One team has won 27 World Series. Two have played only 23 seasons each. But whether you are the Yankees, Diamondbacks or Rays, some years have been more memorable than others, and one often stands alone.
Today’s mission: To pick the best team for each of the 30 current major league franchises, from the debut of the National League in 1876 through the Dodgers’ championship in 2020.
For some it is easy. Looking at you, Diamondbacks.
For others, like the team Arizona beat to win it all in 2001, it is complicated.
(All statistics and records from Baseball-Reference.com.)
1927 NEW YORK YANKEES
Manager: Miller Huggins
Record: 110-44, beat Pirates (4-0) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Earle Combs, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock
The argument: For nearly four decades, the "Murderers’ Row" Yankees were challenged in franchise lore only by the 1961 team, which featured Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford and other famous post-war baseball names.
That season is best recalled for Maris’ record 61 home runs, but it also was a time when there was no National League team in town, and early Baby Boomers were coming of age just in time to bond for life with Mantle as their sports idol.
Then came 1998, when the Bombers won 114 games before rolling through the playoffs with only two losses.
It was the pinnacle of the late 1990s mini-dynasty, with Paul O’Neill and Tino Martinez doing a fair imitation of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in rightfield and at first base.
Young shortstop Derek Jeter was pretty good, too.
Don’t forget the many other great teams, including 1939, when the Yankees won 106 games and swept the Reds in the World Series as Joe DiMaggio did Joe DiMaggio things, with 126 RBIs and a .381 batting average.
The 1977 and ’78 Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World Series, and the 1980 team that won 103 games and lost in the ALCS might have been the best of that era.
But still . . . the 1927 Yankees have stood the test of time as the gold standard of Bronx Bomber bullying of the American League — and of sports dominance in general.
Nearly a century later, when sports people seek a generic term for a powerhouse roster, the reference point is the ’27 Yankees.
For good reason! Ruth had 60 home runs, 165 RBIs and a .356 batting average. Gehrig had 47, 173 and .373. Waite Hoyt was 22-7 with a 2.63 ERA.
Leadoff hitter Earle Combs batted .356 and scored 137 runs — which was only the third-highest total on the team. The Yankees batted .307 overall, and their 158 home runs more than doubled what any other AL team totaled.
They were consistent throughout, with no winning streak longer than nine games and no losing streak longer than four. On July 4, they hosted the Senators for a doubleheader in the Bronx. They won the first game, 12-1. They won the second, 21-1.
Somewhat lost to history is what that championship meant to the franchise at the time.
The Yankees had won only one World Series to that point — in 1923 — had finished seventh in the AL in 1925 and lost the World Series to St. Louis in 1926. Ruth was caught stealing at second base to end Game 7.
The following autumn, the Yankees left no doubt.
1986 NEW YORK METS
Manager: Davey Johnson
Record: 108-54, beat Red Sox (4-3) in World Series
Hall of Famer: Gary Carter
The argument: There really is no argument when it comes to the best team in Mets history. It is 1986, hands down. That does not mean the ’86 team was the most important in Mets history.
That honor belongs forever to the 1969 "Miracle Mets," who after seven years of losing put the franchise on the map with a 100-win regular season and a five-game World Series upset of the Orioles.
It was and remains arguably the most surprising championship in New York sports history.
Just as Mickey Mantle captured the hearts of older Baby Boomers, Tom Seaver became an iconic player for later Boomers, going 25-7 with a 2.21 ERA in the regular season en route to becoming the franchise’s greatest player.
But: That team was not close in balance and consistency to the ’86 Mets, who made an early mockery of the NL East race and finished 21 ½ games in front of the second-place Phillies.
The most famous moments of that season surround the Mets’ near-death experiences in the NLCS against the Astros and World Series against the Red Sox — playoff series that each featured classic Game 6s.
The bottom of the 10th inning of Game 6 against Boston, capped by Mookie Wilson’s little roller up along first, ranks among the most memorable moments in sports annals.
Still, the real story of that team’s dominance came in the regular season, which after an 11-game winning streak to close out April gave the Mets a 13-3 record and the rest of the division no chance.
The top three starters, Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling and Bob Ojeda, had ERAs under 3.00 — the team ERA was 3.11 overall — and Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco had a combined 43 saves.
Gary Carter (24 home runs, 105 RBIs) and Keith Hernandez (83 RBIs, .310 average) were the veteran leaders, but the lineup was full of talent and quirks, including feisty Ray Knight at third base and flaky Len Dykstra in center.
Darryl Strawberry hit 27 home runs.
In later years, much was said and written about the chaos and misbehavior behind the scenes with that team, but that only has added to its lore.
The Mets have had some good years that did not result in championships, of course, including a 100-win season in 1988 and an NL East runaway in 2006 that ended with a Game 7 loss in the NLCS.
