Team of the Decade?
Tomorrow not only marks the last month of the current season but the final month of the decade (except, of course, for the postseason in October).
As we wind down the first ten years of the 21st century, which clubs have the best shot of being crowned the "Team of the Decade?" While looking at anything in terms of decades is heavily influenced by the start and stop dates, it can still be a fun exercise nonetheless.
Although there are, at most, only a handful of candidates that can lay claim to the Team of the Decade, there is no clear-cut winner at this time. Interestingly, six World Series champions during the decade of 2000-2009 are in line to make the playoffs this season. As a result, there are five teams that could win a second World Series title and a sixth team that could win its third world championship.
If the Red Sox (2004 and 2007) win a third World Series title this October, then there will be no debate as to the Team of the Decade. However, if the New York Yankees (2000) or St. Louis Cardinals (2006) win the championship this year, then it would be difficult not to anoint the Yanks or Cards as the Team of the Decade.
A case could possibly be made on behalf of the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels (2002) should the current AL West leader capture its second World Series title of the decade. At best, the Angels' margin of victory would be ever so slim over the Red Sox if the Halos were to win it all this year.
Although the Philadelphia Phillies (2008) and Chicago White Sox (2005) could win a second championship this decade, it would be impossible for either club to leapfrog Boston for this honor as neither team would have as many wins or playoff appearances as the Red Sox.
Let's take a look at the pertinent facts involved in designating the Team of the Decade. We'll start off ranking clubs by wins (2009 totals through Sunday, August 30).
As shown, the Yankees lead by a fairly sizable margin over their division rivals. The gap works out to an average of more than four wins per season. In addition, the Bronx Bombers are the only team with three 100-win seasons thus far and the lone club projected to reach triple digits in victories in 2009.
The Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, and Oakland A's have each had two 100-win seasons this decade. Each of the top six clubs have had five 90-win seasons. It's easy for fans with short memories to forget the Braves and A's but take a look at how successful they were from 2000 through 2005 (ATL) or 2006 (OAK).
The San Francisco Giants are the only other team to win 90 games in a single season five times. Of note, the Giants performed their feat five years in a row (2000-2004) but have not won more than 76 since then (although the club is on pace to win 89 this year).
For what it's worth, the Seattle Mariners started the decade on fire, winning at least 90 games in each of the first four years (with a MLB decade-high of 116 in 2001).
At the other end of the spectrum, check out the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Baltimore Orioles. All three teams are fighting for the dubious honor of the "Worst Team of the Decade." None of these clubs have made the postseason and only the Royals have had a winning season (2003) during the opening decade of the century.
Next, we'll take a close look at the World Series, pennant, and division champs, as well as the wild card winners year-by-year.
As discussed in the opening, the Red Sox are the only team to have captured two World Series titles thus far. The Yankees, Angels, White Sox, Cardinals, and Phillies (and possibly the Florida Marlins if they qualify for the postseason this year) could win a second championship as well.
NYY (3), BOS and STL (2 each) are the only clubs to appear in more than one World Series this decade. The Red Sox are 2-for-2 while the Yankees and Cardinals have each lost at least one World Series.
The Yankees have won seven division titles, the Braves have six, the Cardinals five, and the Angels, A's, and the Minnesota Twins four each. Boston's four wild cards rank first this decade.
All in all, the Yankees lead the majors with eight postseason appearances during the first nine years of the century. New York is followed by the Cardinals and Braves (6 each) and the Red Sox, Angels, and A's (5 each).
Here is a summary of the qualifications of the leading candidates to become the Team of the Decade.
If Los Angeles wins it all this year, the case for the Angels will be as follows:
If St. Louis wins it all this year, the case for the Cardinals will be:
Thanks to Brian Gunn for providing the inspiration to this piece.