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The case for letting Rickey Henderson play in 2018

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What better way to celebrate the Oakland A’s 50th anniversary?

MLB: Spring Training-Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Indians
Rickey thinks Rickey could swipe a bag or two at the age of 59
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Like many in A’s Nation, Rickey Henderson was one of my heroes growing up. I tried (very unsuccessfully) to copy his batting stance throughout my Little League career. His combination of speed, swagger and game-changing ability was like no other player we have ever seen. One of the best things Dave Kaval, Bob Melvin and the A’s have done over the last couple of seasons is to look for ways to honor Rickey and get him in front of the team and fans. From the naming of the field after him to the A’s Big Head Races to having him dress out in uniform and sit near the dugout during home games, the A’s have treated Rickey exactly how you should treat a Hall of Fame legend!

Which brings me to a crazy idea. In this 50th anniversary of Oakland A’s baseball, how cool would it be to see Rickey play in an actual game? He is 59 years old (turns 60 on Christmas Day), but from all accounts is in decent shape. In 2009, baseball writer Jerry Crasnick said he still dreamt of making a comeback. Rickey also mentioned wanting to play again in 2011. In fact, it sounded like Billy Beane was actually seriously considering it in 2007.

The oldest player to ever appear in a Major League game was the legendary Hall of Famer, Satchel Paige. Paige played in a meaningless September game in 1965 at the age of 59 years and 78 days. The team he pitched for? None other than the Kansas City A’s under the ownership of Charlie Finley.

Before we get too carried away, let’s acknowledge the A’s season is far from over. Despite their slow start they’re almost back to .500, and if they can piece together a starting pitching staff to go along with their excellent offense then they still have an outside chance at a 2018 playoff run. Wouldn’t it be incredible to see the Green and Gold make a postseason run?! This is what we are all still hoping for in 2018.

But let’s just presume the worst for a minute and bank that the Astros and Angels will continue their torrid pace and make the AL West a two-team division by mid-July. If this happens the A’s will certainly trade off key veterans at the trading deadline (July 31st) and move more of the loaded farm system onto the MLB roster (Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo, etc.). This will give the team two months to evaluate talent and get guys ready for the 2019 campaign. In this scenario, I would love to see the Athletics front office give a hat tip to the loyal fans who have watched player after player exit Oakland, and in light of the 50th anniversary let Rickey play a game or two!

There are 3 concerns that come to mind with this idea

  1. The A’s wouldn’t want to make a mockery of the pennant race and play a 59-year-old against teams fighting for a playoff spot.
  2. The A’s would have to clear a spot on the 40 man roster for Rickey to play even one game which could put the team at risk to lose a really good player to waivers (see Renato Nunez).
  3. The A’s also wouldn't want to tarnish Rickey’s Hall of Fame legacy or put him at risk for getting hurt.

3 Answers to these concerns

  1. The A’s are scheduled to play the Texas Rangers in an early September homestand (September 7-9) and the Minnesota Twins in the last home weekend of the 2018 season (September 21-23). It is highly likely the Rangers will be in the same place (if not worse) than the A’s by that point in the season, and it is at least possible the contending Twins could have their weak division wrapped up by then. Both of these weekend series could be a spot Rickey could play and not impact the standings in any negative way.
  2. When the A’s called up Barry Zito in 2015 (I may or may not have been responsible for the “Call Up Zito” twitter campaign) they simply moved a 40 man roster player to the 60 day DL. By this September, the A’s will most likely have candidates for this designation as well, therefore protecting the team from losing a valuable 40 man roster player to waivers.
  3. Rickey is 59 years old and yes, his legs did betray him his last few years in the Big Leagues, but Rickey has had plenty of rest and is in great shape and even at his age. He has to be a better option than Jake Smolinski, right?!

Note to Oakland Front Office: Despite Matt Olson’s torrid home run streak, Khris Davis’ race to 40+ homers again and the rise of the young A’s, in the last homestand of the 2017 season, the A’s drew approximately 13,000 fans per game against the eliminated Seattle Mariners. Can you imagine what a weekend 2018 September series featuring Rickey Henderson would bring in? The attendance alone would be the reason for the team to actually entertain this idea. It would also be yet another goodwill gesture in this 50th Anniversary season towards a fan base that has had to put up with a lot from this frugal ownership team of the A’s.

So who wants to join me in campaigning for a Rickey comeback to close the 2018 season?!

Poll

Should Rickey Henderson return to the A’s to play in one last September series to cap off the 2018 50th Anniversary season?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    Yes, this is a brillant idea, Rickey would steal 5 bases and hit a lead-off homer!
    (350 votes)
  • 27%
    Yes, but only for one plate appearance on the final home game of the season
    (225 votes)
  • 25%
    No, keep his Hall of Fame legacy intact
    (206 votes)
  • 5%
    No, I want to see Jake Smolinski get 500 at-bats this season
    (43 votes)
824 votes total Vote Now