Best of the Decade: First Basemen
It seems hard to believe, but we are almost to the year 2010. And with any impending new decade, it seems only fair to look back on the best of the previous 10 years.
So with that, I present my Top 10 picks from each position between the years 2000-2009: First basemen.
As with any ranking, there will always be snubs. I welcome any comments suggesting players that may have been left off this list.
No. 10 - Richie Sexson
If wasn't a home run, it was likely a strikeout when Richie Sexson came to the plate. But when he made contact, the 6'8" slugger hit the ball a very long way. For instance, in 2005, Sexson lead the American League with 167 strikeouts. But he also hit 39 home runs and drove in 121 runs.
Sexson split the decade between five teams (Indians, Brewers, Diamondbacks, Brewers and Yankees). He played 96 games in 2008, but did not appear in a game last season. He ended the '00-'09 decade with more strikeouts (1152) than hits (1107). But he did hit 264 home runs and drove in a robust 792 runs.
No. 9 - Jeff Bagwell
One of my personal favorites of all time, Jeff Bagwell only played for the first half of the decade (and that's if you count his 39 games played 2005 season).
But regardless, Bagwell continued his Hall of Fame career from 2000-2004. The lifetime Houston Astro hit 186 home runs during the decade and drove in 568 runs. It is a true shame that Bags couldn't play another couple of seasons to reach 500 career home runs, falling short by 51 bombs. But still, the former NL Rookie of the Year and MVP should have enough accolades and statistics to land him in Cooperstown.
No, 8 - Paul Konerko
Paul Konerko had a rather up-and-down decade, but he still managed to put up some really strong numbers. He barely missed 300 home runs for the decade and drove in 935 runs.
He also helped the Chicago White Sox defeat the Houston Astros in the 2005 Fall Classic. During that year's postseason play, Paulie hit five home runs and had 15 RBI. And though it seems Konerko has been around for a long time, he's going to turn only 34 years old in March, so it appears the South Siders can count on him for at least a few more seasons.
No. 7 - Lance Berkman
Lance Berkman qualifies for first baseman, as well as outfielder. But for this ranking, we will include him in the former position. Big Puma, as he is known, took over at first base when Jeff Bagwell called it a career in 2005. And already, Berkman has put up some really nice numbers
He hit all but four of his 313 career home runs during this last decade, and drove in well over 1,000 runs. He also hit an even .300 over the past 10 seasons. He's a five-time All Star and finished in the top five in the NL MVP voting four times. He'll turn 34 years of age in February, so we should see plenty more of the Big Puma and his big bat.
No. 6 - Derrek Lee
Derrek Lee has one of the prettiest swings in baseball. It seems like every time he swings the bat, he's making contact. And the numbers indicate this, exhibited by his league-leading 199 hits and .335 batting average in 2005.
During the 2000 decade, Lee hit .292 with 270 home runs and 841 RBI. He also accumulated over 1,500 hits over the decade. Lee also flashed the glove a bit, winning three Gold Gloves.
No. 5 - Jason Giambi
Mustache or no mustache, Jason Giambi has been a legitimate power threat for his entire big league career.
He got this past decade off to a roaring start, being named the AL MVP in 2000 as a member of the Oakland A's. He made the All Star team five years in a row and put some monster numbers this decade.
He smacked over 300 home runs during the 10-year span, and drove in over 900 runs. He's played for the A's, Yankees, and Rockies during the decade, and was instrumental in the Rockies making the playoffs in 2009, providing valuable leadership and timely hitting.
No. 4 - Jim Thome
Jim Thome has quietly become one of the best pure hitters in baseball. Aside from an injury-plagued 2005 season, Thome has managed to play in at least 130 games a season during the past decade.
He hit 368 home runs and drove in 986 runs, while boasting a ,563 slugging percentage. He also smacked his 500th career dinger as a member of the Chicago White Sox during the 2007 season.
He hasn't won a World Series, and he hasn't won an MVP award. But Jim Thome has been a power threat for the better part of his entire career. He's going to turn 40 years old in August, so his playing days are coming to their finish. He still has the ability, however, to put up more monster numbers in 2010.
No. 3 - Carlos Delgado
One of the biggest offensive threats in all of baseball over the last two decades, Carlos Delgado showed true perseverance in the first decade of the new millennium.
He hit 324 of his 473 career home runs between '00-'09 and drove in over 1,000 runs! And, for the most part, he's managed to stay relatively healthy while playing for the Blue Jays, Marlins and Mets.
Hip surgery did sideline the future Hall of Famer in the 2009 season. But he's a free agent, and is looking to make a comeback as a 38-year-old slugger.
No, 2 - Todd Helton
Todd Helton is a class act. He's spent his entire career with the Colorado Rockies, and has become one of the best all-around first basemen to play the game.
As for the decade, he smacked 260 home runs, drove in 981 runs and hit at a .331 clip. He was a five-time All Star, and a three-time Gold Glove winner. And he's been out there practically everyday. Aside from an injury-shortened 2008 season, Helton has played in at least 140 games every year.
No. 1 - Albert Pujols
Best of the decade? Best of all-time? Why not?! Albert Pujols, well what more is there to say than Albert Pujols?
Already in just nine seasons, he's won a National League Rookie of the Year award, three National League MVP awards, a home run title, a batting title, a World Championship, a Gold Glove and numerous accolades. He's a pure hitter and never seems to have a bad game.
He's never hit less than .314 in a single season, and his lowest home run total for any season is 32... yes, 32! Truly remarkable. But you don't need me to tell you that.