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 today and running through Wednesday, 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 monster pageviews, lady.
Atlanta Braves: Chipper Jones
The Braves' Bobby Cox Era spans the entirety of two decades and will be defined historically by starting pitching and playoff disappointment. Funny then, that their defining personality for The Aughts is OF/3B, Larry "Chipper"Jones. One of the finest hitters of any team in this decade and one of the finest switch hitters in the history of the game, Jones hit 25+ HRs in all but two seasons and OPS'd over 1.000 4 times. Like a lot of good things from the South, Chipper's greatness seems underappreciated nationwide. The decade he dominated like few others saw him make only 3 All Star teams.
Runners Up: Bobby Cox, Smolmadglav
Arizona Diamondbacks: Randy Johnson
The World Series Champion 2001 Diamondbacks are remembered for helping the terrorists beat the Yankees and for their 1-2 aces at the top of their rotation. But whereas Curt Schilling treated Arizona like a desert holiday before moving on to a market where he could get more airtime, Johnson made the team his home and, in my mind, will be a Diamondback even more than a Mariner. Excepting his injury plagued 2003, his numbers from 2000-2004 are astounding. He flirted with 400 Ks, won 3 CONSECUTIVE CY YOUNGS, then finished 2nd in the voting in 2004. His two years in New York were forgettable, painting him (unfairly) as a sort of Anti-Schilling, but he returned to Arizona for two more seasons of spotty health that STILL saw him strike out more than 10K/9IP.
Runners Up: Luis Gonzalez, The Guy Who Cleans The Stadium Pool... Look That Stadium Has A Pool!
Baltimore Orioles: Albert Belle
I know I know, Albert only played one season for the O's and it was in 2000. But did you realize that the Orioles paid $50M to Belle for 144 games and 23 HR? Orioles fans have been a whiny lot, what with their walkouts and incessant griping about Peter Angelos, but this move set the tone for an entire decade of mismanagement and lousy spending.
Runners Up: Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada, Boog Powell
Boston Red Sox: Theo Epstein/Manny Ramirez (tie)
The team that authored baseball's defining story of the decade benefited from tons of media coverage and thus had plenty of memorable characters. But, with two World Series titles they also had plenty of talent. Success came to Boston by uprooting an entire culture of stubborn and vehemently traditionalist baseball thinking and woe-is-us Eeyorism. The hiring of 28 year old Theo Epstein and the injection of fresh logic that it brought remains one of the boldest front office moves the sport has seen. The bridge that linked the Sad Old Sox and the New Sox also happened to be their best hitter. Despite his all world numbers Manny Ramirez and his 10 year deal were the glaring exception to Epstein's vision of the franchise and as such, for 4 straight years the Red Sox would have given up one of baseball's all time great hitters for just about nothing. That push/pull came to a head with the 2008 soap opera that led to Manny's move to LA. With the exception of the two titles, there wasn't a bigger story out of Fenway this decade.
Runners Up: David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Brian Daubach, Orlando Cabrera
Chicago Cubs: Mark Prior
While I was tempted to praise Derrek Lee for 5 years of fantastic hitting and solid glovework, the Cubs' decade is defined by heartbreak, and no one player epitomizes that better than Mark Prior. The can't miss kid from USC exceeded his lofty expectations in his first two seasons of 02-03 and looked like a perennial Cy candidate in the making. He struck out everybody and didn't walk many (245 to 50 in 211 IP in 2003) and was physically imposing. Until he became a physical wreck. He devolved into Creampuffery with tragic speed and despite being only 29 as I write this, hasn't thrown a pitch in the majors since 2006. If you feel like Cubs fans complain more about what happens off the field than on it, well this is one you can't argue with.
Runners Up: Derrek Lee, Kerry Wood, Steve Ba...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Chicago White Sox: Mark Buehrle
Mark Buerhle made his MLB debut with the White Sox in 2000 and threw a no hitter with the same team in 2009. Along the way he's pitched at least 200 innings in every single season and threw a CG shutout in his only start during Chicago's World Series sweep of the Astros That's about as complete a resume as you can have for this exercise. Who were you gonna pick, that loudmouth Ozzie Guillen?
Runners Up: Ozzie Guillen, Frank Thomas, Steve Perry, Orlando Cabrera
Cleveland Indians: CC Sabathia/Cliff Lee (tie)
Earlier in the decade, Cleveland was flush with these two All Star caliber lefthanded starters and the conversation was mainly about who would be better. Sabathia debuted at 20 but had a couple middling years showing glimmers of promise before finally finding his control in 2006 and winning the Cy Young in 2007. Lee fell as far as a demotion to the minors in 2007 before his switch got flipped and he won the Cy in 2008. Despite being only the 3rd team in 30 years to have different guys win back to back, the Indians couldn't do anything else right and had to trade them both away. That sums up the decade at Jacogressive Field pretty neatly.
Runners Up: Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Orlando Cabrera
All you need to know about the Reds' decade was that I considered Aaron Harang for this spot. Adam Dunn was pretty good, but I'm just gonna post this old video and move on. REDS FANS HOW DO YOU LIVE LIKE THIS?
Colorado Rockies: Todd Helton
The Toddfather wins this one going away. On a team littered with a history of immense offensive seasons from mediocre players, Helton left no doubt that he would have been the best hitter on nearly any team in baseball. 5 times this decade he had 30+ HRs, netting 40+ twice. He's also the active leader in career OBP and 12th all time. Park factors be damned on that stat.
Runners Up: Matt Holiday, Denny Neagle
Detroit Tigers: Dave Dombrowski
No franchise had a bigger wholesale turnaround in the deacde than the Detroit Tigers. A span of just 4 years separated the historically inept, 106 loss 2002 team from the 2006 AL Championship team, a transformation led by Dombrowski as both President and GM. He brought my old pal Jim Leyland out of retirement, acquired numerous big bats (regardless of their final totals) and has made the Tigers a fixture in the topsy turvy 3 way daisy chain that comprises the top of the AL Central. Even with some recent disappointments they're a far cry from where they were 7 years ago and a beacon of hope for miserable franchises across the land from Pittsburgh all the way to Kansas City.
Runners Up: Tilde, Binge, Tigers Fans That Make Up Silly Nicknames, Orlando Cabrera