Dynasties

July 23, 2012

1.   The Chicago Cubs, 1880-1886

11 Points, Rank 32nd to 34th (tie)

Key Figures:  Cap Anson, Albert Spalding, King Kelly, Ned Williamson

                The first dynasty in major league baseball was built by Cap Anson and Albert Spalding in Chicago a little more than 130 years ago.    The National League—founded in 1876 from the ruins of the National Association—struggled through the late 1870s, it being unclear in that era a) whether the experiment of professional baseball would survive and thrive, and b) whether, if it did, it would be the National League that came out on top, rather than some other league.

                The man who changed that, more than anyone else, was Cap Anson.    Whereas the other National League owners and managers. . ..well, captains; managers had not exactly arisen yet.   Whereas the other National League owners and captains focused on stealing talent from one another within the league, Anson focused on "stealing"—bringing to Chicago—the best talent from the other leagues.      Other teams in the NL then began to do the same thing.  It was this process that made the National League the "major" league, and the other leagues minor.

                Since Philadelphia and New York had been kicked out of the National League for smoking during gym class, Chicago was the biggest city left in the National League, which gave them advantages in terms of a potential fan base.  When Anson was able to build the league’s best team the popularity of the game in Chicago exploded.    Backed by the financial genius of Albert Spalding, Anson was able to put together teams that won almost 80% of their games.  

                On the field they were led by King Kelly, the colorful and eccentric redhead who is sometimes described as baseball’s first superstar, Ned Williamson, a big third baseman who was probably the best athlete in baseball in that era, George Gore, a great center fielder and leadoff man, and Anson himself.  

                The Cubs won the National League in 1880 (67-17), 1881 (56-28), 1882 (55-29), 1885 (87-25) and 1886 (90-34), and were strong competitors until 1891.    They played an improvised World Championship in the mid-1880s, and I score their multi-year accomplishments at 11 points.

 

2.  What Exactly Is a Dynasty?

                The main thing we want to do with the term "dynasty" is to avoid being dragged off-course by it. The term "dynasty" is of course derived from the practice of royal dynasties, in which a son or daughter inherits the throne from his blood relatives; a dictionary definition is "a series of rulers from the same family, stock or group."    In studying history itself it is often or usually unclear when exactly a dynasty begins and when it ends.    It is quite common, in history, for a king to be overthrown, but for his grandson to organize a rebellion and seize power, thus "resuming" the dynasty (or not, depending on how you read it).   Kings through history are constantly claiming to be related to previous kings to whom they in fact have no blood relationship at all.. ..apropos which, I will tell you one of my Roman stories.   The Emperor Augustus—the greatest of Roman rulers--had a natural grandson named Agrippa Postumus, so named because his father, Agrippa, had died before he was born.   At one point Agrippa Postumus was designated as the successor to Augustus, and thus took the name Marcus Julius Caesar Agrippa Postumus, while his stepbrother, second in line for the throne, took the name Tiberius Julius Caesar.    Agrippa was actually related by blood to Julius Caesar, but Tiberius was not, or at least not to any meaningful extent; they both called themselves Julius Caesar to legitimize their claim to the throne. 

                About 9 AD Agrippa Postumus was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the emperor, and was taken out of the line of succession and exiled to the small island of Planasia, which is near the island of Elba, where Napoleon was exiled many centuries later.    A few years later Augustus died, and about the same time Agrippa was murdered, probably on the orders of Tiberius, although no one knows for certain.

                Anyway, Agrippa had a slave named Clemens, who looked very much like him; as far as we know, he was never accused of using steroids.   After the death of Agrippa the slave Clemens escaped, and began claiming that he was in fact Agrippa—hence, the legitimate heir to the throne.   He began gathering armies to his side, but not enough of them, so he was caught and hauled before Tiberius, the step-brother of the real Agrippa, and now the emperor.     Tiberius looked him over and said, "How did you become Agrippa?", to which Clemens replied "The same way you became Caesar."  

                He was, of course, executed later in the day.

The practical definition of the term "dynasty" in sports is "a series of successful teams that represent the same franchise and have key personnel in common."   Beyond that, trying to observe too closely the meaning of the term "dynasty", as implied by other usages of the term, is just going to lead to trouble; at least it did for me, in the twenty or thirty years I was trying to think through this problem.     We will often see, for example, multiple dynasties running concurrently in the same league.   This used to bother me.  How can there be multiple "dynasties" in the same league at the same time?   Doesn’t one dynasty have to end before the next one begins?  

                Well, no, it doesn’t; it doesn’t always work that way in real history, and it doesn’t always work that way in sports history.   Dynasties overlap with one another; occasionally parallel dynasties compete for long periods of time.    This is not inconsistent with the practical definition of the term "dynasty" as it applies in sports, and it is destructive to focus on that.  

                The same with the term "great team"; what we’re really writing about here is the greatest teams in baseball history.   Don’t get hung up on the term "great".   We may describe a team as "great" when maybe we would be more comfortable describing them as "good", or even "pretty good".   These terms lack precise definition, and it interferes with our scholarly purpose to get hung up on them.     In my view and by my definition there are 37 dynasties in major league history, and if you don’t like my list and my definition, do your own. 

