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MLB Dynasties, Vol. 3

As the Dodgers players charged onto the field after Julio Urias secured the final out of the World Series the word dynasty began to be thrown around. What if I told you these Dodgers already were a dynasty? I’ve posited a definition that in order to be a dynasty, a team must make it to at least 3 World Series games in no more than 6 years. To read about the process, check out Volume 1 of the series here and Volume 2 here.

Since there’s a lot to cover, this will be Volume 3 and complete the series. I’ll cover everything from 1970 to now. So, let’s take a look at the MLB dynasties.

1970s

After the dominant pitching of the 60s, the league made some adjustments – officially to the mound, unofficially to the baseball – and tried to introduce some balance. As a result, the decade is marked by a couple potent offenses and a couple stingy rotations. Each league featured both of the types of dynasties and the both AL dynasties faced both NL dynasties in the decade, kind of.

Oakland Athletics

The first Athletics dynasty after their move west to Oakland was from 1972-74. They went to won all three against different opponents. In ’72, they beat the first year for our next dynasty. Then they beat the Mets in ’73 and the Dodgers in ’74. That Dodgers team was a harbinger of the other NL dynasty. Dick Williams managed the first two teams and Al Dark the third. The A’s were the AL’s pitching dynasty and featured several dominant starters including a Hall of Famer and one of the great dominant relievers. James ‘Catfish’ Hunter laid waste to the league from ’70-75, the first five years with Oakland, and won the ’74 Cy Young. Rollie Fingers exemplified the relief ace. Despite only starting 37 games from ’68-76 Rollie was 5th on the team in IP and only Vida Blue had a lower ERA among qualifying pitchers. A composite would look like this:

Cincinnati Reds

After losing to the A’s in ’72, the Reds were back in ’75 and ’76 and won both titles. In ’75 they won an instant classic against the Boston Red Sox and then a year later took down the next dynasty. Known as the “Big Red Machine,” the Reds lineup was one of the most fearsome in league history. Leading off was the eventual all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, followed by arguably the greatest 2B in history Joe Morgan. Next was the greatest Catcher in history Joe Bench and then yet another Hall of Famer Tony Perez. The non-Hall of Famers were also impressive: George Foster hit 50 HRs in ’77, Ken Griffey slashed .336/.401/.450 in ’76, and with the glove CF Cesar Geronimo and SS Dave Concepcion were top of the league talents. They were led by Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson and looked something like this:

New York Yankees IX

The Yankees took the second half of the decade in the AL, going to the ’76, ’77, and ’78 series. They lost to the Machine in ’76 and then won back-to-back titles against the next dynasty. Former player Billy Martin managed the team all three years, though his time in ’78 was particularly bumpy and he resigned part of the way through. Martin would be hired to manage the Yankees five separate times. The Yankees were stacked but none of the stars shone quite as bright as Reggie Jackson. He joined in ’77 and slugged .526 over the five years in New York. The Yanks lined up like this:

Los Angeles Dodgers II

In the NL, the other dynasty was the Dodgers that we’ve seen a couple times already. First, an early version of the team fell to the A’s in ’74. Then in ’77 and ’78 they lost to the Yankees. Finally, in ’81 they made it back and got their revenge against the remnants of the Yankees. Like the first LA Dodgers dynasty, this team was built on pitching. Hall of Famer Don Sutton and ace lefty Tommy John were the best of a large group of impressive arms. They were managed by Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda and their lineup would be this:

1980s

After the Yankees and Dodgers faced off in ’78, the NL won four straight World Series with eight different franchises participating. The effects of Free Agency would drastically reduce the chances for a team to reach the dynasty threshold. In fact, from here on out there are no more than two dynasties per decade. The AL went nine years with a repeat representative from ’79-87 while in the NL there were no back-to-back appearances until ’92. However, two teams did reach dynasty status in the 80s.

St Louis Cardinals IV

Going to the World Series in 1982, 1985, and 1987 were the 4th, and so far last Cardinals dynasty. They only won in ’82, taking down Harvey’s Wallbangers, the slugging Milwaukee Brewers. In ’85 they fell to George Brett’s Royals and in ’87 to the Twins. The backbone of the Cardinals lineup was a core of very good but not great players. I have them batting 2-5 and Willie McGee, Jack Clark, Keith Hernandez, and Terry Pendleton were all right on the cusp of Hall of Fame players. They did have one all-time, Hall of Fame talent in the field, their SS “The Wizard of Oz” Ozzie Smith who backflipped into the hearts of baseball fans throughout the decade. They lineup up like this:

Oakland Athletics II

After the long stretch from ’79-87 without a repeat, during which the Royals and Orioles both had almost dynasties, the A’s were back on top. They completed another three-peat but only managed to secure the middle title. In ’88, they lost to the Dodgers in a series that featured the immortal Kirk Gibson moment. In ’90, they were shutdown by the Red’s stellar bullpen – the Nasty Boys, Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton, and Randy Myers. But in ’89, the series that was delayed by an earthquake, they defeated the San Francisco Giants for the last A’s title so far.