In 2015, the Mets swept the Cubs in the NLCS and fell to the Royals in a closer-than-it-sounds five-game World Series.
But nothing has yet topped — or even touched — 1986.
1917 CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Manager: Pants Rowland
Record: 100-54, beat Giants (4-2) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Eddie Collins, Ray Schalk, Red Faber
The argument: How can we resist a team managed by a guy nicknamed "Pants"? And how can we not go with one of only two champions for the franchise in the entire 20th century?
But this team adds another layer of historical intrigue in that two years later, it forever was stained by the "Black Sox" scandal after a World Series loss to the Reds. At least the 2017 Astros were trying to win!
One of the most notorious figures in the scandal, pitcher Eddie Cicotte, was a star in ’17, going 28-12 with a 1.53 ERA.
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson batted .301 — his lowest for a full season — and Happy Felsch, later banned from baseball along with Cicotte and Jackson, hit .308.
Hall of Famer Red Faber was a mere 16-13 that season but had an ERA of 1.92.
The "Hitless Wonders" White Sox of 1906 who upset a 116-win Cubs team in the World Series after batting .230 in the regular season remain a remarkable story but hardly were a remarkable team.
Manager Ozzie Guillen’s 2005 Sox won 99 games and stormed through the postseason with an 11-1 record to deliver the franchise its first title since 1917.
1929 PHILADELPHIA ATHLETICS
Manager: Connie Mack
Record: 104-46, beat Cubs (4-1) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane, Eddie Collins
The argument: The most historically significant Athletics team, strangely, might be the 2002 squad that won 20 games in a row and was the subject of the book (and later movie) "Moneyball."
But it was not the best.
The A’s tend to win pennants in bunches, including three-peats from 1929-31, 1972-74 and 1988-90. Those runs featured iconic stars, such as the early-1970s group that included future Yankees Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter.
"Bash Brothers" Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco helped the A’s win the 1989 World Series, themselves helped by some chemical enhancement.
It is impossible to beat Connie Mack’s ’29-31 array, though. The A’s won more than 100 games three years in a row plus two World Series. They lost to the Cardinals in ’31 after winning 107 regular-season games.
In ’29, they finished a cool 18 games ahead of the defending two-time champion Yankees, then took care of the Cubs in the World Series, famously scoring 10 runs in the seventh inning in Game 4 to erase an 8-0 deficit.
Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx provided a decent one-two punch. Simmons had 34 home runs, 157 RBIs and a .365 batting average. Foxx chipped in with 33, 118 and .354.
Manager: Al Lopez
Record: 111-43, lost to Giants (4-0) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, Hal Newhouser, Larry Doby
The argument: Yes, it is difficult not to go with 1948, given that it is the last time Cleveland won a World Series.
That team was loaded — old Satchel Paige even went 6-1! — and the 1920 team that won it all was good, too.
But winning World Series is not a requirement here, and how can we ignore the 1954 team’s 111 victories?
The Yankees won 103 games and finished eight games out. It was their best record from 1949-58 — and the only time they did not win the pennant.
Cleveland had hitting, including from Larry Doby (32 homers, 126 RBIs), future Yankees general manager Al Rosen (24 homers, 102 RBIs, .300 average) and Bobby Avila (112 runs, .341 average).
But they are remembered for pitching, including three starters with ERAs under 3.00 in Early Wynn (23-11), Bob Lemon (23-7) and Mike Garcia (19-8). Bob Feller went 13-3 with a 3.09 ERA at age 35.
They started 3-6, then went 108-37 the rest of the way.
It all went wrong in the World Series, though. Willie Mays’ Giants swept them by a combined 21-9.
Memo to other Series-losing Cleveland teams from 1995, ’97 and 2016: We remember you, too!
1970 BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Manager: Earl Weaver
Record: 108-54, beat Reds (4-1) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer
The argument: Let’s start with a tip of the cap to the 1944 St. Louis Browns, winners of the franchise’s only AL pennant of the pre-Baltimore era.
Same goes for the World Series champions of 1966 and ’83, the latter featuring a budding star in Cal Ripken Jr. and a brooding one in Eddie Murray.
But there is no arguing against 1969-71 as the Orioles’ greatest era, with three straight pennants and one World Series triumph, in 1970.
The ’69 team won 109 games before being stunned by the Mets in five games, but the O’s came back strong in ’70 and won the AL East by 15 games. They won 19 of their last 22 in the regular season — the last 11 in a row — then seven of eight in the postseason.
Brooks Robinson starred at the plate and in the field to earn World Series MVP honors against the Reds.
In the regular season, AL MVP Boog Powell had 35 home runs, 114 RBIs and a .297 average. Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and Jim Palmer each won at least 20 games. (They did it again in 1971 and were joined by a fourth 20-game winner in Pat Dobson.)