 

3.   The St. Louis Browns or Brown Stockings, 1885-1889

13 Points, Rank 24th to 29th

Key Figures:   Charles Comiskey, Arlie Latham, Bob Caruthers, Dave Foutz, Tip O’Neill

                The financial success of the National League invited competition from other leagues.   The first successful competitor was the American Association, the forerunner of today’s American League.  The American Association was a "down market" league that competed economically by selling beer at the games (which the National League prohibited) and playing baseball on Sundays (which was forbidden by law in most of the country, and which the National League by custom did not do.)  

                The American Association was founded in 1881; the St. Louis franchise joined them in 1882, and Charles Comiskey became the manager of the Browns in late 1883.   Comiskey was like Cap Anson in some ways, a first baseman and a Type A personality.   Both Comiskey and Anson were the sons of big, loud, dominant fathers, and grew up in that mold.

                Comiskey was smarter than Anson; not as great a player (or even close to that), not as dominant a personality, but sharper.    Comiskey invented, for example, the practice of the first baseman playing off the bag, and expecting the pitcher to cover first when the ball was hit to the right side.   Before Comiskey the first baseman guarded the bag and stayed on the base or very close to it.  

                In the mid-1880s there were ersatz World Series, really just exhibition games organized by league champions as an opportunity to sell a few more tickets.   Post-season series (and mid-season exhibition series) were common in that era.   Any two teams were likely to be pitted against one another, but when the champions of the two leagues met, they could hype it as a kind of playoff.   The National League was obviously the better league, and in 1884 the National League champion Providence team destroyed the American Association champion New York team. 

                In the 1969 Super Bowl, some of you will remember, the New York Jets, representing what most people thought of as a grossly inferior league, shocked the heavily favored Baltimore Colts.    In 1885 Comiskey’s Brown Stockings played a disputed series with Anson’s White Stockings, as they were then called; three games were won by each team, and the other game ended in a controversy, both teams claiming to have won the game.  That series was to baseball what the 1969 Super Bowl was to football.  In 1886 the teams met again, and the Browns clearly won.   

 

4.   The Accounting System, Part I

                We give teams credit for what they accomplish in a single season in the following way:

                1)  If the team wins the World Series and also wins 100 or more games during the regular season, we credit them with 6 points.

                2)  If the team wins the World Series but wins less than 100 games during the season, we credit them with 5 points.

                3)  If the team wins its league (but not the World Series) and wins 100 or more games, we credit them with 4 points.

                4)  If the team wins its league but does not win 100 or more games in the season, we credit them with 3 points.   Also, if a team wins its division and wins 100 games (but does not win the league championship) we credit them with 3 points.

                5)  If the team wins its division with less than 100 wins, we credit them with 2 points.   Also, if a team wins 100 games but does not win its league or its division, we credit them with 2 points. 

                6)  If the team wins 90 games but does not win its league or division, we credit them with1 point.   Also, if a team makes post-season play in any fashion, even without 90 wins, we credit them with one point. 

                This is just the starter kit, the Level-One accounting.    I’ve used this system before when I was working on this problem, and I like the system, but it only goes so far; there are more problems that we have to solve.    My present attempt to work on this problem has been more successful than my previous efforts because of the additional accounting practices that I’ve added, which I’ll explain in just a minute (Note 6). 

                I didn’t count the 19th "World Series" as legitimate World Series, for the obvious reason that they weren’t.    The 19th century teams would have higher scores and higher rankings in our dynasty list if we gave credit for these contests.

 

5.  The Boston Braves or Beaneaters, 1891-1893

10 Points, Rank 35th-37th

Key Figures:  Frank Selee, Kid Nichols, Herman Long, Tommy McCarthy

                The two great teams of the 1890s were the Boston Beaneaters and the Baltimore Orioles.     The Orioles are by far the more famous team, loaded and overloaded with Hall of Famers (John McGraw, Wilbert Robinson, Wee Willie Keeler, Hughie Jennings, Joe Kelley.)    In the first third of the twentieth century John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson managed the two New York teams in the National League.    They held those jobs for many years, employing others of the Old Orioles as coaches and hangers-on.  McGraw and Robinson entertained sportswriters with increasingly colorful stories about the Old Orioles.   In this way the Orioles successfully integrated themselves into the myth and legend of the game at a very deep level.   It is my view—noted many times before this—that the Beaneaters actually accomplished more on the field, and this system happens to rate the Beaneaters as an all-time great team (barely), and doesn’t rate the Orioles (barely).  

I’m fine with that, but the other answer wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, either.   With a shorter schedule the Orioles just missed 90 wins in 1894 (89-39) and 1895 (87-43).    While I don’t regard the 1880s series as legitimate cross-league competition, the 1890s league championship series certainly were legitimate league championship series, and the Orioles lost in both years (1894 and 1895), thus making those, in my accounting, 1-point seasons.    But it is entirely reasonable to argue that those should be 2- or 3-point seasons, and thus that the Orioles of the mid-1890s should be on our list of great teams.

The Boston team was led by Kid Nichols, a very small man who matched Cy Young start for start through his greatest seasons.     Cy Young and Kid Nichols both came to the majors in 1890.  Through 1898 Cy Young was 241-135, a 3.10 ERA and 1,013 strikeouts; Nichols was 276-132, a 2.97 ERA and 1,363 strikeouts.   The Orioles were a rough, brawling collection that won in part through intimidation.   The Beateaters, who invented the modern hit and run play, were a slicker, more cerebral organization.  

