All-Time Best Oakland Athletics

Who are the greatest Athletics of all time?

Welcome to the All-Franchise Starting Lineup, where we review each of the 30 current MLB franchises to determine the best players by position in franchise history. It’s been a few months since we last revealed a team, but we’re back this offseason, starting with the Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland/soon-to-be Las Vegas Athletics.


The Ground Rules


  • Each player’s WAR with the franchise was the primary driver of the selections. We used two WAR calculations, one from Fangraphs (fWAR) and the other from Baseball-Reference (bWAR). When the WAR between players was similar, we considered other factors, such as stats and awards, to break the tie.
  • We only considered statistics earned with the franchise in question for each player. For example, Albert Pujols wasn’t the Dodgers’ first baseman since he only played with them for part of a season near the end of his career.
  • Players with multi-position eligibility can play any position they played for a reasonable period in their career.
  • Outfielders can be shifted between center, left, and right as long as it makes sense defensivelyespecially for center field.
  • Since we now have a universal DH, we will assign one per team. Doing so also allows us to get more deserving hitters into the lineup who played at a log-jammed position.
  • Three pitchers will be namedone right-handed starter, one left-handed starter, and one reliever.


Franchise Overview


The history of the Athletics’ franchise starts with its legendary manager and co-owner, Connie Mack. Mack helmed the club for almost the entirety of its tenure in Philadelphia, from the franchise’s inception in 1901 until 1950, when he was 87 years old. Under Mack’s leadership, the Athletics experienced great success, reaching eight World Series and winning five championships (1910, 1911, 1913, 1929, and 1930), led by all-time greats such as Rube Waddell, Al Simmons, Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, and the “Eddies” – Plank, Collins, and Rommel.

Five years after Mack finally stepped down, the franchise relocated to Kansas City, where it played ineffective baseball from 1955 to 1967. The Kansas City A’s won only 40% of their games and did not reach the postseason during their stay in the Midwest. In 1968, the club moved again to the West Coast city of Oakland.

The Oakland Athletics teams of the 1970s were a dominant force in Major League Baseball. Under the leadership of owner Charlie Finley and manager Dick Williams, the A’s took off in their new home and won three consecutive World Series championships from 1972 to 1974. The “Swingin’ A’s” of the 1970s were led by stars such as star outfielder Reggie Jackson, starters Jim “Catfish Hunter” and Vida Blue, and mustached closer Rollie Fingers. By 1977, most of the stars had left town, and the team sank to last place in the AL West. They made only one trip to the postseason before the “Bash Brothers” era began in 1988.

The Athletics went to three straight World Series from 1988-1991, winning in 1989. The club was led by sluggers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, starters Dave Stewart and Bob Welch, and uber-closer Dennis Eckersley. After winning 306 games over the three-year span, the one championship seemed disappointing. The franchise’s sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds in ’91 marked their last trip to the World Series to date. However, they have made several trips to the postseason and saw much success under the “Moneyball” guidance of former GM / Team President Billy Beane in the 2000s.

The Athletics are coming off their worst season since 1919, winning only 50 games in 2023. The financially challenged club finally announced their long-rumored move to Las Vegas this offseason.


Catcher: Mickey Cochrane

Career Stats with the Philadelphia Athletics (1925-1933)

Terry Steinbach and Gene Tenace earned consideration at catcher, but Mickey Cochrane is eighth on our list of the ten greatest catchers of all time and generally regarded as one of the hitters ever to play the position. Cochrane began his career in 1925 and played in Philadelphia through 1933. Over those nine seasons, “Black Mike” was a part of three World Series clubs, two of which were champions in 1929 and 1930. He took home the AL MVP in 1928 and was known as an inspirational leader.

After the 1933 season, the Athletics, hurt hard by the Depression, began dismantling and sold Cochrane’s rights to the Detroit Tigers, where he became a player-manager. He won a second MVP in his first season in Detroit, made two All-Star teams, and won another World Championship in 1934, but it took a toll on him. Cochrane was uncomfortable with all his responsibilities and suffered a nervous breakdown in 1936 when the club added GM duties to his slate. His playing days ended in 1937 after he was struck in the head by an errant pitch that almost killed him. He was only 34 years old at the time.

Cochrane joined the Hall of Fame in 1947. Despite his relatively brief time with the Athletics, he leads the franchises’ catchers in nearly every offensive category. His .412 OBP ranks fifth among all Athletics players historically.


