Here they are, the best players at each position for the 2002 season. We also commented on players who were close and gave some honorable mentions. Please feel free to send us your list and weíll be pleased to post it in our reader comments section (of course we may add a few of our own comments on your picks).
C Jorge Posada, New York Yankees
It pains us to write anything nice about any overpaid employee of George Steinbrenner. Still, our dignity notwithstanding, Posada is our pick. He caught most of his teamís games, had solid power numbers (20 home runs, 99 RBI, .837 OPS), and proved a respectable obstacle to would-be base stealers. Is he overpaid? Yes. Does he look goofy? absolutely. Was he the best in 2002? Grudgingly, yes.
What about Pudge? Sure Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is the best defensive catcher in the game. Sure he is the best offensive backstop in the American League. But Pudge just didnít play enough. His 108 games equal roughly two-thirds of the season. His fragility is now a factor and it takes him down a notch. Seriously, if you had to choose between having Posada catch most of you games or Pudge catch two-thirds, would you really go with Pudge? We thinks not.
What about Piazza? Despite getting 10 bonus points in our ratings system (5 points for having the class to publicly admit/claim he is heterosexual and another 5 points for doing this with a "straight" face), Piazzaís inexcusable defensive woes render his status as the gameís premier slugging catcher insurmountable. Piazzaís limp arm threw out only 27 would-be base stealers and allowed a whopping 125 to advance. Argue all you want that Piazza hit 33 home runs and totaled 99 RBI. How many extra runs did the opposition score because Piazza allowed opposing base stealers to turn countless singles into doubles?
1B Jim Thome, Cleveland Indians
Letís see...class act, solid glove, great bat. Duh. Thome has quietly become the best all-around first baseman in baseball. Itís a darn shame that the dreaded free agent system might rob Indians fans of their franchise player. Thome says he wants to stay. Weíll see soon enough if he employs the same forked tongue as Jason Greedambi did when he preached how it was his dream to play out his career in Oakland before he bolted to New York the minute Steinbrennerís wallet opened up. The Philadelphia Philberts are going to offer buckets of cash, but really, who wants to play there?
What about Jason Greedambi? Sorry Jason, unlike you, our picks are not for sale. Greedambiís porous, statue-like defense is a major liability. Heís an offensive machine, no doubt, but so is Thome and Thome not only owns a baseball glove, he actually brings it to the stadium on game days and uses it.
2B Jeff Kent, San Francisco Giant Chokers
Power equaled only by one other second baseman. RBIís equaled by only one other second baseman. Solid defense. Sure he benefited mightily from hitting in front of the gameís biggest jerk, but he still had to hit those fastballs. And hit them he did while playing stellar defense.
What about Alfonso Soriano? His defense was as bad as his offense was good. 23 errors? What was he using, one of those tiny dead-ball era gloves? Despite his wow-inducing quickness, he let way too many balls get through without an introduction to his glove. Kent got a lot of errors (16) hustling after balls that Soriano waved at.
SS Alex Rodriguez, Texas Rangers
The best all-around player in the game on one lousy all-around team. Are you familiar with the term "Faustian bargain?" Rodriguez is an amazing player who had an amazing season. Even if you adjust his numbers to account for this era of offensive overinflation, he is still racking up some truly awesome stats.
What about Miguel Tejada? Miggy elevated his game to a new level in 2002. In 2001 he elevated his offense. In 2002, his defense rose to meet up with his offense. The second best shortstop in baseball, Miggy carried the Athletics. He does not appear to have reached his peak. Will he become the equal of Alex Rodriguez? Thatís asking quite a lot. Will he continue to separate himself from the fading Jeter and Garciaparra? Oh, yes.
3B Eric Chavez, Oakland Athletics
Who does this guy think he is, Brooks Robinson? He routinely makes plays that are just sick. His favorite seems to be a play where the ball is smacked down the line, Chavez lunges to his right, somehow snags the ball, then makes an off balance throw that produces a bullet to the first baseman, just beating the runner. No matter how fast that poor runner may be, he doesnít stand a chance. Oh yeah, he also hits well in the clutch, smashes prodigious home runs, and (reportedly) is the opposite of Barry Bonds (well liked by his teammates, a positive force in the teamís mojo, polite to fans and media, good for the game).