 

6.   The Accounting System, Part II

I explained before how we account for season’s accomplishments.   But the real question is, how do we know what seasons are counted as a part of a group?   How do we know when a dynasty begins and when it ends?  

If every dynasty ran seven years, let us say, then we could simply measure each team’s accomplishments in a seven-year window.    Unfortunately, since some dynasties come and go quickly and others linger around for decades, no such simple process will deliver acceptable answers.

We keep a running total of a team’s successes.   After each season, the team’s dynastic running score either goes up, or it goes down.    It doesn’t stay the same unless it is at zero and stays at zero.  Either the team accomplishes something in that season consistent with their being a great team, or it’s a "negative" season and their score goes down.   

   If a team has no qualifying accomplishments in a given season (ie, if they didn’t win 90 games and didn’t make post-season play), we charge a negative two points to the running total.   If they have no qualifying accomplishments and had a losing record in that season, then that’s negative three.  

When the dynastic running total goes to zero, the run is over; the dynasty or the run of good seasons that is attempting to qualify as a dynasty ends at that point.   Actually, it doesn’t end then; it ends at the point at which the last point was scored, but we don’t know for sure what that point is until the score goes to zero.   

For illustration, let’s take the Arizona Diamondbacks.   The Diamondbacks in 1999 won 100 games and won their division.   That’s a 3-point season; their previous total was zero, so that makes their running total 3.   

In 2000 the Diamondbacks finished third, at 85-77; that’s a non-qualifying season, so we charge them a negative two for that, which makes the running total one point.   

In 2001 the D’backs went 92-70 and won the World Series, one of the most exciting World Series ever.  That’s a five-point season, and that makes the running total six points.

In 2002 they won 98 games but lost in the playoffs; that’s a two-point season, and that makes the running total eight points.

In 2003 they finished third at 84-78, a non-qualifying season.   That costs them two points, and puts them at six points.

In 2004 they lost 111 games.   That costs them three points, and puts their running total at three. 

In 2005 they finished under .500 again (77-85).  That costs them another three points, which makes their running total zero, which ends the run.    Also, this was their third straight non-qualifying season, and three straight non-qualifying seasons automatically ends the run, regardless of the running score.   

The last qualifying season in this run of seasons was 2002, so the run goes from 1999 to 2002.   The highest score that the D’backs attained during that run was 8 points, so the score for the run of seasons is 8.   

It’s not quite a dynasty; they didn’t quite do enough, over a period of years, for us to consider them a dynasty.   It was a good team, with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling as the two best pitchers in baseball two years in a row, with Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley and Matt Williams having some good seasons with the bat.    They won 100 games one year, won 98 another year, won the World Series a third year; that’s a good team.   It doesn’t quite qualify for our list.  

This "dynastic running score" process is the essence of our system, because it is these running score rules that determine when a dynasty begins and when it ends.    That’s the key to it; the dynasty ends when you go to zero or when you have three consecutive non-qualifying seasons.   

At the end of each season, most of the teams in baseball have a running score of zero.   Most teams are not great teams; most teams at any moment are not in the middle of a dynasty. 

Dynasties (the teams on our list) almost always end with three consecutive non-qualifying seasons.    I don’t believe there is an exception in baseball history; in other words, I don’t think any dynasty has ever ended by "zeroing out".   I think they have all ended with three consecutive unsuccessful seasons.  But attempts to build dynasties almost always end when the score goes back to zero.    Teams pull something together, they win a division, maybe win a World Championship; they have a score of three or five or seven.   Then they don’t win anything for two or three years, their running score goes back to zero, and that effort to construct a dynasty is over.  

 

7.  The Pittsburgh Pirates, 1900-1912

19 Points, Tied on our List as the 14th-15th greatest team of all time

Key Figures:  Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke, Deacon Phillippe and Sam Leever.

The "Pirates", as I suspect most of you know, became the Pirates by stealing the best players from the Louisville team.    In 1898 Pittsburgh went 72-76, Louisville 70-81; in 1899 Pittsburgh went 76-73; Louisville 75-77.    Neither team was great, but they had about a half a team each.   Pittsburgh had Ginger Beaumont, Jimmy Williams, Jesse Tannehill, Sam Leever and Jack Chesbro; Louisville had Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke, Chief Zimmer, Deacon Phillippe and Rube Waddell.   The two teams had several investors in common, people who owned parts of both teams.    After the 1899 season the Louisville team was folded, and the two teams merged into one.   Pittsburgh "pirated" the Louisville roster, taking three Hall of Famers.   

The combined team went 79-60 in 1900, second place, but earned a dynasty point because the National League was still using a post-season series to decide its championship, and the Pirates were one of the two teams.    The Pittsburgh/Louisville combo team won the National League in 1901 (90-49), 1902 (103-36) and 1903 (91-49), and continued to play brilliant baseball for nine years after that, winning the World Championship in 1909. 

 

8.   What is the Standard of a Dynasty

Well, let’s start by asking what isn’t a dynasty?

The Pittsburgh Pirates won 90 games in 1924 (1 point), and won the World Championship in 1925 (5 points, Running Score, 6).  They finished third in 1926 (-2, running score 4), but then won the National League in 1927, having the honor of being demolished by the 1927 Yankees in the World Series (3 points, running score 7).    But then they didn’t do anything after that, and the run of seasons ended at 7 points.