1984 DETROIT TIGERS
Manager: Sparky Anderson
Record: 104-58, beat Padres (4-1) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Jack Morris, Alan Trammell
The argument: This one is one of the toughest calls on the board, with the 1935 and 1968 World Series winners also formidable candidates.
The ’35 team had four Hall of Famers, including Hank Greenberg, who that season had 36 home runs, 170 RBIs and a .328 batting average. The ’68 team featured Denny McLain, who went 31-6 with a 1.98 ERA.
But in 1984 the Tigers won 104 games and might have won even more had they not gotten a little bored after starting the season 35-5. Detroit finished 15 games ahead of second-place Toronto in the AL East.
The heart of the team was the double-play duo of shortstop Alan Trammell (who hit .314 in the regular season and was World Series MVP) and second baseman Lou Whitaker.
There also was pop from Lance Parrish (37 homers, 98 RBIs) and Kirk Gibson (27 and 91), starting pitching (Jack Morris was 19-11 with an early-season no-hitter ) and relief pitching (Willie Hernandez had 32 saves and Aurelio Lopez went 10-1).
The Game 5 World Series clincher was followed by extreme and extended rioting outside Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers won pennants in 2006 and ’12, but they have not won a World Series since 1984.
1991 MINNESOTA TWINS
Manager: Tom Kelly
Record: 95-67, beat Atlanta (4-3) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Jack Morris, Kirby Puckett
The argument: In the 21st century, the Twins are best known for being flattened by the Yankees in the playoffs. They fared better in the 20th century.
Walter Johnson’s 1924 and ’25 Washington Senators, the Twins’ franchise forebears, won two pennants in a row and the World Series over the Giants after the first.
In ’65, the Twins won 102 games and took the Dodgers to seven games in the Series before losing, with a lineup that included Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew and AL MVP Zoilo Versalles.
But our pick is the 1991 team, which won 95 games and beat Atlanta in a dramatic seven-game World Series.
Those Twins began June with a 15-game winning streak and were a balanced team featuring Kirby Puckett (89 RBIs, .319 average), Chili Davis (29 homers, 92 RBIs), Kent Hrbek (20 homers, 89 RBIs), Brian Harper (.311 average), Scott Erickson (20-8, 3.18 ERA) and Rick Aguilera (42 saves). Chuck Knoblauch was AL Rookie of the Year.
But they are most remembered for the heroics of two Hall of Famers in the World Series. Puckett won Game 6 with a home run in the 11th inning. Jack Morris won Game 7 with a 10-inning, 1-0 shutout.
1992 TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Manager: Cito Gaston
Record: 96-66, beat Atlanta (4-2) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Roberto Alomar, Dave Winfield, Jack Morris
The argument: The Bobby Cox-managed 1985 team that won 99 games before losing to the Royals in the ALCS is recalled for giving the franchise its first postseason taste.
But this discussion comes down to a simple question: 1992 or ’93? Those are the Blue Jays’ only World Series winners, and Toronto fans have had nearly 30 years to try to pick between the two.
It is not easy, and a case can be made for both. For many, the ’93 team is better-remembered because of the grand finale — a World Series-winning walk-off home run by Joe Carter in Game 6 against the Phillies.
The tie here goes to the first time, because nothing quite beats that feeling, in sports as in life.
Morris went 21-6 that year and pitched more than 240 innings at age 37. Juan Guzman was 16-5 with a 2.64 ERA and Tom Henke and Duane Ward had a combined 46 saves.
David Cone joined the Blue Jays in a late-summer trade with the Mets and went 4-3 with a 2.55 ERA.
Dave Winfield had 26 home runs and 108 RBIs and batted .290 at age 40. Roberto Alomar scored 105 runs and hit .310.
2001 SEATTLE MARINERS
Manager: Lou Piniella
Record: 116-46, lost to Yankees (4-1) in ALCS
Hall of Famers: Edgar Martinez
The argument: For Yankees fans, no Mariners team is as well-remembered — in a bad way — as the 1995 team that reached the brand-new ALDS in a one-game playoff, then shocked the Yankees with an 11-inning victory in the deciding Game 5 after losing the first two games of the series.
That was Don Mattingly’s last game in pinstripes.
But for historical purposes, no Seattle team can touch 2001, when the Mariners tied the 1906 Cubs’ record of 116 regular-season victories.
Ichiro Suzuki was in his first season in American baseball and handled the transition reasonably well, leading the AL in hits (242), batting average (.350) and stolen bases (56) en route to the American League MVP award.
Bret Boone had a career year with 37 home runs, 141 RBIs and a .331 average, and Edgar Martinez batted .306 with 116 RBIs. Jamie Moyer highlighted a balanced staff with a 20-6 record and 3.43 ERA.
Like the 1906 Cubs, the 2001 Mariners failed to close the deal. After beating Cleveland in the ALDS, they lost to the Yankees in five games in the ALCS, including a 12-3 blowout in Game 5 in the Bronx.
