Oakland Athletics: Best First Baseman in Oakland’s History

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Apr 29, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver (36) strikes out Cleveland Indians designated hitter Jason Giambi (25) in the second inning of game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver (36) strikes out Cleveland Indians designated hitter Jason Giambi (25) in the second inning of game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /
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Oakland Athletics have had some good first basemen over the years, but there is only one that truly stands out

Often times baseball for me is an escape from reality.  When the world news is especially grim, I take great comfort in baseball. As Chief Justice Earl Warren put it, “I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments.  The front page has nothing but man’s failures.”  On that note, let us continue our trip down memory lane to consider the best first baseman in Oakland’s history.

There were a few inaccuracies in taking Moneyball from a book to a movie, but one thing the movie got right was Scott Hatteberg‘s move from catcher to first base. Actually, in the book, Hatteberg illustrated what Billy Beane (and his computer guys) figured out and what the rest of baseball didn’t get.  When he was with Boston, Hatteberg was hitting .500 when he swung at the first pitch. Boston wanted him to swing at the first pitch a lot more often. Jim Rice, Boston’s hitting coach, had no understanding of Hatteberg’s approach at the plate. Hatteberg went to the plate looking for a certain pitch, and if he got it, he pounded it. If it wasn’t the pitch he was looking for, Hatteberg let it go.

Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball,  has a whole chapter on Hatteberg. If you only saw the movie, you are cheating yourself.  The book is required reading in my class.  Hatteberg was the perfect “moneyball” hitter. Thanks to Ron Washington, Hatteberg became an above average defender.  (That’s why I have great hopes for Marcus Semien!) Hatteberg was already a fan favorite even before he hit the game winning home run in the bottom of the ninth to win game #20 in “The Streak.”  That home run guaranteed Hatteberg’s immortality among A’s fans. Scottie Hatteberg was one of the best to play first for the Oakland A’s.

Mark McGwire was the first player to come to mind when I considered first basemen who played for Oakland. He hit 49 home runs in his rookie year, and he could have had a couple more. At the end of the season, McGwire passed up a trip to play the White Sox with the wind blowing out at Comiskey in order to watch the birth of his son. I admire that devotion to fatherhood. McGwire hit a lot of big home runs for the A’s. I was never all that impressed by his defense, but it was good enough. For five years McGwire and Jose Canseco were known as the “Bash Brothers” and helped put a little swagger into the step of all A’s fans. It broke the hearts of a lot of fans when McGwire was traded in 1997. Though he would later admit to using performance enhancing drugs, Mark McGwire was a great first baseman for the A’s.

Next: A's Comeback Falls Short, Lose to Angels

In my humble opinion, Jason Giambi was the best first baseman in Oakland Athletics’ history. Though he too used performance enhancing drugs, in his prime with the A’s, Giambi was one of the most feared hitters in baseball. From 1998-2001, Giambi was the heart and soul of the team. Whatever it took to win, Giambi did it. During those four years, it seemed as though Giambi was always making some spectacular defensive stop or hitting a big home run or even directing traffic on the bases after a key hit. He inspired teammates to play above themselves. Giambi epitomized the A’s teams that were always overachieving with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. I have always believed that Steinbrenner and the Yankees signed Giambi as a free agent to hurt the A’s rather than to bolster their already star-studded team.

The A’s have had some tremendous first basemen since they moved to Oakland. Jason Giambi was the best.  Man, I hate the Yankees. That’s what I think…What do you think?

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