Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Should the A's Bring Rickey Back One More Time?

If you have been anywhere near the Bay Area the past week, the most debated baseball topic has been the public request by Hall of Famer to be Rickey Henderson that he be allowed to play his final season (I guess he means 2003) with his home town Oakland A’s.

His request has fallen upon deaf ears within the A’s hierarchy. Not surprising, because Rickey has been here before, most recently in 1998, and his skills had dropped so noticeably that Billy Beane let him go at season’s end with hardly a handshake good bye.

Now, it’s 2003, the team has been in the playoffs three consecutive years without advancing beyond the first round.

Rickey is still playing. Can Rickey help this team achieve its goal of a World Series appearance?

Click “Read more” and I’ll tell you my opinion.First things first, Rickey played in 72 games last season for the Boston Red Sox. He hit .223 with an on base percentage of .369. He stole 8 bases in 10 attempts and scored 40 runs in only 179 at bats, pretty good part time production.

The A’s are commited to Terrence Long in left, Chris Singleton in center, and Jermaine Dye in right. All three oufielders make over one million dollars per year and they are going to play 85-90% of the time.

The A’s have spare outfielders Adam Piatt and Eric Byrnes as possible bench players with the forgettable Billy McMillon and Jason Grabowski in the wings.

Erubiel Durazo is the full time DH who will get some days off against some tough lefties, but not many. Trust me, if healthy Durazo will be in the everyday lineup as often as his health permits (he is the GM’s Holy Grail).

If Rickey Henderson makes the team, one of the part timers must go.

How many at bats will Byrnes get in the majors this year? Not many, he’ll be in AAA before May. How about Adam Piatt? At best he’ll get 150 at bats, possibly spelling Durazo or Long, if Long struggles (Macha says he’ll bench Long, this I’ll believe when I see it). Piatt has never shown the ability to hit with any consistency when asked to play on a part time basis. If McMillon or Grabowski or any Rule V draftee get more than 150 at bats, then there is something seriously wrong with this team.

Baseball teams that win championships usually have some magic attached to them. An aging veteran who leads in the clubhouse or on the field? An unheralded rookie who makes a splash. A veteran pitcher who finds himself one last time.

The only veteran on the 2003 A’s is back up infielder Frankie Menechino who was sent to AAA last season for a variety of reasons. I’m not sure (I’ll have to check the roster carefully) the A’s have anyone on the team who has appeared in a World Series game in his career, coach, manager or player included.

Rickey Henderson has been there before on the center stage in the series. He can and wants to teach these A’s something about winning in October. On the field, he actually could produce as much as anyone I’ve named especially since the A’s don’t have a legit lead off hitter on the roster.

Rickey’s attitude is good, better than in the past, he wants to help, to fit in, and be a productive teammate.

Can he help in the clubhouse? I think he can. I’ve seen him talk baseball before the game to younger players, who sit at his feet listening to him explain the fine points of the game.

The bottom line is he has identity as an offensive player, something this offense can use in the postseason.

Would I rather have him than Piatt on the roster?

No, I’d like them both. I’d send Byrnes packing because I don’t think he’ll ever get a chance in Oakland. He may have some value on the market now. Once heralded first round draft pick Nick Swisher gets here in 2004 or 2005, center field will be Swisher’s anyway.

Rickey Henderson can help this team, believe it or not. Give him a AAA contract now, money isn’t an issue. Get him in the clubhouse, take some pressure off Miguel Tejada who will be under the microscope all year long (more on him later), let the young guys see how a Hall of Famer goes through the season.

The A’s just might learn something that will help them in October and Rickey just might score some big runs for the team during the year.

I can’t see how it can hurt to sign Rickey. I see it as a positive in a baseball sense plus the fans love him and they pay the bills.

C’mon Billy give Rickey a chance, he deserves it.


1 Anonymous { 02.11.03 at 5:23 pm }

Yes, they should. Rickey is part of A’S

history and a great one that is, the

best leadoff hitter and best base steeler

of all time….

But the A’S have a big problem with the

Yankees (not on the field)but in


Jim “Catfish” Hunter

Reggie Jackson

Both became stars with A’S but are in

the Hall of Fame with Yankee uniform.