The Mariners have not made the playoffs since — the longest such drought in major North American sports.
2002 ANAHEIM ANGELS
Manager: Mike Scioscia
Record: 99-63, beat Giants (4-3) in World Series
The argument: Let’s not get too fancy here. Sure, the Angels have had some good teams over the decades, but there also was a pattern to them: postseason flops.
In 1982, they blew a 2-0 ALCS lead to the Brewers. In 1986, they blew a 3-1 ALCS lead to the Red Sox. They won five division titles in six years from 2004-09 and had no pennant to show for it.
Superstar Mike Trout? They won 98 games with him in 2014, then promptly were swept in the ALDS by the Royals.
So let’s give it up for Mike Scioscia’s scrappy 2002 team, which finished second in the AL West to the "Moneyball" Athletics but got it done with an offensive barrage in the playoffs, starting with beating the Yankees in the ALDS.
The Giants won Game 5 of the World Series, 16-4, to take a 3-2 series lead, then took a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh in Game 6.
But the Angels rallied to win, 6-5, and took Game 7, 4-1, denying Barry Bonds a world title.
Garret Anderson, their lone All-Star that year, had 29 homers, 123 RBIs and a .316 average in the regular season.
2008 TAMPA BAY RAYS
Manager: Joe Maddon
Record: 97-65, lost to Phillies (4-1) in World Series
The argument: Just last season the Rays won 40 games, best in the AL, and reached the World Series, a year after winning 96 games. They also totaled 96 in winning an AL East title in 2010.
But nothing in team history has topped 2008, when after 10 consecutive 90-plus-loss seasons at the start of the new franchise, the Rays pulled a modern version of the 1969 Mets and won a pennant out of nowhere.
They beat a pair of Sox — White and Red — before losing to the Phillies in one of the oddest World Series clinchers ever. The Phillies won Game 5 two days after it was suspended by rain in the sixth inning.
David Price, who had been called up in mid-September, won Game 2 of the ALCS over the Red Sox, then closed out Game 7 in relief to secure the pennant.
The Rays had no regular bat .300 or better. Evan Longoria was named AL Rookie of the Year for his 27 home runs, 85 RBIs and .272 batting average, and Carlos Pena had 31 homers and 102 RBIs.
No pitcher had more than 14 victories.
The 31-win turnaround that season proved not to be a fluke. It was the first of five 90-plus-win seasons in six years for the Rays.
2011 TEXAS RANGERS
Manager: Ron Washington
Record: 96-66, lost to Cardinals (4-3) in World Series
The argument: The franchise did not do much in its decade in Washington — with 10 losing seasons in 11 years — and has had only sporadic success in five decades in Texas.
The Rangers won three division titles in four years in the late 1990s — helped by two MVP seasons from Juan Gonzalez and one from Ivan Rodriguez — but fell in the playoffs each time to the Yankees, losing nine of 10 games.
That leaves the pennant-winning teams of 2010 and ’11 as the Rangers’ high point.
In 2011, the Rangers finished 10 games ahead of the second-place Angels and were one game behind the Yankees for the best record in the American League.
Michael Young led a potent offense with 106 RBIs and a .338 batting average. Adrian Beltre added 32 home runs and 105 RBIs and 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton had 25 homers, 94 RBIs and a .298 average.
In an excruciating World Series failure, the Rangers were one strike away from winning it all in Game 6 in both the ninth and 10th innings but lost to the Cardinals in 11 and dropped Game 7 the next night.
They have not won a playoff series since.
2015 KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Manager: Ned Yost
Record: 95-67, beat Mets (4-1) in World Series
The argument: You can skip this one, Mets fans. We know it might be too soon.
But this is a clear choice, even for a franchise that won three division titles in a row from 1976-78 — losing the ALCS to the Yankees on each occasion — won a pennant over the favored Yankees in 1980 and was fortunate to beat the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series after a 91-win regular season.
The 2014 Royals reached the World Series as a wild card but lost to the Giants, then came back determined with a team built on speed, savvy and a three-pronged bullpen featuring Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland. No Royals pitcher won more than 13 games that regular season.
Kendrys Morales had 22 home runs, 106 RBIs and a .295 batting average, Lorenzo Cain added 16 homers, 72 RBIs and a .307 average and Eric Hosmer had 93 RBIs and batted .297.
The Royals beat the Mets in five games in the World Series, but their first victory took 14 innings and their last took 12 — after they scored two in the ninth to tie it.
Matt Harvey had convinced Mets manager Terry Collins to let him keep pitching, against Collins’ better judgment.
2017 HOUSTON ASTROS
Manager: AJ Hinch
Record: 101-61, beat Dodgers (4-3) in World Series
The argument: There are several buzz-worthy teams that could have stolen this title from the 2017 Astros.
