It's that time of...decade! Which is to say, it's the end of a ten-year period, which means it's the perfect time for retrospectives! And one of our personal favorite ways to do so is to create the all-decade team. It's going to be especially fun for us with the '00s since we weren't, you know, really making memories at the beginning of the last decade. But this time we've come prepared! So let's get to our choices for the best players of the decade at each position, which is the end-all be-all of teams and will in no way cause discussion or disagreement.
Some notes: Players considered for spots will be considered only on the body of their work this decade. They need not have played for the entirety of 2000-2009, but obviously, the more years the better. When we say MVP candidate, we mean that they placed in the top 20 of MVP voting. Other candidates are presented in order of finish. Also: due to some confusion, we'd like to point out that all stats that are referenced have been accumulated during the current decade. So e.g. Andruw Jones' 308 HRs are the HRs that he hit from 2000-present.
C: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins. 2004-09 stats: .327/.408/.483, 136 OPS+, 3 batting titles, winner of '09 slash-stat triple crown.
Mauer played the least among the candidates here - accruing only 3000 PA - but his numbers have been so impressive that he wins anyway. Plus, if you cherry pick each candidate's best 5-year stretch, none of them are as good as Mauer. 2000-04 was the best such stretch for each catcher; Posada went .277/.391/.494, Rodriguez was .319/.366/.539 (132 OPS+), and Piazza tied Mauer's 136 OPS+ with a .292/.376/.539 line, but loses on the tiebreak due to Mauer's superior defensive ability. If you want to choose a candidate that played the full 10 years, that's fine with us, but for our money, Mauer's the best.
Jorge Posada, New York Yankees. Decade stats: .283/.386/.492, 129 OPS+, 208 HR.
Ivan Rodriguez, Texas Rangers/Florida Marlins/Detroit Tigers/New York Yankees/Houston Astros. Decade stats: .298/.345/.477, 110 OPS+, 161 HR, 65 SB.
Mike Piazza, New York Mets/San Diego Padres (we'd forgotten!)/Oakland Athletics. Decade stats: .285/.360/.512, 127 OPS+, 3 Silver Slugger awards, 3rd-place '00 MVP voting.
1B: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals. This is the easiest choice on the list. Allow us to remind you of his transcendent greatness: .334/.427/.628 career line. 172 OPS+, which is 6th all-time. Top-10 in MVP voting every year of his career, top-5 in 8 of 9 years, 3-time winner (including this season), and robbed of a 4th. Not counting his rookie year, he's never struck out more than 69 times in a season, and has walked more than he's struck out every season. And ohbytheway, he's done all this with an elbow that has probably needed Tommy John surgery for several years now. The guy's an all-timer.
Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies. Decade stats: .331/.436/.569, 145 OPS+, 260 HR, 1.36 BB:K.
Lance Berkman, Houston Astros. Decade stats: .300/.413/.559, 148 OPS+, 309 HR, 74 SB, 6-time MVP candidate.
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies. Decade stats: .279/.376/.586, 142 OPS+, 12.1 AB/HR (3rd all-time; 1st among actives)
And also Miguel Cabrera is really good. Didn't play enough to really qualify among the giants, but...he's really good.
2B: Jeff Kent, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers. Decade stats: .300/.371/.518, 130 OPS+. MVP award, 4 Silver Sluggers. We're not considering his dubious clubhouse presence or Barry Bonds-alleged racism. We ARE considering, however, one of the best all-time seasons by a second baseman in 2000, and general excellence for the rest of the decade. His worst season was his last; as a 40-year old in 2008, he posted a 96 OPS+. Which, when you consider the fact that other candidates for this list are right around 100 OPS+ for their careers, is very impressive. That's ultimately what gives him the award over Chase Utley, who's been not quite as good with the bat but vastly superior with the glove. So we won't quibble if you choose Chutley.
Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies. Decade stats: .295/.379/.523, 129 OPS+, 3x Silver Slugger (probably 4 with this year), 5-time MVP candidate, superb defender.
Ray Durham, Chicago White Sox/Oakland Athletics/San Francisco Giants/Milwaukee Brewers. Decade stats: .277/.354/.450, 107 OPS+, 132 HR, 122 SB.
Jose Vidro, Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals/Seattle Mariners. Decade stats: .303/.366/.452, 111 OPS+, '02 MVP candidate, Silver Slugger award, played for the Expos.
Yeah, second base is a weak group.
SS: David Eckstein just kidding
SS: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees. Decade stats: .317/.387/.456, 121 OPS+, 8-time MVP candidate, 3 Silver Sluggers, 219 SB. Yeah, yeah, yeah, intangibles, the Captain, calm eyes, whatever. That counts for nothing. What does count is that the dude can hit and run, and as of this past season, apparently learned how to use his glove. There's not really much more you could ask for from your shortstop.
Miguel Tejada, Oakland Athletics/Baltimore Orioles/Houston Astros. Decade stats: .297/.347/.481, 116 OPS+, 7-time MVP candidate (1 win), 2x Silver Sluggers.
Michael Young, Texas Rangers. Decade stats: .302/.349/.449, 105 OPS+. 3-time MVP candidate, used to be a great, great fielder. Probably underrated, and yet that's all we can think to say about him.
Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies. Decade stats: .274/.329/.439, 97 OPS+, 326 SB (83% success), 5-time MVP candidate (1 win), Silver Slugger award. Is almost certainly overrated, but, well, there's little offense to be had at shortstop, and Rollins' speed and somewhat valuable defense pushes him above the pack.
