A Tribute to Tom Brady: A History of A's Sixth-Round Draft Picks
The news Tuesday morning that Tom Brady was leaving the New England Patriots after two decades in which he made quarterbacking history caught me a little off-guard.
Maybe it shouldn’t have. But I’m mostly a baseball guy and the NFL is down the list of things that lay claim to my focus.
But – fun fact – Brady and I went to the same high school, Serra, San Mateo. I’ve never met him, never went to school at the same time, never talked to him and never went out of my way to watch Patriots games. What I did to was watch him from afar because of our not-quite-shared high school experience.
He went to Michigan and was a sixth-round draft pick by the Patriots, the 199 player taken overall. He then went on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.
That got me to thinking about the team I cover, the Oakland A’s. This year will be the 55 year of the June amateur draft, officially called the Rule 4 draft, by the way. That’s given the A’s 54 chances to do big things in the draft.
How have they done? Obviously, the picks of the last several years can’t be counted; those players haven’t had enough time to make it from rookie ball to the big leagues.
So, lets break it down to the first 50 years of the draft. Have the A’s done right by their sixth-round picks?
Nope, not so much, with a few notable exceptions.
In the first draft back in 1965, the A’s, then in Kansas City, picked Sal Bando from Arizona State. Captain Sal would go on to anchor the infield of the A’s through five consecutive American League championships and three straight World Series wins, 1972-73-74.
A four-time All-Star, he went on to finish his playing career with five years in Milwaukee, after which he went into the front office, serving as the Brewers’ general manager from 1991-1999. During that time, he hired journeyman catcher Bob Melvin to some minor positions, including spring training batting practice pitcher. Melvin went on to become a scout, roving instructor and assistant to the general manager.
Melvin is now the A’s manager, his third big league managing job. And he wears the No. 6 because that was then number Bando wore. Melvin credits Bando with changing his life after Melvin’s mediocre playing career was done.
In 1997, the A’s used the sixth round to take a pitcher from Auburn, Tim Hudson. He, like Bando, was a game-changer. The A’s had five consecutive seasons with losing records from 1994-98. After almost no time in the minors, Hudson made the jump to the big leagues in 1999, went 11-2 in helping to turn things around. He was nine games over .500 on a team that finished 12 games over .500 (87-75).
Hudson would go on to be part of the A’s Big Three with Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, and in the six seasons Hudson was with the A’s, they finished first three times, second three times and made it to the playoffs four time.
Andrew Bailey, the A’s sixth-round pick in 2006, was Rookie of the Year for the A’s in 2009, was a two-time All-Star in an eight-year career that ended in 2017.
Two more All-Stars came from the A’s sixth-round picks, but first baseman Alvin Davis in 1981 and catcher Jim Sundberg in 1969 chose not to sign with Oakland after being picked. They would go instead to the Mariners and the Rangers, respectively. Davis was the Mariners’ first home-grown star, was Rookie of the Year and an All-Star in 1984 and would go on to be known as “Mr. Mariner” to the first generation of Seattle fans.
After Bando and Hudson, both of whom were four-time All-Stars, the A’s first 50 sixth-round picks haven’t done much. Only 17 of them made it to the big leagues.
The A’s history with sixth-round draft picks only underscores just how much the Patriots got when the grabbed Brady.
Before we go, a word about recent A’s sixth-round picks. Seth Shuman from the class of 2019, went 0-3 with a 2.39 ERA with Vermont in the rookie league last year. Lawrence Butler, 2018, was also in the New York-Penn League with Vermont last year, going .177/.276/.286 with four homers in 55 games as a first baseman/left fielder.
Lefty pitcher Logan Salow, 2017, was traded to the Dodgers two years ago for right-handed pitcher Wilmer Font. Salow is in the minors and pitched for the Dodgers in the Cactus League this spring, and Font. traded by the A’s a month after they acquired him in 2018, is now with the Blue Jays.
And the 2016 pick, Brandon Bailey, could be one of the more consequential of the A’s sixth-round picks when it’s all done. The A’s traded him to the Astros, and he was in spring training with Houston this year, pitching in two games. The man the A’s got back in that deal, Ramon Laureano, is the A’s starting center fielder and a rising star.