'Tis the season for teams of the decade. Fans around baseball, except maybe in Boston where you know they would put up a fight, have to concede that the New York Yankees are the team of the decade.
But, looking specifically at the Yankees themselves, what is THEIR Team of the Decade? Some positions, like shortstop, catcher and closer, are obvious. Others, less so.
Here is my stab at naming the New York Yankee Team of the Decade.
1B -- Jason Giambi. This position presents a real conundrum. The first name that leaps to mind is Giambi, but in his seven seasons with the Yankees he played more than half the team's games at first base just twice. And, he played more than 100 games there only one. He averaged 76.8 games per season at first base as a Yankee. Tino Martinez played just three seasons, but was the full-time first baseman each of those years playing 147 games per season. Tino averaged 22 homers and 83 RBI in his three seasons. Giambi averaged 32 home runs and 94 RBI, splitting his time between first base and designated hitter. Honestly, I hate doing it, but In the end I have to go with Giambi, especially since his pair of 41-home run seasons as a Yankee came when he was the primary first baseman in 2002 and 2003.
2B -- Robinson Cano. A close call here over Alfonso Soriano, based largely on Cano having five seasons (yes, five, can you believe it?) as the starting second baseman. Soriano was terrific, averaging 32 homers, 89 RBI and 39.6 stolen bases, but was a Yankee for just three seasons before being dealt away. Cano has averaged 17 home runs, 79 RBI and has a career average of .306 in five seasons. He is also a better defender. Again, I think length of service gives this one to Cano.
SS -- Derek Jeter. Umm, who else? If I was naming one, Jeter would also be Yankee Player of the Decade. Gee, maybe I just did name one.
LF -- Johnny Damon. This is, obviously, between Damon and Hideki Matsui. And, in my opinion, not a choice between which one belongs on the Team of the Decade. Rather, a choice between which one is the left fielder and which one is the designated hitter. In four New York seasons, Damon has been the primary left fielder for just two years. He has DH'ed just 29 times in those two years, however. Matsui has DH'ed 250 times in six productive New York seasons. So, he gets the left field nod.
CF -- Bernie Williams. Bern, baby, Bern! Was a fixture with the Yankees for seven of the decade's 10 seasons, and was an integral part of the lineup. Hit 136 of 287 career home runs this decade. I know many of you are still irritated by how the Yankees treated Bernie at the end, but that's done with. Let's just give him his due.
RF -- Bobby Abreu. This is another excruciatingly tough call. First, it was difficult to rule out fan favorite Paul O'Neill, whom I think with our hearts we would all probably like to give this spot to. O'Neill, though, played just two seasons this decade and in the second was a shell of himself. So, this choice is really between Abreu and Gary Sheffield. Sheffield had two dominant seasons (.290, 36, 121 and .291, 34, 123), but only played 39 games in his third season due to injury. Abreu had two excellent full seasons (.283, 16, 101, 25 steals and .296, 20, 100, 22 steals). I think Abreu gets the nod because of his impact in 2006, when he was traded to the Yankees to replace the injured Sheffield and hit .330 with 7 home runs and 42 RBI in 58 games, helping the Yankees reach the playoffs.
DH -- Hideki Matsui. The World Series MVP absolutely has to have a place on this team. In six Yankee seasons Matsui has been nothing but productive, hitting .292 and averaging 22 home runs and 99.5 RBI per season.
SP -- Andy Pettitte. Whew! Another really difficult call between Pettitte and Mike Mussina. I know 'wins' is not the only way to measure a pitcher, but for the purpose of this argument it shows how close these two are. Mussina won 123 regular-season games, including 20 at the age of 39, in seven Yankee seasons this decade. Pettitte won 111 regular-season games despite spending three wayward seasons in Houston. The real difference between Pettitte and Mussina is post-season success. 'Moose' was 5-7 in Yankee post-season career. Pettitte, this decade, is 11-5 with a World-Series clinching victory fresh in my mind. I could easily name them both, but if I had to take one it would still be Pettitte.
CL -- Mariano Rivera. The best of all time. Period.
Manager -- Joe Torre. What choice do you have here? Joe Girardi has a World Series title in his two seasons, and he will likely be around for a long time. Hopefully, one day his resume will match what Torre did in New York, but not yet. This decade may not have matched the 1990s for Torre in terms of World Series titles, but one championship, two AL pennants, and playoff appearances all eight seasons he managed the team is pretty darn impressive.
So, what do you guys think? Tell me where I'm right. And wrong. And tell me why.