In a three-year stretch from 1988 to 1990, the Oakland Athletics won 306 regular-season games, played in three World Series and won one world championship. It was one of the best three-year runs in baseball history.
And unfortunately, it’s a little bit tainted.
While Oakland possessed a great deal of talent across the board, those teams are best known for two players in particular: Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, two chief perpetrators of the Steroid Era.
If you were a teammate of Canseco and McGwire at that time, isn’t it frustrating to know that your accomplishments aren’t as revered as they should be simply because of the selfish actions of two players?
“Yeah, (it is),” former A’s third baseman Carney Lansford said on The Damon Amendolara Show. “And I’ve heard it said so may times. It just kind of taints what we all worked so hard for. (But) I’ve got to say: I retired after the ’92 season, (and) Mark McGwire did not start taking any of that stuff until after (that). After I retied, Tony (La Russa) and I and Dave Duncan, we all went to St. Louis in 1998. McGwire joined us over there (in 1997). Between ’92 and ’97, I think that’s when he got into the steroids and whatever he was taking. The only guy who was doing it (on our team in the late-80s) was Jose.”
“It just bothers a lot of guys on the team that we worked so hard, we put together such a great string of seasons (and) it’s a little bit tainted because one guy at that time was taking steroids.”
Lansford, a career .290 hitter, hit .336 in 1989, helping the A’s to a World Series sweep of the San Francisco Giants. That was quite a response after what happened to Oakland the previous year: The A’s lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games in the 1988 World Series, which is famous for Kirk Gibson’s fist-pumping home run.
Lansford, the 1981 American League batting champion, knew in 1988 that Oakland had enough to win it all. It just didn’t happen until the following season.
“We weren’t exactly sure how to stay sharp (in 1988),” Lansford said, explaining that the A’s swept the Red Sox in the playoffs while the Dodgers were in a grueling, emotional series with the Mets. “I felt like we lost a lot of timing offensively when we played the Dodgers. That’s not taking anything away from them. They were an outstanding team.”
In 1990, heavily favored Oakland got swept in the World Series by the Cincinnati Reds.
“We really feel like we should have at least won two world championships out of those three,” Lansford said. “We let one get away. But it was a heck of a lot of fun, that’s for sure.”
Of the two World Series losses, the sweep against the Reds sticks with Lansford more.
“I just felt like we were a better team,” he said.
Lansford, 57, is now the A’s pre- and post-game analyst for CSN Bay Area. Twenty-five years after winning the World Series, Oakland (59-36) has the best record in baseball.
“I compare this team a lot – and I’ve said it on air – I compare it a lot to our late-80s and early 90s teams,” Lansford said. “They have great chemistry on their team. I don’t see a weakness on that team. They have outstanding starting pitchers. They’ve got a great, solid bullpen. And then they have the power guys – Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson, (Yoenis) Cespedes – and their catching corps is outstanding, and they’ve got a very strong bench. They’ve just done a tremendous job, (and) it reminds me a lot of that team.”