First Base: Jimmie Foxx

Career Stats with the Philadelphia Athletics (1925-1935)

Jimmie Foxx manned first base during Mickey Cochrane’s tenure with the Athletics and was also moved, this time via trade, at his peak in 1935. He was also one of the greatest first basemen of all time, trailing only Lou Gehrig in our rankings.

Foxx was only 17 when he broke into the Show and wasn’t a regular until 1928, after which he quickly established himself as one of the most potent hitters in the game. Foxx earned the nickname “Double X” for his ability to hit both for average and power. He led the AL in home runs three times as an Athletic, RBI twice, and took home the 1933 batting title. Double X won the Triple Crown with a .356 average, 48 dingers, and 163 RBI that season. In addition, Foxx was the AL MVP three times during his time in Philadelphia (1932, 1933, and 1938). Like Cochrane, Foxx went to three World Series and was twice a champion. In 18 postseason games, Foxx had an OPS of 1.034 with four HRs, 11 runs, and 11 RBI.

After being traded to the Boston Red Sox in 1936, Foxx continued to excel, winning this fourth MVP, another batting title, and another HR crown. He played in the first nine All-Star games and didn’t retire until 1945, finally calling it quits back in Philadelphia with the Phillies. In 1951, Foxx was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, solidifying his place among the game’s all-time greats as one of the most feared hitters to ever step foot on the diamond.

Second Base: Eddie Collins

Career Stats with the Philadelphia Athletics (1906-1914 & 1927-1930)

The third player in our lineup was another no-brainer and another all-time great. Eddie Collins ranks second on our Top Ten list of the best second basemen in MLB history and was among the early entrants to the Hall of Fame in 1939.

Collins began his career with the Athletics in 1906 and was the club’s regular second baseman by 1909. Known for his exceptional speed, Collins stole 376 bases for the A’s, leading the AL with 81 in 1910, and thrice led the league in runs. He was a key member of the Athletics’ first three World Series championship clubs in 1910, 1911, and 1913). Collins was the AL MVP in 1914, the last season of his first tenure with the club. The franchise sold his rights to the Chicago White Sox in December 1914.

Collins continued to excel in Chicago, earning his fourth World Series championship in 1917 and becoming a fan favorite. He was a member of the infamous “Black Sox” team of 1919; however, Collins was never associated with the scandal and was known as one of the “Clean Sox.” He remained in Chicago until 1926, when he was traded back to the Athletics, where he concluded his playing career after the 1930 season, adding two more rings to his collection in a minor role. He finished his career with a .333 batting average, 3,315 hits, 1,821 runs scored, and 741 stolen bases.


Shortstop: Bert Campaneris

Career Stats with the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics (1964-1976)

Bert Campaneris is the first player in our lineup not in the Hall of Fame, but his longevity with the franchise, excellent defense, and speed made him the obvious choice at shortstop. Campaneris leads all historical Athletics in plate appearances, ranks second in stolen bases, and ranks third in runs scored. The Cuban-born “Campy” began his professional journey with the Kansas City Athletics in 1964 after signing as an amateur free agent. He stayed with the team until 1976, bridging the move to Oakland. Campaneris was the starting shortstop from his second season and was rarely out of the lineup.

Known for his speed, Campy led the league in stolen bases six times and triples once. He played in six All-Star games in his career, five times representing the Athletics. Campaneris took home three World Series rings in his career with the 1972, 1973, and 1974 squads. His best series came in 1974 when Campy slashed .353/.389/.471 with a pair of doubles, two RBI, and a stolen base against the Dodgers.

After the 1976 season, Campaneris left the A’s for the Rangers via free agency. Texas traded him to the California Angels in 1979, and he finished his career with the Yankees in 1983. He is recognized as one of his era’s best shortstops, and the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame inducted him in 1990.


Third Base: Sal Bando

Career Stats with the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics (1966-1976)

The choice at third base was a coin flip between Sal Bando and “Home Run” Baker. Baker was a force for the Philadelphia Athletics from 1909 to 1914, leading the league in HRs four times and RBI twice. However, he was only with the franchise for about six seasons, while Bando was a mainstay on the three championship teams in the early 1970s and ranks in the franchise’s top 10 in plate appearances, home runs, and RBI.

Bando broke in with the Kansas City Athletics but didn’t become a regular until the team moved to Oakland in 1968. After he moved into the starting lineup, he became an ironman, leading the league in games played four times, three of which were all 162. Bando’s excellent defense, power, and on-base skills made him an integral part of the dominant A’s teams of the era. “Captain Sal” also played in four All-Star games, in 1969, 1972, 1973, and 1974.

