12/21/09 8:00 PM EST
Fans to decide the All-Decade Teams
Voting per club, then per league, to begin in February
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
In early February, MLB.com will get things started by rolling out the All-Decade Teams for all 30 MLB clubs. Expect loud debate, as the club All-Decade Team members will comprise the AL and NL All-Decade Team ballots, which will be open for the duration of February. Fans will be asked to vote on MLB.com for the following positions: catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, left field, center field, right field, starter, reliever and setup man.
Once the votes have been tallied, MLB.com will gradually announce the AL and NL All-Decade Teams by position during the Spring Training exhibition schedule.
It will be a distinctly fun and unique transition from an exciting, transformational and wild decade into a new one drenched in spring optimism. Here are just some of the examples of the decisions you can expect to face at that point:
AL starting pitcher: Johan Santana was 103-44 with the Twins, winning two AL Cy Young Awards, more than any AL pitcher that decade. But the decade is closing with the focus on Roy Halladay -- the Majors' winningest pitcher since 2000 due to a prolonged period of dominance in Toronto. Josh Beckett won titles with Florida and Boston, the former as World Series MVP. Mark Buehrle threw two no-hitters (one a perfect game) and won it all. Pedro Martinez had a magnificent run from 2000-04 that featured a Cy Young Award and a curse-ending World Series championship. And Andy Pettitte won more AL games than anyone -- 144 -- and pitched in four Fall Classics (not including 2005 with Houston).
AL second base: Hey, Yankees fans, do you like Alfonso Soriano or Robinson Cano? Right now, you're probably thinking the latter. He just helped the Bombers win it all in the last year of the decade. But just look again at Soriano's numbers with the Yankees and Rangers through 2005 in the AL, before he moved to Washington and later the Cubs. Roberto Alomar earned his last of 12 consecutive All-Star selections in 2001, and although his greatness was mostly before that decade, just remember that he could be named Jan. 6 as a Hall of Fame first-ballot inductee and thus come to mind first for voters deciding this debate.
NL third base: Making a case for entry to the Hall of Fame, Chipper Jones has been a rock for the Braves at the hot corner for more than just this decade, and although his most powerful season came in 1999, Jones has been a model of consistency even as his career approaches a decline. Contenders include Scott Rolen and David Wright, the former having won the Gold Glove in five of the first six years in this decade and the latter Rolen's successor to the All-Star throne. Aramis Ramirez was a Cubs fixture all that time, too.
NL shortstop: Don't get us started on this one. Jimmy Rollins? Hanley Ramirez? Jose Reyes? Rafael Furcal? Ramirez might be the best overall player out of the bunch at that position right now, but remember that this is a 10-year span you're considering. The ballot will include some who have faded but must receive the same weight as those from the decade's late years.
AL catcher: He may have gotten a late start, beginning his career in 2004, but the Twins' Joe Mauer has already won three batting titles and one AL MVP Award, perhaps establishing himself as the front-runner in a race with the Yankees' Jorge Posada. But there are a lot of Ivan Rodriguez fans out there, including a bunch in Detroit and Texas who are going to be thinking about him. Then again, there are some NL voters who may cancel out Pudge. Such a scenario could hurt a player in this All-Decade vote, because it is going to be decided by leagues.
That is only the start of the discussion. There will surely be plenty more candidates in those categories, and the others you will see. In February, baseball fans will be abuzz with the impending arrival of pitchers and catchers to Spring Training camps, everyone looking forward to Opening Day and the hope that their team can contend.
But before fans get down to business at that point, there will be some leftover work to be done from 2000-09. It will be fun. It will be difficult.
That's your homework -- something to think about over the winter.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.