All-Aughts Team of the Decade 3B: Bill Mueller

Boston.com -- Jim DavisThe hot corner was the the only significant debate I had at naming the All-Aughts Team of the Decade. Was it Bill Mueller or Mike Lowell? On the face of it, how can you not have the 2007 World Series MVP on the Team of the Decade? But I've made my choice in Mueller. If you want Lowell on the team, check back after everyone is named and we do a Fire Brand vote on an honorable and dishonorable mention. Mueller joined the Red Sox in 2003 as a free agent. You may recall how Mueller had to fight for playing time alongside Shea Hillenbrand, Jeremy Giambi and David Ortiz. Clearly, we know which two names won the battle. When Hillenbrand was dealt in May for Byung-Hyun Kim to come in as closer, Mueller was installed as the full-time third-baseman.

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Boston.com -- Jim Davis

Boston.com -- Jim Davis

The hot corner was the the only significant debate I had at naming the All-Aughts Team of the Decade. Was it Bill Mueller or Mike Lowell?

On the face of it, how can you not have the 2007 World Series MVP on the Team of the Decade? But I’ve made my choice in Mueller. If you want Lowell on the team, check back after everyone is named and we do a Fire Brand vote on an honorable and dishonorable mention.

Mueller joined the Red Sox in 2003 as a free agent. You may recall how Mueller had to fight for playing time alongside Shea Hillenbrand, Jeremy Giambi and David Ortiz. Clearly, we know which two names won the battle. When Hillenbrand was dealt in May for Byung-Hyun Kim to come in as closer, Mueller was installed as the full-time third-baseman.

He enjoyed the best year of his career by far, winning a batting title by hitting .326/.398/.540 with 19 home runs and 45 doubles. His power output was the major story, as he had never exhibited this before. (He would keep up his power output the duration of his Boston tenure.)

It’s been reported that Manny Ramirez sat out the final game of the 2003 season to ensure that Mueller won the batting title (Man-Ram was one point behind).

Of course, I would be remiss in not mentioning Mueller’s greatest claim to fame: bopping two grand slams in one game from each side of the plate on July 29, 2003 — in consecutive at-bats from both sides of the plate. Ah, the benefits of being a switch-hitter. (Mueller would also hit a third home run in the game.) Mueller became the only player in history to have the grand-slam, opposite-sides in the same game event happen.

“Billy Ballgame” wasn’t without other notable contributions. We all remember Kevin Millar walking and Dave Roberts pinch-running in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS… but the team needed Mueller to crank that bouncing single that just missed a sprawling Mariano Rivera.

Earlier in 2004, Mueller also contributed to the high-octane game between the Red Sox and Yankees that saw Jason Varitek shove his catcher’s mitt into Alex Rodriguez’s face. Tempers were high in the bottom ninth, with Boston down a run. On a 3-1 count, Mueller slammed a two-run shot off Rivera that won the game.

BillMueller.com

BillMueller.com

That’s part of the reason why Mueller nabs the spot ahead of Lowell. In the span of two seasons — two of the most important in the Red Sox’s history — Mueller was front and center. He was the best overall hitter on the Red Sox in 2003. In 2004, he ended the two Yankee games that every Sox fan will remember from ’04.

Statistically, Mueller comes out ahead of Lowell, too. From 2003-5, Mueller hit .303/.378/.474, checking in with a .853 OPS. Lowell’s OPS is .829 in his four seasons in Beantown. Even if you remove his worst season according to OPS, he checks in below Mueller.

Nicknamed “The Professional,” Mueller was average defensively — he didn’t make a ton of mistakes, but he didn’t dazzle everyone with his play. What endeared him to Boston was a gritty attitude — a no-frills, unselfish player who laid out for every play. His acumen was also valued, and it’s served him well in his retirement. After inking a deal with the Dodgers following the 2005 seasons, Mueller’s knees completely broke down as everyone predicted. He currently is a special assistant to the Dodgers’ general manager, while also having served as hitting coach for the team.

I agonized over this decision for months. Mueller or Lowell? Lowell or Mueller? After thinking about it and looking up the numbers, I can say with full confidence that while Mike Lowell’s contributions to Boston are truly invaluable, Mueller was the one more deserving of the All-Aughts Team of the Decade nod.

Categories: Bill Mueller Mike Lowell

Born on the 37th anniversary of the the day Babe Ruth died (1985) which later became the day Jimy Williams was fired in 2001 (a monumental event at the time), Evan was too young to experience the pain 1986 brought, but a deep wound was sowed in 2003. Since then, Fire Brand has become a blog that Red Sox “club officials read,” as per Peter Gammons. Evan enjoys working out, writing, reading, quality television, science fiction and history and being newly married. He is a professional baseball journalist as well as president of a state non-profit and member of the Board of Directors for a national profit. (Twitter.)

