2000-2009 All Decade Team
Because we humans tend to talk about decades as being the 80s, the 90s, and so on, then the year 2009 just ended the first such “decade” of the 21st century. Like some others have done over the past several months, I thought I’d go through the exercise of picking an All-Decade team.
In addition to my analysis below, you might also be interested in the selectionsÂ by Tim Kurkjian at ESPN, or theÂ selections from Sports Illustrated, or this article posted back in July, or this one written in June.
I’m starting out with one of the most obvious selections of this entire process. Albert Pujols wasn’t in the majors in 2000, but even so his nine seasons from 2001-2009 have been a wonder to behold. He’s won 3 MVP awards (and many would argue deserves a few more, IF you believe Barry Bonds was unfairly advantaged by steroids). He has one Gold Glove award for his defense, a .334 batting average, and his 366 HR are the third most in the decade.
Honorable Mention: Would you have guessed that Jim Thome is second in the decade for HRs, with a total of 368? I probably wouldn’t have gotten that right. Many of the other big hitters at 1B had strong decades, including Carlos Delgado, Lance Berkman, Paul Konerko, Mark Teixeira, Derek Lee, and Todd Helton, with those last two also winning three gold glove awards each.
At 2B we have a rather different situation. Players like Alomar and Biggio had their best years in the 1990s. Jeff Kent had a strong decade, playing through 2008, winning one MVP award, while hitting 216 HR with a .300 BA. One could make the case that Alfonso Soriano’s all-around numbers are stronger — 289 HR, 248 SB, .282 BA — but he played a significant amount of time in the OF rather than 2B, so I’ll go with Kent.
Honorable Mention: Besides Soriano, I don’t really have any others to name here, though I’ll note that Chase Utley obviously had the best “half-decade” of any 2B. He only became a full-timer in 2005, but nonetheless has 161 HR and a .295 BA.
This one is a really tough call. Many readers might assume it should go to Derek Jeter, and I will choose him in the end. But the other strong candidate is Miguel Tejada who won an MVP award, slugged 251 HR, hit near .300, and impressively had the third most hits of any player in the decade. Jeter though comes in second in the decade in hits, had a BA that is about 20 points higher, hit 161 HR, stole 219 bases, and won 4 Gold Glove awards.
Honorable Mention: Aside from Tejada, the other two who deserve mention here are Jimmy Rollins (1 MVP and 3 Gold Gloves) and to a lesser extent Michael Young.
Like Pujols at 1B, another obvious selection is Alex Rodriguez. In this decade he has won 3 MVP awards and 2 Gold Gloves (while playing shortstop). His 435 HR and 1243 RBI are both tops for all players in the decade. And he also had a .304 BA and 179 SB in those ten years.
Honorable Mention: Chipper Jones, Troy Glaus, Aramis Ramirez, and Scott Rolen (who not only had some good seasons as a hitter but also won six Gold Glove awards).
I consider there to be seven strong OF candidates, and who you choose might depend in part on whether you choose the best three from all of them or require players who mostly played LF, CF, and RF respectively.
In LF, we’ve got Barry Bonds (4 MVP awards, 317 HR, .322 BA) and Manny Ramirez (348 HR, .317 BA). I give the edge here to Bonds, although others might discount his numbers or exclude him entirely due to the steroid suspicions (though Manny’s name has come up in that respect as well).
In RF, we’ve got Vlad Guerrero (1 MVP, 315 HR, .323 BA) and Ichiro Suzuki (1 MVP, 9 Gold Glove awards, .333 BA and two batting titles, 341 SB, and the most hits of any player in the decade with 2,030). Ichiro played primarily in RF, though also played one year in CF — still taking home a Gold Glove anyway. I give the edge to Suzuki here, just barely.
In CF, I see three top candidates. Andruw Jones hit 308 HR and took home 8 Gold Glove awards. Torii Hunter hit fewer HR (226), but won 9 Gold Gloves, stole 153 bases and hit for a higher average than Jones. Then we also have Carlos Beltran who won three Gold Glove awards, with 251 HR and 256 SB. Among these three I guess I’d give the edge to Hunter, just barely.
