The imminent end of this decade has already been fodder for about 10,000 blog posts, magazine articles and TV shows. Well, far be it from Walkoff Wallk to let an easy angle like that pass us by. Starting yesterday and running through tomorry, we're presenting The Walkoff Walk End Of Decade Personality Compendium Infocaps.
Divided alphabetically between Kris, Rob and Drew, the Infocaps are our choices for the member of each organization who most defined them during this decade. Often it's the best player, but not always. We hope to inspire reflection, debate and stick a finger in your sister's eye for that horrid Best Twee Bands of the Decade blogpost she did.
On with the listicle:
Florida Marlins: Jeffrey Loria
A glorified art history dimwit, Loria is is probably more responsible for the disappearance of baseball in Montreal than he is deserving of credit of the Marlins' 2003 World Series win in just his second year of owning the team. Jeff took over the Miami franchise in 2002 and immediately began greasing palms and begging city officials to build him a cheesy new ballpark, which the taxpayers are currently building for him. While the Marlins have had some very talented hitters and pitchers in the 2000s, Loria's skinflint payroll has kept the team from hanging on to the players and succeeding as a team.
Runners-up: Miguel Cabrera, Jeff Conine, Owen Wilson,
Houston Astros: Lance Berkman
The hefty Houston first baseman smacked over 300 homers, collected over 1000 RBI, and posted a 148 OPS+ in the aughts to go along with his five All Star appearances in Albert Pujols' ginormous shadow, all while proselytizing for Christ to whomever will listen. Claims that his proper nickname is "The Big Puma" but any schmuck knows that only a doofus chooses his own nickname. You'll always be "Fat Elvis" to us, chubs.
Runners-up: Jesus, Brad Lidge, Roy Oswalt
Kansas City Royals: The Royalblogosphere
No other franchise has experienced such a dichotomy between the team on the field and the folks who write about 'em. Kansas City has spent the 2000s putting together overpriced and undertalented teams and having those players fall flat on their faces in an otherwise easy division. Meanwhile, their most ardent fans in the newspapers and baseballblogosphere posit some of the smartest ideas and write some of the most interesting columns. Rob Neyer, Rany Jazayerli, and Joe Posnanski (technically an Indians fan but he covered the Royals) could have done a far better job of assembling a successful team than GMs Dayton Moore and Allan Baird but, well, the Royals were so turned off by outside criticism that they banned Jazayerli from the ballpark.
Runners-up: David DeJesus, Yuniesky Betancat, Joe Randa
Los Angeles Angels of Angelheim: Troy Glaus
History has not been kind to the oft-injured third baseman but let's not forget how well he played for the Angels in the first half of the decade. Fella popped 150+ HR, 400+ RBI and a sexy 130 OPS+ in his last five years in Anaheim while playing a somewhat adventurous third base. His performance in the 2002 playoffs was notable: seven homers including three in the World Series; he was named the series MVP. A shoulder injury ended his Angels career after the 2004 season and he ended up playing shortstop for the Blue Jays and being named in the Mitchell Report. Guess which event was more disappointing.
Runners-up: Orlando Cabrera, Rally Monkey, Tim Salmon, John Lackey
Los Angeles Dodgers: Juan Pierre
Okay, so he only played one full season as the Dodgers starting center fielder, but with a $44 million contract, don't you think it should have been a bit more? Unfortunately, he got bumped out of center by Andruw Jones and then bumped out of left by Manny Ramirez, making the $44 million seem like a ridiculous amount of dough to waste on a fourth outfielder. But the 2000s will always be remembered as a failed decade for the Dodgers; they barely sniffed the World Series and fans can point a crooked finger at G.M. Ned Colletti for poor free agent deals with players like Pierre, Jones ($36 million) and Creampuff extraordinaire Jason Schmidt ($47 million). So consider Juan Pierre to be an easy target for my anti-Colletti sentiments, not unlike how Tommy Lasorda's Tweets are an easy target for, well, for my anti-Tommy Lasorda sentiments.
Runners-up: Eric Karros, Manny Ramirez, Jeff Kent
Milwaukee Brewers: Prince Fielder
Big Fella collected 158 tater tots and 443 RBI in just four full years as the Brewers starting first basegentleman, good for a 141 OPS+. Like Lance Berkman, he's been in Albert Pujols' shadow as a power-hitting 1B in the NL Central, but unlike Berkman, he's put up one of his franchise's best individual seasons in history. Look, Milwaukee might trade Prince tomorrow and all this will be for naught, but Fielder is on his way to being one of the Brewers' all time players, up there with Gorman Thomas and Robin Yount. The question is: will his career follow the Eddie Murray mold and continue to be productive or will his career follow the Cecil Fielder mold and find him passed out drunk on a casino floor at age 36?
Runners-up: CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets, Orlando Cabrera
Minnesota Twins: Johan Santana
It's not Johan's fault the Twins traded him to the Mets and it's not Johan's fault they didn't get much back in return. It is Santana's fault that a lot of Minnesota folk are sad now knowing that their franchise's best pitcher fled town before he could even record his 100th win. Still, with two Cy Young awards and 1300+ strikeouts (including 983 in his final four years) for the team, Johan Santana wins this one in a walk. Maybe if he'd been a starter and not a reliever in the 2002 playoffs, the Twins might have taken out the Angels in the ALCS and changed the course of history.
Runners-up: Corey Koskie, Joe Mauer, their seamstress, Orlando Cabrera
New York Mets: David Wright
Hits for power, hits for average, draws walks, snags grounders with aplomb, and personifies a franchise that is chockful of schadenfreude. In 2006, Wright signed a $55 million contract extension but flopped in the NLCS against the Cardinals. In 2007, Wright finished fourth in the MVP voting and hit .352 with 6 homers in September as the team folded and blew their huge lead. In 2008, Wright hit .340 with 6 homers in September as the team folded again, missing out on the Wild Card by one measly game. In 2009, Wright exemplified the Mets' inability to smack dongs in their brand new ballpark, collecting just 5 homers at CitiField as opposed to 21 in his final year at Shea. Most importantly, he is a style trendsetter. Yowza!
Runners-up: Mike Piazza, Bobby Valentine, this sad Mets fan
New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez
Because you seemingly cannot personify a New York team without an angst-filled third baseman, I suppose. At least this one closed the decade properly.
Runners-up: Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Joe Torre, Mike Mussina
Oakland Athletics: Billy Beane
Billy Beane wrote a book about statistics and then built a baseball team that would succeed in the regular season and fall flat on its face in the postseason and then married a computer and had bionic babies and then came out of the closet and signed Coco Crisp. All in all, it's been a very full decade for Beane, full of as much praise for his smart ideas as there was misinformation about his methods. Make no mistake: Beane was the first dude to find inefficiencies in a money-driven player market and exploit the heck out of 'em while the big boys wasted money on the Juan Gonzalezes and Albert Belles of the world. It was never specifically about high-OBP guys or left handed pitchers who threw a screwball or Scott Hatteberg; it was a system that espoused all of these things and worked...at least until the postseason..
Runners-up: Eric Chavez, Orlando Cabrera, Jason Giambi, HudMulZit
Tomorrow: the conclusion of the Infocaps by the one and only Drew Fairservice.