Last year a potential Hall of Famer also

left(Jason Giambi)from Oakland to New York.

If Rickey comes back, can he guarantee

he will be in Cooperstown with the

A’S uniform?

A’S need some history…..

The Oakland A’S have been much more

successfull on the field than the SF Giants

(A’S 4 World Series Trophies SF 0)

But the A’S do not seem to get anybody

in Cooperstown with their uniform !

Best wishes.

Amaury Pi-González

2 marty { 02.11.03 at 7:38 pm }

Rickey announced after I asked him at our Q&A Saturday that he would go into the HOF as an Oakland Athletic. He has told me that in the past.

Marty Lurie

3 Anonymous { 02.11.03 at 9:40 pm }

Hey Marty,

Glad to see you’re back. I agree with you 100% about Ricky. I think he just wants to make a positive contribution to the A’s and go out in style. The team could learn a lot from him. I also think that the A’s should let Byrnes go. Byrnes doesn’t provide much in either defense and offense. Plus,Piatt will be the 4th outfielder this season and I think Grabowski should be given a chance considering how well he has been hitting the ball. He had a good season in winter league. I look forward to your future articles on the A’s offseason moves.

-Mike E.

4 Anonymous { 02.12.03 at 12:40 pm }


I appreciate your contributions, but I would appreciate them a lot more if they weren’t always in narrow columns, but in easier to read paragraphs that go across the page.


5 Anonymous { 02.12.03 at 4:31 pm }

I am a day late but here’s my 2 cents worth. If Rickey has any gas left in the tank the A’a should hire him in a heartbeat. He was the best athlete of them all in his prime. I thought he could disrupt an opponent far better than Canseco or McGwire.The fans love him as his hometown is Oakland. The perfect ending to a great career

6 Anonymous { 02.12.03 at 4:47 pm }

This is a win-win situation. For $300,000 we get a crowd favorite who can still get on base when it matters. It is not like he is replacing anyone unreplaceable on the bench. The guy has been good to the A’s and has a wonderful history with the team. He deserves a chance to retire from the team he loves. And the team that loves him.

One caveat though. His contract must indicate that it is for only 1 year and Rickey must retire at the end of the year regardless of what numbers he puts up. Let him have a little farewell tour as he teaches some of his tricks to the young guys. I think he has mellowed and could be a real positive influence in the clubhouse. If he fizzles during the year, then he retires mid-season and becomes a special coach. (John Jaha was smart enough to do that and go out on a positive note).

I know I would enjoy seeing Rickey again. Maybe a couple of more game leadoff homeruns and a little more baserunning distractions for the opposition.

Come on Billy, make your fans happy. And thanks, Marty. Maybe Billy will hear you.

7 marty { 02.12.03 at 5:26 pm }

I’m absolutely with everyone on this, there is no downside to signing Rickey to a minor league deal and then see how spring training plays out. The A’s baserunning was not good last year, he can be a positive influence on the team. I like the comparison to Jaha if things don’t work out by midseason.


8 Anonymous { 02.12.03 at 10:31 pm }

Rickey might help the A’s do something that they haven’t done well recently; put butts in the seats. They would get a player whose name is rememberable for probably pretty cheap. They could also get some milage out of Rickey’s retirement. Good for Rickey, good for the A’s.

9 Butch { 02.12.03 at 10:41 pm }

I just read the latest Baseball Weekly & they opine Beane won’t sign him. I think it’s a real mistake – the A’s don’t have a leadoff hitter of any consequence plus Byrnes & Piatt aren’t worth Rickey’s roster spot. He can teach working counts. basestealing, occasionally leading off & playing LF, pinch hit & pinch run. He usually does well in away games vs righties during the 1st half of the season which would be perfect for the A’s & if one of the other guys does well in AAA & Rickey flags, they can pre-arrange a mid-season retirement. I agree with those who say this is a no-lose signing & for cheap! If they don’t want him, he can go to Tampa Bay after they release Greg Vaughn.

