There were a few players, in my opinion, who were of legendary standings in this decade, but to me, there's only one man who deserves "Player of the Decade" here. None other than the "Flying Dutchman" himself, that's right Honus Wagner.
With a career .327 batting average and a whopping 3,415 hits, Wagner secured his spot as one of the first five members elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Needless to say, he was also one of the greatest defensive shortstops of all time. Although he was believed to be a bust in the playoffs, I'll take his talent all the way to the postseason.
Of course, you would think that the hands down choice in this decade would be "The Georgia Peach." But I'm a little fonder of the man whose swing was so sweet even the Babe idolized him.
That's right folks, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson is my top dog for this 10-year span. Sure, he is on baseball's ineligible list, but who isn't right? To this day Mr. Jackson has the third highest career batting average at .356 and no one was more clutch than JJ. Even during the alleged involvement he had during the 1919 World Series, Jackson has 12 hits and posted a .375 BA with no errors.
Let him in Bud.
Ladies and Gentleman, I give you the Sultan of Swat, the King of Crash, the Colossus of Clout, THE Great Bambino. Babe Ruth carried baseball out of the dead-ball era with his eyes shut, and salami in his mouth, oh, and he was usually drunk. What a guy huh?
This defiance of human form did it all. Posting a .342 career BA and 714 career HR and those are just his hitting numbers. He had a 94-46 record and notched a 2.28 career ERA in his belt. How could you not take the ultimate utility man in this decade? You'd clearly be an L7 Weenie not to.
Leroy "Satchel" Paige. Enough said. Talk about a man who saw the entire baseball world. Satchel played in Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Negro Leagues, and the Majors. Dubbed "the best and fastest pitcher I've ever faced" by Joe DiMaggio, Paige was an iconic player.
Although his stats outside the majors are not officially recorded, Paige once claimed he won 104 out of 105 games he pitched in 1934 alone. Of course that is what he said, but who am I to call him a liar?
He is the oldest rookie in Major League history, (yup even older than Dennis Quaid in "The Rookie"). He posted a 28-31 career record in the Majors with a 3.29 ERA. On those numbers alone he's a No. 4 starter at best, but let's not forget he was like 150 years old when he joined the Major Leagues.
People will call me nuts for this I'm sure, but hey, I'm used to the criticism. "Teddy Ballgame" is my choice for the hopping 40's. Not Joe D., sorry. But let's lay it all out here: The Kid had a .344 career BA, 521 career HR, and held a record .551 on base percentage for 61 years. And he missed an extended period of time to serve his country.
This man was not just a baseball legend but he was an American hero. Not to mention, he may very well be the last player anyone has ever seen hit .400 or better in a Major League season. He was a pioneer for many players even in today's game. He wrote the book "The Science of Hitting," which is a must read for anyone who's a baseball fan of any sorts.
To me, there's only one player in the 50's that can land on this list. The "Mick."
Mickey Mantle was baseball in the 50's. Although his .298 career BA isn’t atop the list with my other selections, he still posted 536 HR. This man defined baseball in his time. Every child immortalized him, every women wanted to be with him, and every man wanted to be him.
The Mick was selected to the All-Star team 16 times and he was a seven-time World Series Champ. Although he only won one Gold Glove, he still has three MVP's under his belt and a Triple Crown Award. This man, was the man, on the most established team of his time.
The 60's are tough, with Hammering' Hank and Frank the Tank. But again, with a unique taste of my own, my selection will be the dandy Sandy Koufax.
Koufax compiled four no-hitters and a perfect game. To me, he was the Nolan Ryan of his era. In 1963, Sandy not only took home the Cy Young for his outstanding pitching, but snagged the NL MVP Award. What a nifty feat right?
Even though he only posted 165 career wins, which is a lot less stellar than some of his counter parts in the HOF, there was no one more dominant in the pitching department during the Swinging 60's.
Now it gets fun for me because I get to choose another member from the ineligible list. Hooray rebellion! Charlie Hustle a.k.a. Pete Rose was the best player in the 1970's.
This man was a prime example of what every player should be. Driven solely by winning and excepting nothing less, Rose has more hits in major league history than anyone else with 4,256. What!?
The man is unbelievable. He changed the game with his determination. He also changed positions with great frequency, playing shortstop, third base, first base, and all three outfield spots. The man could do it all. He was a 17-time All-Star selectee, a three-time World Champion, and two-time Gold Glove winner. And just to add on to his accomplishments, the man could play the ponies like no one else. I BET we see him inducted into the HOF in our lifetime.
The leadoff role was redefined by this man in the 80's. Rickey Henderson was not your prototypical leadoff guy. Sure, he was fast, real fast, like cheetah fast, but the man could hit the cover off the ball with 297 career HR.
Henderson is in a class of his own though on the base paths with 1,406 stolen bases. That's 468 more than Lou Brock who's sitting comfortably in second place. Henderson surpassed the 3,000 hit milestone, and even locked up the 1990 AL MVP (one year too late for the 80's, I know).
But the fact remains that Rickey Henderson was the last person any opposing team wanted to see get on base during his career. He is the only person to steal 100 bases in a season, and he did it three times. This dynamic 10-time All-Star played for nine different teams in his lengthy career, which leaves me wondering if he was stealing more than just bases...
You either love this guy, or you love to hate him. Barry Bonds was the best hitter and one of the best base stealers of his time. The lists go on and on in his accomplishments. The countless MVP awards (seven to be exact), the intentional walk with the bases loaded (one of only five players EVER to have that done), 514 career stolen bases, eight Gold Glove Awards, and oh yea, 762 career HR (first ALL TIME).
Unfortunately, his legacy was tainted by the BALCO scandal, and the fact that he juiced. But hey you still got to see the ball, and you still got to hit it. Love him or hate him, he was the most feared hitter of his time.
Unanimous. Albert Pujols. 'Nuff said.
He has nine years in the league, he's already won three NL MVP Awards, sports a 2006 World Series ring, and he's only 29 years old. He is the second player in Major League Baseball to post nine consecutive seasons with 30 doubles, a .300 batting average, 30 home runs, and 100 RBI.
He holds the Cardinals record for most grand salamies (10) and is the most recognized baseball player around the world. Most importantly, during a time overshadowed with performance-enhancing drugs, Albert Pujols has given hope to the authenticity of the game.
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