Hey! Remember the 2000’s? It was a crazy time! When the decade began, we didn’t know who Tom Brady was, LeBron James was only 15 years old and Sue Bird hadn’t even won a collegiate or professional championship yet. It was also the start of 10 years of narratives in Major League Baseball that deserve a retrospective.
We’re going back to revisit the year 2000, when two batting title winners accomplished something that hadn’t been done for almost 100 years. Let’s first take a look at the winners before we get into what happened with the 2000 batting crown.
From 1997 to 2000, Nomar Garciaparra put together one of the best runs by any player in Red Sox history. His accomplishments included:
- 113 HR
- 420 RBI
- 53 SB
- 27.7 WAR
- 3 All-Star selections
- Rookie of the Year (1997)
- #2 in AL MVP voting (1998)
He also won back-to-back batting titles, starting in 1999 when he hit .357. Unfortunately, the 2000 season was the peak of Garciaparra’s career. The following year he suffered a wrist injury and missed almost the entire 2001 season. He was never the same player and only counted for 16.4 WAR over the remaining nine seasons of his career. This was an incredibly disappointing end for a player who looked destined for the Hall of Fame after his first four seasons.
This was also a tough result for any youths who might have invested heavily in over 50 Nomar baseball cards in 2000. At the same time, you haven’t really lived until you’ve felt the rush of using $20 in birthday money to win a Nomar Diamond Classic card on eBay from anonymous strangers.
Todd Helton’s first full season in the majors came in 1998 and for the next three seasons he put up:
- 102 HR
- 357 RBI
- 15 SB
- 15 WAR
- 1 All-Star selection
- #2 in Rookie of the Year voting (1998)
- #5 in NL MVP voting (2000)
Helton had the benefit of playing his home games at Coors Field during a time when that was the equivalent of a video game cheat code. He would go one to count for 47 WAR during his next 13 seasons as a Rockie. Helton went on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2019 and has gone from getting votes on 16.5% of ballots in the first year to 44.9% this year. Having 61 career WAR (coupled with not having any steroid allegations) would seem like he should be a shoo-in, but playing his career in Colorado might limit his chances of eventual entry.
What they accomplished in 2000
Nomar hit 21 home runs with 96 RBI and had a .372/.434/.599 slash during the 2000 season. His .372 average was the highest in the AL since George Brett hit .390 in 1980. It is also STILL the highest since then, as Ichiro Suzuki’s .372 in 2004 was actually .3722 and Nomar’s 2000 average was .3724.
Helton hit 42 home runs with 147 RBI and had a .372/.463/.698 slash. He led the league in AVG, OBP, and SLG, and he and Larry Walker became the first teammates to do that in back-to-back seasons (Walker did it in 1999). Walker also won the batting title in 1998, 1999, and 2001 so Helton’s 2000 crown might owe a bit to Walker injuring his elbow and missing 75 games that season.
But the most interesting part of this whole thing?
Garciaparra and Helton each hit .372 to win their respective league batting titles. And this was the first time that happened since 1907 when Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner each hit .350.
And then the very next season, Ichiro Suzuki and Larry Walker each hit .350 to again have identical batting average among the league leaders. You can’t make this stuff up!
What a season. What a decade. What a sport!
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