From the labor strike of 1994-95 to widespread allegations of performance enhancing drugs, Major League Baseball in the 1990s was mired in controversy. But despite these issues, the decade featured some of the most memorable moments and players in baseball history. This list features the 10 best players of the nineties.
1) Ken Griffey Jr.
Only 20 years old entering the decade, the second generation phenom lived up to his nickname, “The Natural.” Griffey’s five-tool skill set was on full display in the decade, as the Hall of Famer won 10 Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, an MVP, and was named an All-Star all 10 seasons. Griffey also won four home run titles, including hitting 56 in both 1997 and 98. For the decade, he hit .302 with 382 home runs, 1091 RBIs and 1002 runs scored. The Seattle Mariners superstar led all players with 3125 total bases.
2) Barry Bonds
Even before the PED controversy would reach Bonds in the 2000s, the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants great owned the National League. The multi-talented Bonds won three MVPs, had five seasons of at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases and a 40-40 season in 1996. He also won eight Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers, and was named to eight All-Star games. Bonds finished the decade with a .302 average, 361 home runs, 1076 RBIs, 1091 runs, 343 steals and a 1.036 OPS.
3) Greg Maddux
While power dominated the decade, Maddux used finesse to carve his niche in the nineties. With superior command and an unrivaled attention to detail, the Atlanta Braves Hall of Famer led the Majors with 174 wins and all starters with a 2.54 ERA in the decade. Maddux had one of the best four-year stretches in history from 1992-95, winning four straight Cy Young awards while posting a 75-29 record, a 1.98 ERA and a 0.953 WHIP. Maddux was also a 6-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner in the decade.
4) Roberto Alomar
No matter where he played in the nineties, Alomar made a major impact. He became the only player in history to be named an All-Star with four different teams in the same decade. The slick fielding switch hitter won eight Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, and hit .308 with 135 home runs, 732 RBIs, 951 runs and 311 stolen bases in the nineties. A great big-game player, Alomar was instrumental in the Toronto Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series winners in 1992-93, hitting .354 with 14 RBIs, 15 runs and 16 steals in 24 postseason games.
5) Jeff Bagwell
After winning Rookie of the Year in 1991, Bagwell went on to dominate National League pitching for the rest of the decade. The Houston Astros Hall of Famer hit .304 with 263 home runs, 961 RBIs and a .961 OPS in nine seasons. More than just a slugger, the 1994 NL MVP was also a Gold Glove winner, and remains the only first baseman in history to have a 30 home run and 30 stolen base season, accomplishing the feat in both 1997 and 99.
6) Frank Thomas
Possessing both brute power and exceptional plate discipline, Thomas is one of the best all-around hitters the game has ever seen. From 1990-99, the “Big Hurt” hit .320 with 301 home runs, 1040 RBIs and a 1.013 OPS. The Chicago White Sox Hall of Famer was a 5-time All-Star, 4-time Silver Slugger and a back-to-back American League MVP in 1993-94. Thomas led the AL in on-base percentage and OPS four times each in the decade.
7) Roger Clemens
Clemens had one of the wildest rides a pitcher could have over a 10-year span. He began the nineties by going 57-27 with two ERA titles and a Cy Young from 1990-92 with the Boston Red Sox. From 1993-96, he went 40-39 with a 3.77 ERA while battling injuries. Clemens would end the decade on a high note, going 41-13 with a 2.33 ERA and 563 strikeouts en route to winning back-to back Cy Young awards and Triple Crowns with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1997-98, then winning his first World Series with the New York Yankees in 1999.
8) Craig Biggio
Biggio began the decade as an All-Star catcher and ended it as an All-Star second baseman, an almost unheard of transition. The Houston Astros Hall of Famer won four Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers at second base, and was named an All-Star a total of seven times in the decade. The versatile Biggio hit .297 with 136 home runs, 319 stolen bases and 1042 runs. His 362 doubles were second among all players, and his 1728 hits and 2605 times on base ranked third.
9) Randy Johnson
No pitcher intimidated hitters in the nineties more than the 6’10” flamethrower. The Hall of Famer won Cy Young awards in both the American (Seattle Mariners) and National Leagues (Arizona Diamondbacks), and led all pitchers with 2,538 strikeouts in the decade, leading the Majors six times. After struggling with consistency and control in the early nineties, Johnson ended up going 150-75 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.197 WHIP for the decade.
10) Tony Gwynn
The greatest hitter of his generation and one of the best pure hitters of all-time, Gwynn led all players with a .344 average in the nineties. The San Diego Padres Hall of Famer won four consecutive batting titles from 1994-97, hitting a combined .371. In 1994, Gwynn hit .394, the highest average since Ted Williams’ .406 in 1941. Gwynn finished the decade with 10 All-Star appearances, three Silver Sluggers and two Gold Gloves.