10 Anonymous { 02.13.03 at 2:20 am }

I’d prefer someone like Kenny Lofton over Rickey. While Rickey can run the basepaths and can provide veteran leadership, he wasn’t dubbed “Rickey B. Rickey” for no particular reason. I think Lofton has more upside on the field and in the clubhouse than Henderson. How about the possibility of adding Ron Gant or trying to lure Tim Raines Jr. back? Rickey’s gassed, and while he can still take four balls, he isn’t the Rickey we all once saw.

11 Anonymous { 02.14.03 at 12:38 am }

I’d prefer someone like Kenny Lofton over Rickey. While Rickey can run the basepaths and can provide veteran leadership, he wasn’t dubbed “Rickey B. Rickey” for no particular reason. I think Lofton has more upside on the field and in the clubhouse than Henderson. How about the possibility of adding Ron Gant or trying to lure Tim Raines Jr. back? Rickey’s gassed, and while he can still take four balls, he isn’t the Rickey we all once saw.

12 Butch { 02.15.03 at 11:43 pm }

I heard Montreal’s GM, Omar Minaya is going to sign a veteran FA to a minor league contract; he’s always liked Rickey; could it be?

13 astrogoddess { 02.17.03 at 2:16 am }

Yes, Capricorns get younger as they get older.

Rickey’s a Capricorn-Dec 25, 1958. Highly conscientious, Capricorns thrive on responsibilty and are very tenacious.

Additionally, I think his prescence in the clubhouse would be a plus, sharing his experiences. Capricorns are ambitious and live for their work. Give Rickey a chance to show the world he can still contribute.



14 Anonymous { 02.17.03 at 10:39 pm }

Hey Marty-

Just ran across your site here, and I agree 100% with your comments about Rickey. The A’s have NOTHING to lose by bringing him in for his final season. I know Billy didn’t want to have Rickey around Miguel after the 98 season because he didn’t want a negative influence on the young guys, but now is the time to bring back the franchise, have him go out like Joe Rudi, Mike Norris & Reggie Jackson, wearing green and gold!

I for one will be quite sad when Rickey does hang up his cleats. After watching him play for 24 years, not having him around baseball is going to be very difficult for me. I know I’ll enjoy his Cooperstown induction ceremony, but I’m hoping that takes place in 2008 not 2007!


15 Butch { 02.17.03 at 11:49 pm }

Mark, you’re absolutely correct; there’s simply no down side to signing Rickey for the A’s. I’m pleasantly surprised that most of the A’s fans (unlike those on practically every other board) would like Beane to give him a shot. At least in the first half of last season the Bosox won an overwhelming number of games Rickey started; it can certainly happen this year for the A’s.

16 Anonymous { 02.18.03 at 9:59 am }

Hey Butch-

The funny thing about last season with the Sox, was that after the All-Star break, Rickey’s playing time decreased when they brought in Cliff Floyd and Benny Agbyani (sp?), at the same time the Red Sox were a worse team than they were in the first half of the season. What they had going right was Rickey helping the Sox do the little things, like get on base. While much has been made that Rickey didn’t have a hit after August 11th or so, what isn’t mentioned is that he started roughly 5 – 7 games the rest of the season.

If Billy doesn’t bring him back, even to offer him a non-guaranteed minor league contract, you have to wonder if there was something more there than meets the eye. I for one think that Billy is more concerned about the clubhouse atmosphere with a new manager and a strong willed vet like Rickey.

IMHO Billy would be wrong to let Rickey get away.



17 Butch { 02.19.03 at 2:34 pm }

Mark, no question Rickey had the Sox in the hunt. I checked his splits & found that he batted .300 for the season vs the hated Yanks. Also during the first 4 months of the season, Rickey had a .245 BA with OBA of .377; then, as you indicated, his playing time fell off & they started losing. I gather Texas has shown some interest (they need to with no real leadoff hitter on the horizon) & I have heard Colorado is giving him some kind of tryout with a bunch of rookies next week. What is utterly confounding is Florida signing Al Martin & Gerald Williams, neither of whom registered a major league basehit for one reason or another in 2002; problem there, though, is they have a great leadoff guy in Castillo. I agree with you that Beane is making a mistake because Rickey can help them as no worse than a 5th outfielder, sometime leadoff man, pinchrunner, mentor & fan favorite in his hometown for a very cheap price! Best regards, Butch