Is that a dynasty, two league championships in a three-year span?   I think most of us could agree that it is not.    Seven points is not a dynasty.

A harder example, just because they are so famous, is the Black Sox, the White Sox of 1917-1920.   The White Sox won 93 games in 1915 (1 point), but then didn’t do anything in 1916, which re-sets them to zero.    In 1917 they won 100 games and won the World Series, a 6-point season, but then in 1918, with Joe Jackson and some other guys in World War I, they finished under .500, which is -3, which puts them back to 3 points.   In 1919 they won their league but lost the World Series (duh), which is +3, so they’re back to 6 points.   In 1920 they won 96 games and were in position to win the American League again before all of their best players were suspended due to the gambling scandal, so that’s +1, and the running score is +7.  After that they had several unproductive seasons, so their final total is 7.

They’re like the Pirates of the twenties:   one World Championship, one other appearance in the World Series, and a 90-win season.   It’s not enough.   The attention given to that team because of their throwing the World Series has exaggerated their significance, but on the basis of what they actually accomplished, they’re really no different than the 1924-1927 Pirates. 

Let’s take the Red Sox of 1903-1904.   The Red Sox won the World Series in 1903 (5 points), and won the American League again in 1904 (3 points).   That’s 8 points, but then they didn’t do anything after 1904, so they stuck at 8 points.   Is that a "dynasty"?

I think most of you would agree that it is not.   Three good seasons, maybe that can be considered a dynasty, depending on how good they are, but two years. ..no.    We drew the line at ten points.   In theory, you could reach ten in a two-year sprint with no other good seasons around two consecutive World Championships, but no team has ever done that.   The shortest dynasties in history are three seasons.

The Ty Cobb Tigers won the American League in 1907, 1908 and 1909, three points each season, but lost the World Series all three years.   That’s 9 points.   Is that a "dynasty", or not?

It’s a tough call, but this is the way the system calls it.   If the Tigers had won 100 games in 1909, rather than 98 games, that would put them at 10 points, and then they would be on our list.  If they had won a World Series, they would be on our list.  If they had won 90 games in the year before or the year after their three-season run (1906 or 1910) that would put them at 10 points, but they were under .500 in 1906 and won only 86 games in 1910, finishing third.   We have to draw a line somewhere; no matter where we draw that line, somebody will just barely miss.  

Somebody, usually the Tigers.   The Tigers won 101 games in 1934; although they lost in the World Series that’s still four points.    They won the World Series in 1935, which is five points, which puts them at 9—but then they did nothing in 1936, 1937 and 1938, which meant that 1935 was the end for that team.  The Tigers got close again in the 1960s (8 points) and again in the 1980s, but they never got there

Our definition of a dynasty is:   A Running Score of at least ten at some point in a series of successful seasons. 

 

9.   The Chicago Cubs, 1904-1912

25 Points, 7th place

Key Figures:   Three Finger Brown and Tinker, Evers and Chance

                Cap Anson was a great manager until about 1885, but after the mid-1880s he was losing a step, and by the late 1890s the Cubs were struggling.   After the Cubs had waded through four seasons with make-do managers the Boston Beaneaters fired Frank Selee, who had built the great Boston team ten years earlier, and the Cubs hired him.

                Selee brought a lot of young kids into camp, and did a great job of sorting through them.   The roster rules were looser; a major league team could buy up a dozen minor league shortstops over the winter and bring them into camp, see what they had.   Selee did a great job of sorting through the candidates, found Joe Tinker to play short, Johnny Evers to play second base.   He took Frank Chance, a part-time catcher, part-time outfielder, and made him a full-time first baseman.  He made a trade with St. Louis, got Mordecai Brown.   By 1904 the Cubs won 93 games, launching a string of brilliant seasons.

                Selee developed tuberculosis, a major health scourge of that time; modern environmentalists wouldn’t believe how filthy the air in Chicago was at that time.     The pollutants in the Chicago air at that time were probably hundreds of times denser than in any modern city.   Anyway, Selee had to leave the team because of his health, and the Cubs were turned over to Chance.

                I’ve written about this team many times, and I will assume that you know that litany.   Over any span of years—one year, two years, three years, four years. ..any span of years up to about fifteen—this team won more games and had a higher winning percentage than any other team in baseball history.   They were a phenomenal team, winning 116 games (116-36), 107 games (107-45), 99 games, 104 games, 104 again.     They won games with significantly more consistency than the Yankees of Ruth and Gehrig—or any other team.

                What keeps them from being considered the greatest dynasty of all time is simply duration.   The Yankees were able to replace Ruth and Gehrig with DiMaggio and Dickey and keep rolling.    The Cubs weren’t able to do that; when Tinker, Evers and Chance were done, the organization fell into a period of doldrums.   But for ten years or so, they were perhaps the most dominant baseball team of all time. 

