This season marks the 10th anniversary of the 2001 season, which is famous for Barry Bonds, the debut of Ichiro, the domination of Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, and Luis Gonzalez’s bloop single to win the World Series.  

However, I prefer to think of it as the season that was so offensively dominated that it crossed the line into outrageous before simply becoming hilarious.  Over the years, it has become my go-to year to talk about how baseball has changed since I began following it.  

Just look at the home run leader board from that year.  Bonds tops the list obviously with 73 dingers, and he’s followed by Sammy Sosa, Luis Gonzalez and A-Rod who all topped 50 homers.  Jim Thome, Shawn Green and Todd Helton each had 49 homers and in total 12 players topped 40 homers. Some highlights of just how ridiculous this season was:

Gonzalez, a skinny outfielder who had previously only topped 20 homers three times suddenly found the power to hit 57 homers.  He never again topped 30 homers.

Green slugged 49 homers that year, but at least he had topped 40 once before.  He would follow up this campaign with one last 40-homer season before topping 20 homers only twice more.  

Phil Nevin launched 42 homers in ’01 after topping 30 for the first time the previous season.  He followed up this season by hitting 12 homers and was out of the league after 2006.  

Bret Boone went from 19 homers and 74 RBIs in 2000 to 37 homers and 141 RBIs in 2001.  He would have a nice three-year run but would never replicate this season and would be out of the league after the 2005 season.  

Rich Aurilia smacked 37 homers for the Giants after never hitting more than 22 before.  He would have one more season where he topped 15 homers.  

Jose Cruz Jr. would go 34/32 for the season, but never topped 21 homers again.  

Corey Koskie managed 26 homers and 103 RBIs.  Needless to say he never came close to these numbers either before or after this season.  

Mark McGwire smacked 29 homers despite a .187 average.  

Bubba Trammell hit 25 homers and drove in 92 RBIs.  Bubba Trammell.    

Paul Lo Duca hit 25 homers and drove in 90, which totals over 30 percent of his homers and a little less than a fifth of his RBIs for his entire 11-year career.  

These are just some of the gems from 2001, and I haven’t even touched the RBI category (Really, Mike Cameron? 110 RBIs?).  But what makes the season even more special and ridiculous is when you compare it to last season.

Last season, just two players topped 40 homers, 18 slugged 30 homers, and 44 hit 25 homers.  These numbers are nothing compared to 2001 when four players topped 50 homers, 12 hit more than 40, and a mind-boggling 41 players smacked more than 30 homers.  The league average of home runs in 2001 was 182 per team; this number dropped to just 154 homers per team ten years later.

In the RBI category, the drops are just as drastic.  In 2001, five players drove in over 140 RBIs, 19 over 120 RBIs, and 46 over 100 RBIs.  Meanwhile in 2010, no player topped 130 RBIs, and only 25 players drove in over 100 runs.              

While we know exactly the cause for these drops, another trend has emerged that is slightly more subtle.  Since 2001, the amount of superstars in the outfield has dropped as teams are now getting a substantial proportion of their offense from the infield.   

In 2001, 21 of the 41 players who hit more than 30 homers roamed the outfield.  In 2010, only five out of the 18 players who hit over 30 homers played the outfield.

A friend of mine recently asked me to name an outfield player who put up superstar numbers and I struggled to respond.  Are there any left?  Back in 2001, you had Bonds, Ramirez, Griffey Jr., Larry Walker, Sheffield, and Vlad Guerrero.  Today, who is there?  Matt Holliday?  Josh Hamilton?  Ryan Braun?  These players are certainly good, but I don’t think they can be labeled as superstars.  

It’s telling that less than 10 years after one of the craziest offensive seasons dominated by outfielders, only three outfielders would top 30 homers and only six drove in more than 100 runs.

Today, the offensive superstars play the infield while the outfield consists of mostly speedsters or players who provide a balanced offensive attack without excelling in any one category.  

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues as the game continues to evolve, or if new outfielders will emerge to return the position to its former glory.  

Regardless, it’s always fun to go back and time and pay homage to one of the most outrageous seasons in baseball history.  Here’s to it continuing to age well.

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