Monday, December 21, 2009

Best Sox Players of the Decade: 2000

I figured with the cold weather and slowdown of the hot stove, combined with what everyone else considers to be the end of the decade*, that it may be fun to look at the best players who have played for Boston over the past 10 years. We'll go year-by-year and then end with a Top 10 for the decade before the New Year...maybe.

Best Players For Boston: 2000

3. Carl Everett: What? Jurassic Carl? The man who decided dinosaurs didn't exist but graciously conceded that we may have landed on the moon? Yup. People remember the controversy (most memorably his dustup with Ron Kulpa on national television**) and the quotes ("curly-headed boyfriend" may be the best thing Everett gave Boston), but in 2000 Everett also had a monster season. He hit .300 for the season and posted a .959 OPS, which translated into an OPS+ of 135. He hit 37 homers and collected 108 RBI, leading the Sox in both categories. He was also a deadly clutch hitter that year, breaking up scoreless games late with a frightening regularity. And his fielding was good enough that the Sox didn't lose anything with him patrolling center. The result was that Carl went to his first All-Star game in 2000.

2. Nomar Garciaparra: This was Nomah! at the height of his powers. He hit a hellacious .372 for the year, the best season in Boston by anyone not carrying the surname of Williams or Speaker. He also posted a 1.033 OPS (OPS+ 155) while racking up 197 hits, 21 homers and 96 RBI. He led the AL in batting average and the Sox in hits, OPS and total bases (317). He was voted into his third All-Star Game in 2000 and finished ninth in the MVP voting. It's almost impossible to remember now that at this point in his career, we all thought he'd be a lifer for the Sox and a first-ballot Hall of Famer. How times change...

1. Pedro Martinez: Speaking of first-ballot Hall of Famers... In 1999, Pedro had one of the greatest single seasons by any pitcher in the history of the game. That year he won the Cy, went to the All-Star game and came within a whisker of the MVP***. In 2000, Pedro actually topped himself. He went 18-6 in 29 starts with a ridiculous 1.74 ERA. And no, that is not a misprint. The only pitchers since the end of WWI that posted a better seasonal ERA have names like Gibson, Maddux, Koufax, Chance, Hubbell and Tiant.**** Most impressive was Pedro's WHIP, which was a minuscule 0.737 and the best season for WHIP by a starting pitcher in the history of the game. Pedro racked up 284 strikeouts and walked just 32 batters for a K/BB ratio of 8.88, the sixth-best season for K/BB in MLB history. His K/9 number of 11.77 was ninth-best in MLB history. Pedro's H/9 ratio of 5.33? Fourth best in MLB history. Pedro's ERA+ for 2000 was 291, the best number of the modern era. Only Tim Keefe had a better number (294), and he set that mark in 1880.

If you were lucky enough to watch Pedro in 1999-2000, you saw one of the best pitchers in the history of the game put together two monster seasons back-to-back. It was like getting to watch Gibson pitch in 1968, Koufax in his jaw-dropping final two years (1965-66) or Bob Feller from 1939-41. Pedro owned the mound, the crowd and the opposition.


* Look, the first year was the year 1, not 0. Therefore the decade begins in 2001 and ends in 2010. But since the cultural zeitgeist demands we simplify everything down, I'll bow to the erroneous standard for the purposes of writing these posts. But the Yankees still aren't the Team of the Decade. We have one more year to go.

** If you remember, the argument was over the line for the interior of the batter's box. Everett said he could have his foot on the line, Kulpa said it had to be inside the line. On a 2-2 count in the second inning, Kulpa called Everett on his stance and then drew a line with his foot. Everett though Kulpa was showing him up (which he was), threw his helmet down and...head-butted Kulpa. Well, supposedly head-butted Kulpa. If you look at the film, Everett's seems to knock Kulpa back 10 feet with his nose, not his forehead. But it looked bad and it was a national game, so Everett got a 10-game suspension and that began his slow decline in Boston.

*** That Pedro didn't win the MVP that year still infuriates me. He was the entire reason the Sox reached the post-season. He got more first-place votes than anyone else. He won the pitching Triple Crown (wins, Ks, ERA). But two knuckleheads (LaVelle Neal of the Minneapolis's Star-Tribune and George King of the New York Post) decided that they could ignore the rules for MVP voting and left Martinez off their ballots completely. And then they gave that lame "he plays every fifth day" bullshit excuse even though that isn't in the rules for voting! Just a travesty all the way around.

**** Let it be noted, however, that the lowest seasonal ERA posted by any pitcher since 1968, and the second-lowest since 1919, belongs to Doc Gooden. He posted a 1.53 ERA during his amazing 1985 season for the Mets. See Mets fans, I can say something nice about your team. Of course, you have to go to the history books to do it...

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