 

10.  The Leaderboards

                Let’s look at what we have so far:

Rank

City

Team

Lg

First

Last

Points

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

Chicago

Cubs

NL

1904

1912

25

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

14

Pittsburgh

Pirates

NL

1900

1912

19

14

 

 

 

 

 

 

16

 

 

 

 

 

 

17

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

St. Louis

Browns

AA

1885

1889

13

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

32

Chicago

Cubs

NL

1880

1886

11

32

 

 

 

 

 

 

32

 

 

 

 

 

 

35

Boston

Braves

NL

1891

1893

10

35

 

 

 

 

 

 

35

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11.  The New York Giants, 1904-1913

22 Points, Tied for 9th-11th

Key Figures:  John McGraw, Christy Mathewson, Iron Man McGinnity, Roger Bresnahan              

                John McGraw, a star in the National League, cast his lot with the American League when the American League started in 1901.   He had an unhappy experience in the American League, became severely disillusioned with the league—actually, angry and bitter toward them—and returned to the National League as manager of the New York Giants in mid-season, 1902.

                The Giants in the late 1890s had been run by one of those nut case owners who pops up in all sports and runs his team into the ground.   The nut case owner, Andrew Freedman, sold his interests in the team, or most of them, to one of his partners, Indianapolis businessman John T. Brush, and Brush began to restore the fortunes of the team.

                The National League divided into three great teams—the Pirates, Cubs and Giants—and five teams that were just hopelessly outgunned.   There is no other league in baseball history that has three great teams so perfectly aligned, going head-to-head with one another for a period of almost a decade.   This led to the famous pennant race of 1908, but it also meant that the top three teams in the National League were Chicago-New York-Pittsburgh, in one order or another, from 1904 through 1912, with minor exceptions.   This lack of competitiveness probably weakened the National League, and led to the subsequent domination of the game (in the teens) by the American League franchises.  

 

12.   The Philadelphia Athletics, 1909-1914

(The $100,000 Infield)

22 Points, Tied for 9th-11th

Key Figures:   Connie Mack, Eddie Collins, Home Run Baker, Rube Waddell, Eddie Plank

                The National League in the 1890s was a very rowdy league, with many on-field fights and abusive behavior from the fans.    When Ban Johnson launched the American League in 1901, one of his key points of emphasis was that the league would not tolerate on-field misconduct.    That was one of the things that John McGraw, who was a bit of a hellion, did not like about the American League; only one of the things, but that was one of them.

                The policy was copacetic, on the other hand, for Connie Mack.   Mack--not an immensely wealthy man—was a quiet, dignified man who did not approve of unruly behavior by his men.   He liked college players, and built his team by signing the best players from the eastern colleges.   

                From 1909 to 1914, with great pitching and an infield of two Hall of Famers and two other very good players, Mack’s gentlemen won 95 games, 102 games, 101, 90, 96 and 99.   They won the World Series in 1910, 1911 and 1913.    In 1914 there was an effort to start a rival league, the Federal League.    The Federal League was luring players away from the established leagues, thus inflating salaries.   Unable to meet the salary demands of his stars, Mack sold them to other American League teams.    It was in his self-interest to do this.   Had the stars left for the Federal League, the American League might have collapsed as the American Association had collapsed twenty years earlier, and this would have destroyed the value of Mack’s franchise.    By keeping his ex-players in the American League, Mack was protecting the value of his franchise.  

 

13.   The Boston Red Sox, 1912-1918

22 Points, Tied for 9th-13th

Key Figures; Tris Speaker, Babe Ruth, Smokey Joe Wood, Carl Mays, Harry Hooper

                In 1912 Smokey Joe Wood went 34-5 with a 1.91 ERA—and was not the best player on his team.   Wood finished fifth in the MVP voting, won by Tris Speaker—and my analysis agrees that Speaker was more valuable than Wood.

                That team won 105 games and the World Series in 1912, but over the following two seasons the team was bitterly divided between Catholics and Protestants.     The team was half Catholic, half Protestant, and the two sides hated each other, not unlike the class division that wrecked the Chicago White Sox at the end of the decade.     The team finished fourth in 1913, won 91 games but finished second in 1914.

                It is difficult to explain now, but America at that time was a divided nation, in danger of falling into a Civil War.   America was divided between North and South, between Rich and Poor, Radicals and Conservatives, and these divisions show up in everything you read about that era, Crime or Baseball or Politics.   The Crime rate was growing rapidly.  Baseball was divided between "clean" players and crooks.   It was an angry, hostile era.

                In 1915 Tris Speaker was demanding more money, feuding with his manager (a Catholic), and generally being a pain in the ass.  Like his rival, Ty Cobb, Speaker was an enormously intelligent man, and compared to Cobb he was easy to get along with.   Compared to anybody else, not so much.    The Red Sox tried to trade Speaker for Cobb, but that fell through. Speaker was traded to Cleveland, and the Red Sox covered some of the talent gap by picking up a couple of players from Connie Mack’s fire sale.   The Red Sox won 101 games and won the World Series in 1915, won the World Series again in 1916, won 90 games in 1917, and won the series again in 1918.  

                And then, as you know, they systematically sold off all and traded away all of their best players.    You know Lenin’s dictum that when the last capitalist was hung, somebody would be there to sell them the rope?   The Red Sox sold the Yankees the stones with which the next dynasty was built.  

 

14.   The New York Yankees, 1920 to 1943

60 Points, The #2 Dynasty of all Time

Key Figures:   Ruth, Gehrig, Joe McCarthy, Joe DiMaggio, Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez

                The key question about the Yankees in the years 1920 to 1964 is whether they should be considered as one Dynasty, or as two teams, or three, or four.    There are at least five recognizable eras to this epoch:  the pre-Joe McCarthy, pre-Gehrig team of 1920-1923, the Gehrig-Ruth team of 1926-1933, the Joe DiMaggio team of 1936-1947, the Casey Stengel/Mickey Mantle team of 1949-1960, and the Ralph Houk coda to the Stengel era (1961-1964).

