When the champagne is popped at the end of the MLB season, there is one team that stays dry. It only seems fitting on the day when the Dodgers or Astros will end their season with a loss in Game 7, that I put this piece together.
There are so many incredible teams that have made it to the World Series, then not been rewarded for their work. It is quite specific, but 1992 is a nice benchmark of teams we all loved to watch. So let’s see what teams made the cut.
This is my opinion. The opinion of a guy who was born in 1996, and didn’t have the pleasure of seeing some of the best teams of all-time in action. Based on what I know, I believe this list is fair.
I’d also like to say, if the Dodgers or Astros lose tonight, I’d easily sneak either of them into the top five spot on this list.
10. 1998 San Diego Padres (98-64): Lost to NYY (114-48)
And they were never the same again folks. To me, it seems obvious this was the best Padres team in recent memory. Not much competition, but some of these guys knew how to swing the stick. This Padres team was one of my bubble teams on this huge list, until I realized Trevor Hoffman was a bad, bad man. The man threw up 53 saves, easily in 74 innings, pitched at the age of 30. Didn’t hurt either to have Tony Gwynn lurking in the shadows with a .321 AVG. Then to be complemented by the machine himself, Greg Vaughn. This beast was relaxed in his prime with a 6.3 WAR and 50 long balls in 1998. Have you ever heard of Kevin Brown? He pitched without thinking, with a 257 strikeout season and a 9.1 WAR. You’re welcome, now you have heard of him.
9. 2011 Texas Rangers (96-66): Lost to STL (90-72)
There’s a good reason I put this video under this little blurb. These boys hit 210 home runs as a unit, with big boys like Beltre, Napoli, Cruz, Hamilton all hitting 20+. I don’t have to say their first names, you know them all. I bet you didn’t know Chris Davis (BAL) was on this team, wonder where he learned that swing from? Ian Kindler, with a slight 32 homers and a 7.1 WAR, had him slated as the best second baseman in the league at the time. Niftily Feliz wasn’t too shabby out of the pen either! Not to mention, C.J. Wilson was the pretty boy every pitcher wanted in their rotation. He was pretty because he made the batter look ugly with 206 strikeouts and a 2.94 ERA.
8. 2012 Detroit Tigers (88-74): Lost to SF (94-68)
It blows my mind to think that this team only won 88 games. The Tiger’s uncaged animal, Miguel Cabrera, claimed the first triple crown in the MLB since 1967 (Carl Yastrzemski) with a .330 AVG.606 SLG, 139 RBI’s, 205 hits and 44 of those being the long ball. Just a year after Verlander won the MVP, who leads off a rotation with Max Scherzer (231 strikeouts), Rick Porcello (107) and Doug Fister (107). I wish they could have done that in Boston this year! I don’t want to harp on Miggy, but an OPS of .999. These stats don’t make sense with their record, but their postseason run ended them. Onto the West side!
7. 2002 San Fransisco Giants (95-66): Lost to LAA (99-63)
If I go a week without watching a Barry Bonds clip on YouTube, check my pulse. There’s too much to even talk about with this man, but an 11.8 WAR, 46 HR, 110 RBI, .799 SLG, and 1.381 OPS season doesn’t sound like a human beings numbers. I do know what steroids do, and how legal or illegal they may be now, but this man was just plain fun to watch. The Robin to his Batman came in the form of Jeff Kent, who grabbed 195 hits, 108 RBIs, and a .313 AVG. That average would be slightly less cute if it weren’t for Bonds hitting an easy .370. Jason Schmidt was 4 strikeout’s shy of being placed in the 200 club, and each pitcher hit double digits in the win column. Needless to say, this was more than enough. Trust me, the video is comical.
6. 2015 New York Mets (90-72): Lost to KC (95-67)
Heartbreak. DeGrom (205), Harvey (188), Syndergaard (166), Colon (136) and even Niese (113), all with 100+ punchouts this season. Familia looked like the wipeout closer that every World Series team should have. All this combined with Daniel Murphy hitting absolute soul-crushing bombs every game, should have had them dancing in the end. Unhinging the Cubbies a year before they won it all. It’s all a real shame. If this team had an even better cast hitting, would they even be on this list?
