The Best Teams from 1980-2012: Will Texas claim the title this year from 2010-2012?
Wednesday July.11, 2012
Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)- There is only so much one can read in an article, otherwise I would make these lists up from the turn of the 20th century. If you gave me enough time as a reader, I promise to backdate this topic with another article featuring the best teams dating back further in years. Eventually, all of the years may be dissected and we can have a healthy debate on some of my selections. I really started watching baseball in the early 1980’s. As I became older and discovered ways to research the history of the game, my knowledge and curious mind grew for more information. I have studied and read baseball stat books and breezed through the odd Bill James novel. If I ever take a break from writing or baseball park chasing, I may find some time down the road to watch the 9 part PBS documentary that Ken Burns did on baseball’s history.
Baseball lends itself more to the history than any other sport because of how it has been chronicled throughout their past. Writers, announcers, former players, parents etc.. have always carried on with the stories of America’s favorite pastime. I will never be sold that NFL is the greatest pastime in sports right now. NFL is the greatest gambling sport presently. It is my firm belief that the only reason why the NFL draws in more cash from its sport is because of the gambling factor. If you took that aspect out of it, I believe baseball is the #1 sport. Can you imagine how much attention we would pay to baseball if there were only a 16 game schedule? Enough with that rant, let’s get down to the list. Who were the best teams at any specific time period for the last 32 years? We will start with the Philadelphia Phillies from 1980-1983.
Philadelphia Phillies 1980-1983
The team was pretty good from 1976-1978 in winning a couple of division crowns, but the Dodgers and the Yankees were obviously better for those given years. In 1979, the club signed Pete Rose who would turn 38 the next year. At that time, Rose’s 3.2 Million/4 year contract was the richest player salary in team sports. The team also had perennial HR champ Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, perhaps the premier left-handed pitcher in the National League during this era. For these 4 years, the Phillies earned three division titles (one in the first half of the strike shortened season,) and two World Series appearances. In 1980, the club went 91-71 and then ousted the Houston Astos in the NLCS for their first NL Pennant in 30 years. The team went onto beat the Kansas City Royals for their World Series Title. In 1981, they won the first half of the season with a 34-23 and ended with a 59-50 record for the year, before being bested in the 1st ever NLDS playoffs by the Montreal Expos. In 1982, they went 89-73, but fell just short of the playoffs. In 1983, they went 90-72 and made it to the World Series before the Baltimore Orioles and a young Cal Ripken beat them out. This 4 year span could have gone to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Baltimore Orioles or even the St. Louis Cardinals. In the end, I gave it to the Phillies for their 2 World Series births and one victory.
New York Mets 1984-1987
There was a lot of parity in the league during the 1980’s. The Cardinals made the World Series in both 1985 and 1987. The Tigers won 2 pennants from 84-87, including the 1984 World Series(the year they started 35-5), yet no team other than the Mets won 90 games for those 4 years in a row. In 1985, the Mets won 98 games, which was 3rd overall in MLB wins, but the Cardinals sported an MLB best 101 -61 W-L record in the NL East to prevent the club from the post season. Doc Gooden came bursting on the scene as a teenager and dominated for 5 years as a starting pitcher. Darryl Strawberry was establishing himself as a top 5 offensive player. Gary Carter was the best catcher in the game. This all culminated in the Mets winning the World Series in 1986 over the Boston Red Sox. Other steady contributing players were: Ron Darling, Jesse Orosco, Sid Fernandez, Kevin McReyndolds and Keith Hernandez. The team did also win the pennant in 1988, before losing to the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Oakland Athletics 1988-1990
The Oakland Athletics were the best team in the Major Leagues for these three years. They made the World Series from 1988-1990, however they were upset in 1988 and 1990 by the Dodgers and Reds respectively, even though the A’s had been heavy favorites. They had Bash Brothers: Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, batting champion Carney Lansford, and 4 time-20 game winner Dave Stewart, (maybe the best money pitcher of all-time in the post season.) We also can’t forget Dennis Eckersley and Rickey Henderson. The A’s would go onto head back to for to the playoffs with one more pennant win in 1992, unfortunately they ran into the powerhouse Toronto Blue Jays.
Toronto Blue Jays 1991-1993
There is an omission from the Minnesota Twins here despite winning both of the 1987 and 1991 World Series. This is simple, those World Series winning teams came from out of nowhere and the team could not sustain winning seasons in subsequent years. The Toronto Blue Jays won the pennant in 1985, won 86 games in 1986, lost the 1987 division (in one of the biggest collapses ever) to the Tigers by one game, won 87 games in 1988, won the division in 1989, won 86 games in 1990 before winning the 1991 pennant again with a 91-71 record. The Twins did defeat the Canadian club that year of 1991, yet the Jays were not discouraged. The team was drawing 4 Million fans to SkyDome every year, which could afford them the highest payroll in the Majors. Pat Gillick brought in Dave Winfield and Jack Morris for the 1992 season. The aging slugger Winfield, provided the missing piece of leadership needed to win the World Series. The team had perennial ALL-Stars Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter. Devon White, John Olerud, Tom Henke, Duane Ward, Jimmy Key and Juan Guzman all played key roles in bringing home the first World Series north of the border.