                If we were to break these down into five different teams and say that, because it is five different teams, no one of them is a truly great dynasty, in my view that would be silly.   The pieces overlap, and the success was continuous.    Lou Gehrig played alongside DiMaggio for three glorious seasons, Joe McCarthy managed Ruth for years and DiMaggio for years, Stengel managed DiMaggio for three years, Rizzuto played years for McCarthy and years for Stengel, Mantle played years for Ralph Houk, Roger Maris won an MVP Award for Stengel and one for Houk, Whitey Ford pitched most of his career for Stengel and had his best years under Houk.   

                The rules that I established—rules that work extremely well at drawing lines for almost all other teams—say that when a team has no significant accomplishments in a three-year period, that team is done, that dynasty is over, and whatever happens after that is a new beginning.   The Yankees did nothing in 1944, 1945 and 1946, and, by the rules that I’m using for everybody else, that’s the end of that era.   1920-1943 is one era; 1947-1964 is another one.    I’m not saying this is the right answer necessarily, but that’s the answer my method gives me, and that’s the answer that I’m going to go with.  

 

15.   Leaderboard

 

                Let’s update the leader board:

 

Rank

City

Team

Lg

First

Last

Points

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

New York

Yankees

AL

1920

1943

60

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

Chicago

Cubs

NL

1904

1912

25

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

9

New York

Giants

NL

1904

1913

22

9

Philadelphia

Athletics

AL

1909

1914

22

9

Boston

Red Sox

AL

1912

1918

22

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

14

Pittsburgh

Pirates

NL

1900

1912

19

14

 

 

 

 

 

 

16

 

 

 

 

 

 

17

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

St. Louis

Browns

AA

1885

1889

13

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

32

Chicago

Cubs

NL

1880

1886

11

32

           

32

 

 

 

 

 

 

35

Boston

Braves

NL

1891

1893

10

35

 

 

 

 

 

 

35

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16.  New York Giants, 1921-1928

16 Points, Tied for 18th All-Time

Key Figures; John McGraw, Frankie Frisch, George Kelly, Bill Terry, Travis Jackson

                As is true of the Yankees, the New York Giants under John McGraw had so much success for so long that it is difficult to draw a line, and say where one dynasty leaves off and another begins.    The Giants, however, had no significant success between 1914 and 1916, three years, which marks the end of the Christy Mathewson dynasty as 1913.   They did win the National League in 1917 (3 points), but that merely makes their running total 3 points, and then they didn’t do anything from 1918 to 1920, so they were zeroed out again by 1919.  The 1917 team is an island, not a part of the dynasty on either side.    I think it has to be that way; I don’t think you can make an argument that a seven-year span with one good team is a continuous pathway between two great teams.  

                The 1917 Giants’ team, frankly, is riddled with crooks.   John McGraw was a genuinely great manager, but if you ask why the Giants didn’t win more in the late teens, the most obvious answer is that

                a)  New York was the center of the gambling industry, as it is the center of most financial industries,

                b)  John McGraw, who liked to gamble. ..well, liked to gamble a lot. . ..had a blind spot with regard to having players on his team who hung out with gamblers, and

                c)  His team in the late teens virtually became a hospice for aging crooks.  

                The 1920s Giants are curiously short of genuinely great players—curiously, because most of the team in in the Hall of Fame, including several of the worst Hall of Famers of all time.  The only players on the team who should be in the Hall of Fame are Frisch and perhaps Bill Terry; yes, I said "perhaps".   The team doesn’t really have many great players, but McGraw had financial advantages from playing in New York, plus he was ahead of the curve on two key strategies:  platooning, and the use of his entire pitching staff (rather than asking one or two key pitchers to carry the load, as most other managers were doing.)   Leading the league in Saves almost every year, the Giants won the World Series in 1921 and 1922, lost the World Series in 1923 and 1924, won 92 games in 1927, and won 93 games in 1928.   The 1927-1928 teams just keep the "dynasty" technically alive; their score peaked at 16 in 1924.

                Frisch was like McGraw—a hothead who was inclined from birth to believe that he was smarter than everybody else.    Eventually Frisch and McGraw couldn’t work together any more, and Frisch was traded to St. Louis.  

 

17.  St. Louis Cardinals, 1927-1935

(The Gas House Gang)

17 Points, Tied for 17th All-Time

Key Figures:   Branch Rickey, Frankie Frisch, Dizzy Dean, Pepper Martin

                As the trade of Babe Ruth moved the power in the American League from Boston to New York, the trade of Frankie Frisch for the fading, irascible Rogers Hornsby moved the power in the National League from New York to St. Louis. 

                The term "Gas House Gang" wasn’t really applied to the Cardinals until the 1930s, but we’ll use it to cover the entire era.     Branch Rickey managed the St. Louis Cardinals from 1919 into early 1925, and was a modestly successful manager, but quit that job because he realized that he could have more impact by running the organization than by managing the team.    This is a seminal moment.   Being The Manager was the glory job in baseball, the job everybody wanted.   The Manager called the shots, told the club who to sign, who to trade for; the manager for most teams actually negotiated the trades at that time.   

