortstops in the league in his time with the team. He was a valuable part of the championship teams with his defense and his ability to steal bases, which he ranks second in team history, behind only the great Rickey Henderson. Campaneris’ was a piece of the complete puzzle the A’s had when they were prevailing, but not a big enough part to make the team’s Mount Rushmore.
Like Eckersley, Reggie Jackson is left off the Oakland Athletics Mount Rushmore because of his legacy elsewhere, in particular his nickname “Mr. October” with the New York Yankees. He put up 45.2 fWAR with a 145 wRC+ and hit .262/.355/.496 in Oakland and like many of the other players mentioned, he too played a major role in the 1970’s teams. Had Reggie Jackson not become such an icon with the Yankees, he probably would have a spot on the Mount Rushmore. Instead, it goes to the third baseman who got overshadowed by Jackson during the A’s three-straight championship seasons.
Sal Bando has the second highest fWAR (47.5) in Oakland Athletics history. He served as the team captain during all three of the team’s World Series wins in the early 70’s, where his leadership and playing ability established the them as a prime force in the league. The left side of the infield was locked down with Bando at third and Campaneris at shortstop. While his offensive numbers weren’t as great as Reggie’s or Henderson’s, he still had an above average 129 wRC+ and slashed .255/.359/.418. Bando being noted for his time in Oakland and being labeled as the leader of the most commanding teams in A’s history puts him in the final spot on their Mount Rushmore.
Featured Photo: Reed Zahradnik-Diamond Digest