The 1980 ’Stros lost an exciting World Series to the Phillies, the ’86 team led by pitcher Mike Scott nearly took out the Mets in the NLCS and in 1998 Kings Park High’s own Craig Biggio helped Houston to 102 wins.
In 2019, the Astros won 107 regular-season games, a franchise record, before losing the World Series to the Nationals.
But history never will forget the 2017 team that famously made a 2014 Sports Illustrated prediction come true by winning it all, including seven-game victories over the Yankees in the ALCS and Dodgers in the World Series.
Jose Altuve tattooed the competition for 24 home runs, 81 RBI and a .346 batting average, swiping the AL MVP Award from the Yankees’ Aaron Judge. Veteran Carlos Beltran provided can-ny bench leadership.
Some players seemed to have extra juice in home games at Minute Maid Park.
Dallas Keuchel was 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA but later was overshadowed by Mike Fiers, who went 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA and allowed 32 home runs but took with him many lasting memories of his time with
2018 BOSTON RED SOX
Manager: Alex Cora
Record: 108-54, beat Dodgers (4-1) in World Series
The argument: If it seems odd to honor so recent a champion for a franchise so steeped in history, that’s because it is. Cases can be made for Tris Speaker’s 1912 and ’15 teams that were among four World Series winners in the 1910s, as well as Ted Williams’ 1946 pennant-winners, the sainted 2004 "Idiots" and the even better 2007 champs.
But just three years ago, the Bosox beat a 100-win Yankees team by eight games in the AL East, then blew by the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers in the postseason, losing one game in each series.
It took the Dodgers 18 innings to secure their lone World Series victory.
League MVP Mookie Betts scored 129 runs, drove in 80, hit 32 home runs and batted .346. J.D. Martinez had 43 homers, 130 RBIs and a .330 batting average.
Chris Sale was 12-4 with a 2.11 ERA and Craig Kimbrel went 5-1 with 42 saves.
The afterglow did not last long, though.
The Red Sox fell to 84 victories in 2019. In 2020, the Red Sox fired the popular Cora over the sign-stealing scandal enveloping the 2017 Astros, for whom he was a bench coach. Then they traded Betts to the Dodgers.
1905 NEW YORK GIANTS
Manager: John McGraw
Record: 105-48, beat Athletics (4-1) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Christy Mathewson, Joe McGinnity, Roger Bresnahan
The argument: Even the three World Series champions in the 2010s had little shot here, given the competition.
That includes back-to-back pennant-winners in 1888-89, the Willie Mays-led 1954 champions, the 1962 team that won 103 games before losing a seven-game World Series to the Yankees and Barry Bonds’ 103-victory team in 1993, which somehow missed the playoffs.
But it is difficult to argue against 1905, a team coming off a 106-win 1904 campaign after which its management decided against playing AL champ Boston in the World Series.
The offense was solid, leading the NL in home runs (39) and steals (291). But this team was about pitching.
Consider this: Red Ames probably was its third-best starter, and he went 22-8 with a 2.74 ERA. Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity won 31 and 21 games, respectively, with ERAs of 1.28 and 2.87.
In the World Series, all five games were shutouts, four won by the Giants, with Mathewson pitching three.
The team’s second-most-famous player – from a 2021 perspective – probably was Archibald "Moonlight" Graham, who appeared in one game and did not bat. He was a key character in the 1989 film "Field of Dreams."
1906 CHICAGO CUBS
Manager: Frank Chance
Record: 116-36, lost to White Sox (4-2) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Frank Chance, Johnny Evers, Joe Tinker, Mordecai Brown
The argument: Chicago sports talk radio would have eaten up the 1906 World Series, if only commercial radio had existed.
The city’s National League team, coming off a 116-win season, was stunned in six games by its crosstown rival – dubbed "The Hitless Wonders" – from the still-young American League.
Fortunately, the Cubs resisted that temptation and kept their team — most famous for the Joe Tinker-to-Johnny Evers-to-Frank Chance double-play combo – mostly together, resulting in World Series titles in 1907 and ’08.
From 1906-10, the Cubs never had a winning percentage under .643, making that team arguably the best over an extended period in NL history.
In ’06, third baseman Harry Steinfeldt, the least famous infield member, led the team with a .327 batting average and 83 RBIs and Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown went 26-6 with a 1.04 ERA.
Also deserving mention is the forever-sainted 2016 team that ended a 108-year championship drought as well as 96-wins-plus teams that did not quite get there in 1929, ‘35, ’45, ’84, 2008 and 2015.
And remember 1880, when Chicago went 67-17, with 20-year-old rookie pitcher Larry Corcoran going 43-14. Fred Goldsmith was 21-3. But pitchers still were hurling underhand then.