Bando’s Athletics career ended after the 1976 season when he joined the Milwaukee Brewers as a free agent. He played five seasons in Milwaukee before retiring in 1981. Captain Sal stayed with the organization for several years post-retirement, eventually becoming their GM for most of the 1990s.


Left Field: Rickey Henderson

Career Stats with the Oakland Athletics (1979-1984, 1989-1995, 1998)

Many consider Rickey Henderson the greatest lead-off hitter in MLB history. One thing is for sure – he’s the greatest base stealer. He stole 468 more bases than #2 on the all-time list, Lou Brock. Rickey was more than just fast, though. He also had a tremendous eye and plenty of power. In addition to the stolen bases, he’s the all-time leader in runs scored and unintentional walks. In his career, Henderson led the league in SBs 12 times, walks four times, runs five times, and OBP/OPS once. It’s no wonder “The Man of Steal” made our list of the Top Ten Left Fielders of All Time.

Henderson played for nine franchises in his incredible 25-year career but spent roughly half his career in an A’s uniform. He debuted with Oakland halfway through the 1979 season and stole 33 bases in 89 games. The following season, he made his first of ten All-Star appearances, and in 1981, he won his first of three Silver Sluggers and his only Gold Glove. Despite his production, the struggling A’s traded him to the Yankees after the 1984 season, but he returned in 1989 to one of the best teams in baseball. The A’s won the World Series that year, and Henderson was the MVP of the ALCS with a .400 batting average, eight SBs and runs, two HRs, and five RBI. He was even better in the four-game series sweep of the Giants, batting .474 with a .524 OBP.

Rickey had his best season the following year and was the AL MVP. That season, he hit .325 with a league-leading .439 OBP, 1.016 OPS, 65 SBs, and 119 runs. For good measure, he hit 28 HRs – a career high. The A’s again advanced to the World Series but lost to the Reds and their “Nasty Boys” bullpen. The sweep was a turning point for Oakland, and a few years later, Henderson was traded to the Blue Jays at the deadline in 1993, where he won a second World Series Championship.

Henderson re-signed with Oakland as a free agent after the series and bounced around from team to team for another 10 years,  finally retiring after the 2003 season. Rickey was a no-doubt first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 2009 and had his number 24 retired by the A’s that same year. He was honored further by the club in 2017 when the team christened the Coliseum as “Rickey Henderson Field”.


Center Field: Al Simmons

Career Stats with the Philadelphia Athletics (1924-1932, 1940-1941, 1944)

Al Simmons broke in with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1924 and was a big reason behind the franchise’s resurgence. Simmons led the AL in hits in his second season and finished second in the MVP voting as the also-ran A’s began their push towards their three consecutive pennants and two World Series championships from 1929-1931. Simmons was a cornerstone player for the club, leading the league in batting in 1930 and 1931. In his first stint with Philadelphia, which lasted nine seasons, Simmons averaged 23 HRs, 129 RBI, and 107 runs with an incredible .358/.400/.590 slash line.

“Bucketfoot Al,” so dubbed because of his odd batting stance, was no slouch in the postseason either. In 18 World Series contests with the Athletics, Simmons hit .333 with 14 runs, five doubles, six home runs, and 17 RBI. Despite his prowess, like most of the stars of this era, the club sold his rights to the White Sox after the 1932 season.

Simmons continued flourishing in Chicago, attending the first three All-Star games, but bounced around as he aged until resigning with the A’s in 1939. He played only 50 more games for the franchise before calling it quits for good midway through the 1944 season. Simmons joined the Hall of Fame in 1953 and remains the Athletics’ franchise leader in batting average and runs scored.


Right Field: Reggie Jackson

Career Stats with the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics (1967-1975, 1987)

Many think of Reggie Jackson as a Yankee due to his postseason career in New York and his larger-than-life personality. However, Jackson won three of his five rings and his only MVP before leaving the Bay Area. Reggie debuted with the Athletics in 1967, the club’s last season in Kansas City. He struggled, though, and was sent back down to the minors. The following year, Jackson was the starting right fielder and clubbed 29 HRs, albeit with a league-leading 171 strikeouts. Reggie led the league in Ks five times in his career, but he offset this with four HR crowns. For Jackson, it was “go big or go home.”