3B: Alex Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners/Texas Rangers/New York Yankees. Decade stats: .304/.401/.587, 154 OPS+, 9-time MVP candidate (3-time winner), 7x Silver Sluggers, 434 HR, 179 SB (83% success). Another all-timer here, even if he did take steroids. In this decade, he's never posted less than a 130 OPS+, has hit 30+ HR each year, and done all of that while switching positions. Had he been a shortstop, he's probably the best shortstop to ever play; as a third basegentleman, he's merely one of the best ever.
Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves. .311/.415/.545, 148 OPS+, 6-time MVP candidate, 1.12 BB:K, our favorite player. If he stayed healthy, he'd be number one here.
Scott Rolen, Philadelphia Phillies/St. Louis Cardinals/Toronto Blue Jays/Cincinnati Reds. Decade stats: .285/.368/.497, 124 OPS+, averages 15.5 UZR/150, 1-time MVP candidate.
Adrian Beltre, Los Angeles Dodgers/Seattle Mariners. Decade stats: .272/.324/.459, 106 OPS+, great fielder, very durable (valuable considering the rest of the list), 1-time MVP candidate/Silver Slugger winner.
LF: Barry Bonds, San francisco Giants. Decade stats: .322/.517/.724, 221 OPS+. We're going to repeat those, because they are positively cartoonish. .322/.517/.724, 221 OPS+. That 221 OPS+ from 2000-2007 would be the 17th-best single season of all-time. His 2002, 2004, and 2001 seasons are the three-best of all-time, respectively. He set the single season record for home runs, with 73. His walk:strikeout ratio was a ridiculous 2.64. He set single season and career records for walks, both intentional and unintentional. After his 73-homer 2001, in which he struck out 93 times, he never again struck out more than 58 times. Discount it for steroids all you want, and he still dwarfs any challengers. But he did stop stealing bases, so, you know, there's that. The funny thing is, he'd be the starting LF for the 1990's team as well.
Other candidates, inasmuch as there are any:
Manny Ramirez, Boston Red Sox/Los Angeles Dodgers. Decade stats: .317/.419/.599, 160 OPS+, 7-time MVP candidate and Silver Slugger.
Gary Sheffield, Los Angeles Dodgers/Atlanta Braves/New York Yankees/Detroit Tigers/New York Mets. Decade stats: .294/.394/.527, 140 OPS+, 273 HR, 97 SB, 1.16 BB:K, 5-time MVP candidate, 3x Silver Slugger.
Luis Gonzalez, Arizona Diamondbacks/Los Angeles Dodgers/Florida Marlins. Decade stats: .288/.382/.508, 124 OPS+, 2-time MVP candidate, Silver Slugger, 1.1 BB:K.
CF: Jim Edmonds, St. Louis Cardinals/San Diego Padres/Chicago Cubs. Decade stats: .280/.389/.548, 140 OPS+, 5-time MVP candidate, Silver Slugger, 261 HR. Edmonds is a guy who would've had a backup role on the '9os team, but he shines here. He had more power than most players in the game, which is remarkable for a center fielder. He shone defensively, and could work a walk. Like Jeter at short, there's nothing else you could ask for from a center fielder.
Carlos Beltran, Kansas City Royals/Houston Astros/New York Mets. Decade stats: .282/.363/.502, 121 OPS+, 5-time MVP candidate, 2x Silver Sluggers, excellent fielder.
Mike Cameron, Seattle Mariners/New York Mets/San Diego Padres/Milwaukee Brewers. Decade stats: .253/.342/.457, 111 OPS+, 221 HR, 208 SB (79% success), 2-time MVP candidate.
Andruw Jones, Atlanta Braves/Los Angeles Dodgers/Texas Rangers. Decade stats: .257/.339/.492, 112 OPS+, 5-time MVP candidate (2nd place in '06), Silver Slugger, 308 HR.
I know that leaving out Torii Hunter will be an unpopular choice, but he's just not as good as Cameron or Jones. Hunter doesn't get on base nearly as well as Cameron, doesn't approach Jones in power, has a lower OPS+ than both Cameron and Jones, and has gotten by on a defensive reputation that focuses on his SportsCenter highlights and not his actual negative defensive value since 2002 (-15 UZR).
RF: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners. Decade stats: .333/.378/434, 118 OPS+, '01 Rookie of the Year/MVP, 7-time MVP candidate, 2x Silver Sluggers, best defensive right fielder in MLB. This was a surprisingly difficult field. In terms of Wins Above Replacement, Ichiro is the clear leader, with 38.8 to Vlad's 32.2, mostly because of Ichiro's vast defensive advantage. It's still hard to give the honor to a guy with a 118 OPS+, But he's stolen 341 bases with an incredible 90% success rate. He's got the single season record for hits, and has led the league in hits 6 times, including 4 straight years. He may yet get 3,000 in America, which is shocking considering that he came here at age 27. His OBP and SLG don't shine, but everything else is as good as it gets - and you get the feeling that if he wanted to draw more walks or hit more dongers, he could.
Vladimir Guerrero, Montreal Expos/Los Angeles Angels. Decade stats: .323/.392/.569, 147 OPS+, 9-time MVP candidate (1 win), 6x Silver Slugger, 315 HR, 147 SB.
Bobby Abreu, Philadelphia Phillies/New York Yankees/Los Angeles Angels. Decade stats: .297/.402/.497, 132 OPS+, 216 HR, 295 SB, 5-time MVP candidate, 1-time Silver Slugger.
Magglio Ordonez, Chicago White Sox/Detroit Tigers. Decade stats: .316/.379/.523, 132 OPS+, 5-time MVP candidate, 3x Silver Slugger.