That honor was bestowed upon Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, the two-time National League Most Valuable Player who has topped a .300 batting average, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in each of his nine seasons.
The new issue of The Sporting News features a 14-page tribute to the top athletes, coaches and teams since the dawn of the new millennium.
In addition to Pujols, baseball's best since 2000 includes former Yankees and current Dodgers skipper Joe Torre, who was named the best manager; the Red Sox, named best team after their World Series championships in '04 and '07; and Boston general manager Theo Epstein, named top executive.
The best performance went to Mark Buehrle, who hurled a perfect game against the Rays on July 23 of this year to become the only pitcher with two no-hitters this decade, and the contest of the decade was Game 7 of the '01 World Series, when Luis Gonzalez hit a walk-off single off Mariano Rivera to lead the D-backs to a 3-2, championship-clinching win over the Yankees.
The Sporting News honored one athlete in each sport by enlisting the help of teammates, coaches and former stars to make a case for the winner and runnerup.
Former Cardinals outfielder and Hall of Famer Lou Brock was definitely a supporter of Pujols, who was The Sporting News' Player of the Year twice -- in '03 and '08.
"There's an adage in baseball that the sound of the bat dictates how well a guy is going to play," Brock told TSN. "His first time in Spring Training, when Albert hit a ball, everyone stopped. All eyes turned to him. That sound just jerked you around. That in itself gave us a great indication of what was going to happen. The sound is hard to explain. It's just different -- like I hear people talk about when Tiger Woods hits a golf ball, and it's unlike anything they've heard.
"Babe Ruth, I'm told, had that sound. You don't hear that sound in every decade."
The team of the decade is composed of Joe Mauer (catcher), Pujols (first base), Jeff Kent (second base), Derek Jeter (shortstop), Alex Rodriguez (third base), Barry Bonds (outfield), Ichiro Suzuki (outfield), Manny Ramirez (outfield), David Ortiz (designated hitter), Randy Johnson (starting pitcher) and Rivera (closer).
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less