Baseball BeatAugust 31, 2009
Team of the Decade?
By Rich Lederer

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).

Num TEAM 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 TOTAL
1 NYY 82 89 94 97 95 101 101 103 95 87 944
2 BOS 76 95 96 86 95 98 95 93 82 85 901
3 STL 77 86 78 83 100 105 85 97 93 95 899
4 LAA 77 100 94 89 95 92 78 99 75 82 881
5 ATL 68 72 84 79 90 96 101 101 88 95 874
6 OAK 57 75 76 93 88 91 96 103 102 91 872
7 LAD 78 84 82 88 71 93 85 92 86 86 845
8 CWS 64 89 72 90 99 83 86 81 83 95 842
9 MIN 65 88 79 96 83 91 90 94 85 69 840
10 SF 72 72 71 76 75 91 100 95 90 97 839
11 PHI 75 92 89 85 88 86 86 80 86 65 832
12 SEA 68 61 88 78 69 63 93 93 116 91 820
13 HOU 62 86 73 82 89 92 87 84 93 72 820
14 CLE 58 81 97 78 93 80 68 74 91 90 810
15 NYM 59 89 88 97 83 71 66 75 82 94 804
16 ARI 59 82 90 76 77 51 84 98 92 85 794
17 FLA 68 84 71 78 83 83 91 79 76 79 792
18 CHC 65 97 85 66 79 89 88 67 88 65 789
19 TOR 58 86 83 87 80 67 86 78 80 83 788
20 TEX 72 79 75 80 79 89 71 72 73 71 761
21 COL 72 74 90 76 67 68 74 73 73 82 749
22 SD 56 63 89 88 82 87 63 66 79 76 749
23 CIN 56 74 72 80 73 76 69 78 66 85 729
24 MIL 64 90 83 75 81 67 68 56 68 73 725
25 DET 69 74 88 95 71 72 43 55 66 79 712
26 WAS 46 59 73 71 81 67 83 83 68 67 698
27 BAL 54 68 69 70 74 78 71 67 63 74 688
28 TB 70 97 66 61 67 70 63 55 62 69 680
29 PIT 53 67 68 67 67 72 75 72 62 69 672
30 KC 50 75 69 62 56 58 83 62 65 77 657

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.

2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000

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:

  • 2 World Series championships
  • 2 pennants
  • 3 LCS appearances
  • 5 Division titles (including 2009)

If St. Louis wins it all this year, the case for the Cardinals will be:

  • 2 World Series championships
  • 3 pennants
  • 6 LCS appearances
  • 6 Division titles (including 2009)
If New York wins, the case for the Yankees will be:
  • 2 World Series championships
  • 4 pennants
  • 5 LCS appearances
  • 8 Division titles (including 2009)
If Boston wins, the case for the Red Sox will be:
  • 3 World Series championships
  • 3 pennants
  • 5 LCS appearances
  • 1 Division title
  • 5 Wild Cards (including 2009)
It says here that whichever of these four teams wins it all this year, such club will be the Team of the Decade (although, in fairness to Boston, the Angels might have to put a "Co-" in front of their honor). If none of them wins it, then the Red Sox, by virtue of the two World Series championships in 2004 and 2007, will lay claim to the title.

Thanks to Brian Gunn for providing the inspiration to this piece.


This is a pet peeve of mine, so don't take it personally. Decades run from 1 to 0, not 0 to 9. There was no year 0, so the first decade of the common era ran from 1 to 10. The decade won't be over until next year.

We get confused about this because of the way we measure age. We measure age by the number of years we've completed. If we measured age like we count years, I'd be in my 50th year, not 49 years old.

Hate to point this out, as a Sox fan, but Tampa won the East last year, and the Sox were the wild card. I don't know how much that would change your calculations.