                Rickey’s insight was that this was two jobs—managing, and making the talent decisions.   He was OK at the former job; he was the greatest ever at the latter.    Within a couple of years he had turned the Cardinal organization—a down-and-out organization for 30 years—into a machine, cranking players out of their farm system as if they had a plastic mold.    The 1926 World Championship was kind of a fluke.   The Cardinals backed into that one when the Pirates, National League Champions in 1925 and 1927, had a nasty mid-season clubhouse melt-down.    

                The Cardinals, however, were getting 5% stronger every year.  They won 92 games in 1927, finishing second, won 95 games in 1928, winning the pennant, won the pennant again in 1930, won the pennant and the World Series in 1931, won the World Series again in 1934, and won 96 games in 1935.   Rickey had dozens of professional scouts out scouring the boondocks for raw players.    By the mid-1930s his team was loaded with backwoods wonders like Dizzy and Paul Dean, Pepper Martin, Ripper Collins, Joe Medwick and Wild Bill Hallahan. 

                The Cardinals caught a break in 1930 when the Cubs, who were on the cusp of developing into a strong dynastic competitor, let their great manager Joe McCarthy get away from them.   McCarthy had built the Cubs to the edge of greatness—and had they kept him, it might well have been the Cubs who dominated the National League in the 1930s.  

                The Cardinal machine threw a gear after 1935 because their manager was an idiot.   I don’t mean that literally; their manager, Frankie Frisch, was a very bright guy.   But he was the world’s biggest know-it-all, and he had the constitutional problem of know-it-alls:  the inability to learn from experience.    Between 1935 and 1938 Frisch took a 96-win team, added two Hall of Famers out of the farm system (Johnny Mize and Enos Slaughter), and won 71 games.    The team jumped back into the pennant race as soon as they fired Frisch.  

 

18.   The Philadelphia Athletics, 1927-1932

(Connie Mack’s second great team)

19 Points, Tied for 14th-15th among dynasties

Key Figures:   Connie Mack, Lefty Grove, Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane

                After selling off his stars in the winter of 1914-1915 Connie Mack’s Athletics put out some of the worst teams in the history of baseball, then gradually began to rebuild.    In 1925 and 1926 they were over .500.   In 1927 they won 91 games, which nobody noticed because they were still almost twenty games behind the 1927 Yankees, but it marks 1927 as the start of their era.  

                Mack liked to bring in older players to serve as mentors to young stars, and from 1927-1929 he had the most remarkable collection of old superstars in the history of the game, including  the 41-year-old Ty Cobb, the 40-year-old Tris Speaker, the 41-year-old Eddie Collins, and the 39-year-old Zack Wheat.   In addition to that he had three superstars in their prime (Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons and Lefty Grove) and one just emerging (Jimmie Foxx.)  

                And the rest of the team was good.   The rest of the team included players like Jimmy Dykes, Bing Miller, Mule Haas, Maxie Bishop, George Earnshaw and Rube Walberg, guys who are not in the Hall of Fame but who were not chopped liver, either.   After the 91 wins in 1927 they won 98 games in 1928, won 104 games and the World Series in 1929, won 102 games and another World Series in 1930, won 107 games but lost the World Series in 1931, and won 94 games in 1932. 

                It was the Depression, however, and the 1932 Philadelphia A’s drew only 405,000 fans.  The strong teams at that time were drawing around a million.   After 1932 Mack calculated that he could not afford to keep these players around anymore, so he once more began selling off his stars.    The dynasty lasted for only six years, but it was a killer team for the middle three.  

               

19.   New York Giants, 1933-1937

13 Points, Tied for 24th All-Time

Key Figures: Bill Terry, Carl Hubbell, Mel Ott.

                John McGraw retired early in the 1932 season, leaving his team in the cold, sarcastic hands of Bill Terry.    He had left Terry, however, the best pitcher in baseball, Carl Hubbell, and one of the two or three best position players in baseball, in Mel Ott—clearly the best player in the National League in this era.  

                Terry put enough pieces around Hubbell and Ott to win the National League in 1933, 1936 and 1937, and to win the World Series in 1933.    Well, let’s be honest:   the Cardinals on paper were by far the best team in the National League in the mid-1930s.   Nobody else really was very good—including the Giants, who weren’t very good either except that they had two sensational players, Ott and Hubbell.    Under the circumstances, that was enough. 

                The future of baseball was written in the fall of 1937.   You have to remember:  the Giants, not the Yankees, were the team that owned New York City in the early part of the 20th century.   The Giants were the great team in New York; the Yankees were the other team.   Babe Ruth pulled the Yankees up to the same level as the Giants, but the two teams competed on a fairly even basis up through 1937.   In 1937 the Yankees drew 998,000 fans; the Giants drew 926,000 fans. 

                The two teams met in the 1936 and 1937 World Series—and the Yankees waxed them both times.     After 1937 the Yankees owned New York; the Giants were never on the same level.  And Bill Terry, God love him, was no John McGraw.    He gradually alienated almost everybody in town, and the Giants slipped a little further out of the picture every year.    

 

20.   St. Louis Cardinals, 1941-1949

23 Points, 8th All-Time

Key Figures:   Branch Rickey, Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Marty Marion, Billy Southworth

                Throughout the 1930s Branch Rickey was building the Cardinal farm system larger, and larger, and larger, eventually controlling or partially controlling a huge number of minor league teams.  The economics of the era were peculiar. …well, let me back off.

