All-time best Athletics by the letters

Motivated by Ciderbeck's funny fanpost: Hall of Really Neat Players Named Jack, I started wondering... who are the best A's players by each first initial? Some letters will be kinda obvious, like R and J. I used Fangraphs career Wins Above Replacement-level (WAR) and my own personal whims for these decisions. The fWAR statistic goes back to 1901. Billy Beane could've made this a little easier had he traded for Yonder Alonso, but I digress.

A: Al Simmons — fWAR 78.5

Let's start off with a Hall of Famer, huh? Simmons, an outfielder nicknamed "Bucketfoot Al," started off his career in Philadelphia and had most of his finest seasons in an Athletics uniform. He was a member of the 1929 and 1930 World Series champion teams, and also a three-time All-Star. Simmons rapped out 2,000 hits in just 1,390 games — still a record for fastest to 2,000 hits in MLB history. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1953.

Honorable mention: Amos Strunk, Alfredo Griffin, Andrew Bailey

B: Bob Johnson — fWAR 53.4

Another Philadelphia Athletic. Indian Bob Johnson didn't make the Hall of Fame, but was an 8-time All-Star selection in the outfield, playing most of his career in Philly.

Some trivia from Wikipedia:

    Johnson spoiled no-hit games by getting the only hit for his club three times, with one of them being a homer off Yankees pitching ace Lefty Gómez (1937)
    Johnson is one of three players in MLB history to drive home all of his club's runs in a single game (minimum eight runs)

Honorable mention: Bert Campaneris, Bing Miller, Barry Zito, Billy North

C: Chief (Charles) Bender — Baseball-Reference WAR 38.5

Hall of Fame pitcher Charles Bender, as one of the rare American Indian players in his day, battled racism but pitched quite well for the Philadelphia A's. He twice won 20 games in a season and tossed a no-hitter in 1910. Some think he may have invented the slider. Bender was also one of Connie Mack's favorite players, working for the Athletics in some fashion until ol' Cornelius McGillicuddy, Sr. retired in 1950.

Honorable mention: Carney Lansford, Cy Perkins, Cory Lidle, Catfish Hunter, Cliff Pennington

D: Danny Murphy — fWAR 37.8 (Fangraphs freaking loves early 1900s hitters... why?)

Danny Murphy played 12 seasons at second base and the outfield in Philadelphia and was part of the World Series champion teams of 1910 and 1911. His best season came in 1904, when he hit .287, hit a career high 7 homers and 17 triples. Murphy ended his career with the Brooklyn Tip-Tops.

Honorable mention: Dave Stewart, Dwayne Murphy, Dick Green, Dave Henderson, Dennis Eckersley

E: Eddie Collins — fWAR 60.3

Part of the $100,000 infield — considered one of the best of All-Time (pfft, watch Billy Beane try to match that. The salary of the infield, not the talent.) — Hall-of-Fame second baseman Eddie Collins started and ended his career as an Athletic. He actually took over second base for Danny Murphy. The 1914 AL MVP is currently 6th all-time in stolen bases and 10th on the all-time hit list.

Honorable mention: Eddie Plank (it was a tough choice... debate amongst yourselves), Eddie Rommel, Eric Chavez, Eddie Joost, Elmer Valo

F: Ferris Fain — fWAR 25.4

Nicknamed "The Burrhead," Ferris Fain made it to the All-Star game five consecutive years as a first baseman and won two batting titles for the Athletics. He actually grew up in Oakland and holds the Major League record for double plays in one season, 194. As a White Sock, Fain actually got into a fight with some Pale Hose fans and later in life got busted twice for growing marijuana.

Honorable mention: Frankie Hayes, Frank Welch, Frank Menechino, Frank Thomas. Fautino de los Santos is actually the best F pitcher in A's history, according to Fangraphs. The next? Menechino.

G: Gene Tenace — fWAR 24.1

Whammy! Finally an Oakland guy. Gene Tenace, a catcher, played for Oakland from 1969 through 1976, when he was made a free agent in the A's bicentennial fire sale. He won the World Series MVP in 1972 and was named to the All-Star team in 1975. Three of his four World Series rings came with the A's.

Honorable mention: Gus Zernial, George Burns, Geronimo Berroa, Gil Heredia, Gio Gonzalez

H: Home Run Baker — fWAR 43.3

Yes, I know Home Run is his nickname. But I couldn't pass it up. John Baker was known for his power in clutch situations. He knocked a go-ahead round-tripper in Game 2 of the 1911 World Series and took Christy Mathewson deep for a game-tying home run in Game 3. Baker also led the AL in home runs from 1911-1914. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1955.