@David: Thanks for the link at Baseball Musings. I understand the technical nature of counting years, decades, and centuries. Maybe labeling the period 2000-2009 as a decade is wrong from that standpoint, but I think of these 10 years no differently than the Roaring 20s (1920-29) or the '80s (1980-89) or '90s (1990-99). Unfortunately, society has not come up with a descriptive or easy to say name for the 2000s (?) or the '00s (?).

@bullfrog: Thank you for pointing out that mistake. I picked up my wild cards from and I now see that this site has BOS and TB both asterisked as wild cards. I have since corrected it. Re your second comment, I don't think this matter changes my perception of the Red Sox or the Team of the Decade.

Good organizing of facts, however I take exception with your conclusion.

"If none of them wins it, then the Red Sox, by virtue of the two World Series championships in 2004 and 2007, will lay claim to the title."

You're giving far too much weight to just 2 WS wins. Does this mean that the 90's Blue Jays were superior to the Braves? How about the 80's Cards to the field? To some extent, the post-season is s small-sample size crapshoot. Determining the quality of a team is more properly measured by their performance over the course of a season.


If New York wins, then it will have won 8 Division Titles including 2009, not 7.
2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009

Perhaps I am a biased NY fan, but unless Boston or StL wins, I don't think anyone tops the Yankees. We all know how much luck is involved in short series in the postseason.

Given that, the Yankees missed the post season only once, are on the way to winning 8! Division Titiles in the toughest division in baseball, and have a dominating lead in wins.

On pace for a fourth 100-win season, and a decade low of 87 wins

@Joe: I believe my conclusion is correct but perhaps I should have listed Boston's other accomplishments in that sentence as it wasn't my intention to go by number of World Series titles only. However, I thought the summary above took care of that.

@Steve: Yes, NYY would have eight division titles including 2009. I got it right in the narrative but not in the summary. I have fixed the latter. Thanks. Yes, a case could be made for the Yankees for Team of the Decade. The club wins going away with a second World Series championship and possibly could lay claim to the honor, as you said, if any team other than the Red Sox or Cardinals wins it all this year.

Additionally, you may want to have an AL team and a NL team listed separately.

It goes without saying that the American League has been far superior to the NL over the last decade. Though the WS split is only 5-4 in favor of the AL thus far, the AL has dominated the NL in interleague play.

Though the All Star game is not the most telling statistic, the NL has not won one this decade (for added measure).

As a result, I think New York and Boston's 4 LCS appearances are far more impressive that St. Louis's 5.

I realize I said "it goes without saying," and then went on to "say" it and list reasons.

Forgive me, it's early.

Cardinals tied for the division championship in '01. They were seeded as the wild card because MLB agreed to waive the tie-breaker if it would only effect postseason seeding.

Incidentally, the majority of the Cardinals' LCS appearances (And all of the Yankees') happened in the first half of the decade, when there is no evidence that the AL was the superior league.

I never understood the need to do the XXX of the Decade before the decade was over. had a feature a month or two ago about the NFL team of the decade, but they were going on the assumption that the Steelers would win the Super Bowl this next year. Really? That's your basis of a feature article? Writing articles like this seem like poor space filler to me. How about we decide the team of the decade AFTER the decade is over so we don't have to write 20 paragraphs on what-ifs. Oh, and the poster is correct above - the decade starts in the 1 year and ends in the 0 year. 2001-2010. Otherwise, you're just writing an article on the best teams of the past 10 years (which is, of course, valid, once the season is over).

I have to agree with David Pinto. The decade is between 2001 and 2010 and has another year to run. And this means the Yankees have won no WS titles this decade (yet), though they still have comfortable leads in wins and playoff appearances.

You could probably discuss the best team since the 1994 strike, though in that case the Yankees' lead would be even greater. The worst team would also pretty obviously be the Royals.

"The majority of the Cardinals' LCS appearances (And all of the Yankees') happened in the first half of the decade, when there is no evidence that the AL was the superior league."

cpebbles is right -- the AL's interleague record was 632-626 in the first half of the decade, a wash. (Although, yes, after that the AL has been markedly superior, which is one of the reasons I give the Yanks and Sox extra "degree of difficulty" points for their success.)

