Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The Oakland A's 40th Anniversary Team – Infielders
Even in depressing, injury-filled seasons such as these, in which the hated Angels clinched the division in early September, my A's are doing what they can to keep things interesting. As you might suspect, "interesting" has nothing to do with watching this team limp to the finish. Instead, the A's are focusing their final few home games on the celebration of their 40th Anniversary Team.
Hello, blog fodder!
First Base: Mark McGwire – Growing up, it was maddening to watch McGwire's at bats: take strikes one and two, swing and miss wildly at a pitch three feet out of the zone or swing and miss at the first two pitches, take the third right down the middle. In truth, McGwire might've been underrated during his early A's days. His OBP/SLG were always terrific – save for his miserable 1991 campaign. Then, after two injury-filled seasons, he began his ascension to home run royalty in 1996-97. No argument from me.
Favorite A's Memory: In Game #3 of the 1988 ALCS, the A's trailed the Red Sox 5-0. McGwire led off the bottom of the 2nd with a home run, comforting a flat-topped That Bootleg Teen and kick-starting a four-run inning. Oakland would rally for a 10-6 win and sweep Boston out the next day.
Second Base: Mark Ellis – Nothing against Ellis, a fantastic defensive player with a solid league-average bat, but his selection here is more indicative of the dearth of long-term talent the team has featured here over the years. I grew up watching the decaying remains of Davey Lopes, Joe Morgan or Willie Randolph at second in Oakland. Occasionally, midgets like Tony Phillips or Mike Gallego would flash some fine leather or a 425-foot home run (hmmm…) And, then there was our mid-1990s savior, Brent Gates.
Favorite A's Memory: I'm drawing a pretty broad blank here. I guess I'd have to go with Ellis' three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth during Game #5 of the 2002 ALDS. I was driving back from my bachelor party weekend in L.A. on a Sunday afternoon and Ellis' shot would've been a dramatic walk-off into the ALCS (against the Angels!)…if RP Billy Koch hadn't given up a three-spot in the top of the ninth.
Shortstop: Bert Campaneris – Really? Campaneris was the A's starting shortstop for their final three seasons in Kansas City and continued to Oakland where he won three rings in the early 1970s. Probably a bit underrated for his defense and speed, but he was a mediocre hitter who didn't reach base much and got caught stealing an awful lot. ESPN's Rob Neyer – in his excellent, albeit a bit dated Big Book of Baseball Lineups – suggests Miguel Tejada. Tejada only spent six full seasons in Oakland and if you throw out his 2002 MVP campaign, his three best seasons are actually worse than Campy's relative to the league average.
Favorite A's Memory: Campy's A's tenure ended when I was still a toddler, so we'll have to go with two other shortstop moments. The first is a gimmie: Miguel Tejada's walk-off three-run home run during the 2002 season to extend the A's winning streak to 18 games. (Tejada would single home the winning run the following day, too.) The second is from the 1989 World Series. SS Walt Weiss homered, which led to Al Michaels' home run call that actually began with the words, "And, of all people…"
Third Base: Carney Lansford – He was one of those players who managed to be wildly underrated and overrated by us A's fans. Lansford was injured for a huge chunk of time in two of his first three seasons in Oakland, but from 1984-1987, he was a very good hitter. Then…not so much. Save for an insanely fluky 1989, Lansford was a league-average (or worse) hitter for remainder of his A's days. Carney was also not nearly as good a defensive player as most fans remember. I know it might be blasphemy, but I'd have voted for Eric Chavez – better hitter, WAY better fielder and bonus points for being homegrown.
Favorite A's Memory: After missing virtually all of the 1991 season due to a snowmobile(!) accident over the winter, Lansford returned for his final season in '92. I was in attendance at the old Oakland Coliseum when Lansford homered for his 2,000th career hit. Two years later, Lansford would return to the field to play the villainous, scar-faced slugger in Angels in the Outfield. Umm, or so I've been told.