18 marty { 02.22.03 at 2:45 pm }

Since the A’s signed Ron Gant to a minor league contract on Friday February 21st, Rickey Henderson’s dream of finishing his career with the A’s is over. No doubt, all of our reasoning was correct, this team needed a veteran presence, and the powers to be chose Ron Gant out of all possible players available. Next, much has been written about the new manager playing small ball in the post season or actually during the season, I’ll believe it when i see it. The hitters just need to mature and not forget all their lessons in the post season and all will be fine. Ken Macha will not upset the offensive philosophy of this organization: no bunting or stealing or hit and running unless you already have the lead (if Macha does feel like trying some moves during the season, they better work or he’ll hear about it). Macha just better hope the bull pen is healthy and gets the job done. Pitching is still the strength of the team and Hudson, Mulder, and Zito will carry them all season long. Setting up and closing the game is the question mark here.

Marty Lurie

19 Butch { 02.22.03 at 11:57 pm }

Marty, I too am disappointed Rickey didn’t get on in Oakland but I’m hoping he could wind up in Montreal. I realize Wilkerson is penciled in as the LF but he’s played first & has power numbers indicating he’d do a lot better than Liefer – he & Cordero apparently comprise the 1B tandem. The OF with or without Wilkerson is woefully weak in terms of depth & lack of a righthanded bat. Endy Chavez is the leadoff man in waiting but he needs to learn to work counts & who better to teach him OJT than Rickey. The Expos are inviting Damon Buford to camp; his last stint in the majors I think he hit .185 so he seems little better than a defensive replacement at this point. The “readiest” youngster is Pete Bergeron whose numbers are looking more “quad A” each year – good minor league numbers last year, albeit not much of a basestealer, vs .187 with the parent club. All in all I can’t see why Rickey couldn’t in the worst case be the 5th OF. Butch Schilling

20 Anonymous { 02.24.03 at 1:42 pm }

Marty, for what it’s worth, I agree with you. I think that Billy Beane is absolutely dead set against it, and the recent acquisition of Ron Gant has all but ended any hope of this happening. Too bad…

Chris Dorn

21 Anonymous { 02.25.03 at 6:21 pm }

Don’t get me wrong. Rickey is one of the greatest of all time, but let’s be honest. He has not exactly shown the ability in recent years to live with limited playing time without opening his mouth. As to the HOF, players are no longer allowed to choose the hat on their plaque. Just ask Gary Carter.


22 Butch { 03.09.03 at 12:53 am }

Now that Phil Nevin’s out maybe Rickey could play some LF along with the X man who, I gather, is going to get a shot. The Pads aren’t going anywhere anyway & why not have a veteran presence who was popular with his teammates & played there recently. He usually gets off to a fine start anyway & this would be a good stopgap measure until X or someone else is ready.

23 Butch { 03.09.03 at 4:08 pm }

Marty, I can’t seem to let go; I suggest there are two managers Rickey could play for – one is Bruce Bochy & now that Nevin is injured, couldn’t Rickey get some playing time in SD? Also I read somewhere that Lou Pinella liked Rickey when he played at Seattle in 2000 – wanted them to sign him for the 2001 season. Lou seems to be having the crazies with his new club at TB; maybe Rickey could give Carl Crawford some on-the-job training.

24 Butch { 03.14.03 at 10:27 am }

Now that Kenny Lofton has signed with the Pirates & players are going down with injuries at such a high rate, maybe someone will sign Rickey. It’s hard to believe guys like Bernard Gilkey, Brady Anderson, Gerald Williams & Damon Buford can get deals when Rickey’s better than all of them put together. St. L. particularly seems to be a hard place for OFs to stay injury-free & Tony likes him so maybe he could get some kind of stopgap deal there. Butch Schilling

25 Anonymous { 09.22.07 at 1:14 pm }

26 Anonymous { 09.22.07 at 1:51 pm }

You must log in to post a comment.