If you throw out the 1915 and 1916 Philadelphia versions, the 1979 Oakland A’s were by far the worst team in franchise history.

They finished last in the old American League West with a 54-108 record, and they also finished last in the AL in batting (80 OPS+), pitching (85 ERA+), and fielding (.678 Defensive Efficiency and .972 fielding percentage).

Tough to win much at all when you tank all three phases of the game, and the 1979 A’s bore that out.

That’s not to say those A’s didn’t show some glimmers of hope.

For one thing, rookie Rickey Henderson appeared in 89 games and stole 33 bases.

Youngster Dwayne Murphy hit 11 home runs and posted a solid 116 OPS+.

Catcher Jeff Newman cranked up the power to smack 22 home runs in 143 games.

There were some young arms with potential, too, even if they posted ugly-ish numbers in 1979 …

Rick Langford, Mike Norris, Matt Keough, Steve McCatty, Brian Kingman, and John Henry Johnson all looked like they might be decent or better Big League starters … someday.

But there was no sugar-coating the abyss of that 1979 season in Oakland, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better embodiment of those woes than second baseman Mike Edwards.

Edwards came to the A’s in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates at the outset of the 1978 season and proceeded to hit .273 with 27 stolen bases. The peripherals weren’t great, but it was as solid start.

e also tied the record for most unassisted double plays in a game (2) — see 1979 Topps number 201 for proof.

1979 topps 1978 record breaker mike edwards

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But, man, 1979 was rough.

A slash line of .233/.263/.280 was “good” for a 51 OPS+ and -1.5 WAR. It wasn’t just batting struggles that killed Edwards, either, as a healthy portion  of that latter bit can be attributed to defensive misadventures.

So a year after he was honored with that Record Breaker card, Edwards celebrated his breakout (breakin?) 1979 season with a 1980 Topps card that pretty much sums up those A’s.

There is Edwards, one foot planted on second, both hands up in front of his shaded face, apparently waiting for a ball no one can see. Might just be one of those rare cases of a ground ball getting lost in the sun.

And, if we’re being honest here, it looks like there is at least as good a chance that Edwards will land on his can in the next frame as that he will find the magic ball.

Same as his A’s … they discovered the magic ball just 54 times and ended up on their cans 108 times.

1980 Topps Mike Edwards

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I thought of this card the other night when the 2018 A’s found themselves readying for battle against the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card round. It seems like a low-rent district for the big-dollar Yanks, but fits Oakland pretty well.

Over the last couple of decades, the A’s have become legendary for exploiting little aspects of the game that others haven’t noticed yet and building that breach into a playoff spot every few years.

They’ve been at the forefront of the Sabermetrics movement thanks to General Manager Billy Beane, and they scrap for every bit of glory they can get.

These A’s — the 2018 version, that is — weren’t good enough to challenge the Houston Astros in the new AL West, but they were good enough to win 97 games and snag that Wild Card slot. Nothing to sneeze at.

So, playing with that house money, how did the A’s propose to take down New York?

Why, by deploying only relievers to face one of the greatest lineups in the sport. The Wild Card is a one-game, winner-take-all proposition, after all, and each reliever should be able to shut down any set of hitters for an inning or two.

It’s what they do for a living.

That plan held together about as long as Mike Edwards’ balance (in at least one imagined scenario) on that 1980 Topps card of his.

To be fair, Liam Hendriks did make eight starts this season. But, he also had 17 relief appearances and was used exclusively as a reliever from 2015-17.

He drew the Wild Card start, though, and gave up a two-run dinger to Aaron Judge in the bottom of the first. He’d make it through the frame without further damage, but his night was done.

Lou Trivino came on in the second and held the Yanks scoreless through the fourth, and Shawn Kelley did the same in the fifth. Then the wheels came off in the sixth, with New York roughing up Fernando Rodney and Blake Treinen for four more runs.

It was pretty much over by that point, and the Yanks rolled to a 7-2 victory.

The A’s fell hard, just like that imagined next frame for 1980 Topps Mike Edwards.

(Check out the rest of our 2018 playoffs posts here.)

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