1909 PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Manager: Fred Clarke
Record: 110-42, beat Tigers (4-3) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Fred Clarke, Honus Wagner
The argument: In 1902, the Pirates went 103-36 for a .741 winning percentage, but their timing was off. It was the year before the first World Series. They played in that one in 1903 and lost.
That ’02 team might have been our pick, but seven years later the Bucs romped again, going 110-42 — including a 16-game winning streak in September — to return to the Series against three-time AL champ Detroit and Ty Cobb.
Pittsburgh and its star shortstop prevailed by winning Game 7, 8-0, behind rookie pitcher Babe Adams, who was 3-0 in the Series.
Wagner was the best player in the league that season, batting .339 with 100 RBIs and 35 stolen bases. Player / manager Fred Clarke batted .287 with 68 RBIs.
Howie Camnitz led the staff with a 25-6 record and 1.62 ERA; Vic Willis was 22-11 with an ERA of 2.24.
Pie Traynor led the Pirates to another world title in 1925, a seven-game Series victory over the Senators, and Pittsburgh won two World Series in the 1970s – beating the Orioles in seven in both 1971 and ’79.
They also won a seven-game World Series in 1960. Yankees fans would prefer to forget that one.
1955 BROOKLYN DODGERS
Manager: Walter Alston
Record: 98-55, beat Yankees (4-3) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Sandy Koufax
The argument: Tough one here. One could make good cases for the 1899 "Superbas" team that went 101-47 and several Los Angeles-based entries, such as Sandy Koufax’s 1963 World Series winners or even the teams that won 104 games in 2017 and 106 in 2019.
But when you are a New York-area newspaper, the tie goes to the New York-based team, especially when it has one season in particular that remains among the most iconic in New York sports history.
After decades of frustration, the Dodgers finally overcame the mighty Yankees in a seven-game World Series that Brooklyn fans old enough to recall it — alas, their numbers are dwindling — still regard as a life-changing event.
The Dodgers ran away with the NL race under second-year manager Walter Alston, ending June with a record of 52-19 and coasting from there.
Duke Snider had 42 home runs, 136 RBIs and a .309 batting average that year and Roy Campanella added 32 homers, 107 RBIs and a .318 average. Don Newcombe went 20-5 with a 3.20 ERA.
In Game 7 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, Johnny Podres, four days after turning 23, pitched a shutout in a 2-0 victory. "Dem Bums" were the champs.
1957 MILWAUKEE BRAVES
Manager: Fred Haney
Record: 95-59, beat Yankees (4-3) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, Red Schoendienst
The argument: As charter members of the National League in 1876, they started early in Boston, winning eight pennants in the 19th century.
The 1914 "Miracle Braves" stormed back from last place by winning at a .782 clip over the final 87 games, then upset the Athletics in the World Series.
The franchise’s Atlanta incarnation won 14 consecutive division titles and six times won at least 100 games from 1991-2005, led by the pitching trio of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.
They won only one World Series in that era, in 1995, beating Cleveland.
It was in the franchise's middle stop, Milwaukee, where they fashioned their most memorable season of all.
They won their first of two consecutive pennants in 1957 behind an MVP season from 23-year-old Hank Aaron, who had 44 home runs, 132 RBIs and 118 runs scored and hit .322.
Eddie Mathews added a 32-homer, 94-RBI season and Warren Spahn won the Cy Young Award at age 36 by going 21-11 with a 2.69 ERA. Bob Buhl was 18-7 with a 2.74 ERA.
In the World Series, Lew Burdette went 3-0, including a 5-0 shutout in Game 7 on two days’ rest.
1967 ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Manager: Red Schoendienst
Record: 101-60, beat Red Sox (4-3) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Steve Carlton, Orlando Cepeda
The argument: St. Louis is the most decorated of all National League franchises, making this a tough call.
Another complication: They have a habit of winning 100-plus games and not winning the World Series (1985, 2004, 2005, 2015) while winning titles with lesser entries.
The 1931 and ’34 champs are two of the most iconic in franchise history, and the most dominant era for the team was the early 1940s, when Stan Musial led the Cards to three consecutive 105-victories-plus seasons and World Series wins in 1942 and ’44. But those were the war years, so competition was diluted.
Our pick is the 1967 team that won 101 games, beat the "Impossible Dream" Red Sox in seven in the World Series and exuded a late-‘60s cool that was captured in a famous Sports Illustrated cover the following October.
SI labeled those Cardinals the highest-paid team in history, at $607,000. Total.
Anyway, Orlando Cepeda was the unanimous pick for NL MVP in 1967, with 25 home runs, 111 RBIs and a .325 batting average. Lou Brock stole 52 bases and batted .299. Curt Food hit .335.
Young Steve Carlton and veteran Bob Gibson bookended the rotation. Both had 2.98 ERAs.