So overall, if you want to emphasize defense then you could go with Hunter, Suzuki, and Bonds as your trio. If you want a bit more offense, then you could play Suzuki in CF (again, he won a Gold Glove the season he played mostly CF), and that way get Guerrero into this lineup.
Honorable Mention: Beyond the four from those seven that you don’t include amongst the starters, there are many others that deserve mention for their fine play this decade. These include Carlos Lee, Gary Sheffield, Jim Edmonds, Jermaine Dye, Magglio Ordonez, Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, Juan Pierre, Garrett Anderson, Carl Crawford, and Sammy Sosa.
Here I’ll go with Ivan Rodriguez, based on his 5 Gold Glove awards, 161 HR, and .298 BA.
Honorable Mention: Jorge Posada hit more homers (208) than Rodriguez, but his defense doesn’t compare well obviously. Victor Martinez hit 111 HR with a .299 BA. Mike Piazza had 187 HR through 2007, but only regularly played catcher through 2002. And like Utley at 2B, you could naturally proclaim Joe Maurer to have had the best half-decade during this span, given his MVP award, 2 Gold Glove awards, 3 batting titles, .327 BA, and 72 HR.
Some of the guys already mentioned spent time as DH, but the one really worth mentioning and including on this All-Decade roster is David Ortiz with his 279 HR.
Other Batters: I’ll note that many of today’s best hitters weren’t mentioned in the above review because they didn’t really play enough in this decade to qualify (like Utley and Maurer who I did mention in passing). Some of the best names in this respect include guys like Ryan Howard, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, Jason Bay, Justin Morneau, David Wright, and Jose Reyes, amongst others.
Here I’ll choose three left-handers and three right-handers. I’ll start with the southpaws because for this decade this trio was stronger. Randy Johnson won three Cy Young awards, 2 ERA titles, and posted a 143-78 record while striking out more batters (2,182) than any other pitcher. Johan Santana took home one Cy Young award and 3 ERA titles, while posting a 122-60 record. And Andy Pettite actually won more games than any other pitcher in the decade, winning 148 and losing 89.
For the right-handers, I’ll start with Roy Halladay who won one Cy Young award and notched 139 wins against only 69 losses. Roy Oswalt won an ERA title and had a 137-70 record. And Mike MussinaÂ finally had a 20-win season in 2008, but then he retired so his decade ended with a 134-81 record.
Honorable Mention: Beyond those six, Greg Maddux went 134-101 and Tim Hudson went 137-76. And three pitchers were very strong early in the decade: Curt Schilling (3 20-win seasons), Roger Clemens (2 Cy Young awards), and Pedro Martinez (1 Cy Young, 3 ERA titles) — in fact, I’d listen to arguments for including Pedro in the top three RH’ers, in place of Oswalt or Mussina. Beyond that, you’ve got names like Jamie Moyer, Barry Zito, Mark Buehrle, Tom Glavine, CC Sabathia, Javier Vazquez, and Mark Mulder.
And like with hitters, there are those that have come onto the scene late in the decade, but didn’t play enough overall to qualify here really. These include Jake Peavy, AJ Burnett, Josh Beckett, Tim Lincecum, Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, and others.
There are two clear leaders here that I’ll give the honor to. Mariano Rivera was clearly dominating for most of this decade, posting 397 saves and a 2.08 ERA. Trevor Hoffman was often just as impressive, and had 363 saves and a 2.77 ERA.
Honorable Mention: Aside from those two, some of the other top closers from the decade include Billy Wagner, Jason Isringhausen, Armando Benitez, Troy Percival, Francisco Cordero, Frank Rodriguez, and Joe Nathan. There were many others who had some great seasons, including Eric Gagne, John Smoltz, and others, plus there are again some who have burst onto the scene in just the past few years, most notably Jonathan Papelbon.
That is my All-Decade team analysis and review. Where do you disagree?