5. 1999 Atlanta Braves (103-59): Lost to NYY (98-64)
With 103 wins, this Braves team seemed unbeatable all season long. Bobby Cox’s masterpiece consisted of Andruw (7.1 WAR) and Chipper Jones both putting fright in opposing pitchers. Chip hit an OPS of 1.074 by going bridge 45 times, claiming 181 hits and hitting for an average of .319. It’s amazing the man didn’t grab the triple crown this year. The pitchers are a story of their own. With slingers like Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz, it’s shocking to see the pitcher in the rotation with the highest WAR was Kevin Millwood (6.0). Millwood led the rotation with 205 punchouts, a 2.68 ERA and a .966 WHIP. This bad man could do it all. The chance for the other three kings would come far earlier than 1999…
4. 1995 Cleveland Indians (100-44): Lost to ATL (90-54)
By far the best Indians team of all time right here. Charles Nagy and Orel Hershiser commanded the bump for this team, each with 16 wins and 100+ strikeouts. They had all the speed they needed on the paths with Kenny Lofton grabbing an easy 54. Albert Belle hit Bond’s numbers with 50 home runs, a 317 AVG and a 6.9 WAR. Manny Ramirez started to prove his value with 31 home runs, learning from one of the games great power hitters Jim Thome (.558 SLG and .314 AVG). There was danger all through this lineup. Eddie Murray hit a clean AVG of .323, and topping everyone in the lineup. Together this team hit for .291, which somehow wasn’t enough to slay the Yanks. If you’d argue that this team could have been in the top three, I would almost agree with you.
3. 2004 St.Louis Cardinals (105-57): Lost to BOS (98-64)
We all played MVP Baseball 2005. In that game, getting this team or the Red Sox was a cheat code. This team didn’t win 105 games on accident. The triple-headed dragon of Scott Rolen (9.2 WAR), Albert Pujols (8.5) and Jim Edmonds (7.2) was as lethal as it gets. The Cardinals watched the Red Sox and Yankees 7 game battle, and seemingly got cold when it mattered most. The rotation stayed consistent all season long with their four top pitchers all having 15 or more wins. Overall, this team was a force to face.
2. 2003 New York Yankees (101-61): Lost to FLA (91-71)
Grady Little you terrible, terrible, terrible man. This had to be the video for this team, it was arguably the craziest moment of the entire 2003 post-season. This team felt like the golden Yankees, from the catcher to the closer. The cast included some real household names New York will never forget like. Jeter (.324 AVG), Posada (30 HR), Matsui (106 RBI), Giambi (41 HR), Pettite (21-8), Mussina (195 K), Clemens (190), and I could still go on. The “X-Factor” for this team is better than the 2004 Cardinals: The Sandman (Mariano Rivera) himself. Having the best closer of all time on your team does help quite a bit, with 40 saves as an off year. Would it scare you if I told you this was Mo’s 9th worst year of all time in saves? This team was incredible, but to me doesn’t beat out the next group of guys.
1. 1996 Atlanta Braves (96-66): Lost to NYY (92-70)
If you thought 1996 was a nice time to be in Atlanta, you must be forgetting the start of it all. This 76 pitch game that Maddux threw has always fascinated me, as it takes some pitchers half of this just to get through the 3rd inning (Drew Pomeranz 2016, looking at you). Maddux (7.1 WAR) along with John Smoltz (7.7) and Tom Glavine (6.9) were three pitchers that could, by themselves, go through an entire season. Chipper Jones (.309 AVG), Ryan Kelsko (31 HR), Marquise Grissom (207 H) and Fred McGriff (107 RBI), all did something different to make this lineup consistent enough to support their aces. Geez, they might hate those pinstripes more than I do.