A recent thread on Athletics Nation got me thinking about a new series of write-ups as we await the start of Spring Training and the return of Athletics baseball. Over the coming months, I’m going to work on a quick profile for each of my personal favorite A’s players over the years – a relatively quick career summary, what drew me to said player, and whenever possible, a where are they now. In my response within the thread, I grouped my favorites together by era:
80’s and early 90’s – Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley, and Carney Lansford
Late 90’s and early 2000’s – Tim Hudson and Eric Chavez
Recent departures – Kurt Suzuki
The first player of focus is Carney Lansford.
Carney was drafted by the Angels in 1975 and played for them in the big leagues for three seasons (1978 – 1980) before being traded to the Red Sox. Carney immediately made an impact with the Sox, winning the batting title in 1981 with a .336 average. The A’s acquired Carney from Boston for Tony Armas and Jeff Newman (who?) prior to the 1983 season and he wound up in the green and gold for the next ten seasons and retired after the 1992 season. An interesting note regarding the trade to Oakland is that Boston was willing to give up Lansford due to having ‘some guy’ named Wade Boggs ready to take over the hot corner and rumor has it that he was pretty good. It is safe to say this deal worked out for both teams.
Over the course of his career, Carney didn’t necessarily put up gaudy stats by today’s standards, finishing with a .290 career batting average, 151 HR’s and 874 RBI’s. He played just over 1,200 games in his ten year stint in Oakland and was named to the All Star game in 1988. During the A’s fantastic stretch of baseball from 1988-1992, Carney was a fixture in the two hole of the lineup behind Rickey Henderson and was one of the strongest performers on the team and in each playoff series, excluding his struggles in the 1988 World Series against the LA Dodgers. (Those struggles were contagious in the ’88 Series.)
What drew me to … Carney Lansford
Carney didn’t have the power of the Bash Brothers or the flair of Rickey Henderson, but he always hustled and was always willing to get dirty. When I think or picture Carney in my head, there is always dirt on his uniform from running the bases or diving for a ball at third base. Speaking of, Carney played a fantastic third base for the A’s, a position that I was terrible at when playing in Little League around the same time. (This probably had something to do with my appreciation for him.) Lansford was a staple at third, playing in 134 or more games in 7 of the 10 seasons in Oakland*. He led the AL in fielding percentage for third basemen four times – 1979, 1987, 1988, and 1990.
*Carney Lansford missed all but five games of the 1991 season, the year the A’s team failed to make the playoffs after going to three consecutive World Series from 1988-1990. Coincidence? I think not.
Aside from his play on the field, who couldn’t love the 80’s moustache, long red hair, and flip glasses? Despite all of the big names in the A’s locker room during his tenure with the club, Lansford was dubbed “The Captain”. He came to play night in and night out and seemingly always came through in the clutch. (I know this actually didn’t happen, but it felt like it when I was a kid.) Carney didn’t get anywhere near the credit he deserved outside of Oakland, but when you go back to these A’s teams, it isn’t hard to understand/see why. With names like Henderson, Canseco, McGwire, Stewart, and Eckersley, the pecking order for attention was quite long.
Where is Carney Lansford now?
Carney was the hitting coach for that other team across the San Francisco Bay in 2008 and 2009 before being let go. He was then hired by the Colorado Rockies in 2011, but was relieved of those duties as well back in October at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
Here’s to hoping that Carney finds another coaching job for the 2013 season or lands in a TV/radio booth around the league.