The A’s were known as the “Bash Brothers” and they had some major talent. At the top of the lineup was perhaps the greatest to ever run the bases, Rickey Henderson. Then in the middle, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were the brothers doing the bashing. In ’88. Canseco became the first player to hit 40 HRs and steal 40 bases in a single season. Hall of Famer Tony La Russa managed them all three years and they looked like this:

1990s

The 90s were dominated by single franchises in each league. On the AL side, the Blue Jays and Indians had all the marks of a dynasty but were unable to follow through. The loss of the ’94 World Series due to labor disputes stole either franchise a chance. Then the Yankees were back after a franchise-worst 13 World Series in a row between appearances. In the NL, a single franchise dominated in unprecedented fashion. From 1990-2001 they appeared in every league championship but two and nine straight from ’91-99.

Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves took home a record 14 consecutive division championships from 1991-2005, excluding the incomplete ’94 season. They went to five world series in the decade, and 4 in six years. They were the first repeat representatives of the NL since the LA Dodgers II in ’77-78 when they went and lost both the ’91 and ’92 series. The Twins won in ’91, an almost dynasty with their ’87 team, and the Blue Jays won in ’92 and in ’93 against the Phillies. After the strike, the Braves were back in ’95 and took down the Cleveland Indians before returning again only to lose to the next dynasty in ’96. Yet again in ’99, they made it but again the next dynasty prevailed leaving them with five appearances but only one title in the decade.

There were several impresses offensive players on Bobby Cox’s squad including first ballot Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, but the real dominance was their pitching. A three-headed rotation of Hall of Famers took home tons of hardware throughout the decade. Lefty Tom Glavine was drafted by Atlanta and was the ’95 World Series MVP and ’91 & ’98 NL Cy Young. Righty John Smoltz won the ’96 Cy Young and is the only pitcher is history to win 200 games and log 150 saves. And most dominant of them all was Greg Maddux, who took home the ’92 Cy Young with the Cubs and then joined the Braves and won the ’93, ’94, and ’95 awards too. This is the first dynasty I had the pleasure to watch and they are a key reason I fell in love with baseball. They looked like this:

New York Yankees X

If you grew up in the 90s and you chose not to root for Atlanta, you’re probably a Yankees fan. Starting in ’96, the Yankees went to five World Series in six years and another one two years later. The run was long enough that I’ve split it into two dynasties. The first one, Yankees X, won in ’96 and after watching the Marlins take down the Indians in dramatic fashion in ’97, proceeded to reel off a three-peat from ’98-00. I’m bookending this dynasty with their victories over the Braves in ’96 and in ’99 and the new decade/century/millennium gets the next one. In ’98 they defeated Tony Gwynn’s Padres.

The Yankees were managed by former player Joe Torre and were anchored by the “core four.” Lefthander Andy Pettitte and catcher Jorge Posada have yet to gain enshrinement, though I expect Pettitte to get there soon, while the other two were recent Hall of Fame selections Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. The best Rivera anecdote is that more men have walked on the moon than scored on Mo in the postseason. The Yankees looked like this:

2000-20s

The past twenty years have only featured three dynasties. Is it possible the dynasty is no longer feasible? With payrolls continuing to rise, player movement increasing, and the talent pool expanding the league has experienced unprecedented parody. Since 2000, 10 different teams have represented the AL and 12 the NL with only five back-to-back occurrences and no three-peats.

New York Yankees XI

The last AL dynasty to date was the second half of the 90s-00s Yankees mega-dynasty. They completed a three-peat, defeating their crosstown rival Mets in what was called the Subway Series. Then in ’01, in what I must admit was a glorious day, they were denied what would’ve been the third four-peat in franchise history by the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks. Two years later they were back, but this time they were upset by the Florida Marlins. They’ve hoisted a trophy since then, in their only other appearance in ’09, but are currently on an 11-season World Series appearance drought.

