#24: Mark Mulder
Mark Mulder was an anchor in the rotation during the early 2000s, often times considered the leader of the Big Three. Both Tim Hudson and Barry Zito would go on to surpass him in career length, but when Mulder was with the A’s, he was thoroughly dominant.
From 2000 to 2003, this trio of pitchers managed to get their team to the playoffs each season. Sure, their supporting cast was strong, but starting pitching is what truly wins games. Mulder’s success was always continued in the playoffs, as he posted a 2.25 ERA in his four starts during 2001 and 2002.
The 2001 season was perhaps Mulder’s best. He led the league in wins, with 21, and nearly took home the Cy Young Award that season. The following two years, he was selected to the All-Star squad thanks to strong performances.
In 2004, Mulder’s struggles resulted in a post-season trade that sent Dan Haren, Kiko Calero and Daric Barton to the Athletics in exchange for one of the best pitchers in the game. Although Mulder pitched well in his first season with the Cardinals, he was never as good as he was in Oakland, and in 2010, he announced his retirement. Briefly, he made a comeback attempt before the 2014 season, but he tore his Achilles tendon on the second day of spring training with the Los Angeles Angels and did not make it back to the majors. He was still on hand for the ceremony in 2015, however, when the Athletics celebrated the Big Three as Hudson and Zito squared off in the final game of their careers.
Next: Top 50 Oakland Athletics: #23