The Oakland A’s have had a pretty illustrious start to the second millennium. There has been reason to celebrate and reason to cry. We wish Jeremy had slid and we wish Jason had stayed. The A’s endured highs and lows throughout the 00s, and the 10s have already brought losing seasons as well as a division title. They’ve collected individual hardware, too, from various Rookies of the Year–Grieve, Crosby, Street–to Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers (Eric Chavez). We even had a couple of MVP years thrown in. Since this has been such a wild decade, it stands to reason we’ve had some pretty wild players. Here’s one take on the Oakland A’s All-Decade Team.
c – Kurt Suzuki
The A’s had a lot of different catchers after Ramon Hernandez left after the 2003 season. There was Adam Melhuse, Jason Kendall (those were weird years), Rob Bowen… Mike Piazza, if you want to count him… and then we had Kurt, who was a decent enough hitter and who received lots of praise for handling the pitching staff well.
1b – Nick Swisher
In 2001, his last season in Oakland, Jason Giambi put up 9.2 WAR. Of course no one has measured up compared to that. We’ve not really had a traditional, mashing first baseman since then. I could put Frank Thomas here, who enjoyed one impressive season in Oakland before riding off into the sunset, but that would be a lie–he couldn’t play the field at all at that point in his career. Daric Barton would be the next choice, but luckily Swish played enough games at first that I feel okay about slotting him here rather than the outfield. Swisher came up with the A’s and made an immediate impact, hitting 22, 35, and 21 home runs in his first three full seasons.
2b – Mark Ellis
Ellis was the longest-tenured Athletic during the 00s decade, playing with the club from 2002-2011. Ellis played exemplary defense at second base and, given his longevity, he’s the only choice for the position.
3b – Eric Chavez
Out of all the homegrown stars that graced the Coliseum during the glory years of the early 00s, Chavez was the one to receive a big contract extension. In 2004, after winning a Silver Slugger in 2002 and Gold Gloves in each of the last four years, he signed a 6-year, $66 million extension. As our luck would have it, he would never play more than 90 games in a season for the A’s. But we’re not here to remember that–we’re here to remember the massive power, highlight-reel defense, and all-around good guy that seemed destined for endless 30-homer, Gold Glove, 5-win seasons.
ss – Bobby Crosby
As sad as it is, this is another position where we really don’t have the greatest choices. After Miguel Tejada took his MVP award and rode east towards the big bucks, the A’s best shortstops have been Marco Scutaro, Bobby Crosby, and Cliff Pennington. Scutaro didn’t have his best offensive years in Oakland, but he was a fan favorite and always seemed to have a clutch hit up his sleeve. Pennington played great defense, but he did just get traded away last year because he couldn’t hit worth a lick. So I’ll give this spot to the erstwhile Bobby Crosby, another Rookie of the Year who failed to launch. He’s somehow 8th all-time for Athletics shortstops WAR, but the bulk of that value was garnered during a 235-game stint when he piled up 6.5 WAR, including 3.7 in only 84 games in 2005. There’s no way to tell for sure what happened to delay and ultimately forestall the realization of Crosby’s full potential, but we’ll always have those great years.
lf – Jack Cust
Cust smacked 97 home runs as the A’s dirt-cheap cleanup hitter from 2007-2010. While he certainly didn’t gain any style points–he led the league in strikeouts from 2007-2009–he got the job done. Yoenis Cespedes would ideally be in this spot, but he’s only got one season as an Athetlic under his belt to Cust’s four.
cf – Coco Crisp
Crisp has been the team’s leadoff man for four very solid years, providing veteran leadership and a spark at the top of the lineup. An easy pick, though Mark Kotsay’s 2004 season is the single best by an A’s center fielder in the last decade (.314/.370/.459).
rf – Josh Reddick
Reddick has struggled offensively this year, but he shows great promise, and he is a top-5 right-fielder, no questions asked. Obviously this pick is somewhat premature based on the fact that, like Cespedes, he is just starting out his career as an Athletic. However, who else are you going to pick? Milton Bradley? Bobby Kielty? Eric Byrnes? Jermaine Dye?
