Today’s All-Decade Team focuses on the best players of the 1990’s. A couple players you’ll see on this list are known or suspected PED users, so there’s bound to be disagreement and debate over my selections. You may feel that steroid use should diminish their statistics, I do not.
While I do believe estranged Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa should be on almost every 1990’s all-decade team, I have a little difficulty justifying a relatively paltry 58.6 WAR for a guy who hit 609 career home runs. As such, he does not make mine. Still, he is my second favorite Cubs player of all time, right behind Kerry Wood. It’s hard to fathom that the Cubs considered trading Sosa after acquiring Rondell White at the 2000 trade deadline.
𝐀𝐩𝐫𝐢𝐥 𝟒, 𝟐𝟎𝟎𝟑
Sammy Sosa smacks his 500th career home run 💥
Sammy hit 545 career home runs with the Cubs, the most in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/Qs7YrfacrY
— This Day in Chicago Sports (@ChiSportsDay) April 4, 2020
- Catcher – Ivan Rodriguez, Rangers: Pudge earned seven Gold Gloves during the decade and was named to the AL All-Star team eight times. He threw out 321 of 682 runners attempting to steal, a 47% success rate, and was named league MVP in 1999 when he hit 35 home runs with 113 RBI. He also scored 116 runs, which is insane for a catcher.
- First Base – Jeff Bagwell, Astros: Bagwell’s slash line (304/.416/.545) was consistently elite throughout the decade, he blasted 263 taters, was Rookie of the Year (1991) and MVP (1994), and has a 4-WAR advantage over anybody else at the position from 1990-99.
- Second Base – Roberto Alomar, Blue Jays: Alomar actually played for four teams, winning seven Gold Gloves while batting .300+ six times. He led Toronto to two World Series titles and was the starting second baseman for the AL in every All-Star game of the decade. Craig Biggio deserves a mention here because his stats are almost identical to Alomar’s, but the championships make the difference.
- Shortstop – Cal Ripken Jr., Orioles: The Iron Man made 10 All-Star teams (19 consecutive overall) and was incredible at the start of the decade (11.5 WAR, 162 OPS+ in 1991). He hit 198 home runs from 1990-99 and, despite being 6-foot-4 and not being particularly speedy, Ripken still managed to provide excellent defense, earning two Gold Gloves.
- Third Base – Robin Ventura, White Sox: You may be surprised by this selection, but don’t be. Known mostly for his hitting, Rockin’ Robin quietly earned six Gold Gloves and the fact that he was named to just one All-Star team is simply startling. Ventura finished the decade with an .805 OPS, 209 home runs, 861 RBI, and 1,421 base hits, yet he is mostly remembered for this 1993 incident with Rangers’ starter Nolan Ryan.
- Outfield – Barry Bonds, Pirates/Giants: How easy is this selection? His 79.9 WAR for the decade is proof enough. The combined WAR of Rickey Henderson and Albert Belle was 78.4. Bonds was the first player to reach 400 home runs and 400 steals, probably before he ever took an illegal substance. He also won eight Gold Gloves and never hit below .292 in the 90’s (full seasons only). Bonds won three of his seven NL MVP awards in the 1990’s and was robbed of a fourth in 1991 when he shockingly lost to Terry Pendleton.
- Outfield – Ken Griffey, Jr., Mariners: To me, The Kid is the greatest player to have ever laced ’em up. In 1997 and ’98 he combined for 112 home runs and 293 RBI while saving baseball in Seattle. He made the All-Star team and won a Gold Glove in each season of the decade. His counting stats over the 10 seasons are ridiculous: 1,622 hits, 382 HR, 1,201 RBI, 167 SB, all while missing 141 games due the ’94 lockout and injuries.
- Outfield – Larry Walker, Rockies: – Walker won four consecutive batting titles starting in 1994 and, though you can argue the effects of Coors Field, WAR is stadium-neutralized and Walker holds a 13-WAR edge over Sosa. Booger won his only MVP in 1997, when he hit .366 with 49 taters and 130 RBI, amassing 208 hits with an OPS+ of 178.
- DH – Frank Thomas, White Sox – The Big Hurt gets the nod over Edgar Martinez because Thomas never went more than two consecutive games without reaching base. Back-to-back MVP awards in ’93 and ’94 and three Silver Slugger awards don’t hurt, either. Thomas’s OPS+ for the decade was 171, and from 1990 through ’97 it was 183.
- Starting Pitcher – Greg Maddux, Cubs/Braves – Mad Dog earned four consecutive Cy Young awards from 1992-95 (one with the Cubs), and should have won two more. He also won the NL ERA title from ’93-95 and again in 1998. He was 181-91 for the decade with a minuscule ERA of 2.51. In 1995. Maddux was 19-2, allowing just 38 earned runs the entire season.
- Starting Pitcher – Roger Clemens, Red Sox/Blue Jays/Yankees: The Rocket is the only pitcher to make two of my all-decade lists, and deservedly so with a record seven Cy Young awards. Clemens’ 4,672 career strikeouts rank third all-time and he is the only pitcher in MLB history to record at least 350 wins with 4,500 strikeouts. He is an 11-time All-Star, two-time Triple Crown winner (Wins, ERA, Strike Outs), and he was AL MVP in 1986. Along the way, Clemens led the league in wins four times and strikeouts five times. Like Bonds and Sosa, Clemens’ career has been marred by steroid allegations.