Honorable mention: Harry Davis, Hank Majeski, Hector Lopez, Huston Street

I: Ira Thomas — fWAR 4.2

Here's where it got a little tricky. Ira Thomas, a catcher, played for the Philadelphia A's from 1909-1915. His best season was 1911, when he hit .273 with an on-base percentage of .341. He finished eighth in AL MVP voting.

Only other I players: Ike Powers, Irv Stein, Irv Bartling, Irv Hall, Irv Noren, Ivy Griffin

J: Jimmie Foxx — fWAR 69

This was an obvious choice. How good was Jimmie Foxx? He was the fastest player to 500 home runs (32 years, 336 days) until Alex Rodriguez earned that distinction in 2007. Foxx's career started in 1925. He was a 9-time All-Star, three time AL MVP and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1951.

Via Wikipedia:

Foxx was one of the three or four most feared sluggers of his era. The great Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez once said of him, "He has muscles in his hair."

In 1937, Foxx hit a ball into the third deck of the left-field stands at Yankee Stadium in New York, a very rare feat because of the distance and the angle of the stands. Gomez was the pitcher who gave it up, and when asked how far it went, he said, "I don't know, but I do know it took somebody 45 minutes to go up there and get it back."

Honorable mention: Jose Canseco, Jimmie Dykes, Jason Giambi, Joe Rudi, Jack Berry, Johnny "Blue Moon" Odom

K: Kurt Suzuki — fWAR 11

I know, I was surprised, too. So technically, you can say that Kurt Suzuki is one of the best A's* players of all-time! He's been a solid, but not spectacular catcher for Oakland. In 2008 and 2009, he put up fWARs of 3.0. In 2009, he led the A's in RBIs, which I think says more about the team's offense than Suzuki's bat. Just for fun, here's a video of him jumping out of a pool.

*As of writing this, he is still on the team.

Honorable mention: Kenny Rogers, Ken Holtzmann, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Kevin Appier

L: Lefty Grove — bWAR 59.6

One of the best southpaws in baseball history, Robert "Lefty" Grove pitched nine years in Philadelphia, going 195-79 as an A with a 2.88 ERA. In 51.1 postseason innings, he didn't allow a home run. Lefty led the league in strikeouts his first seven years in the majors, and in 1931 was named AL MVP.

Honorable mention: Lave Cross, Lance Blankenship, Larry Gardner, Luis Polonia, Lenny DiNardo

M: Mickey Cochrane — fWAR 43.6

You might be expecting someone else in this spot. Sorry. I just can't do it. It's my list, so I'm making the rules. Mickey Cochrane was one of the best catchers of all-time and is just too purely awesome. Twice, Cochrane was named AL MVP and helped the A's win three World Series titles. Plus there's this.

Honorable mention: Mark McGwire, Max Bishop, Mark Ellis, Miguel Tejada, Mark Mulder

N: Norm Sieburn — fWAR 15.1

Norm Sieburn played four years for the Kansas City A's, usually at third base, from 1960-1963. His best year came in 1962, when he hit 25 home runs and drove in 117 runs.

Honorable mention: Nap Lajoie, Nick Swisher

O: Ossee Schreckengost — fWAR 7.5

Easily the best Ossee of all time. Interestingly enough, Ossee's final at-bat was as the final batter of Addie Joss' perfect game — then just the fourth in history.

Honorable mention: Olmedo Saenz, Ollie Pickering, Omar Olivares

P: Pinky Higgins — fWAR 15.3

It's around this time where I thought... I really should've just limited this search to OAKLAND Athletics players. Pinky, naturally, hated his nickname. Higgins was twice an All-Star for the A's at third base, 1934 and 1936. 1934 was arguably his best season for Philadelphia, as he accrued an OPS (on base + slugging percentage) of .901 and was 17th in the AL MVP voting.

Honorable mention: Phil Marchildon, Phil Garner, Paul Lindblad

Q: No one

The A's have had Emil Quincy Brown and Jake Quirin Fox, but no player whose first name started with Q. Baseball-Reference doesn't bring up any minor leaguers, either.

