Now that Eric Chavez has taken whatever is left of his talent to the Big Apple, there remains but two players in Oakland from the team that came within four wins of reaching the World Series just four seasons ago: second baseman Mark Ellis and part-time pitcher Rich Harden, who returned to the A's this year.
In fact, if Chavez appears in a single game for the Yankees, Ellis will take over the top spot for most games ever by a player who spent his entire career in an Oakland uniform. That is, until he is traded in July to the Giants. Oh, I kid.
While Ellis currently ranks 35th on the Athletics' all-time games-played list with 994, only two players in franchise history - discounting Chavez (with 1320) for the moment - have played in more "A's-only" games than Ellis: fellow second baseman Dick Green (1288) and Pete Suder (1421).
An infielder himself, Suder's big-league career started in the 1941, and ended in 1955, the team's first year in Kansas City. You can say that Green went out in greater style. He began playing with the A's in 1963, and moved with the team to Oakland in '68, before retiring a three-time champion following the 1974 World Series.
If you had to choose the best team of the Billy Beane era, chances are the 2006 squad would not be it. But that team succeeded where four of the previous playoff teams had failed: they made it out of the first round. Alas, just as swiftly as they disposed of the Minnesota Twins ALDS, they were dumped by Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series.
And just as quickly- or so it seems- they were dismantled. So as we celebrate the five-year anniversary of the 2006 A's, let's do a rundown of their whereabouts today.
Of the 40 players to suit up for Oakland that year, more than half (22) have been out of action for at least one season:
Hiram Bocachica, Jeremy Brown, Kiko Calero, Doug Clark, Ron Flores, Brad Halsey, D'Angelo Jimenez, Steve Karsay, Randy Keisler, Bobby Kielty, Shane Komine, Esteban Loaiza, Adam Melhuse, Antonio Perez, Matt Roney, Mike Rouse, Kirk Saarloos, Scott Sauerbeck, Frank Thomas, Jason Windsor, and Jay Witasick.
And of, course, Joe Kennedy, RIP.
Bobby Kielty is the only one of the 22 mentioned who earned a World Series ring post-2006. With the Red Sox winning 3-1 in the eighth inning of Game 4, Kielty hit a home run. Not only did that prove to be the winning run in a series-clinching contest, it came in his only World Series at-bat. Ever. And he has not swung a bat in a big-league game since. Then again, why he would want to?
Speaking of home runs, Frank Thomas hit one on Opening Night in Oakland (a 15-2 loss to the Yankees), 39 for the 2006 season, and two more in Game 1 of the ALDS. For his career he put the Big Hurt on a baseball 521 times. All that remains is a call from Cooperstown in a couple of years.
At the close of the 2010 season, there were 18 players from the 2006 club still in baseball:
Joe Blanton, Milton Bradley, Santiago Casilla, Chavez, Bobby Crosby, Justin Duchscherer, Ellis, Chad Gaudin, Harden, Dan Haren, Dan Johnson, Jason Kendall, Mark Kotsay, Jay Payton, Marco Scutaro, Huston Street, Nick Swisher, and Barry Zito.
Blanton (Phillies), Casilla (Giants), Swisher (Yankees), and Zito (Giants) have gone on to play for World Series champions. Though if you look at the Phillies' pitching staff it's easy to forget Cupcakes exists, let alone helped them to the 2008 title:
A Philadelphia Phillies beat reporter began his question: "Cole (Hamels), you're the only one of the five Phillies starters with a World Series ring …" Joe Blanton interjected, "Wait, I've got one."
The 2006 season seems so long ago. And now only Ellis and Harden remain. That's a lot of moves in four years. And it makes for a hell of a segue.
In case you missed it, the man at the transcaction wheel is feeling pretty good about the team's chances in 2011. Some highlights:
On why the A’s were so active this offseason adding players compared to in recent years when they did little other than to unload much of their talent:
"Yeah if you actually follow the papers you saw that we said that. After the ’07 season we were starting to get up there a little bit payroll wise, and quite frankly I didn’t think we had the core…we needed more young players than we had. And so we did take a step back and reduce the payroll. And it took a couple of years to develop in particular these young pitchers to the point where we thought it was a good enough team to (A) to add to, and we also had the payroll flexibility. So, yeah, stepping back a few years ago, it was something that we consciously did. It started with the [Dan] Haren trade, and this year we did have a little flexibility relative to what we had in the past. So we were able to do some things."
On if he thinks this particular team will benefit or struggle from the expectations of many that they are AL West favorites heading into this season:
"It’s a good question. I think with different teams they react differently. We had gone to the playoffs in 2000 and we had acquired Johnny Damon. It was a great, great team. We went into spring training and had an unbelievable spring training. We were sort of the talk of the winter and I think we jumped out of the gates and we were absolutely miserable. I think we were 2-12 or something like that; it took us a while. And I think a little bit that that team did react to the expectations and it hurt them. I think for us it’s good. I think it’s good for the self-esteem with a young club, and I think if you look at the response, we don’t have a full squad yet, but just about every player has been in here for over a week, and so I think that’s a sign of what they’ve read and their reaction to what they think the team will be. I mean at the end of the day, I think I’d rather have them say that it’s a team that can win than a team that can’t win when it’s all said and done."
When all is said and done, here's hoping there will be no more posts about the 2006 team being the last A's club to win the American League West.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend, AN. We'll see you next Sunday- and on time- as the first Cactus League contest gets underway.