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A's Top 5 first basemen: Gallegos' take

@MartinJGallegos
March 30, 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

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 first basemen in A’s history, as selected by Martín Gallegos. Next week: second basemen.

1. Jimmie Foxx, 1925-35
Key fact: One of 10 players to win a Triple Crown

Playing time was sparse for Jimmie Foxx when he broke into the Majors with the Philadelphia Athletics as a 17-year-old catcher -- no surprise given that the club’s regular behind the dish was a generational Hall of Famer in Mickey Cochrane, whom we named the team’s all-time greatest catcher last week. Knowing there was no shot at supplanting Cochrane, Foxx made the transition to first base in 1929, launching himself on his own path to the Hall of Fame.

It’s probably no coincidence the A’s won back-to-back World Series titles in Foxx’s first two full seasons at first base, 1929-30. Foxx was an integral piece of those clubs, bashing 70 home runs combined. This was just the appetizer for what evolved into one of the most prolific careers of any slugger in baseball history.

A's All-Time Around the Horn Team: C | 2B

Foxx won two of his three American League Most Valuable Player Awards with the A’s. He blasted 302 home runs for the franchise, and he won the Triple Crown (.356 batting average, 48 home runs, 163 RBIs) with the A’s in 1933, after Dale Alexander narrowly denied him the achievement in '32, winning the batting title with an average three points higher than Foxx. The A’s all-time great has the club’s best slugging percentage (.640), and his 61.6 career WAR remains the second-highest in club history. After Foxx spent the first 11 seasons of his career with the A’s, a contract dispute after the '35 season led team owner Connie Mack to sell his contract to the Red Sox, where he put the cherry on top of a legendary résumé over seven seasons, winning another batting title and MVP Award in '38. Foxx was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1951.

2. Mark McGwire, 1986-97
Key fact: 363 home runs with A’s are most in club history

After Mark McGwire provided so many historic moments with the Cardinals in the final five years of his career, which made him a St. Louis legend, his time with the A’s may tend to get overlooked outside the Bay Area. But after winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 1987, earning nine All-Star selections and capturing a World Series championship in 1989 during his 12 seasons with Oakland, McGwire himself never forgets where it all started.

“When I get to the Bay Area, everybody represents me as a [member of the A’s]. But when I go to a lot of places, they think I’m a Cardinal,” McGwire said last year during his induction into the A’s Hall of Fame. “I always say to them, 'I was with the A’s for 14 years [including the Minor Leagues] and only with the Cardinals for five.' It’s amazing to think that. But now I get the honor of wearing two beautiful jackets, one red and one green. I’ll be looking pretty good at Christmas time.”

McGwire’s 42.9 WAR is the highest among first basemen in the Oakland era. Perhaps lost in the offensive excellence of his career was a pretty solid glove he displayed at first base. He won the AL Gold Glove Award in 1990.

3. Jason Giambi, 1995-2001, '09
Key fact: 28.0 WAR with A’s is 18th-highest among position players in club history

Based on how his career began, Jason Giambi was on his way to establishing himself as possibly the greatest first baseman in A’s history. That opportunity vanished once he left for the Yankees as a free agent, but the eye-popping numbers Giambi put up in his first seven seasons with Oakland are remarkable.

Giambi captured the AL MVP Award in 2000 and then just missed out on a repeat in 2001, as he finished a close second to Ichiro Suzuki despite Giambi leading the league in on-base percentage (.477), slugging percentage (.660), OPS (1.137), walks (129) and doubles (47).

The A’s never made it past the AL Division Series in two playoff appearances with Giambi, but the slugger performed well under the bright lights with a .323 batting average to go with one home run and five RBIs in 10 postseason games. Giambi’s six-year stretch from 1996-2001 was particularly ridiculous as he slashed .311/.415/.553 with 181 home runs, 221 doubles and 650 RBIs. He returned to the A’s in the latter stage of his career in 2009, but he got off to a slow start at the plate and was released in August.

4. Harry Davis, 1901-11, '13-17
Key fact: 33.7 WAR is third-highest among A’s first basemen

The original captain of the Philadelphia A’s, Harry Davis helped lead the franchise to its first three World Series titles. Davis led the AL in home runs each year from 1904-07, one of only four players in history to lead a league in homers for four consecutive seasons. The first two world titles Davis won with the A’s from 1910-11 came as a player, while the third in ’13 came after he returned to the club as a player/coach.

5. Stuffy McInnis, 1909-17
Key fact: Never batted below .295 in any full season with the A's

If analytics were around in the early 1900s, Stuffy McInnis almost certainly would grade out as an elite defender at first base, as he was often heralded for his defensive prowess by his peers. McInnis was a part of the first A’s dynasty as a member of the club’s first three World Series championship squads, and he contributed more than just great defense. He rarely struck out, with just 175 punchouts in 1,042 games, and he compiled a .313 batting average over nine seasons with the A’s.

Honorable mentions

Matt Olson has won two AL Gold Glove Awards in his first two full big league seasons, which is already more than any other first baseman in A’s history.

Vic Power made two All-Star clubs and was one of the first Latino players in club history.

Dick Siebert hit .283 with the A’s, and he ranks fifth in franchise history with 940 games played at first base.

Martin Gallegos covers the A's for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MartinJGallegos.