The team of the aughts will be decided this postseason. The Yankees have the most wins this decade and the most World Series appearances, but the Red Sox have the most world championships and are looking for a third when no one else has two. The Cardinals could get into the mix with their second world championship this decade.
We need not wait, however, to determine the players of the decade. When it comes to individual categories, the decade unmistakably belongs to stars such as Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols, Mariano Rivera, Livan Hernandez and David Weathers.
Wait. Livan Hernandez? David Weathers? I'll explain below in a rundown of the major category leaders for the decade. (All statistics through Sunday).
Almost every category has long been decided, but there is a Batting Champion of the Decade race that is a real beauty: Suzuki and Pujols battling to the last day of the season. (I'm sure they can't sleep well at night with so much pressure.) The race for the Player of the Decade is another gem, though my choice is a guy who spotted the field an entire season head start while he was playing in Peoria when the decade began. And read on to find my All-Star Team of the Decade.
1. Ichiro Suzuki (2,005) 2. Derek Jeter (1,920) 3. Miguel Tejada (1,831)
Little surprise here. Suzuki holds a comfortable lead, though 81 percent of his hits have been singles. That makes Mark Grace, the hits champion of the 1990s, look like Babe Ruth; 71 percent of Grace's hits that decade were singles.
Fun fact: six of the top 17 played mostly at shortstop (Jeter, Tejada, Michael Young, Orlando Cabrera, Jimmy Rollins and Edgar Renteria).
1. Albert Pujols (.334)2. Suzuki (.333) 3. Todd Helton (.331)
Talk about your great batting races. Suzuki trails by only .001, or the equivalent of six hits over these 10 years. Fun fact: Nineteen hitters batted .300 for the decade, including Moises Alou, Jose Vidro and Sean Casey.
1. Alex Rodriguez (430)2. Jim Thome (368)3. Pujols (366)
Rodriguez's total doesn't have authenticity because he spent at least three years juicing. By the way, here are the numbers of players in each of the past four decades who hit 300 homers, starting with the 1970s: 0, 2, 11, 12.
Fun fact: Vladimir Guerrero (313) and Andruw Jones (308), who were compared to one another way back in the minors, hit almost exactly the same number of homers in almost exactly the same number of games (Guerrero has nine more games).
RUNS BATTED IN
1. Rodriguez (1,227)2. Pujols (1,101) 3. Manny Ramirez (1,098)
Again, throw aside Rodriguez, and give the unofficial title to Pujols.
Fun fact: Carlos Lee comes in at No. 8 among the eight players with 1,000 RBI, ahead of such sluggers as David Ortiz, Thome and Chipper Jones.
1. Rodriguez (1,180)2. Johnny Damon (1,109)3. Jeter (1,082)
Hmmm. Think the Yankees have been pretty good at scoring runs this decade? Fun fact: Bobby Abreu checks in at No. 5, giving current or former Yankees four of the top five spots.
1. Todd Helton (428)2. Abreu (404)3. Pujols (379)
While Helton's career home/road splits hugely favor hitting at a high altitude, his doubles breakdown isn't nearly as imbalanced as his Triple Crown categories: 272 doubles at home, 234 on the road. Fun fact: Orlando Cabrera, who played for six teams in the decade, ranks fourth, second only to Pujols among right-handed hitters.
1. Rollins (94)2. Carl Crawford (91)3. Cristian Guzman (82)
Rollins led the league in triples four times, including in 2007, when he became one of only seven players ever with at least 20 doubles, triples and homers.
Fun fact: Looking for a right-handed hitter? You have to go all the way to Michael Young at No. 20 on this list.
BASES ON BALLS
1. Barry Bonds (1,128)2. Abreu (1,032)3. Helton (990)
Bonds easily tops the list without playing in either of the past two seasons.
Fun fact: Pat Burrell has more walks than Ramirez, Pujols or Ortiz.
1. Thome (1,425)2. Adam Dunn (1,418)3. Mike Cameron (1,405)
With Thome getting few at-bats for the Dodgers, Dunn has a good chance to become the aughts' King of the K's.
Fun fact: Among the 31 players with 900 punchouts, the one with the fewest home runs is Brad Wilkerson. Who? Precisely.
1. Juan Pierre (455)2. Crawford (358)3. Suzuki (339)
Then again, Pierre has also been caught stealing the most -- by far.
