He's the baseball player evolved to the highest form, a powerful slugger who plays the middle infield with a jeweler's hands. The baseball gods have never shaped their clay better. A-Rod's combination of size (6'3", 210), strength, speed and mobility in elite proportions is unmatched for a shortstop. Just as impressive is his old-school respect for the game. No shortstop ever hit more home runs in a season than Rodriguez's 52 in 2001 and 57 in 2002, and only Babe Ruth (with seven) has ever bettered A-Rod's current streak of five straight years with 40 or more home runs. The youngest player to hit 300 homers, Rodriguez, who turns 28 on Sunday, is only just getting started.
TEXAS RANGERS 1989
CHICAGO WHITE SOX 1989-1991
CHICAGO CLUBS 1992-
Love of freedom, the automobile and the home run help define what it means to be an American. The Dominican-born Slammin' Sammy, once a wiry, wild swinger who was traded twice by age 23, has become a national hero. The twin-turbo power of his smile and vigorous swing—followed by that signature home run hop—has won him awe and admiration in all corners, enough to ensure his standing even after being caught last month using a corked bat. Sosa is the only man in history to hit 60 homers in a season three times, and no one has ever hit more homers over five-, six-, seven-, eight- and nine-year spans.
PITTSBURGH PIRATES 1986-1992
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS 1993-
Never before have teams so avoided pitching to a hitter as they have Bonds. His 460 career intentional walks, including 68 in 2002, stand not only as unchallenged records but also as tributes to the outright fear he strikes in opposing dugouts. The only five-time MVP combines Trappist patience with an exceedingly quick swing. Graceful afield and afoot in his youth, he bulked into a prodigious slugger in his final years. He set season records for home runs (73), slugging percentage (.863), on-base percentage (.582) and walks (198), as well as the mark for home runs in a postseason (8)—all after turning 36.
LOS ANGLES DODGERS 1992-1993
MONTREAL EXPOS 1994-1997
BOSTON RED SOX 1998-
Pound for pound, Mart�nez maybe the most dominating pitcher ever, combining precision control with intimidating velocity that belies his 180 pounds. He has four league strikeout titles, four ERA crowns and three Cy Young Awards and in 2000 was nearer to unhittable than any pitcher in any season ever, holding batters to a record-low .167 average. He has the best winning percentage (.710) among 20th-century pitchers with at least 200 decisions and is at his best when the stakes are highest: He's 3-0 with a 1.12 ERA in the postseason.