1975 CINCINNATI REDS
Manager: Sparky Anderson
Record: 108-54, beat Red Sox (4-3) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan
The argument: The Reds have been at this professional baseball thing since 1869, longer than anyone else, but they have won only five World Series, which simplifies things.
Really, though, this discussion is even simpler than that, as there are only two options for our list: 1975 and ’76, the peak of Big Red Machine dominance.
Choosing between them is splitting hairs, but despite the ’76 team’s 102 victories and World Series sweep of the Yankees, the pick is the ’75 juggernaut.
It finished 20 games ahead of the second-place Dodgers in the National League West, swept the Pirates in the NLCS, then survived a classic seven-game World Series against the Red Sox.
These guys were ridonkulously good.
Joe Morgan scored 107 runs, walked 132 times, stole 67 bases and batted .327. Pete Rose scored 112 runs and batted .317. Johnny Bench had 28 homers and 110 RBIs. Tony Perez added 20 homers and 109 RBIs. George Foster had 23 homers and 78 RBIs and batted .300. Ken Griffey Sr. batted .305.
The pitchers often were an afterthought, but Don Gullet led the staff with a 15-4 record and a 2.42 ERA.
The 1976 season brought more of the same. "Machine" is the word.
1977 PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Manager: Danny Ozark
Record: 101-61, lost to Dodgers (3-1) in NLCS
Hall of Famers: Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton
The argument: The 137-year-old franchise has had more downs than ups but has won the occasional pennant, in 1915, ’50, ’83, ’93 and 2009, plus two long-awaited World Series, in 1980 and 2008.
But this is Philadelphia we are talking about, so partly to be mean — and mostly because it’s true — our choice is a team that did not even reach the World Series.
That would be the 1977 Phillies, who won 101 games but lost the NLCS one season after they had . . . won 101 games and lost the NLCS.
The ’77 team was a powerhouse, going 60-21 at home and leading the league in batting (.279), OBP (.346) and slugging (.448). Mike Schmidt had 38 homers and 101 RBIs, Greg Luzinski 39 homers and 130 RBIs.
Steve Carlton went 23-10 with a 2.64 ERA. Larry Christenson was 19-6. Gene Garber, Ron Reed and Tug McGraw had a combined 43 saves.
Then came Game 3 of the best-of-five NLCS against the Dodgers. With the series tied at 1 and the Phillies ahead in the ninth, 5-3, with two outs and nobody on, they made two errors and allowed three Dodgers runs.
Tommy John closed them out in Game 4.
1982 MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Managers: Buck Rodgers, Harvey Kuenn
Record: 95-67, lost to Cardinals (4-3) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Don Sutton, Rollie Fingers
The argument: The Brewers have had several good teams this century, including 96-win seasons in 2011 and ’18 that ended with losses in the NLCS.
But only once have they so much as reached a World Series, in 1982, when they lost a memorable one to the Cardinals in seven games.
Those Brewers, then in the American League, were famed for their gritty play — and appearance — and earned the nickname "Harvey’s Wallbangers" after manager Harvey Kuenn, thanks to an offense that led the majors with 216 home runs, among other categories.
The Brewers fired manager Buck Rodgers after a 23-24 start, and Kuenn went 72-43 thereafter.
Their star was shortstop Robin Yount, who was voted MVP after a season with 29 homers, 114 RBIs and a .331 average. Cecil Cooper, Ben Oglivie and Gorman Thomas each surpassed 30 homers and 100 RBIs.
Pete Vuckovich won the Cy Young Award with a 14-6 record and 3.34 ERA and Rollie Fingers saved 29 games.
The World Series was dubbed the "Suds City Series" because it featured two famous beer-making towns. Milwaukee had two chances to win it in St. Louis but the fizz was gone, and the Brewers lost Game 6, 13-1, and Game 7, 6-3.
1984 SAN DIEGO PADRES
Manager: Dick Williams
Record: 92-70, lost to Tigers (4-1) in World Series
Hall of Famers: Tony Gwynn, Rich Gossage
The argument: The Padres have qualified for the postseason five times in 50 seasons, which is . . . not good.
Twice they at least won pennants, including their 98-win team in 1998, which beat Houston and Atlanta before running into a 114-win Yankees team in the World Series and getting steamrolled in four games.
The first time was 1984, when they won the NL West by 12 games over Atlanta with 92 victories, then met the Cubs in a memorable NLCS.
Chicago won the first two games by a combined 17-2 score, but the Padres won three in a row in the best-of-five in San Diego, including a 6-3 victory in Game 5 that turned on an infamous error at first base by the Cubs' Leon Durham.
San Diego trailed 3-2 going into that inning but scored four runs, keyed by Tim Flannery’s ground ball through Durham’s legs.
The Tigers won the World Series in five games, completing a dominant season in which they got off to a 35-5 start.
Tony Gwynn won the first of his eight batting titles that year with a .351 average and fellow future Hall of Famer (and former Yankee) Rich Gossage had 25 saves.