In 1993, the Jays saw Paul Molitor sign as a free agent. Olerud, Molitor and Alomar finished 1,2 and 3 in the AL Batting Race. ‘Trader Pat’ Gillick also stocked the team with Rickey Henderson and Dave Stewart, to help compete for a second straight World Series Title. The emergence of Pat Hentgen provided enough pitching to aid the awesome offense. The Blue Jays beat out the ‘Biker Gang’ Philadelphia Phillies on the famous Joe Carter three run homer off of Mitch “Wildthing” Williams in the bottom of the ninth, for a walk off 6 game World Series victory (8-6) and back to back titles.
Montreal Expos 1994
The Expos were one of the best teams in the MLB between 1979-1994, posting 12 winning seasons and averaging 87 wins a season. The team had to keep trading away their best talent for young prospects. In 1994, they had seen their young prospects mature towards a (Major League Best) 74-40 record at the break. Ken Hill and Pedro Martinez were the greatest 1-2 starting pitcher combo in the game and John Wetteland was quickly becoming a big game closer. Moises Alou, Larry Walker and Marquis Grissom were the most spectacular outfield threesome in the world. The team had 30 of its last 48 games remaining at home and a 6 game division lead over the Atlanta Braves. The season was lost to the player strike and the Expos never recovered from it ever.
Atlanta Braves 1995-1997
The Atlanta Braves won the World Series in 1995, before losing to the Yankees in the 1996 Fall Classic. The Braves had the best record in baseball during the 1997 season with 101 wins. That team was upset by Gary Sheffield and the Florida Marlins in the playoffs. The Braves also has made it to back to back World Series in 1991 and 1992 before losing to the Twins and Blue Jays. The Braves were in the middle of their 14 straight division titles. Team GM John Schuerholz had been part of a front office that drafted John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Dave Justice. They had acquired veteran leadership to put them over the top in Fred McGriff and Greg Maddux . The team was managed by Bobby Cox. It is truly one of the more remarkable streaks in pro sports from 1991-2005. It was only being able to cash in one World Series out of 6 attempts that stymied the fans elation for such a successful franchise run.
The New York Yankees 1998-2003
The Bronx Bombers are the last dynasty of the MLB as of right now. After they won the World Series in 1996,(breaking an 18 year drought) George Steinbrenner started flexing his muscles with spending. It was still the ‘Core Four’ of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada that were the organizational lynchpins. The team had drafted them and brought them to the Majors all at the same time. The club won 3 straight World Series from 1998-2000. Losses to the Diamondbacks and Marlins, sandwiched by a loss to the Angels from 2001-2003 started the end of the dynasty, yet still proved the dominance of the Yankees. 6 World Series births and 4 Rings from 1996-2003 says it all. Key players were: Roger Clemens, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Mike Stanton, Bernie Williams and of course the skipper Joe Torre. George Steinbrenner spared no expense in bringing in veteran sluggers like: Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, Cecil Fielder, Chili Davis, Ruben Sierra and Dave Justice to help DH with the team. The Yankees were back on top as the kings of the MLB.
Boston Red Sox 2004-2007
The Boston Red Sox were staring down a 3-0 deficit in the 2004 ALCS after a 19-8 loss at Fenway Park to the New York Yankees. Their arch-nemesis had recently acquired Alex Rodriguez and signed Jason Giambi as a free agent to beef up their offesnive lineup. David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez and newly acquired Curt Schilling had seen enough. The Beantowners erased an 86 year drought by winning four straight versus the Yankees and absolutely pulverizing the St. Louis Cardinals in a sweep to win the World Series Title. The Red Sox won 95 games in 2005 but were swept in the ALDS by the White Sox. The 2006 Red Sox had an off-year only winning 86 games. In 2007, the Red Sox trailed the Indians in the ALCS by a 3-1 deficit, before making another remarkable comeback to win the next 3 games en route to the Fall Classic. Boston destroyed the underdog Rockies in the World Series to take home their 2nd World Series title in 4 years. The 3-4 hitting combination of Ramirez and Ortiz might have been the strongest 3-4 punch since Mantle and Maris. Curt Schilling won his 3rd World Series(2nd with Boston) and seemed to be the elixir the club needed when playoff time came. Timely closing by Keith Foulke in 2004 and the emergence of Jonathan Papelbon in 2007 proved to help the bullpen. Jason Varitek was a great team captain. Other key contributions came from Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Millar, J.D Drew, Mike Lowell and Jon Lester during their playoff runs.
