The Ten Best Players in Oakland History by WAR

We've got the All-Star Game at 5:00, so definitely come back tonight for that (and a super-special exclusive interview with a certain Reggie Jackson on Thursday), but in the meantime, while we're in the superstar mood, why not take a look at the best players in Oakland history?

Now, I know I'm cutting out a lot of deserving players by restricting this to Oakland A's only, but increasing the scope to the full 109-year history of the Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland Athletics would just be too much. So, sorry about that, Lefty Grove and Jimmie Foxx.

Before I get started, I used WAR (Wins Above Replacement) as my ranking device, which is a statistic that converts on-field performance into the amount of wins contributed above a "replacement player", which is a baseline of the usual free and readily available AAA talent. I used Baseball-Reference's version of WAR, which has historical data going way back, and uses Total Zone for calculating defense. A season of 1-2 WAR is rather mediocre, a 3-4 WAR season is solid, and a 5+ WAR season is generally All-Star level.

Honorable Mention: Vida Blue (28.0 WAR/1945.2 IP), Jose Canseco (27.8 WAR/4531 PA), Carney Lansford (26.7 WAR/5046 PA), Gene Tenace (24.8 WAR/3014 PA), Terry Steinbach (24.8 WAR/4564 PA).

10. SP Barry Zito (28.8 WAR/1430.1 IP), 2000-2006

Forget his time in San Francisco or the gigantic albatross of a contract he was given by the Giants—Zito was rock solid in Oakland, in more ways than one. The huge fire sale before the 2005 season took the other two of the Big Three away, but Zito stuck around and remained Oakland's Zen Master for another couple years

9. SP Tim Hudson (28.9 WAR/1240.2 IP), 1999-2004

I know A's fans appreciate the guy, but it seems like Hudson never really got national appreciation that matched the level of his performance. Huddy ranks sixth among all active starting pitchers with a 3.42 career ERA. That's amazing. Why does it feel like he just disappeared in Atlanta? I swear, Charles Thomas has nothing to do with it.

8. 1B Jason Giambi (30.5 WAR/4411 PA), 1995-2001, 2009

Was there any other person that better personified the loose collegial atmosphere of the early 2000s A's? There was certainly a lot of anger directed at the guy when he jumped ship for New York, but in the end, he was one of the only batting superstars we've had the last twenty years.

7. CF Dwayne Murphy (31.5 WAR/4886 PA), 1978-1987

Murphy was a solid bat, though nothing on Giambi's level, but he edges out Giambi in WAR due to his fantastic outfield prowess. Total Zone credits Murphy with 49 more runs saved than an average center fielder would have throughout his Oakland career.

6. 3B Eric Chavez (35.8/5405 PA), 1998-Present (ish)

Sigh. He ranks sixth on the all-time Oakland list, but I can't help but wonder what could have been. Chavez was one of the cornerstones of the 2000s A's, but, sadly, he hasn't been a full-time player since 2006, when injuries brought his career to a standstill. Now, he's a spineless husk, and I mean that entirely in the literal sense.

5. Bert Campaneris (43.1 WAR/7895 PA), 1964-1976

Never a very strong batter, Campy earns the fifth spot on this list for staying power, with thirteen years with the A's. Of course, the sparkling defense and the gaudy stolen base totals certainly help.

4. Mark McGwire (43.3 WAR/5409 PA), 1986-1997

His Bash Brother sibling made the honorable mention list, but there's no way you could make a best A's list and not include McGwire. One of the most prolific home run hitters of all time, he ended his Oakland career with a slugging percentage north of .550, and that was before the crazy production in St. Louis.

3. Reggie Jackson (49.2 WAR/5430 PA), 1967-1975, 1987

Ten years, three World Series rings, six All-Star nominations, and one MVP trophy. And he goes into the Hall of Fame wearing a different team's hat? Come on, now. As good as Mr. October was in New York (and he certainly was something special), he did better for longer in Oakland.

2. Sal Bando (52.5 WAR/6086 PA), 1966-1976

Reggie Jackson may have been the darling national superstar of Oakland's 70s championship run, but Bando was the team captain, and a very good bat in his own right. The huge walk totals are nice, but they're nothing compared to...

1. Rickey Henderson (75.3 WAR/7481 PA), 1979-1984, 1989-1993, 1994-1995, 1998

Who else but Rickey? Rickey is simply the pride of Oakland baseball, the stuff of legends. He's what you get when you combine a great batter with the most electric basestealer baseball has ever seen, with a ridiculous all-time record of 1,406 career steals. Nowadays, Rickey often makes coaching appearances in the dugouts of Oakland's minor league teams, but let's be honest here, Rickey could probably play better baseball at age 51 than most of those guys put together.

 

The All-Star Game starts at 5:00 PM Pacific Time, where SP Trevor Cahill and RP Andrew Bailey will represent Oakland on the national stage. Additionally, we've got an exclusive interview with A's legend Reggie Jackson coming up on Thursday, which you won't want to miss.

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