dh – Frank Thomas
The Big Hurt will always be remembered as a member of the Pale Hose, and rightfully so. A surefire Hall of Famer and a hell of a lot of man, the dude could rake, and did so even after leaving the White Sox in 2007 to join the A’s. He hit 39 home runs on his way to a 139 wRC+, which is the best offensive season the A’s have seen in the past decade, as far as I can immediately remember. For some context, though, that was only his 12th best season by that metric!
sp1 – Barry Zito
Because he remained with the A’s longer than any other member of the Big Three, I’ll put Zito on the list, even if it feels like his days as an Athletic are long, long gone. It’s true that the signs of mediocrity were already there–could a pitcher with a FIP of 4.89 in his contract year land the kind of bucks Zito did today? But it’s also true that Zito was productive for the A’s, picking up 14, 11, 14, and 16 wins in his 2003-2006 years. In the come-and-go nature of the organization, Zito was a stalwart, and for that we’ll reward him with the #1 spot in this rotation.
sp2 – Rich Harden
You might never guess it, but it’s Harden–not Zito–who leads the A’s pitchers in WAR over the 2003-2013 period. Of course, WAR is quite favorable to strikeout pitchers, and striking people out is one thing that Rich Harden never had any trouble with. I’ll never forget the day I watched the hard-throwing Canadian debut; it was the first time I’d understood how baseball worked, with prospects always on the cusp. His career was also a rough lesson in showing that prospects don’t always pan out, and even when they do, they don’t always stay healthy. Still, no Athletic was nastier over the last ten years.
sp3 – Dan Haren
Haren came over for Mark Mulder right before Mark Mulder turned into a pumpkin. Now Haren’s returned the favor by turning pumpkin on the Angels and Nationals. However, in his three years with the A’s he won 14, 14, and 15 games, leading the league in games started in 2006 and 2007.
sp4 – Brett Anderson
Hard to give a spot to someone who is hardly ever healthy, it seems, but when he’s healthy he’s been great. Despite missing considerable time, Anderson’s 6th in WAR for Athletics pitchers over the 2003-2013 period. Though his best season was his rookie year in 2009, it’s easy to forget that he’s still only 25, only one year older than Jarrod Parker. Hopefully he can get healthy and come back and really earn this spot.
sp5 – Trevor Cahill/Jarrod Parker/Gio Gonzalez/Bartolo Colon/Brandon McCarthy
The surprise here is that this spot is so hard to fill. Though it seems like the A’s have quality pitching every year, they haven’t had any true aces, and hardly have anyone who is screaming to be included as the fifth pitcher in this All-Star rotation. (Heck, it’s even hard to feel good about Anderson in the fourth spot.) Still, the fact that you couldn’t really go wrong by picking any of the above names gives an indication of the number of good arms that the A’s have been lucky to have over the last decade. Of course the hope is that Jarrod Parker can break through and join the ranks of–or even surpass–the guys ahead of him on this list, but as of now, given the tear he’s been on Bartolo Colon might be the best pitcher in the AL West, so we’ll have to see.
rp1 – Justin Duchscherer
Something of a favoritism pick, but the Duke was our All-Star in 2005 and 2008. While he wasn’t a household name or anything, Duchsherer sported a wicked 12-6 hook and had an ERA under 3.00 during 4 separate years. Of course, only one of those came as a starter, when he went 10-8 with a 2.54 ERA in 22 starts. I still wonder whether stretching him out ultimately ended his career–he’d only pitch in 5 more games after 2008–but for that time, he was great.
rp2 – Grant Balfour
While I believe Ryan Cook is ultimately the best reliever on the A’s today, and some would argue for Sean Doolittle, this spot belongs to Grant Balfour. As the heart and soul of this A’s bullpen, he puts everything on the line for the team, and has now been successful in something like 35 straight save opportunities.
rp3 – Andrew Bailey
Rookie of the Year in 2009, Bailey saved 75 games for the A’s in his first three years as a pro, even posting a sub-2.00 ERA in his first two seasons. An easy choice.
rp4 – Huston Street
Sense a theme? Street won Rookie of the Year in 2005 and gave the A’s four high-quality seasons, pitching over 70 innings in three of them. You could argue for Ryan Cook here.