What about Chipper Jones? The Braves moved the best third baseman in the National League to left field so that they could let a shadow of Vinny Castilla play there. Stupid.
OF Vladimir Guerrero, Montreal Expos
Almost 40-40 with a cannon for an arm and a great glove. He is the player Yankee fans would beg you to believe Soriano is. The problem is, Soriano isnít. Vlad is. How long will he stay an Expo? Not long enough. Will he be a Yankee? Just a matter of time. Is that sad? Very.
OF Lance Berkman, Houston Astros
This kid is quite simply amazing. In ten years he will be Sosa-but without the mediocre seasons early in his career. He is a power-hitting phenom that has produced beyond expectations. He is fun to watch. He is good for the game. Steinbrenner already wants him.
OF Sammy Sosa, Chicago Cubs
No, his defense is not extraordinary. But he hustles on every play and his defense is above average. His offense has been so consistently dominant over a six-year span that folks look for holes in his defensive game. The gameís premier slugger. If you were drafting a team today, that you could keep together for the next five years, which slugger would you rather have, Sosa or Bonds? Itís not even close. Sosa.
What about Barry Bonds? Absolutely tremendous offense. Absolutely tremendously offensive defense. Címon, did you see the World Series? The world finally got a chance to see Bumbling Barry in the outfield. He booted at least five plays, failed to hustle (in the World Series for Heavenís sake) on several more, and was exposed for an arm that would embarrass the average 5-year old girl. Oh yeah, he also features the accuracy of a scud missile. His power is great but he should be a DH. Factor in his ATTITUDE and he becomes not only not needed but quite unwanted on any all-star team.
What about Ichiro Suzuki? Not the same player as in 2001. Pitchers are learning how to keep the lightening fast runner off of the bases. When he does get on base, he is not the threat he was in 2001. Note: 31 steals and 15 times caught stealing. That said, his arm is a treat to watch. Super strong and super accurate.
P1 Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks
Duh. Four straight Cy Young awards and he has deserved every one of them. The most intimidating heater in the game. While we at Bucketfoot loath free agency, we must acknowledge that the Big Unit has proven the best signee. Letís see, three years, three Cy Young awards. Not bad.
P2 Barry Zito, Oakland Athletics
24-years old and the owner of the best curve ball in the game. Toss in a fastball with great movement and poise, poise, poise and you have one heck of a pitcher. He was 13-1 following an Oakland loss. That my friends is how you define a "stopper." He also had the third best ERA (.275 ) in the American League while pitching in the toughest division. Imagine what his numbers would have been if he could have fattened up on the soft AL East schedule.
P3 Pedro Martinez, Boston Red Sox
Yes he fattened up on the Devil Rays and Orioles. But still, what an abbreviated season. Abbreviated? Yes. He pitched in only 30 games, and in several of those he came out early. But still, when he was healthy he was dominant. If he is healthy next year, Barry Zito will have a difficult time winning his second Cy Young award. Say all you want about Oaklandís Big Three or the other young guns grabbing headlines, when he is healthy, Pedro is the best.
P4 Curt Schilling, Arizona Diamondbacks
He faded in the seasonís final five starts but he was dominant in the first 30. He lost the NL Cy Young award to his otherworldly teammate. When he is "on" he is a no-hitter waiting to happen.
CL Eric Gagne, Los Angeles Dodgers
Smoltz had more saves but Gagneís ERA was 1.28 lower. Gagne had a come-from-nowhere season that leaves him as the closer-to-watch over the next five years. He had hitters looking goofy all season long. His work kept the Dodgers in the playoff race a lot longer than they should have been.
What about John Smoltz? He had a terrific year but he didnít dominate the way Gagne did and he isnít as fun to watch. That said, WOW.