Philadelphia Phillies 2008-2009
In the 2nd year of their current 5 year division run, the Phillies were an offensive force in the National League. Ryan Howard was the best power hitter, RBI guy in the MLB and Chase Utley was putting up MVP like type numbers. Shane Victorino provided some speed from the top of the lineup. In 2008, Brad Lidge converted every save that season and was the best closer in the game. 45-year-old Jamie Moyer stepped up huge for the club with a 16-7 season–and was able to taste champagne as the Phils won the World Series for the first time in 28 years. Prior to the 2009 year, the Phillies signed Raul Ibanez in the off-season. The man rewarded the club with being the best player in the NL-with during the 1st 3 months with 20 HRs and 65 RBI by the end of June. Jayson Werth took over as the power hitting right hander in the lineup with the exit of Pat Burrell. Howard, Werth, Ibanez and Utley all topped the 30 HR list by years end. Halfway through the season, the Phillies picked up Cliff Lee and then took off from the rest of the division. In their 2nd straight World Series birth, Philadelphia ran into the buzz saw Bronx Bombers and a motivated Alex Rodriguez. The Phils lost out to the Yankees in 6 games and have regressed every year since while still making the playoffs.
Texas Rangers 2010-2012?
The team has gone to back to back ‘Fall Classics’ but have lost both series. If they can make a 3rd World Series in a row, unless the Giants or Cardinals beat them for another WS, I would have to crown Texas as the best current club of this era. In my opinion, Josh Hamilton is the best player in the MLB right now, he just needs to stay healthy. Adrian Beltre continues to put up great power and average numbers and Elvis Andrus is coming into is own as a .300 hitter. Rookie Yu Darvish could win close to 20 games along with Matt Harrison. However, The Yankees could be a thorn in the side of the Rangers n 2012. Also, will Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Albert Pujols derail the boys from Texas before that? Will the Cardinals or Giants make a deep run in the playoffs to grab the title? The jury is still out on all of these clubs. It is much easier to see the past the further you are away from it. Stay tuned on this. Also, I have chosen to not place the St. Louis Cardinals as a best team in any time period for the last 6 years either(even though they won the 2006 and 2011 World Series titles), since they won championships with the worst record entering the playoffs for both wins.
If you agree or disagree, please feel free to reach me on twitter: (@chuckbooth3024), I love talking about baseball history!
***Thank you to our Baseball Writer- Douglas “Chuck” Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports. To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Chuck Booth, you can follow Chuck on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and you can also follow Chuck’s website for his Guinness Book of World Record Bid to see all 30 MLB Park in 23 days click here or on the 30 MLB Parks in 23 days GWR tracker at the Reports click here. To Purchase or read about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames Book, ” please click here ***
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Posted on July 11, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged adrian beltre, albert pujols, alcs, alesx rodriguez, andruw jones, andy pettitte, Atlanta Braves, bernie williams, Bill James, boston red sox, brad lidge, cal ripken, cecil fielder, chili davis, chipper jones, Chuck Booth. fastest 30 ballgames, cliff lee, darryl strawberry, dave justice, dave stewart, dave winfield, david ortiz, Dennis Exckersley, derek jeter, Devon White, Doc Gooden, Duane Ward, dustin pedroia, elvis andrus, fenway park, florida marlins, fred mcGriff, gary carter, gary sheffield, george steinbrenner, Greg Maddux, houston astros, jack morris, jamie moyer, jason giambi, jason varitek, jayson werth, jd drew, Jesse Orosco, JImmy Key, Joe Carter, Joe Torre, john olerud, john smoltz, john wetteland, jon lester, jonathan papelbon, jose canseco, josh hamilton, juan guzman, kansas city royals, ken burns, ken hill, Keth Hernandez, kevin millar, kevin youkilis, Larry Walker, los angeles dodgers, lowell, manny ramirez, mariano rivera, mark trumbo, marquis grissom, Matt Harrison, mike, mike schmidt, mike stanton, Mike Trout, Mitch Williams, mlb, moises alou, montreal expos, new York, new york mets, new york yankees, nfl, nlcs, oakland athletics, pat gillick, Pat Hentgen, paul molitor, Paul o neill, pedro martinez, pete rose, Philadephia Phillies, raul ibanez, rickey henderson, roberto alomar, roger clemens, ron darling, ruben sierra, ryan howard, scott brosius, shane victorino, Sid Fernandez, skydome, st louis cardinals, tino martinez, tom glavine, tom henke, toronto blue jays, twitter, world series, yu darvish. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.