Reggie made his first of 14 All-Star appearances in 1969 and represented the A’s in the Midsummer Classic six times. During his MVP campaign in 1973, he led the league in HRs, Runs, RBI, SLG, and OPS. That fall, the A’s won the World Series for the second straight season and Jackson was the series MVP after hitting .310 with a home run and six RBI. The A’s three-peated in 1974, giving Reggie his third ring, and one year later, he was gone.

The Oakland dynasty began to crumble in 1975, and right before the 1976 season began, the A’s traded Jackson to Baltimore. After the season, Reggie would be a free agent, and Oakland felt they couldn’t re-sign him. After one season with the Orioles, Jackson joined the Yankees, where he won two more World Series rings. The legend of “Mr. October” was born during the 1977 series after Jackson slugged five HRs, hit .450, and won his second World Series MVP. His lifetime line in the Fall Classic includes 10 HRs, 24 RBI, 21 runs, and a .357 average.

Jackson left the Yankees via free agency in 1982 and played five more productive seasons for the California Angels before returning to Oakland for his final season in 1987. In 1993, Reggie became a first-ballot Hall of Famer and had his number #44 retired by the Yankees. A decade later, the A’s retired his #9.


Designated Hitter: Mark McGwire

Career Stats with the Oakland Athletics (1986-1997)

Our final hitter came down to Mark McGwire, Bob Johnson, and Home Run Baker. As mentioned, Baker made a big impact but was with the franchise only a short time. Johnson was with Philadelphia for 10 seasons and played in five All-Star games as an Athletic, but didn’t appear to have the same level of impact as “Big Mac.” McGwire comes with controversy due to his association with performance-enhancing drugs, but we established long ago that we wouldn’t factor that in since there’s no way of knowing who did what and when throughout the history of MLB.

McGwire debuted near the end of the 1986 season and quickly showed off his power, smashing three HRs in 18 games. The following season, Mac won Rookie-of-the-Year, made the All-Star team, and led the AL with 49 homers and a .618 SLG. The A’s went to the World Series the following three seasons, winning in 1989. McGwire, along with fellow “Bash Brother” Jose Canseco, played a huge role in the club’s success. Though his batting average would sometimes lag, Big Mac’s power and strike-zone judgment never wavered. He led the league in walks in 1990, OBP in 1996, and SLG twice more after 1987. McGwire also represented the Athletics at nine All-Star games, won a Gold Glove in 1990, and took home two Silver Sluggers with the franchise.

Mac struggled with injuries from 1993-1994, playing in only 74 games over the two seasons (the player’s strike-shortened 1994). He rebounded in a big way in ’95, slugging 39 HRs in 104 games. The following year, he was at his best as he led the AL in HRs, OBP, SLG, and OPS. However, the franchise was in a downward spiral, and McGwire was traded to the Cardinals at the deadline in 1997. Big Mac’s accolades as a Cardinal are well-known and controversial. He broke the single-season HR record with 70 home runs in 1998 and smashed another 65 in 1999. The record didn’t last long, though, as Barry Bonds broke it in 2001.

By this time, MLB was deep into steroid scandals. McGwire eventually came clean and admitted usage in 2010. It appears his admission will keep him out of the Hall of Fame, but he still sits atop the leaderboard on the A’s all-time HR chart.


Left-Handed Starter: Eddie Plank

Career Stats with the Philadelphia Athletics (1901-1914)

The Athletics have been blessed with several amazing lefties since their inception. Eddie Plank, Lefty Grove, Rube Waddell, and Vida Blue were all deserving, but we could choose only one. Plank gets the nod due to his longevity, durability, and consistency in the franchise’s early days. He’s the all-time Athletics leader in innings pitched, wins, bWAR, and fWAR.

Plank was one of the original A’s, breaking in with the team in 1901 at the age of 25. Straight from the Gettysburg College team, he posted a 3.31 his rookie season, followed by 3.30 the next year. Those were the only two seasons his ERA would be over 3.00. For the next 12 seasons, Plank averaged 33 starts, 25 complete games, five shutouts, and 275 innings pitched with a 2.23 ERA and 1.1 WHIP. Despite his success, he threw in Waddell’s shadow in the early years. Waddell was the strikeout artist, dominating the opposition, while Plank had a herky-jerky cross-motion delivery.