As for quotemeister's point -- "I never understood the need to do the XXX of the Decade before the decade was over" -- it boils down to stakes. If the Yanks, Red Sox, Cards, and Angels all make the postseason this year (and it looks like they will), then bigger bragging rights are on the line that go beyond this year. Seems pretty fun to know that.

As for Ed and Dave Pinto's point about the definition of a decade -- technically of course you're both correct, but that's not the colloquial use of the term. Who thinks the 1960's ended in 1970?

Assuming the Angels win it all this year, wouldn't you have to take into account that the Angels lost to the Red Sox in 2004, 2007, and 2008 in the playoffs? I would think that alone would keep the Angels from taking that top spot.

The modern decade indeed runs 0-9. 1920 is part of the twenties. 1990 is part of the 90s. Likewise, 2000 is part of the oughts. That's just how our modern system works. We can just say that year 0 was the year before they started counting years. It doesn't really matter.

I am not an Angels fan in any respect. Nevertheless, if you throw the stats out and look at influence on baseball, the clear team of the decade is the Angels.

The "Angel Way" has become a winning formula for several teams besides the Angels including the last two WS losers: TB and COL. Their formula has also influenced teams like STL and BOS to make moves for more speed and defense in order to improve. The Angels typify what baseball has become over the last half of the decade.

This argument is similar to throwing out the Oakland A's as the team of the 1970s. Even though Oakland won three WS during the 1970s, the style of baseball played by Baltimore typified the era. Even though Orioles won only one series, their influence was felt throughout the league. In fact, their style was called the "Oriole Way."

"...if you throw the stats out and look at influence on baseball, the clear team of the decade is the Angels."

Couldn't you make an equally compelling case, CP, that the '00s is the era of the sabermetric revolution, and therefore those early sabr adopters like the A's and Red Sox are the teams of the decade? Frankly I think of the Angels' philosophy as a bit of an anomaly this decade.

Should the Cardinals win this year and be given the label "Team of the Decade", I'd say that's appropriate as it would highlight how inflated the quality of a team looks when it comes from an inferior league. Though those above who point out the lack of league superiority early in the decade have a point.

I like what the Angels have done this decade, so I'd wholeheartedly approve their earning the title with a championship this year.

But I don't care what the NYYs do this year, they don't get it in my book. Given their financial superiority, and how they've been able to earn multiple "team of the decade" titles do to that superiority, don't they deserve some kind of handicap? Their win lead isn't overwhelming, and if they can't pace baseball in championships in the decade it isn't all that impressive, given their starting place.

Right on David Pinto. Sounds like the author could be a Skanks fan.

Take this with a grain of salt, Peter, b/c I'm a huge Cardinals fan and clearly biased -- but I'm having trouble following your logic.

As you yourself acknowledge, the Cards won 4 division titles and made it to 3 league championship series BEFORE there was a pronounced disparity between the leagues. That's more division titles than, say, the Red Sox have won this entire decade.

What's more, if you're going to discount the Yankees' success because of their financial superiority, don't you have to adjust the numbers in such a way that benefits the Cardinals? After all, the Cards have the 24th biggest market in MLB, and they've averaged the 10th highest payroll this decade -- far behind the Yanks, Red Sox, or Angels. In 2004, for example, the Yankees' payroll was 45% higher than the Red Sox... and the Red Sox payroll, in turn, was 53% higher than the Cardinals'.

Does this mean we should discount the results of the '04 World Series b/c of Boston's financial superiority? Of course not. Nor should we hold the Yankees' success against them for the same reason.

C'mon Pinto. You're smarter than that... Decades run from 0 to 9. By your logic the end of the millenium would be after year 2000 not 1999. That just isn't right. My pet peeve is guys that get it wrong, with the best of intentions, don't acknowledge they are wrong and ammend the thought process. You can concede and appologize at any time. As Judge Smails so eloquently said, "Well, we're waiting..."