R: Rickey Henderson — fWAR 73.4

Ricky_henderson_medium

via 4.bp.blogspot.com

Rickey Henderson "has a strike zone the size of Hitler's heart." — Jim Murray, RIP

Honorable mention: Reggie Jackson, Rube Waddell, Rube Walberg, Rick Monday, Rick Langford, Rich Harden, Rollie Fingers

S: Sal Bando — fWAR 52.9

Sal Bando was another major piece of the A's 70's dynasty, making it to the All-Star Game as a third baseman in 1969, 1972, 1973 and 1974. He was the second AL third baseman to hit more than 200 career home runs (Frank Robinson the first).

Honorable mention: SOCKS SEYBOLD, Stuffy McInnis (Yes, I had to pick Sal over guys nicknamed Socks and Stuffy. I felt I showed great restraint.), Sam Chapman, Steve Ontiveros

T: Tim Hudson — fWAR 29.6

This is definitely one trade I wish the A's could take back. What's not to love about Tim Hudson? He's only 6'1", but attacks the strike zone like he's Randy Johnson. Huddy was the reliable ace during the "Moneyball" era, making the All-Star team twice and winning 20 games with that sinker in 2000, when he came in second in the Cy Young vote to Pedro Martinez (who had arguably one of the best seasons by any pitcher ever). Little known fact: Hudson broke Frank Thomas' RBI record at Auburn.

Honorable mention: Topsy Hartsel (so many great names!), Terry Steinbach, Tilly Walker, Tony Phillips, Tony Armas, Ty Cobb

U: No one

Still holding out hope for a Ubaldo Jimenez trade. Urcell Cochran was the closest I can find. He spent some time as a pitcher in the minors for the Kansas City A's. Non Athletics-related players of note: Urban Shocker (yes, really) and Ulysses Simpson Grant Stoner, a.k.a. Lil Stoner.

V: Vida Blue fWAR 21

Vida Blue, a fan favorite, was also one of the hardest throwing pitchers of all time. It was rumored that a ball coming out of the southpaw's hand could go as fast at 100 mph. A six-time All-Star, Blue also won the AL MVP and the Cy Young in 1971. He tossed a no-hitter in 1970 and five years later, combined with two relievers and Rollie Fingers for another one.

Honorable mention: Vic Power, Virgil Trucks

W: Wally Moses — fWAR 26.3

Outfielder Wally Moses started and ended his career in Philadelphia, playing for the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox in between. His best year in an A's uniform came in 1937, when he was named to the All-Star team and finished 11th in AL MVP voting. He hit a career high 25 home runs that year, driving in 86 runs with an OPS of .925. He was later known as a talented batting coach.

Honorable mention: Wally Schang, Wayne Causey, Wayne Gross, Willie Adams, Walt Weiss

X: No one

Xavier Nady never made it to Oakland. A's fans wished this guy was in the Andrew Bailey trade. However Xavier Macklin, who played for the Vermont Lake Monsters (low-A) in 2011 could have a chance at being the first X in Oakland history. He'll need to raise that .230 batting average and tighten up the 28.3% K rate. Best of luck, Xavier!

Y: No one

Yonder Alonso never made it to Oakland. There are some Y's in the A's minors: notably Yordy Cabrera, Yusuf Carter and Yordy Alejo.

It's worth noting that Yank Robinson played for Cincinnati Kelly's Killers and Yank Terry played for the Red Sox.

Z: Zack Wheat — 0.7 fWAR

Wow. You've made it this far? Congratulations!

Outfielder Zack Wheat was best known as a Superba/Dodger, but spent his final season in Philadelphia in 1927. He wasn't too bad, hitting .324 with a .772 OPS.

Some Wikipedia tidbits:

This tactic of threatening to hold out served him well during throughout his career, including during the World War I era, when he raised and sold mules to the United States Army as pack animals. He claimed that he did so well, that he didn't need to play during the summer. The team, fearing that they might lose a great player during the prime of his career, would succumb to his demands every year.

He had tiny feet, size 5, and this is believed to be the cause of the many nagging ankle injuries that caused to miss many games in his career.

It was during his duties as an officer in 1936, that he was chasing a fleeing felon in his vehicle, when he crashed and nearly died. Wheat spent five months in hospital after the accident, and after he was discharged, he moved his family to Sunrise Beach, Missouri, a resort town on the Lake of the Ozarks, to recuperate. It was here that he opened a 46-acre (190,000 m2) hunting and fishing resort.

Honorable mention: Zip Collins (0.1 fWAR), Zeke Bella (-0.2 fWAR)

I'm sure I missed some players. Chime in about who you think is the best per letter.

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