Carney Lansford was like that common car sitting on a lot with several cars that are more fully loaded. Although Carney wasn’t equipped with a sunroof and tinted windows, he could give you the miles. His misfortune was dwelling on a lot that had three 3,000 hit men: George Brett, Wade Boggs and Paul Molitor–his position peers in the American League during the 1980s.
A third round draft pick by the Angels in 1975, Carney made his Major League debut in 1978 and tied Hall of Famer George Brett for top hitting honors among AL third basemen as a rookie. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting behind Lou Whitaker and Paul Molitor. He avoided the Sophomore Jinx by raising his homerun total in 1979 from 8 to 19. The young hot corner custodian was establishing himself as a rising star as he, George Brett and Mike Schmidt were the only third basemen in the Major Leagues to score 100 runs.
Carney enjoyed his highwater mark in RBI in 1980 but then won his lone batting title in the strike shortened 1981 season when he hit .336. Before the season, the Angels sent Carney to the Red Sox with Mark Clear and Rick Miller for shortstop Rick Burleson as Carney raised his batting average 75 points from the previous year to capture the batting title. His ’81 season kicked off a four-year string of .300 hit seasons as Carney hit .301 in 1982.
Although Carney had shown that he could hit .300 and could field third adeptly, he was traded for the second time after the ’82 season. Sent by the Red Sox to the Oakland A’s for Tony Armas Sr., Carney became a fixture at third for the A’s on into the 1990s. In his first year with the Athletics, Carney hit .308 but missed plenty action with an injury. Healthy in ’84, Carney hit an even .300 while tallying 268 assists on the field.
The injury bug bit Lansford again in 1985 but he returned in ’86 to club 19 homeruns. He matched his 19 homeruns of ’86 in 1987. The A’s were a coming team around this time with youngsters Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Terry Steinbach and Walt Weiss leading the infusion of youth in Oakland. Carney, the stable veteran presence, began to lose his power in 1988 but with the influx of the young sluggers, his lack of power of offset. Rather than swat homeruns, Carney became an adept thief. He and Paul Molitor were the only American League third basemen to eclipse 25 steals in ’88.
The A’s went to the postseason in 1988 and Carney hit .294 in an ALCS victory over the Red Sox. His club fell to the Dodgers in the World Series but Carney would make his way back there the next two seasons. While The Bash Brothers powered the A’s, Carney was the club’s lone .300 hitter in their championship season of 1989. He led Major League third basemen with a .336 batting average and topped American League hot corner custodians with 37 stolen bases. In that season’s ALCS, Carney led all participants with a whopping .455 batting average and carried his torrid stick into the World Series, terrorizing San Francisco pitchers with a .438 BA, .526 OB% and a .688 slugging average.
With his power completely evaporated in 1990, Carney nevertheless led the A’s to the World Series again. He battered Red Sox pitchers at a .438 clip in the ALCS, leading Oakland to the Fall Classic against the Reds. Carney hit a decent .267 in the World Series, but the A’s couldn’t repeat as champions and fell to Cincinnati.
Lansford missed all but five games to injury in 1991 and he returned for one final year in ’92. Carney hit a respectable .262 in his final season, walking more than he struck out, while helping the A’s make another postseason appearance. His last Major League action came in the ’92 ALCS.
G 1,862/R 1,007/H 2,074/2B 332/HR 151/RBI 874/BB 553/SO 719/Sb 224/BA .290/SA .411