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: This time, it's shortstops.
As with any ranking, there will always be snubs. I welcome any comments suggesting players that may have been left off this list.
Carlos Guillen is a perfect example of someone who has overcome a slew of injuries to put up better than respectable numbers, especially for a shortstop. Three of the last 10 seasons, Guillen failed to play at least 100 games. And he's had to bounce to different positions on the diamond to lessen the stress on his body (he's played at third and first bases, as well as left field). But he's still managed to produce when healthy—or somewhat healthy.
During the past decade, splitting time with the Mariners and Tigers, Guillen was a three-time All Star. He finished with 114 home runs and 605 RBI. He just turned 34 years old, but his body probably feels like he's at least 40. He probably has a few more quality seasons left in him, but his days at shortstop are likely over.
It's really difficult to believe, but Edgar Renteria has been around for 14 seasons now. It seems like only yesterday he was running down the third baseline waving his arms as a young Florida Marlin, scoring the winning run in Game Seven of the 1997 World Series. Renteria has grown much since then.
He spent the last decade playing for the Cardinals, Red Sox, Braves, Tigers, and Giants. He was a four-time All Star this past decade, and also won two Gold Gloves. He amassed 1,574 hits, 688 RBI, and 161 stolen bases.
Although he looks like he's 25, Renteria will turn 35 years old during next season. But he averaged 144 games a year over the last 10 seasons, and his steady bat and slick fielding should keep him in any team's lineup for at least another three to four seasons.
Rafael Furcal got his career, and this decade, off to a pretty good start. He was named the National League Rookie of the Year in 2000 as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
At 32 years of age, he's only seven hits shy of 1,500 for his career. He's got a lifetime .350 on-base percentage, and has stolen 271 bases while playing for the Braves and Dodgers.
He's had a couple of injury-shortened seasons. But for the majority of his career, Furcal has managed to play in at least 150 games. If he can remain relatively healthy for the next few seasons, there's no reason to think he won't end up being mentioned among the elite shortstops.
Lately, it seems whichever team Orlando Cabrera is playing for makes it to the postseason. Coincidence? Possibly. But there's no denying the skills and athleticism he brings to the field. He sure did bounce around, playing for the Expos, Red Sox, Angels, White Sox, A's, and Twins. Aside from the A's and Expos, each team has played baseball in mid-October with Cabrera on their roster.
For the decade, he's recorded 1,644 hits, 698 RBI, and 188 stolen bases. He even cranked 103 home runs. He's a two-time Gold Glove winner, and is still only 35 years old. He hasn't played fewer than 140 games since 2000, and there are no signs of him stopping now.
When the Texas Rangers summoned Michael Young to the big leagues, they had some guy named Alex playing shortstop. So, they stuck Young at second base. Though he enjoyed limited success at second, in 2004 their shortstop signed with some team in the Bronx, which cleared the way for Young to slide on over to shortstop. Since then, it's been a whole new ballgame.
In his first three full seasons in Texas, Young managed to smack only 14 dingers. He hit 22 in his first season as a shortstop alone. For the decade, and his career, M.Y. has 137 home runs, a .302 batting average, and 730 runs batted in. He won the AL batting title in 2006 when he hit .331. He's also been an All-Star every season since he became a shortstop in '04, winning All-Star MVP honors in '06 when he recorded the game winning hit of future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman.
In 2009, Michael Young did some more sliding. He slid over to third base to make room for young hot star Elivs Andrus at shortstop. The move did not hinder Young at all. He's 33 years old now, and there's no reason for this man to slow down for several years to come.
Is there a more important catalyst to a team than Jose Reyes is to the Mets? One would be hard pressed to find one. Since his call-up in 2003, Reyes has been a major frustration to pitchers all around the game. He's lead all of baseball in stolen bases and triples three different seasons. He finished the decade with 301 stolen bases.
And while his game is built primarily on his wheels, Reyes can swing the stick too. He has 325 career RBI—from the lead-off spot—and has 63 big flies.
After a disappointing, injury-plagued 2009 season, the 26-year-old Reyes will look to bounce back in a big way in 2010 as he continues to give teams fits on the basepaths.
For five seasons now, one of the biggest debates in baseball has been...Hanley or Reyes? And the fact that they both play in the same division, at the same position, and have very similar athletic skills makes the debate ever more interesting.
Hanley Ramirez was the NL MVP in 2006, and last season he led the NL with a .342 batting average. He already has over 100 home runs for his career, to go along with 164 stolen bases. Both shortstops are on top of their game defensively, and each has been an All-Star twice. Hanley is only six months younger than Reyes, so baseball fans should be able to see this professional rivalry escalate for years to come.
Jimmy Rollins' career began the same year the millennium did. And since then, he has been one of the best all-around players in the game. The lifelong Phillie won the NL MVP in 2007 when he played in all 162 games and smacked 30 home runs. He's a three-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner.
He has career numbers: 1,629 hits, 146 home runs, 621 RBI, 326 stolen bases, and a World Series ring. He's lead the league in triples four times, and has never played in fewer than 137 games (aside from his debut season).
He also had a 38-game hitting streak that went from the end of the 2005 season to the beginning of the 2006 season. That still stands as the longest streak by an active player, and the longest overall since 1989. And think, this guy JUST turned 31 years old last month. Wow.
Miguel Tejada played for Oakland, Baltimore, and Houston during the last decade, and no matter what uniform he was wearing, his bat did all the talking. Miggy was the AL MVP in 2002 with the A's. He led the American League with 150 RBI in 2003, he was a six-time All-Star, and he had over 1,800 hits during the decade. And at 35 years old, he's not quite done yet.
His body is starting to feel the effects of playing so much earlier in his career. From 2000-2006, he played in at least 160 games, and was in 162 each of those seasons besides 2000. There has been a noticeable decrease in his production over the last few seasons, indicated by only hitting 17 home runs combined during his two seasons as an Astro. But there is no question that Tejada still ranks as one of the best shortstops in the game today.
Derek Sanderson Jeter. There aren't very many players whose middle name is commonly known. But then again, there aren't very many players who are like Derek Jeter. There isn't much of a reason to go into the statistics for this man, but just for kicks and giggles, why not?
He was an All-Star eight times in the last decade and won a Gold Glove four times. He finished the decade only 60 hits shy of 2,000—for the decade. He has a .317 batting average, a .387 on-base percentage, 727 RBI, 219 stolen bases, 161 home runs, and two World Series rings. That pretty much sums up the last decade for the Yankees' captain. Cooperstown, anyone?