1997 FLORIDA MARLINS
Manager: Jim Leyland
Record: 92-70, beat Cleveland (4-3) in World Series
The argument: There have been only three playoff appearances in Marlins history, two of which resulted in World Series championships as wild-card entries, so that clarifies our discussion.
But it does not settle it. Many Marlins fans, to the extent they exist, are partial to the 1997 champs and others to the Steve Bartman-assisted 2003 team that beat the Yankees in a six-game World Series.
Jeff Conine, a member of both teams, has said the ’03 team was more fun while ’97 was a more serious group.
We’ll take the boring guys.
Bobby Bonilla, then still more famous as a player than for the deferred money he gets from the Mets, had 17 homers and 96 RBIs and hit .297. Moises Alou added 23 homers and 115 RBIs and hit .292. Edgar Renteria scored 90 runs.
Kevin Brown led the pitching staff with a 16-8 record and 2.69 ERA and Robb Nen had 35 saves.
Al Leiter went 11-9 with a 4.34 ERA and the next season landed with the Mets, one of many players to depart in the most notorious major league fire sale since the 1914-15 Philadelphia Athletics.
A season after winning it all, the Marlins lost 108
2001 ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Manager: Bob Brenly
Record: 92-70, beat Yankees (4-3) in World Series
Hall of Famer: Randy Johnson
The argument: Four times in their brief history the Diamondbacks have had more than 92 regular-season victories — including 100 in 1999, only their second season in existence, before losing an NLDS to the Mets.
But any D-backs fan surely would point to 2001 as the best season of all.
Arizona edged the Giants by two games in the NL West with an offense led by Luis Gonzalez’s 57 homers, 142 RBIs and .325 batting average and one of the best one-two pitcher combinations in history.
Randy Johnson went 21-6 with a 2.49 ERA and 372 strikeouts in his third of four consecutive Cy Young seasons. Curt Schilling was 22-6 with a 2.98 ERA and 293 strikeouts.
After disposing of the Cardinals and Atlanta, the Diamondbacks advanced to the World Series against the Yankees, who had won three titles in a row and four of five.
Arizona won Games 1 and 2 easily, blew late leads in Games 4 and 5 to allow the Yankees to take a 3-2 series lead, won Game 6, 15-2, then won Game 7 on Gonzalez’s bloop single against Mariano Rivera in the ninth.
Johnson won Game 6 as a starter and Game 7 in relief.
2007 COLORADO ROCKIES
Manager: Clint Hurdle
Record: 90-73, lost to Red Sox (4-0) in World Series
The argument: The Rockies have had sporadic postseason moments since coming along in 1993, reaching the playoffs but not making much of the opportunities in 1995, 2009, 2017 and 2018, when they won 91 games.
But the real fun was in 2007, when they finished the regular season on a 14-1 run, including a 13-inning victory over the Padres in a one-game playoff for a wild-card berth.
The winning run scored when Matt Holliday either did or not did touch home plate on a sacrifice fly, depending on whom you ask.
Then the Rockies swept the Phillies in the NLDS. Then they swept the Diamondbacks in the NLCS. So make that a 21-1 run entering the World Series against the Red Sox.
It all went wrong there, though, with Boston sweeping the series by a combined score of 29-10.
Still, the Rockies had their fun along with way, putting up some Coors Field-style offensive numbers. Holliday led the National League with 137 RBIs, 50 doubles and a .340 batting average.
Todd Helton and Willy Taveras each hit .320. Garrett Atkins had 111 RBIs and hit .301. Brad Hawpe had 116 RBIs.
No starting Colorado pitcher had an ERA under 4.00.
2019 WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Manager: Dave Martinez
Record: 93-69, beat Astros (4-3) in World Series
The argument: The star-crossed Expos/Nationals franchise spent a half-century frustrating fans in two countries.
The Expos four times won at least 90 games, yet never had a full-season division title to show for it.
They did finish first in a split-season format in the strike year of 1981, and most famously were 74-40 and in first place by six games in 1994 when another work stoppage wiped out the rest of that season.
In Washington, they won at least 95 games in 2012, ’14, ’16 and ’17 without winning a playoff series. Yikes.
That is what made the 2019 season so special.
After surviving a wild-card game against the Brewers — scoring three in the bottom of the eighth to win, 4-3 — the Nationals beat the 106-win Dodgers, the Cardinals and the 107-win Astros for their first championship.
The visiting team won all seven World Series games, including two Nationals victories in Houston after trailing 3-2 in the series.
In the regular season, Anthony Rendon had 34 homers, 126 RBIs and a .319 average. Stephen Strasburg was 18-6 with a 3.32 ERA, joined in a strong rotation (backed by a shaky bullpen) that also included Max Scherzer (11-7, 2.92) and Patrick Corbin (14-7, 3.25).