Fun fact: Corey Patterson, among the worst hitting outfielders ever, shows up at No. 22. Teams keep giving playing opportunities to Patterson as if he might hit someday. Keep this in mind: among outfielders with at least 1,000 big leagues games all time, Patterson is worse at getting on base than all of them except John Shelby and Tony Armas.
1. Pujols (1.057)2. Ramirez (1.021)3. Helton (1.007)
Just as you might expect. Those three are the only ones better than 1.000.
Fun fact: Luis Gonzalez (No. 23) checks in ahead of Carlos Beltran (28).
TIMES ON BASE
1. Helton (2,764)2. Abreu (2,763)3. Rodriguez (2,694)
This is another one going down to the wire. Abreu, consistent and healthy, put up a stronger decade than you might expect, just not worthy of Cooperstown.
Fun fact: Jason Kendall has been on base more times this decade than Rollins.
1. Andy Pettitte (147)2. Randy Johnson (143)3. Jamie Moyer (140)
Akin to Jack Morris' calling card as the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, Pettitte's title as winningest pitcher of the aughts will be mentioned often come the day he appears on a Hall of Fame ballot. What does it mean? Not a whole lot.
Fun fact: Pettitte threw only 11 complete games in the decade and just three shutouts -- the same output Morris had in 1990 alone.
1. Pedro Martinez (2.99)2. Johan Santana (3.12)3. Roy Oswalt (3.22)
With a minimum of 1,000 innings, old school guys Martinez, John Smoltz, Johnson and Roger Clemens take four of the top eight spots while pitching into their late 30s or later.
Fun fact: The worst ERA for the decade with the same innings minimum belongs to Sidney Ponson (5.05), with Mark Hendrickson and Josh Fogg (5.02) making a last-minute run.
1. Johnson (2,176)2. Javier Vazquez (1,979)3. Santana (1,733)
Think how impressive that is for the Big Unit: at ages 36 through 45 he was the best strikeout pitcher of the decade by a wide margin.
Fun fact: Six of the top 11 strikeout pitchers pitched for the Yankees at some point in the decade: Johnson, Vazquez, CC Sabathia, Mike Mussina, Pettitte and A.J. Burnett.
1. Hernandez (2,179)2. Vazquez (2,141)3. Mark Buehrle (2,045 2/3)
What's the value of an innings eater? Livan Hernandez was basically a .500 pitcher (128-122), never received a vote in Cy Young Award balloting, led the league four times in most hits allowed and twice in earned runs allowed, lost the most games in the aughts, but collected $46 million because he stayed healthy and kept taking the ball.
Fun fact: Of the 15 most durable pitchers, only two remained with one team (Buehrle of the White Sox and Roy Halladay of Toronto).
1. Rivera (392)2. Trevor Hoffman (358)3. Jason Isringhausen and Billy Wagner (284)
You were expecting somebody else?
Fun fact: Francisco Cordero, a guy who has never appeared in the postseason, ranks ahead of Joe Nathan, Troy Percival and Brad Lidge.
1. Weathers (704)2. LaTroy Hawkins (647)3. Alan Embree and Rivera (642)
What a career for Weathers, who turns 40 this month. The guy has been pitching for 19 years and is closing in on 1,000 career games, yet he has never made an All-Star team and spent most of his career neither starting nor finishing games.
Fun fact: Of the 21 players ever to appear in 900 games, Weathers has the fewest combined wins and saves (147).
1. Barry Zito (815)2. Doug Davis (720)3. Hernandez (712)
Hard to believe the 2002 Cy Young Award winner is so far ahead of the rest of the pitchers, and that he hasn't received a single Cy vote in the years since he won it.
Fun fact: Zito's career ERA was 3.04 after the 2002 season. It has gone up every year since, now swollen to 3.83.
If you want to get a little understanding of the Latin American influence upon the game in the aughts, check out this All-Decade Team:
C: Jorge Posada1B: Albert Pujols2B: Jeff KentSS: Derek Jeter3B: Alex RodriguezLF: Manny RamirezCF: Carlos BeltranRF: Vladimir GuerreroDH: David OrtizLHP: Randy JohnsonRHP: Pedro MartinezRP: Mariano Rivera
Player of the Decade: Albert Pujols