Best of the Decade: Outfielders (Part Three)
It seems hard to believe, but we are already in the year 2010. As with any new decade, it only seems fair to look back at the best players, teams, etc. of the previous 10 years.
So with that, I present my top 10 picks from each position between the years 2000-2009. This installment will be the outfielders. (For this list, I decided to do the top 30 given the large number of outfielders in the league.)
As with any rankings, there will always be snubs. I welcome any comments and suggestions about players that may have been left off this list.
No. 1—Ichiro Suzuki
Perhaps the most famous single-named athlete, Ichiro took the sports world, and the nation, by storm when he came on to the scene in 2001. That season, he was named the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year! And that, folks, was just the beginning.
He has been an All Star and a Gold Glove winner every year of his career. He has 341 stolen bases in just nine seasons. He has led all of baseball in hits six different seasons, including his amazing 262-hit season in '04, breaking George Sisler's single-season record.
And, perhaps the most amazing feat of this man's career, he's had at least 200 hits in every season he has played. That is nine straight seasons of at least 200 hits—the most consecutive seasons ever. Ichiro even has some pop in his bat whenever he wants to use it—not like he really needs it.
The only thing missing from Ichiro's legacy is a World Series ring. But the way the Seattle Mariners are shaping their ball club, that could come sooner rather than later.
No. 2—Manny Ramirez
Manny Ramirez does a lot of things well, but perhaps what he's best at is being Manny. And Manny can hit. If you can look past the antics and the attitude, Manny is a very good ball player.
He hit 348 home runs in the decade, including his 500th career shot. He also drove in 1,106 runs! Simply incredible.
He hit over .300 and was an All Star every season of the decade. He was a member of both Red Sox World Series teams, and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting every season, except '07 and '09.
During the 2008 season, Manny finally said goodbye to Beantown, and said hello to Hollywood, as he was traded to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. He'll turn 38 in May, but still has lots of bang in that bat of his. Look for him to help lead the Dodgers on their trek back to the playoffs in 2010.
No. 3—Barry Bonds
Barry Lamar Bonds. The all-time home run king. There isn't much more to say about this man. Whether he "used" or not, he had himself one heck of a career.
For the first decade of the new century, Bonds hit 317 home runs and had a .322 batting average.
He was the National League MVP four consecutive seasons during the decade, and led the NL in walks every season, not counting his injury-shortened 2005 season. In 2002, he led all of baseball with a .370 batting average, and was tops in the NL with a .362 clip in 2004. He hit 73 homers in 2001, still the single-season record.
Go ahead and debate with me, but I do believe that Bonds belongs in Cooperstown. His hand-eye coordination was not enhanced by any drugs—he was just a great hitter.
No. 4—Vladimir Guerrero
There is not a ball that Vladimir Guerrero's bat can't hit. It can be buried five feet in the ground, or it can be three feet over his head, and Vlady will be sure to swing at it. And usually, he makes contact.
He had 1,751 base hits last decade, to go along with his 315 home runs and 1,037 RBI. He was named the AL MVP in 2004, when he had 39 big flies and 126 RBI as a member of the Angels.
Vlady began the last decade as a member of the Montreal Expos. He ended it as a member of the Angels. He will begin the next decade as a member of a new team, currently a free agent. He turns only 35 next month, though injuries have started to take their toll on Vlad the Impaler.
Nevertheless, Vlady will continue his impressive career in the '10 decade.
No. 5—Carlos Lee
El Caballo, Carlos Lee has been a real offensive threat, and he's done his damage relatively quietly. He's bounced around between the White Sox, Rangers, Brewers and Astros. But regardless of where he has played, Lee has done some serious baseball mashing.
He was an All Star three times in the last decade, and finished with over 1,000 RBI. But what is commonly forgotten about Lee is his ability to get the base hit. He had over 1,600 hits from '00-'09 and finished with a .291 batting average. The 33-year old should continue to quietly go about his business and put up some very nice numbers for several more years to come.
No. 6—Andruw Jones
There's no question that Andruw Jones has seen better days in his playing career. But there is also no debating the amount of success this man has had, especially during the better part of the last decade.
Aside from continuously flashing an eye-popping glove in center field, Jones caused the ERAs of pitchers all over the league to inflate. During the last decade, Jones hit 308 home runs, drove in 917 runs and slugged at a .492 mark. His best season came in 2005, when he led all of baseball with 51 home runs, and the National League with 128 RBI.
He was a five-time All Star, and won the Gold Glove every season from '00-'07. The longtime Brave spent the last two seasons playing for the Dodgers and Rangers, having two of the worst seasons of his career.
But nevertheless, the 32-year old Curacao native has a .991 career fielding percentage, and has had a very impressive career—a career which should be far from finished.
No. 7—Carlos Beltran
Carlos Beltran has been nothing short of tremendous in his Major League career thus far. He won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1999, is a five-time All Star, and a three-time Gold Glove winner.
In the last decade, Beltran's numbers were rather eye-popping, when you think about it. He had 251 home runs and 259 stolen bases. Here's a guy that mixes speed and power to make one heck of a player.
He also had 920 RBI and 1,495 hits for the decade. And while he's won three Gold Gloves, he probably could and should have won more. He plays an incredible center field, and has a career .986 fielding percentage.
He'll turn 33 in April, and will be looked upon to help the Mets bounce back from a very disappointing 2009 season. He'll look to bounce back from a down year for himself as well, as he only hit 10 home runs.
No. 8—Gary Sheffield
The Sheff is cooking something, and it smells like a Hall of Fame career.
Gary Sheffield has been an offensive weapon for his entire career, no matter what uniform was on his back. The Tampa native spent the last 10 seasons playing for the Dodgers, Braves, Yankees, Tigers, and Mets—and that's not including the three additional teams he played for prior to the turn of the century.
Sheffield and his wonky batting stance smashed 273 home runs in the last decade, and drove in 869 runs, while batting .294 for the decade. Not withstanding his injury-plagued 2006 season, Sheffield has been remarkably durable as he averaged 127 games played from '00-'09.
In 2009, he reached a pinnacle milestone, hitting his 500th career big fly as a member of the New York Mets. While 500 homers is not necessarily a lock for Cooperstown, there should be plenty of room in the Hall for Sheff when his playing days are through.
No. 9—Sammy Sosa
Slammin' Sammy Sosa may have "lost" out to Mark McGwire in the 1998 Roger Maris Home Run Record Chase, but that didn't stop him from having a major impression on the game. The Dominican-native sat out all of 2006, but still managed to have a heck of a decade.
He led all of baseball in homers in 2000 with 60, and was tops in the NL in big flies two seasons later with 49. In 2001, he was the game's top RBI man with 160. Sosa was named to the All Star Game four times in the decade.
Sosa ended his career in 2007 as a member of the Texas Rangers. For the decade, he hit 273 home runs and drove in 726 runs, and his slugging percentage was .570! Despite rumors of possible steroid use, there should be a place in Cooperstown for Sammy Sosa
No. 10—Torii Hunter
Torii Hunter has been a great face for the game. He plays hard, says and does the right things, and has a great personality. His career really didn't take off until 2001, but since then he has been one of the best all-around players in Major League Baseball.
The former first-round draft pick slammed 226 home runs, drove in 842 runs, and has won a Gold Glove in every season since 2001. He's a three-time All-Star and has a career .992 fielding percentage. His defensive highlight came in the 2002 All-Star Game, when he robbed Barry Bonds of a home run at Miller Park.
Hunter will turn 35 in July, and should be scaling center field walls and smashing baseballs for a number of years to come.