Rickey Henderson is the sparkplug of Oakland's offense, while Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire are the base cleaners. That would be enough for most teams, but then add Carney Lansford, Dave Henderson, Harold Baines and Willie McGee and you see why the A's lineup is an opposing pitcher's nightmare. You say Walt Weiss is hurt? Okay, let's toss Willie Randolph into the lineup. Get the idea? The depth and quality of this lineup is unchallenged by the rest of the major leagues.

Rickey Henderson gets things off to a rollicking start with his unique combination of power, speed and arrogance. With 28 home runs, 65 stolen bases and 97 walks, he is the key to Oakland's lineup, even more than Canseco. If Henderson is kept off base, there are fewer rallies and fewer RBI opportunities for Canseco.

Tony La Russa's lineup changes day to day, but the second spot is usually taken by whoever plays center field, Dave Henderson or McGee. Henderson, who seems to save his best for the postseason, has more power. McGee, who led the National League in batting at .335, is more of a spray hitter, but has some power.

Canseco hit .182 with one RBI in the ALCS, and has been relatively quiet the past two months. But like Cincinnati's Eric Davis, he is among the best hitters in baseball, and could explode at any time. If he does, that alone may spell the end for the Reds.

Designated hitter Baines (.357 in the ALCS) is in his first World Series in 11 years, and he adds a solid veteran bat. His one weakness is a lack of speed, which caused him to bounce into 17 double plays.

Third baseman Lansford, an excellent hitter to all fields, batted .438 in the ALCS. He lacks power, but has decent speed. McGwire hit .154 in the playoffs, but has awesome power (39 homers, many of them tape-measure shots) and a good eye (110 walks).

Catcher Terry Steinbach drove in 57 runs from the No. 7 spot, largely because so many guys were getting on base in front of him. Nonetheless, he is a good hitter who occasionally can hit one out. Randolph has lost some offensive skills, but has played in three World Series. Shortstop Mike Gallego, who moved over from second when Weiss sprained his knee, is not imposing at the plate, but often surprises with the big hit, as he did in Game 4 of the ALCS.

The bench is the weak part of the offense. Lance Blankenship, Doug Jennings, Ron Hassey and Jamie Quirk do not frighten opposing pitchers. Mike Bordick, who replaced Weiss on the roster, is untested.


Game 1 starter Dave Stewart is 7-1 in postseason play, and his command of pitches makes it difficult to knock him out of the game.

Only on the A's could Bob Welch be a No. 2 starter. After winning the most games in the AL since Denny McLain's 31 in '68, he plays second fiddle to Stewart. He pitched well in his one ALCS start, and like Stwewart, rarely gets hits hard.

Mike Moore, after a bad season, also picked up an ALCS win. He throws hard, often lacking control. If he falters, the A's can go with Scott Sanderson, who won 17 games after struggling with the Chicago Cubs in 1989.

The bullpen pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings in the ALCS -- no surprise, since it contains the game's best reliever and three pitchers who could close for some teams.

Closer Dennis Eckersley had two saves in the ALCS, and as usual, kept runners off base. He issued only four walks all season, and hasn't walked a leadoff batter since 1988. Behind him are Rick Honeycutt, Todd Burns and Gene Nelson.


Oakland's infield defense is superb. Despite his size, McGwire is agile and his 6-foot-5 frame enables him to make the long stretch. Randolph has lost some speed, but still turns the double play nicely. Gallego is solid at short, and while Lansford lacks quickness at third, he is dependable.

Rickey Henderson's arm isn't great, but he gets to everything and has outstanding leaping ability. In center, Willie McGee has three Gold Gloves and Dave Henderson has good instincts. Right fielder Canseco is the weakest link, but has a good arm. A's catchers have thrown out 38 percent of would-be base stealers.


The A's did not homer in the ALCS. Against the Reds, they may not get away with that. If Canseco or McGwire rebounds and the starting pitching holds up, the series could be short.

With Oakland's bullpen, the Reds need to get ahead early. By the same token, the Reds' bullpen dictates that the A's score early. That increases the importance of the starting pitching, where the A's have the advantage. If Stewart, Welch and Moore keep going strong, it will make the Reds' hard job even harder.