By Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz
This spring, we at Cubs Talk and White Sox Talk have decided to unify Chicago's two baseball teams into one in an effort to pick out the best players to grace each side of the city over the last 50 years. Each Wednesday during spring training, we'll roll out a different All-Chicago team, beginning today with the best Cubs and White Sox players from 2000-2011.
Tony: Catcher was the biggest debate. Geovany Soto has put up some solid offensive numbers for the Cubs over the second half of this time period, but A.J. Pierzynski brought intangibles and led a World Series-winning pitching staff. Ultimately, we went with Soto for the pure numbers, but it was awfully close.
JJ: As you'll see below, not everyone agrees with this. Soto's tangibles broke the tie, although as Tony said, this one was probably the toughest of them all.
Tony: Ray Durham at second base shows just how poor that position was in Chicago over that time. Durham is a heck of a player, but he only spent a a few years with the Sox in this time period. Both Chicago teams have failed to find consistent options at second for quite some time now.
JJ: It came down to Durham vs. Tadahito Iguchi, which was a lot closer than I thought. Iguchi was a solid player, but Durham was just a bit better.
Tony: Jim Thome and Derrek Lee were fantastic players for their respective teams in the 2000s, but Frank Thomas at DH and Paul Konerko were just a little bit better.
JJ: No shame to either guy for being left off our starting lineup of sorts. Both had terrific careers with the Sox and Cubs, respectively.
Tony: The rotation was tough, as beyond Carlos Zambrano and Mark Buehrle, there were no clear-cut options. The battle for the fifth starter was especially challenging. Ted Lilly ultimately won out because for the three-and-a-half years he spent on the North Side, he was the Cubs' best pitcher.
JJ: Freddy Garcia deserves a shout-out here, as does Jon Garland, but in the end, Lilly was the guy.
Tony: At left-handed reliever, Sean Marshall has been the best relief pitcher from 2010-11, but Thornton was arguably the best reliever from 2008-2010 and has been better for longer.
JJ: No non-closer was better than Matt Thornton from 2008-2010 in baseball. While Marshall has been impressive in the last two seasons, there's no touching Thornton's string of dominance. And without further ado, here's our roster:
C: Geovany Soto
1B: Paul Konerko
2B: Ray Durham
SS: Alexei Ramirez
3B: Aramis Ramirez
LF: Carlos Lee
CF: Aaron Rowand
RF: Sammy Sosa
DH: Frank Thomas
Bench: Derrek Lee
Bench: Jim Thome
SP: Mark Buehrle
SP: Carlos Zambrano
SP: Kerry Wood
SP: John Danks
SP: Ted Lilly
Closer: Bobby Jenks
Righty Reliever: Carlos Marmol
Lefty Reliever: Matt Thornton
The Final Word
David Kaplan: I have a few problems with the list because I don't think that some of the selections take into account winning. Three Cubs starting pitchers in the rotation? Please. Kerry Wood wasn't a starter for a large percentage of the decade. Ted Lilly? He didn't even finish the four-year deal he signed before the 2007 season. I would go with Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras, Carlos Zambrano, and Freddy Garcia.
At catcher A.J. Pierzynski is a no-brainer. Soto didn't even come up until 2007 and he had two bad years since then. No chance he belongs on the All-Decade team. Pierzynski is a winner and is still effective. This one is not even close! Carlos Lee? He didn't play in Chicago after 2004 so I would go with Jermaine Dye, who was a World Series MVP, and although he was a right fielder with the Sox he could play left field. Some of the selections are not great, but it speaks more to how subpar Chicago baseball has been for the past 11 years with 2005 our only true shining moment.
Chuck Garfien: Taking a first glance at the list, A.J. Pierzynski is the best catcher in Chicago of the decade. He didn't win the Rookie of the Year like Geovanny Soto, but he helped win the White Sox countless games behind the plate. Statistics don't always tell the whole story about a player. The intangibles A.J. brings into every game were immeasurable, especially in 2005.
And I agree with Kap. Jermaine Dye has to be on this list. Carlos Lee put up good numbers but was terrible in the clubhouse. That's why Ozzie Guillen asked Kenny Williams to trade him. The Sox went out and signed Jermaine Dye. He won the World Series MVP, was a great teammate. He belongs on the team.
And I would replace Ted Lilly with Greg Maddux. I know his best days with the Cubs were way before that, but it was great to see him back with the club for a final swan song. Plus, any all-time list looks better with Greg Maddux on it.
Share your thoughts on this list with us! Drop us a line in the comments or on twitter @CubsTalkCSN or @WhiteSoxTalkCSN.