Next up in our series on "The Best of: 2000-09" are the shortstops. Ranking them was harder than it seemed. The first five or so just jumped immediately to mind, it was just a matter of fine-tuning the exact order. Then it got harder, and required more looking under some rocks. It was nowhere near as bad as the second base search, though.
Without further ado, here is my list:
1. Derek Jeter
Jeter's on his way to Cooperstown, especially on the strength of this decade, where he had five seasons with 200 hits or more. His inside-out swing never really lent itself to power, but he did consistently show some pop, hitting double-digit homer totals every year, including 21 in 2001 and 23 in '04. He had two really strong Wins Above Replacement - WAR showings, with a 5.5 in '06 and a 6.7 in '09. He was voted to the All-Star game eight times, won four Gold Gloves despite people constantly second-guessing his range. While he never won an MVP, he has been in the conversation eighth times, including finishing second in '06 and third in '09.
Here's a man who has been National League MVP (2007) - won three Gold Gloves and an All-Star twice. His '07 season was just astonishing - he had both power and speed, hitting 30 homers and 20 triples, as well as swiping 41 bases and only being caught six times. Being in the same lineup as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard would bring down one's WAR, but he had a respectable 5.9 one in his MVP year. He also won three Gold Gloves.
Tejada had an incredible 2004 season, when he drove in 150 Runs Batted In - RBIs and showed himself as a multi-dimensional hitter, able to hit for average and power, collecting over 200 hits three times and being TWO bad days away from making it five times (he had 199 hits twice). He won the American League MVP in '02 and was in the Top 20 MVP conversation six other times. That's pretty impressive. He also posted WARs of at least 4.1 or higher.
4. Jose Reyes
Reyes was a speed demon on the bases from 2005-08, stealing at least 50 bases in all of them, with 78 being his highwater mark in '07. He also was a triples machine, hitting at least 17 of them in three of those four years. Add the fact that he collected at least 190 hits over that span and he was incredibly dangerous as a hitter. Reyes was in the top 30 MVP voting four times, including seventh in '06. He also won one Silver Slugger award. His best WAR was a 5.6 in '06.
Ramirez was a surprising blend of speed and power - stealing 50 or more bases twice and no fewer than 27 in a season from 2006-'09. Sure, he has less of a body of work, but it's still quite impressive compared to others on this list, which is why he still rates fairly high, especially since he placed second in the National League MVP voting in '09, when he hit .342 with 27 homers and 101 RBIs. He posted a great 7.3 WAR that year and a 6.6 in '08.
People forget that Furcal was dangerous on the basepaths from 2000-09 - stealing over 20 bases eight straight seasons during the decade and 40 or more twice. He was National League Rookie of the year in '00 and has been in the top 35 National League MVP conversation twice. His best WAR was a 6.0 in '05.
Like Ramirez, Tulowitzki has less of a body of work, but over his four seasons, he was in the MVP conversation twice, including a fifth place showing in 2009. He posted a 6.2 and 6.0 WAR in those years, which bumped him above other players, in my opinion. It's entirely possible that we could be ranking him in the top 3 for 2010-2019, if he keeps this up.
8. Omar Vizquel
Probably the greatest fielding shortstop not named Ozzie Smith. He won four of his 11 career Gold Gloves during this decade. He was a solid hitter and is aiming to finish his career with at least 3,000 hits, though that might be more a product of longevity at this point. He wielded a decent bat, while never batting above .300 during the decade, he did hit over .290 twice. His WAR took a hit, but he did have some respectable numbers, like a 4.0 ranking in 2004 - though he saved a lot of runs over that time span with his glove.
Although he did tail off towards the tail end of his career and he also missed a good portion of the 2001 season, Garciaparra still had some strong seasons during the decade, including a 56-double, 120-RBI '02. He finished in the top 15 of the American League MVP voting twice and once in the National League. He had incredible WARs earlier in the decade, with a 7.1 in '00, a 6.5 in '02 and a 6.3 in '03. His dive after that precludes him from being ranked higher.
10. Edgar Renteria
While he did have a good bat, hitting over .300 three times between 2000-09, Renteria had some wheels too, stealing at least 10 bases all but twice during the decade, including 21 in 2000 and 34 in '03. His best season was '03 when he hit .330 and drove in 100 RBIs. He had several seasons where his WAR average was around 4.0, a good number, and his best was a 5.3 showing in that same stellar '03 season.
As usual, let us know what you think of the list above. Should someone be higher or lower? Some added or excluded? Comment below!
Check out our previous entries on the Best MLB Players of the 2000's: