It seems hard to believe, but 2010 is almost here. 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: Second basemen.
As with any ranking, there will always be snubs. I welcome any comments suggesting players that may have been left off this list.
Mark Grudzielanek has slowly become a forgotten name, let alone a tough one to spell. But Grudz had a very impressive career, and the last decade was no exception.
While splitting time with the Dodgers, Royals, Cardinals and Cubs, Grudzielanek had over 1,200 hits, and a .291 batting average. He won a Gold Glove in 2006 with the Royals. He even drove in 401 runs during the decade. His leadership skills can't be forgotten either. They aren't measured in numbers, but the veteran was heavily relied upon to help shape the young Royals, and he sure did that.
Ray Durham should be nominated, and might even win, the award for most underrated player of the decade. He didn't lead the league in home runs, or RBI or stolen bases. But he was a mainstay in the lineup, no matter where he played. And he did put up respectable numbers too.
He spent the decade playing for the White Sox, A's and Giants. He had 132 home runs, hit .277, and drove in 579 runs. He also stole 122 bases between 2000-2009, and played in at least 100 games in each season. He was an All-Star in 2000 and his hard-nosed play alone earns him a spot on this list.
Well, he's not the best defender on this list, but Robinson Cano can sure hit. And despite playing for the Yankees, he has really been low on the radar screen. But he finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2005, was an All Star in '06, and at 27-years-old, this kid is just getting started.
He has a career batting average of .306 and had his best offensive season in 2009, when he set career highs with 25 home runs and 204 hits. With guys like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia around him in the clubhouse, Cano can pretty much just focus on his playing skills and let the other guys worry about media matters.
He only hit 26 home runs during the last decade, but Luis Castillo's game is not based on his power. The 1,547 hits and 267 stolen bases are pretty much his game. His on-base percentage between 2000-2009 was .374 and he also scored over 800 runs during that span.
He was a three-time All Star, and a three-time Gold Glove winner. He was a member of both Florida Marlins World Series teams and despite a big dropped pop fly in Yankee Stadium last year, Castillo was one of the most productive players on the 2009 Mets roster when he hit .302, his highest mark since 2003.
The newest member of the 3,000 hits club, Craig Biggio got his named enshrined in history by trying to make his milestone hit to something more. See, Biggio decided that a single wasn't glorious enough for a 3,000th hit, so he tried to stretch it into a double, but was gunned out by a mile at second base.
Be that is it may, Biggio was one heck of a player. A lifelong Houston Astro, Biggio had almost 1,200 hits in the last decade. And it seemed like he never missed a game. Even during his last season in 2007, Biggio played in 141 games. He played in at least 100 during the entire decade. And he certainly had his share of bruises, being hit by 132 pitches between 2000-2007.
It won't be long until Biggio has his very own plaque in Cooperstown.
One of the more under-appreciated players in all of baseball, Placido Polanco has produced everywhere he has played during his MLB career. He had 1,581 hits during this past decade and a batting average over .300, while playing for the Cardinals, Phillies and Tigers.
He is a slick fielder, winning a Gold Glove in 2007, the same year he made his only All-Star appearance. Polly makes his return to the City of Brotherly Love, as he inked a three-year contract this off-season with the Phillies. And though he will be manning the hot corner for the Phils, Polanco should offer the team a solid bat and great hands at third base.
Alfonso Soriano may seem to be a bit of a stretch on this list, considering he currently plays left field for the Chicago Cubs. But when you look at his career, he's actually played more games at second base than he has in the outfield.
The seven-time All Star has played for the Yankees, Rangers, Nationals and Cubs during his career, and has been a monster threat at the plate in all four cities. He sits 10 home runs shy of 300 for his career, and he had over 1,500 hits during the decade. Of course, he also struck out almost 1,200 times!
But Soriano has always been a well-rounded player. He steals bases, he hits to all parts of the field, and he's got some major pop in that bat. The six-year contract he inked with the Cubs after the 2006 season seems like it could become a disaster for the Cubbies, but as long as he keeps hitting the way he has, they could reap the benefits in postseason play.
When you play for the Baltimore Orioles for your entire career, you don't get much national attention. But Brian Roberts sure is making a name for himself with his speed and timely hitting.
He's a two-time All Star, and already has well over 1,200 hits. But what is really remarkable about this 32-year-old is his speed. He lead the league in stolen bases in 2007 with 50 swipes, and has 256 for his career.
His durability is shown by his average 162 games played during his career, and since becoming a regular in '03, he's never had fewer than 120 hits in a single season. He may play in Baltimore, but by the time his career is done, fans in Texas will have heard of this guy.
Is there anything this guy can't do? His career didn't even begin until 2003, but already Chase Utley has become on of the best hitters going right now. He's already hit 161 home runs and 585 RBI. He's a four-time All Star, and already has a World Series ring.
If there was ever a guy to have up with two outs and the tying or go-ahead runs on base, Utley would be the guy. He has a lifetime .291 batting average with runners in scoring position. He has 156 career RBI with runners in scoring position and less than two outs, and 155 RBI when the game is tied.
He certainly breaks the mold when it comes to offensive second basemen, and by the time his career is over, he could be paving the way towards Cooperstown.
As a long-time Mets fan, I remember Jeff Kent when he was a small, scrawny second baseman on a terrible team in the mid 1990s. Now, Jeff Kent is practically a sure-fire hall-of-famer.
He spent the last eight seasons of his career, which concluded in 2008, playing for the Dodgers, Astros and Giants. Over the last decade, Kent was a four-time All Star, and won the NL MVP in 2000.
And though the Giants were beaten by the Angels in the 2002 World Series, no blame can be laid on Kent He hit three home runs in the Series and drove in seven runs. Injuries started to phase the slugging second basemen late in his career, but he still managed to play in at least 115 games from '00-'08. Cooperstown, make way for the greatest hitting second sacker this side of Harmon Killebrew.
He finished the decade with 216 home runs and 850 RBI while batting an even .300.