The Bizarre Trade of an A's Icon

Other than, "Wow, this is awesome!" I don't have much to say about this team. 67MARQUEZ wrote quite the account of an historic trade, so I wanted to give that some due. It was written Friday, but I had to update the time to make it appear on the front page today. — YonYonson

I had seen favorite players traded before – Reggie, Rickey, Tony Armas – but this was different. Much different.

Twenty years ago today, the A’s were running away with the American League West. It was a defiant response to those happily pronouncing Oakland’s demise. The A’s had smugly strutted their way to three consecutive World Series’ from 1988-90, only to fall back to the middle of the pack in ‘91.

Any obituaries penned for the Bash Brothers era were slightly premature. No, the A’s were going to give it one last push in 1992- their 25th season in Oakland- and they started off strong, winning their first five games. A rejuvenated Mark McGwire (no steroid jokes, please) was at the forefront of Oakland’s resurgence, with five homeruns in the team’s first six games.

The A’s flip-flopped with Minnesota for the top spot the first two months of the season. They spent three or so weeks in July chasing the Twins, and were three games out heading into Minnesota on the 27th of that month. In dramatic fashion, the A’s swept the defending World Series champions on their turf, and left the Twin Cities tied for first. So who was the hero? Try Eric Fox. If you’ve never heard of him, you’re not alone. Fox played 116 games in his career but he surely made his mark in that series. With the A’s having won the first two games (in which Fox went 4-for-10), the young outfielder followed that up with a three-run 9th inning homerun to turn a 4-2 deficit into a stirring 5-4 win. I can still hear Bill King’s call on that one…

The year was an emotional ride on so many levels, and it all started with the strange surroundings of yet another right-field star traded away. It was after a 9-3 spanking of Boston that Carney Lansford had this to say: "First there are guys like Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco. There there’s everybody else." It’s not far-fetched to say that even the two eccentric superstars believed that to be true. Rickey made a habit of showing up late to Spring Training, and Jose’s off-field antics are well-documented to a fault. But Canseco continued to perform at a high level. Until 1992. Which, in turn, gave the A’s front office the out they had been seeking. Just one week after Lansford laid it on thick for the Cuban native, the brash Bash Brother was gone.

Canseco 92

For those of you who only remember Jose Canseco as the guy who ratted out former teammates in his book "Juiced", Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times reminds us of a time when things were different:

A player in his prime, widely regarded as the best player in baseball, a key cog on a team that had won the pennant in three of the last four years… Canseco was the Rookie of the Year in 1986, a year with a lot of strong rookie performances. Two years later, at age 23, he won the MVP Award, becoming baseball’s first 40 homers–40 steals man. The A’s won the first of three consecutive pennants in 1988, with Canseco their biggest name. In 1991, he led the AL in homers for a second time, with 44.

Barely 28 years old at the time of the trade, he was one of the biggest names in the baseball universe.

I was at my brother-in-law’s house on August 31, 1992, and I tuned in to Bill King speaking in a voice I did not recognize. He sounded in complete shock and utterly confused.

If you look at the boxscore of that night’s ball game, it would seem as if Jose Canseco suffered a freak injury before coming to bat in the first inning:

ATHLETICS 1ST: R. Henderson flied to left; Browne walked; BLANKENSHIP BATTED FOR CANSECO; Blankenship flied to left; Baines struck out; 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Orioles 0, Athletics 0.


Jose Canseco had been traded. And not just during the game, but while he was in the on-deck circle!

My sister Rose:

(Our younger sister) Tricia was there with Susan behind the bullpen, and I was with Samantha in our usual seats. I knew something was going on by the action in the dugout and the buzz in the crowd. I actually said it was going to happen before it happened. Even though I grew not to like Jose, I still felt very sick that day. And seeing him on the news made me sicker. Samantha and I just sat there feeling sick. Trish and Susan were feeling the same way as us. I know the majority of the fans felt that way. They started leaving, and so did we after one more inning. We ended up in Castro Valley and drowned our sorrows in ice cream."

The A’s appeared lost that night, and fell quietly to Baltimore, 4-0. One of their four hits was a single by Lance Blankenship, Jose’s replacement that night. He also stole a base. That the A’s would pull of such a stunner in the heat of a pennant race, seemed un-A’s like, considering the sordid details. But often overlooked is the quality of players they received in return: starter Bobby Witt, reliever Jeff Russell, and outfielder Ruben Sierra. That was enough to get them over the hump. It was incredibly fitting that the A’s clinched the American League West on a day they didn’t even suit up. With Minnesota’s loss to Chicago, La Russa’s team won its fourth division title in five years. So much for the run being over.

But amid another AL West crown, nothing stands out from the ’92 season like the bizarre trade of a former Most Valuable Player twenty years ago this night.

Jose & Rickey 93

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