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Our (preliminary) All-Decade Team

As promised, a fisking of Matt Waters' All-Aughts Team:
1B Albert Pujols
2B Jeff Kent
SS Derek Jeter
3B Alex Rodriguez
LF Barry Bonds
CF Carlos Beltran
RF Vladimir Guerrero

Pujols has absolutely zero competition, and must be the easiest choice here. Jeff Kent's also easy, if only because he's got a huge edge over Chase Utley in plate appearances because Utley didn't become a full-time player until 2004 (after this season it may be fairly close, though, because Kent's edge in playing time is balanced somewhat by Utley's big edge with the glove).

May we quibble with Jeter at shortstop? We may. He and Miguel Tejada have been roughly the same hitters -- Tejada's power balanced by Jeter's walks and steals -- with Jeter holding a slight edge there. You know what I think about Jeter's defense, but it's not like Tejada's been Ozzie Smith with the glove, either. I think Jeter's the right choice here.

Similarly, the choice at third base is between two players: A-Rod and Chipper Jones ... and I think we again have to side with the Yankee. We might knock Rodriguez down a peg or two because of a couple of technicalities: he didn't become a third baseman until 2004, and he cheated for some unknown number of seasons. But Chipper was a left fielder for a couple of seasons, and A-Rod does have a big edge in playing time. I'd like to be interesting here, but I'm afraid the Conventional Wisdom here is (as usual) right.

Barry Bonds? Well ... OK, I guess. Even though he's going to miss three seasons of the decade. The only other serious candidate is Manny Ramirez, and he sort of shot his chances by losing 50 games (so far) this season. Maybe the most interesting argument (yet) comes in center field, where Jim Edmonds and his 140 OPS+ (but only 4,757 plate appearances) face off against Carlos Beltran's 5,940 PA (and counting) and superior defense (but inferior 122 OPS+). My gut tells me that Beltran's advantages -- to which he'll only add for the next four months -- carry the day. But it's worth considering once again Edmonds' hidden greatness. And the same goes for Brian Giles, who's a lot closer to Vladimir Guerrero in right field than you might guess.

SP1 Randy Johnson
SP2 Pedro Martinez
SP3 Johan Santana
SP4 Roy Oswalt
SP5 Mike Mussina/Curt Schilling

I must quibble here. If you're going to avoid an argument by declaring a tie, you'd better have a super-good reason. Waters doesn't. I'm one of Mike Mussina's biggest fans and I think he belongs in Cooperstown someday, but he wasn't one of the six best pitchers of this decade. That fifth slot, if it's not going to Schilling exclusively, belongs to Roy Halladay. And that will seem even more obvious as this season rolls along.

RP1 Mariano Rivera
RP2 Trevor Hoffman
RP3 Eric Gagne

It's really hard to argue with Rivera and Hoffman, but Gagne here is a joke. Gagne's ranks 12th for the decade in saves, and his 116 ERA+ is nothing special for a reliever. Waters has chosen Gagne on the strength of three seasons (2002-2004) but that's just not enough for an all-decade team. Even when we're talking about relievers. The correct answer here is Billy Wagner, who's tied for third in saves (with Jason Isringhausen) and has an ERA+ midway between Rivera and Hoffman. Or if you prefer American Leaguers, Francisco Rodriguez has a decent case. But Gagne? No way.

Waters almost nailed it. Aside from his choices at No. 5 starter and No. 3 reliever, I can't really find anything to argue with. You?