A's Top 5 RH starters: Gallegos' take

May 25th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on each player's career while with that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. If you don't agree with the order, vote in the Twitter poll for your favorite at this position.

Here is MLB.com's ranking of the top five right-handed starters in A's history, as selected by Martín Gallegos. Next week: left-handed starters.

1. Jim “Catfish” Hunter, 1965-74
Key fact: Tossed the first perfect game in A's history (1968)

You must be good when you get to bypass the Minor Leagues for the Majors as a teenager. After just a handful of games in the fall instructional league upon signing with the A's for $75,000 out of high school, broke into the Majors as a 19-year-old with the Kansas City incarnation of the franchise, sparking a legendary 10-year stint that included six All-Star selections and an American League Cy Young Award. Joining the A's on the move to Oakland in '68, Hunter soon anchored a starting rotation that was vital to a dynasty that won three straight World Series titles from '72-74. For as great as he was in the regular season, Hunter perhaps shined his brightest in the postseason, going 4-0 with a 2.13 ERA over seven World Series games in that three-year championship run.

Hunter's perfect game is one of just two in A's history and came against the Twins on May 8, 1968. At the time, it was the ninth perfect game in MLB history. His Cy Young season came in '74 as he won the ERA title and also led the league in wins, going 25-12 with a 2.49 ERA.

• A's All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH

The Swingin' A's dynasty appeared primed to dominate the rest of the decade, but financial issues led to a slow disbanding of the team after the third consecutive World Series title. Hunter was one of the first to go, winning an arbitration case against owner Charlie Finley that allowed him to hit free agency after the '74 season at age 28. He signed with the Yankees, earning two more All-Star selections and winning two more World Series titles in five seasons wearing pinstripes. By the time retirement came in '79 at only age 33 due to chronic arm issues, Hunter finished with 224 wins, 161 of which came with the A's, and a career 3.26 ERA over 500 Major League games.

Though Hunter's departure was not the ideal ending to his illustrious tenure with the A's, he's still forever celebrated by the club as a member of the Oakland A's Hall of Fame and one of just five players to have their jersey number retired by the team. Five years after his passing in '99 after a year-long battle with ALS, the A's also created the Catfish Hunter Award in 2004, which is awarded annually to the club's most inspirational player. Hunter was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987.

2. Chief Bender, 1903-14
Key fact: Career 42.3 fWAR leads all A's right-handers

Spending the first 12 seasons of his career with the A's, Chief Bender amassed 193 wins over that span, which leads all right-handed pitchers in club history. Starting with his rookie campaign in 1903, he lowered his ERA from the previous season for the next seven years, culminating in a stellar 1910 season that saw him go 23-5 with a 1.58 ERA. Bender also threw a no-hitter in this season against the Cleveland Naps, marking just the second time the feat had been accomplished in franchise history.

Former A's manager Connie Mack dubbed Bender “the greatest money pitcher of all time” and it's easy to see why. As part of the original Philadelphia A's dynasty that won three World Series titles in four years, Bender excelled in the postseason, posting a 2.44 ERA over 10 World Series games. He went the distance in nine of those contests.

Bender went on to finish his career playing four more seasons with the Baltimore Terrapins, Phillies and White Sox. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in '53.

3. Dave Stewart, 1986-92, '95
Key fact: 1989 World Series MVP

Before joined the A's, he was considered a journeyman pitcher who had already played for three teams in six seasons. Getting the opportunity to pitch for his hometown team in '86 after he was released by the Phillies, Stewart connected with A's pitching coach Dave Duncan and revitalized his career at age 30 with a legendary stretch.

Stewart won 20 games and pitched at least 250 innings each season from '87-90. His finest campaign came in '89 as he earned the lone All-Star selection of his career, going 21-9 with a 3.32 ERA. Though he finished second to Brett Saberhagen in AL Cy Young Award voting that season, the ending to that year cemented Stewart's legacy in A's history. He tossed a shutout in Game 1 of the World Series against the Giants and went 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in the Series sweep to bring the city of Oakland its fourth World Series title.

In eight seasons with the A's, Stewart went 119-78 with a 3.73 ERA. There's a certain generation of A's fans that will make the case for Stewart being at the top of this list based on his popularity alone. From the intimidating stare on the mound to being an Oakland native, few players in franchise history are as beloved as Stewart. Already in the Oakland A's Hall of Fame, his jersey is set to be retired this upcoming season, becoming the first non-National Baseball Hall of Fame A's player to have that honor.

4. Tim Hudson, 1999-2004
Key fact: Tossed a league-leading two shutouts in '03 and '04

After chose to go to college after the A's drafted him out of high school in '94, they made sure not to let him get away twice, drafting and signing him in '97. Just a couple of years later, Hudson starred on the A's of the early 2000s, forming one-third of the famed “Big Three" along with Barry Zito and Mark Mulder.

Hudson's stint in Oakland was only six seasons, but it was a dominant stretch that saw him go 92-39 with a 3.30 ERA. He led the league in wins in 2000 (20) and earned two All-Star selections and two top-four finishes in AL Cy Young Award voting over that time. With only one year left before being eligible for free agency, the A's traded Hudson to the Braves, the club he would spend nine seasons with, following the '04 season for Charles Thomas, Dan Meyer and Juan Cruz.

5. Eddie Rommel, 1920-32
Key fact: AL wins leader in 1922 (27) and '25 (21)

Eddie Rommel spent the entirety of his 13-year career with the A's, helping them win back-to-back World Series titles in '29-30, though he wasn't used in the latter Series. He finished second to George Sisler in MVP Award voting for the '22 campaign after going 27-13 with a 3.28 ERA.

After his playing days were over, Rommel remained in the organization as a coach. He later went on to become a Major League umpire -- and a pretty good one -- as he worked two World Series and six All-Star Games.

Honorable mention

Jack Coombs went a remarkable 31-9 with a 1.30 ERA to help the A's to their first World Series championship in 1910. In that World Series against the Cubs, Coombs bested Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown in Game 2, came back on one day's rest to earn a win in Game 3, then beat Brown again in Game 5 on two days of rest to clinch the title. In nine seasons with the A's, Coombs went 115-67 with a 2.60 ERA.