The 2009 baseball season has come and gone and I figured it is now time to name my American League all decade team. A few ground rules for making my all decade team. First you must have played in at least nine of the ten years of the decade of 2000-2009. A player also must have played at least 8 of those years in the American League. You won’t get penalized for steroids, I will leave that for someone else to do. We will have someone at each position, a five man rotation and a closer. Now that we have set the ground rules lets see who makes the cut.
Catcher: We start off with a tough one right out of the gate. We have three legitimate candidates with Jorge Posada, Jason Varitek, and Ivan Rodriguez. I’ll eliminate Ivan because he spent nearly two years in the National League with the Marlins and Astros. Posada has better numbers offensively, but I think Varitek is quite a bit stronger behind the plate. I may have to turn in my Yankees fan card because of this but, I’ll give Varitek extra credit for leading two very different pitching staffs to World Series titles. The winner is Jason Varitek.
First Base: This isn’t the strongest position for the AL team as the race boils down to Jason Giambi and Paul Konerko. Over the ten years Konerko averaged 27 home runs and 92 RBI. Giambi averaged 30 home runs and 94 RBI. So the power numbers are really close. Neither one is a wizard at first base, but I will give the edge to Konerko because he still plays at first. The winner is Paul Konerko.
Second Base: Another position where the decision comes down to two players, but unlike first this is more a position of strength. It has been narrowed down to Brian Roberts and Michael Young. Both can hit for average and have a little pop in their bats. The two biggest differences are speed and defense. Roberts averaged 25 steals a year while Young never has had more than 13 in a season. Roberts has also been entrenched at second for the Orioles while Young has also spent time at shortstop and third base. The winner is Brian Roberts.
Third Base: This one is a no brainer even though Alex Rodriguez has spent only six years at the position he is head and shoulders above anybody else. When you have 435 home runs and over 1300 RBI for the decade you have secured a spot on my team. Rodriguez also doesn’t play a bad third base. The winner is Alex Rodriguez.
Shortstop: Here we have another easy choice, Derek Jeter. The Yankee captain has been a steadying force a shortstop for the pinstripers since 1996. In the decade Jeter made six all star teams and has been in the top ten in MVP voting four times. He hasn’t hit for less than a .292 average in ten years and I could overload you with a bunch of other stats but I won’t. The winner is Derek Jeter.
Left Field: There were a few strong choices here in Jermaine Dye and Garrett Anderson, but as much as I don’t like the guy the easy choice is Manny Ramirez. Ramirez hit 310 home runs in the decade and hit .290 or better every year and finished in the top ten in MVP voting seven times. Even though he basically quit on the Red Sox in 2008 there is no way to deny his numbers. The winner is Manny Ramirez.
Center Field: Three players made the final cut for center field in the AL, Johnny Damon, Torii Hunter, and Vernon Wells. The Blue Jays Wells had 191home runs and over 700 RBI for the decade but still comes up just a little short. Johnny Damon played for four teams in the AL in the decade the Royals, A’s, Red Sox, and Yankees. Damon hit 158 home runs as mostly a lead off man and stole 264 bases. Hunter hit 224 home runs and 842 RBI and while not as fast as Damon still stole 153 bases. The deciding factor in this position battle is defense and that is really no contest. The winner is Torii Hunter.
Right Field: An easy decision on this one. Since this player came into the league in 2001 he has averaged 225 hits a season and 37 stolen bases. He has set a single season hits record as well as never hitting below .300 in the major leagues. He also has a cannon for an arm out in right. The winner is Ichiro Suzuki.
Designated Hitter: He has 307 home runs in the decade and has driven in over 1000 runs. He has 9 stolen bases, maybe that isn’t so good, but he is fat, jolly and often comes up big in the clutch. The winner is David Ortiz.
Starting Pitcher #1: This one was another easy selection. This pitcher has averaged nearly 14 wins over the past ten years. An earned run average of less than 3.50. He has won one Cy Young Award and finished in the top five on three other occasions. The winner is Roy Halladay.
Starting Pitcher #2: In just nine seasons this starter has 136 wins, yet never won 20 games. He has averaged 175 strikeouts a season and has a 3.62 ERA. In the last three seasons he has pitched over 230 innings in each. He won the Cy Young Award in 2007. The winner is C.C. Sabathia.
Starting Pitcher #3: This pitcher didn’t pitch in 2009, but still accumulated 134 wins, while winning 20 only once, in his final season. He had nearly 1500 strikeouts in those nine season and won three of his seven Gold Gloves in the decade. The winner is Mike Mussina.
Starting Pitcher #4: This hurler collected 135 wins against just 97 losses. He had an ERA of 3.80 over the decade and is known for his fast work on the mound. He topped off the decade with a perfect game in 2009. The winner is Mark Buehrle.
Starting Pitcher #5: There wasn’t much to choose from for the fifth starter as not many pitchers have lasted through the whole decade and put up decent numbers. The man that fills the number five slot had 110 wins in the decade, but has worked out of the bullpen without complaint when necessary. He has two World Series rings and made his only all star appearance this year. His knuckleball has baffled hitters for years. The winner is Tim Wakefield.
Closer: This is another easy selection. When you have collected at least 28 saves in every year of the decade and compiled a total of 397 in that same span. When you have an ERA under 2.00 in six of those seasons and been in the top five for the Cy Young three times you make it as my closer. The winner is Mariano Rivera.
So that is the American League squad I picked. If you disagree on a selection leave a comment. Be sure to look for my National League all decade team as well.
All stats courtesy of www.baseballreference.com