As the decade winds down, baseball fans can read about teams of the decade,top 100 players of the decade, all-star teams of the decade, the greatest moments of the decade and other measurements of the decade which just ended. Here are some other awards for the soon to be complete decade which have been overlooked.
Best New Stadium-The decade saw new stadiums open in Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Bronx, Queens and elsewhere, but the best new stadium of the decade remains one that opened during the first season of the decade and has since changed its name several teams. AT&T Park, as it is currently known, remains the best new stadium of the decade. The food and views of the bay are great. The stadium is accessible and friendly, while offering good views of the field from almost everywhere as well as free valet bike parking. It is a pitcher friendly park, made friendlier by the complete lack of offense by the post-Barry Bonds Giants.
Most Consistent Superstar-The 1990s and 2000s ended the same way with Mariano Rivera getting the last out of the World Series, although Keith Lockhart flew out for the last out in 1999, while Shane Victorino grounded out for the last out of 2009. During the decade as a whole, Rivera had between 28-53 saves, while pitching between 46 and 80.1 innings. His lowest ERA was 1.38 while his highest was 3.15, but six this decade times his ERA for a single season was under two. Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki were also extremely consistent, but lose points for not playing in 2000.
Least Likeable Superstar-The competition here is extremely tough. Alex Rodriguez are Barry Bonds are strong candidates. Yankee haters might choose Derek Jeter, while progressives might choose Curt Schilling. The award, however, goes to Roger Clemens. Clemens wins the award for bringing together all the things which made baseball less enjoyable for fans this decade-steroid use, dishonesty and a willingness to play annoying and seemingly endless games to get more money. Even before the steroid scandal and frequent retirements and threats of retirement came to dominate Clemens’ public persona, he had never been a very likeable player, but this pushed him into the winner’s circle.
Feel Good World Series of the Decade-Despite the presence of Roger Clemens on one of the World Series teams, this award goes to the 2005 World Series between the Astros and White Sox. The 2005 World Series featured one team which had never won a World Series, or even appeared in one against another team that had not won since 1917, or even appeared in one since 1959. The 2004 Red Sox were the championship drought ending story of the decade, but the White Sox fans had to wait longer than Boston fans and deserve some recognition for that. The 2005 World Series saw one of the greatest teammate combinations in baseball history, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, finally play in a World Series. The series itself, while not close featured two very close games and a 1-0 finale to close out a White Sox sweep.
Fastest Decline by a Player-There is a good chance Roberto Alomar will be elected to the Hall of Fame next month. As one of the game’s greatest second baseman ever, he is deserving of this honor. Nonetheless, Alomar seemed to lose his skills as fast as anybody in recent memory who had not suffered a major injury. Between 1999-2001, Alomar batted .323/.405/.515 with an OPS+ of 134. During those years he averaged 38 doubles, 21 home runs and 35 stolen bases over 162 games while winning a Gold Glove and making the All Star team every year. During the next three years, his last as an active player, those numbers fell to .262/.331/.367 with an OPS+ of 84. During those years he averaged 28 doubles 10 home runs and 14 stolen bases over 162 games, without a Gold Glove or All Star appearance.
Best Development in the Game-This decade will be remembered for steroids, increased gaps between the rich teams and the poor teams, inflated offense and increased lengths of games. Nonetheless, the game itself was more popular than ever. This was due to both the quality of baseball we saw this decade as well as the aggressive marketing by MLB. The increased internationalization of the game contributed to both these things. Asian stars like Ichiro Suzuki, Chien-Ming Wang and Chan Ho Park had a major impact on the game. The continued presence of stars from Latin America and the addition of players from Australia added to the international feel of the game. Countries as diverse as South Africa and China also play baseball now and may soon be sending players to the Major Leagues.
The Best Least Recognized Player of the Decade- In a decade of big names sluggers such as A-Rod, Manny Ramirez, Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols, few players hit as well as Lance Berkman. Berkman spent the whole decade with the Houston Astros where his .300/.413/.599 gave him the fifth highest OPS+ (148) of the decade. Berkman also was one of only seven players to hit more than 300 home runs and drove in more than 1000 runs during this period. However, Berkman’s name is almost never mentioned in the same breath as the decade’s biggest stars. Other players such as Ichiro, David Ortiz or Gary Sheffield had higher profiles over the last ten years, but were not as valuable as Berkman.
Berkman, Clemens, Rivera the 2005 White Sox and others contributed to making this a decade like no other for baseball. Only a few more weeks until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.