- Starting Pitcher – Tom Glavine, Braves: Glavine won 20+ games four times in the decade, two Cy Young awards, earned six NL All-Star selections, and starred in one great Nike commercial with Maddux.
- Starting Pitcher – Randy Johnson, Mariners – The Big Unit led the league in ERA twice and strikeouts five times, averaged 12 K/9, and was better than Glavine by every conceivable measure except wins. His 364 strikeouts in 1999 are fifth most in the modern era of baseball.
- Starting Pitcher – Pedro Martinez, Red Sox: Martinez is the only pitcher in history to reach 3,000 strikeouts with fewer than 3,000 innings pitched, and only Johnson reached 3,000 strikeouts faster than El Grande. An eight-time All-Star and three-time Cy Young winner, Martinez won the pitching Triple Crown in 1999.
- Closer – Dennis Eckersley, A’s/Cardinals: The Hall-of-Famer had 293 saves, won AL MVP and Cy Young awards (1992), and earned three All-Star selections. Eckersley posted a ridiculous 0.61 ERA while allowing an equally ridiculous four walks across 73.1 innings in 1991.
- Manager – Bobby Cox, Braves: Guided the Braves to pennants in 1991, ’92, ’95 , 96, and ’99 with a World Series title in 1995. Cox managed Atlanta to a 947-618 record over ten seasons, winning the NL East eight times.
Odds & Sods
I had a nightmare last night that the internet was sabotaged by terrorists during the ongoing pandemic, leaving us all financially ruined and completely disconnected. After 26 days of being a shut-in, I’m honestly just about done.
Cubs News & Notes
- A Cubs-Padres game from 1989 that featured 11 combined errors is known as the “David Letterman Game.” Alomar committed three errors in the game, while Ryne Sandberg made two, including his first throwing error in 248 games.
- Ryan Davis continues his simulated season via MLB The Show, and yesterday the virtual Cubs rallied late to defeat the Diamondbacks 7-5 thanks to home runs by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
- Meanwhile, the Strat-O-Matic Cubs improved to 6-2 on the season with an 8-7 win over Arizona. Chicago holds a one-game NL Central lead over the Cardinals in the simulated season. Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr., and Kyle Schwarber were the offensive heroes in the slugfest.
- I have been keeping a team statistics log for the Start-O-Matic simulation. Bryant has really excelled at leadoff, leading the Cubs with a .433 average through eight games despite no home runs.
- Unparalleled consistency makes Kyle Hendricks the best Cubs pitcher of this era.
- Ever wonder what the Cubs might look like if they still had Eloy Jiménez and Dylan Cease instead of José Quintana?
- In 2012, Yu Darvish was named the GQ Man of the Year in Japan. The magazine also billed him as the “Elvis of Japan” in 2010.
Updates on Nine
- President Trump met with the commissioners from most professional sports leagues yesterday, and it was suggested that baseball may find a way to start the season in empty stadiums with all games initially played in Arizona. The logistics of quarantining 30 teams in one area would be extremely complex and is already a controversial topic on social media.
- Giants owner Larry Baer believes Arizona might be the best place to schedule the entire 2020 season. Baer emphasized that many scenarios have been thrown out around the league, but that the safety of all those involved with the game should take precedent.
- The MLBPA approved a program Friday to provide supplemental financial support to non-roster players with previous major league service when MLB suspended the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The eight-person union executive subcommittee, which includes current Yankee starter James Paxton, agreed Friday to offer assistance to 371 players who fall into the category of having had MLB service time, even if it was as little as one day, and were still in big league camps as of March 13.
- Astros pitcher Justin Verlander and his wife, supermodel Kate Upton, announced that the two-time Cy Young winner will be donating his upcoming MLB paychecks to organizations of their choice that support COVID-19 relief efforts.
- The Blue Jays and Indians started the 2012 season in historic fashion eight years ago today, playing a 16-inning tilt on Opening Day in Cleveland. Justin Masterson, the only Jamaican-born pitcher to ever play in the big leagues, started for the Indians, and Blue Jays catcher J.P Arencibia drove in the winning run.
- Despite postponements and talks of possibly cancelling the 2020 season, construction continues at the Field of Dreams site in Dyersville, IA in anticipation of the White Sox-Yankees game scheduled for August 13. MLB is estimated to have spent $6 million to build the 8,000-seat stadium, which is said to be reminiscent of the old Comiskey Park.
- Shortstop Tim Anderson and starting pitcher Lucas Giolito still see bright days ahead for the White Sox.
- Indians manager Terry Francona believes that baseball should take a backseat to COVID-19 efforts. “We’re in an unsettling time,” said Francona. “We need to take care of business, and when I say that, I mean we have to take care of business as a country.”
- A relatively mild winter, combined with no early spring baseball, will mean healthier grass in baseball stadiums across the country.
Can you name all the players mentioned in the entirety of this article that once played for the Montreal Expos?
“You gotta be kidding me!” – Hawk Harrelson
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) April 5, 2020
They Said It
- “It was a beautiful day. That’s what is amazing. I walked down to the store and said to myself, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ But in the grand scheme of things, when you turn on the television and see the reality of what’s going on, we didn’t need to be playing baseball. We didn’t need to be trying to play baseball.” – Terry Francona
Sunday Walk Up Song
Bad Moon Rising by John Fogerty with Brad Paisley. I just love this live version of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic. I truly miss live music.