The 00s Yankees still had the core four but changed out several of the surrounding pieces. They added all-time great pitchers Roger Clemens and Hall of Famer Mike Mussina and bought sluggers like Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, and David Justice. They also brought up a generational talent named Alfonso Soriano who would join Canseco in the 40-40 club. Still managed by Torre, the Yankees XI looked something like this:

San Francisco Giants

From ’03-’10 there were no dynasties. The Cardinals went twice in three years, the Phillies went back-to-back in ’08-09, and the Red Sox broke the curse and won in ’04 and ’07 but none of them put together the final run to complete dynastic reign. Then the oddest thing happened, the San Francisco Giants, with a balanced but hardly star-studded roster, got hot in the playoffs and then upset the Texas Rangers for the 2010 trophy. The Rangers would return to lose again the following year and then join the many almost dynasties by failing to return. The Cardinals that won in ’11 looked like a dynasty and came close with another run in ’13 but fell short. Instead, the Giants returned again in ’12, taking down Miguel Cabrera’s Tigers and then again in ’14 beating the Kansas City Royals. The last team to go to 3 in 6 without a back-to-back pair was the ’26, ’28, ’30 Cardinals. And the Gashouse Gang went in ’31 and ’34 too, the Giants just stopped.

The only real consistent aspects of the “even year” Giants were their Manager Bruce Bochy and their catcher Buster Posey. Bochy is likely headed to a Hall of Fame selection in the future and Posey may be as well. Buster was the 2010 Rookie of the Year, the 2012 NL MVP and batting champ, and finished 6th in the MVP voting in ’14. Putting together their roster was probably the most difficult of the entire series because there was so much turnover, so if you don’t like it go make your own list:

Los Angeles Dodgers III

This year we crowned the first dynasty since ’14 and third LA Dodgers team to ascend. In 2017, the Dodgers met the rapidly ascending Houston Astros in a battle of two young, exciting, loaded rosters. Those Astros returned in ’19 and are currently poised to be the next dynasty if they can make it back in ’21 or ’22. The Dodgers lost and then lost again in ’18 to the Red Sox. After the Nationals’ unlikely run the Dodgers faced a crossroads this past offseason. They had several young stars including Walker Buehler, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger so their future was bright but they had lost consecutive titles and then had their hearts ripped out in the ’19 NLCS. Instead of tearing it down, they acquired the 2018 AL MVP and signed him to a megadeal.

Despite the shortened season, the Dodgers were on top of the league from the start and plowed through the regular season. They made quick work of the NL playoff teams until they met Atlanta in the NLCS and had to claw back from down 3-1. Once they had leaped that hurdle, and officially become a dynasty with their third World Series appearance in four years, the trophy seemed an afterthought. They overpowered the Rays and only time will tell if it’s the last we’ve heard of the LA Dodgers III.

Conclusion

There have been 123 championships and 34 dynastic reigns in MLB history. From the very beginnings of the game to just this year, franchises standing out against the league have been a huge part of the history of major league Baseball. The Yankees 11 dynasties are clearly the most, followed by 5 St Louis teams (1 Browns, 4 Cardinals), 4 Dodgers teams (1 Brooklyn, 3 Los Angeles), 4 Giants teams (3 New York, 1 San Francisco), 4 Athletics teams (2 Philadelphia and 2 Oakland), the Cubs, Tigers, Red Sox, Orioles, Reds, and Braves.

I’ve mentioned several almost dynasties and could give them their own series. There were 3 Tigers teams (’34-35, ’40 & ’45, ’06 & ’12), 2 South-Side Chicago teams (1885-86 White Stockings & 1917, 19 White Sox), 2 Brooklyn Teams (1889-90 Bridegrooms, ’16 & ’20 Robins), 2 Pirates teams (1903 & ’09, ’25 & ’27), 2 Philadelphia Phillies teams (’81 & ’83, ’08-09), 2 Boston Red Sox teams (’04 & ’07, ’13 & ’18), 2 St Louis Cardinals teams (’04 & ’06, ’11 & ’13), the New York Giants (‘1888-89), Washington Senators (’24-25), Chicago Cubs (’29 & ’32 & ’35 & ’38), Cincinnati Reds (’39-40), Milwaukee Braves (’57-58), New York Mets (’69 & ’73), Baltimore Orioles (’79 & ’83), Minnesota Twins (’87 & ’91), Toronto Blue Jays (’92-93), Cleveland Indians (’95 & ’97), Texas Rangers (’10-11), Kansas City Royals (’14-15), and possibly the Houston Astros (2017-19).

The final chart I present is a color-coded “history of the World Series.” (It scrolls to the right) Let me know what you think and as always thank you for reading.

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