12 Responses to “All-Aughts Team of the Decade 3B: Bill Mueller” Subscribe

  1. _Marcos_ December 5, 2009 at 2:17 PM #

    Mueller is my favorite player of all time. Its a shame he only played 3 seasons for the Sox. Top of line hitter and a true dirtdog.

  2. _Marcos_ December 5, 2009 at 2:26 PM #

    You made the right choice. The 2004 team should always come ahead of the 2007 team. Not to mention some fans view certain players more positively than others when they don't break down. Mueller was let go before he completely broke down. fair or not Lowell takes a lot of blame for breaking down so early.

    • evanbrunell December 5, 2009 at 3:12 PM #

      You bring up a good point but I don't think Lowell is done. He still brought it with the bat and the fielding we could see coming based on his hip labrum surgery. It takes a full year to heal. Lowell said the other day his hip feels better than it did all season. I think he'll bounce back fielding wise. Ever be the same hitter as in 06 and 07? Probably not. But hit like he did in 2009 and be average in the field is all Boston needs to recoup his value — assuming he is not dealt of course

      • _Marcos_ December 5, 2009 at 3:48 PM #

        I agree with you, i don't think done either. But it appears that fans get really down on players when they miss time because of injury. I don't think they put much stock on how productive they are in a small sample size. The way they look at it, if the player is not playing, the player is not helping the team. I think this why Drew takes a a lot of heat even though he is a productive player. I think playing in the AL east adds fuel to the fire as well. This division is too competitive and every game is critical.

        • Gerry December 5, 2009 at 5:44 PM #

          Good point. And looked at from the angle of historic context, Mike got caught up in the "dump the old guys" hysteria, and was the focus of it, while dirt dog Bill got caught up in the still llingering breaking of the curse ecstacy. Despite the solid output by Lowell, Papi, JD, Wake, & Tek's first half in 2009, a remarkably ungrateful and ungracious RSN has been screaming "stick a fork in him" for a couple of years.

          As, technically, this decade is not over and ends with the 2010 season, (in the same way you don't count 1 to 10 by starting with zero & ending at 9.) Mike may pull ahead of Bill if he contributes, as he certainly could, to winning a 3rd WS in this decade, unquestionably making the Sox the team of the decade.

  3. evanbrunell December 5, 2009 at 5:52 PM #

    Yeah, I know about the whole technical decade thing. But let's be honest, everyone considers 1990-1999 to be a decade, as an example. Plus, I accounted for this by saying All-Aughts.

  4. evanbrunell December 5, 2009 at 5:54 PM #

    Another point to bring up is that technically a decade is any 10 year span, correct? So what's to stop us from doing a 2005-2015 team of the decade? The goal here is to reward the 00s team of the decade, not to reward the literal decade. Who was the best hitter of the 90s, someone might ask. And they mean 1990-1999. I honestly can't see the relevance of a technical decade in this discussion. The 2000-2010 decade may not be over, but the referencial (I think I just made up a word) decade is.

  5. Dave L December 5, 2009 at 6:02 PM #

    good choice evan, I also like hearing from others that mueller was their favorite player as well. I think he was underrated defensively as well, I honestly don't think that Lowell, was/is any better.

  6. E_Rock December 5, 2009 at 11:36 PM #

    Are you switching formats again Evan?! I just got the hang of this intensedebate stuff and you switch it to this!? wordpress??? wtf?

    anyways, I gotta say I'm not so sure that the short time Mueller spent with the Sox (and there were some great moments!) is more significant than that of Lowell's. I have a hard time disagreeing with you on this one, but I must.

    Not that I'm the first one to look at the new schedule (which isn't that new), but anyone notice who's coming back to town June 18th? What sort of response do we suppose will be garnered when ol' ManRam digs in for the first time in Fenway after his debacle?

  7. Charlie December 6, 2009 at 1:14 AM #

    Bill Mueller was also a switch hitter, won the batting title with the red sox, and was paid less than loell

    • charlie December 6, 2009 at 1:15 AM #

      *Lowell

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. All-Aughts Team of the Decade GM: Theo Epstein | Fire Brand of the American League - February 19, 2010

    [...] got right to work, bringing in players off the scrap heap — or at least, being undervalued. Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar, David Ortiz, Bronson Arroyo, Todd Walker, Mike Timlin. He guided the team to Game 7 [...]