The 1990s and heading into the 2000s were interesting times for baseball. Home run rates were through the roof, and it was later that the public found out that the likely biggest reason for that was the use of performance-enhancing drugs. This led to some of the most productive individual seasons in baseball history taking place in the early half of the decade.
If you take out the allegations or even confirmations that a player was using PEDs, the numbers for some of the performances are mind-boggling. Looking at the wins above replacement (WAR), there were 30 individual seasons where a player had a shocking 8.0 or higher. Let’s take a look back at the 2000s to see who had the best seasons.
It Was Bonds’s World
You probably could’ve guessed that Barry Bonds had some of the best seasons during the 2000s, but did you know that he had all four of the best seasons in the decade? He did all that while missing almost an entire season and then playing two injury-plagued seasons in his 40s, too. 2001 through 2004 were Bonds’s best seasons, with 2002 being his tops, and there were 19 games he didn’t even play in. In that season, Bonds blasted 46 home runs and batted in 110 runs while reaching base 58.2 percent of the time he came to the plate.
In second place is Bonds’s 2001 season in which he hit 73 home runs and 137 RBIs, so what made 2002 more valuable? The 2001 season saw Bonds strike out almost twice as much as 2002 with an on-base percentage nearly 70 points lower. Some might argue his 2004 campaign (which was the third best of the decade) was his personal best thanks to 45 home runs and an insane on-base percentage of .609. Of course, 2003 would round out the top four with another 45 home runs.
The Other Big Bopper
While Bonds was toward the end of his career when the 2000s came along, he was hitting better than he did at his peak. One player that was hitting their peak at this time was Alex Rodriguez, who holds five of the top nine individual seasons of the decade if you take out Barry Bonds. What’s even more impressive for A-Rod is that he did it with three different teams (Mariners, Rangers, Yankees).
From 2000 to 2007, Rodriguez put up performances that made him a hot commodity, which led to a record-breaking contract. The best season for A-Rod came in 2002 with Texas when he finished with a WAR of 10.0. In that year, he batted .300 with 57 home runs and 142 runs batted in. Rodriguez’s other amazing seasons included two with the Yankees (2005, 2007) one more with the Rangers (2003), and one with the Marienrs (2000).
The Best of the Rest
Bonds and A-Rod weren’t the only two having all of the fun in the 2000s. There were three other individual seasons that registered in the top 10, all of which came from different players. Coming in at ninth overall is the fourth member of the 700 home run club, Albert Pujols, back when he was just 23 years old in 2003. That year, Pujols hit a career-high .359 at the plate with 43 home runs and 124 RBIs.
At seventh overall was Adrian Beltre in 2004, his final season with the Dodgers. Somehow, Beltre didn’t even make the All Star Game that year despite a .334 average, 48 home runs, and 121 RBIs. The top non-Bonds or Rodriguez season, though, belonged to Sammy Sosa in 2001. While still a member of the Cubs, Sosa knocked in 160 runs (more than anyone else in the decade) and was propelled by 64 home runs.