Plank’s teams went to five World Series, winning three times, though Plank didn’t pitch in the 1910 Fall Classic due to a sore arm. In seven World Series appearances (six starts), Plank only won two games despite a 1.32 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, six complete games, and 5.3 K/9. The offense simply didn’t come through for him. After the 1914 season, the A’s released the 38-year-old Plank along with the younger and likewise excellent Charles Bender. After one season in the Federal League, which folded in 1915, he joined the St. Louis Browns and pitched two more years. Sadly, “Gettysburg Eddie” suffered a stroke and died only nine years later. In 1946, the Old Timers Committee elected him into the Hall of Fame posthumously.


Right-Handed Starter: Charles Bender

Career Stats with the Philadelphia Athletics (1903-1914)

The choice for our right-handed starter came down to two hurlers with memorable nicknames: Jim “Catfish” Hunter and Charles “Chief” Bender. Hunter was a force on the back-to-back-to-back championship teams in the early ’70s, which he capped with a Cy Young award in 1974. Bender also won three championships, and both players are in the Hall of Fame. Both men deserved the honor, but we went with Bender because he had more wins, a lower ERA and WHIP, and a higher WAR than Hunter.

Bender’s time in Philadelphia nearly mirrored Plank’s. He debuted in 1903, but unlike Plank, he was young at only 19. Bender was also unique as he was half Native American and dealt with racism and stereotypes throughout his career. His nickname can attest to that, though Bender came to accept it and eventually allowed it to be etched on his tombstone. Bender flourished from the outset but hit his stride during the last eight years of his career in Philadelphia. From 1907 to 1914, Bender averaged 17 wins, 17 complete games, and three shutouts in 208 innings with a 2.03 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP.

Bender gained a reputation as a clutch pitcher, in large part due to his dominance in the World Series. In his first nine starts in the championship, Bender went 6-3 with a 1.93 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. Connie Mack chose to go with Bender in Game 1 of the series in 1910, 1911, 1913, and 1914. He only let him down in his final start for the franchise when the Boston Braves touched him up for six runs in Game 1 of the 1914 series, which they swept. After the season, like Plank, Bender was released.

Again, like Plank, Bender played one season in the Federal League before returning to the cross-town Phillies in 1916. He retired after the 1917 season at only 33, except for one inning for the White Sox in 1925, where he was coaching. The outing was more of a gimmick than a comeback, and Bender did not fare well. His legacy was secure regardless, and in 1953, the Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee honored him with an admission to Cooperstown.


Reliever: Dennis Eckersley

Career Stats with the Oakland Athletics (1987-1995)

Two of the greatest closers of all time pitched for the Athletics: Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley. Fingers closed games for the 1970s juggernauts while “Eck” dominated for the Bash Bros. teams of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Ultimately, Eckersley was the choice because he had one of the most incredible five-year runs in baseball history.

Eckersley began his career in the rotation and was an excellent starter for 11 seasons. He went to two All-Star games as a starting pitcher and had a 20-win season in 1978. He didn’t work out of the bullpen until traded to the A’s in April 1987. At that point, the amazing second half of Eckersly’s career began.

In his first season in Oakland, Eck became the closer after Jay Howell developed arm problems. After the A’s moved Howell in the offseason, Eck became the man and did not disappoint. In 1988, Eckersley led the AL with 45 saves and finished second in the Cy Young voting. In addition, he joined the All-Star squad as a reliever for the first time. He returned in that capacity three times over the next four seasons. Over that five-year span, Eckersley saved 220 games with a 1.90 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP.

His two best seasons came in 1990, when he posted a 0.61 ERA with 48 saves, and in 1992. That year, he improbably won the Cy Young and MVP awards after a league-leading with 51 saves and a stellar 1.91 ERA. The A’s went to three World Series during this period, winning once. However, Eck only saved one game and surrendered the infamous HR to Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the ’88 Fall Classic.

Oakland traded Eckersley to the Cardinals in February 1996, and he retired a few years later, playing his final year in Boston. Eck joined the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility with 83% of the BBWAA vote. A year later, in 2005, Oakland retired his #43.


On Deck


Next, we’ll look at the current team from Philadelphia – the Phillies. Keep an eye out for it this offseason. If you like this content, you can find much more in my archive or by searching “all-time” on the site.

Scott Youngson

Scott is a SoCal native who, after two decades of fighting L.A. traffic, decided to turn his passion for fantasy sports into a blog - the now-defunct Fantasy Mutant. He currently writes for FantasyPros and Pitcher List and will vehemently defend the validity of the Dodgers' 60-game season championship.

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