                I call this "magazine economics".   The economics of the paper magazine business rely on a peculiar balancing act.   Magazines get some of their income from advertising, and some of it from subscribers.   The thing is, in most cases neither one is sufficient to float the operation.  Both lines of revenue have to contribute.  

                This causes terrible problems for magazines.  At some point in their history, almost every magazine will need more money.    If they raise their subscription price, that will reduce the number of subscribers, which will reduce the advertising dollars.   If they reduce the subscription price, that might increase the circulation numbers, thus increasing advertising revenue, but on the other hand, it will reduce subscription revenue.   It’s a balancing act—a constant, endless balancing act.   If you swing too low you’ve got a pop up; if you swing too high you’ve got a ground ball, and if you hit either one of those you’re out of business.   There is a sweet spot in the middle, and if you can stay there, you’re golden—but nobody can stay there forever. 

                There are actually lots of businesses that have what I call a magazine business plan.   It’s one of my rules for investing:  Never invest in a business with a magazine business plan.    It’s a matter of time until they lose track of the sweet spot.   It’s the reason we don’t have advertising on BJOL.   I don’t want to create a balancing act.  

                Branch Rickey in the 1930s had found the sweet spot.   Minor league baseball teams in the 1930s could sometimes make a profit on their own—but when you offered to pay them a little bit of money on top of that, in order to get the right of first refusal on any young players they had control over, that was gravy to them.    Minor league operators jumped at the chance to get into bed with the St. Louis Cardinals.   Free money.  

                They were, of course, creating a balancing act for themselves, and within twenty years that balancing act would crash down around their ears, burying most of them in debt—but they didn’t know that at the time.    Free money.   The Cardinals could invest in long strings of minor league teams, keep the best players for themselves and sell off the surplus players to their competitors.   It was a sweet deal.  

                By 1940 the Cardinal farm system was ridiculously large and ridiculously productive.    If their second baseman got hurt, they had 40 minor league second basemen at their command.   Literally.   40 second basemen, and hundreds of pitchers.    They were a machine. 

                Once they fired Frankie Frisch, the machine started clicking on all cylinders.    Not putting down Billy Southworth, but. . .I’d like a chance to manage a team like this.    The Cardinal won-lost records, beginning in 1941, were 97-56, 106-48, 105-49, 105-49, 95-59, 98-58, 89-65, 85-69 and 96-58.    They won the World Series in 1942, 1944 and 1946.   

                After the 1942 season Branch Rickey, the greatest General Manager who ever lived, left the Cardinals to go to work for the Brooklyn Dodgers.    Gradually this shifted the balance of power in the National League from the Cardinals to the Dodgers.  

 

21.   Leaderboard

                Let’s update the leaderboard:

 

Rank

City

Team

Lg

First

Last

Points

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

New York

Yankees

AL

1920

1943

60

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

Chicago

Cubs

NL

1904

1912

25

8

St. Louis

Cardinals

NL

1941

1949

23

9

New York

Giants

NL

1904

1913

22

9

Philadelphia

Athletics

AL

1909

1914

22

9

Boston

Red Sox

AL

1912

1918

22

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

14

Pittsburgh

Pirates

NL

1900

1912

19

14

Philadelphia

Athletics

AL

1927

1932

19

16

 

 

 

 

 

 

17

St. Louis

Cardinals

NL

1926

1935

17

18

New York

Giants

NL

1921

1928

16

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

St. Louis

Browns

AA

1885

1889

13

24

New York

Giants

NL

1933

1937

13

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

32

Chicago

Cubs

NL

1880

1886

11

32

 

 

 

 

 

 

32

 

 

 

 

 

 

35

Boston

Braves

NL

1891

1893

10

35

 

 

 

 

 

 

35

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22.   Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers

1946-1966

28 Points, 6th All Time

Key Figures:   Walter O’Malley, Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Walt Alston, Sandy Koufax

 

                Here, again, we face one of the issues that troubled me for many years in thinking about dynasties:  whether to treat the Dodgers as one dynasty (1946-1966) or two (1946-1956 and 1959-1966).  

                It seems counter-intuitive to say that a string of teams perched half in New York and half   in LA is one continuous team, but that’s what my method says, anyway:  There is not enough of a breach between these two teams to regard them as two separate teams.   For a long time, I fought to find some reasonable basis to mark these down as two separate teams.

                But I think now that accepting that it is not two separate teams is really the key to understanding what this story is about.    What makes this story unique is that The Dodgers were transplanted while they were smack in the middle of one of baseball’s all-time great dynastic runs.    That’s exactly why it is such a big deal.   Many other teams have moved—when they were struggling.    Other teams have moved when they were down and out, trying to find a way to start over someplace else.    The Dodgers moved while they were, in terms of their performance on the field, on top of the world.  

                Look. ..it’s the same people.   Koufax and Drysdale and Johnny Podres were on the ’56 team in Brooklyn; they were on the ’63 team in LA.   Walt Alston managed the ’55 team in Brooklyn; he managed the ’66 team in Los Angeles.  O’Malley was there the whole time, Jr. Gilliam was there on both ends, Vin Scully was there on both ends (and is still there now),   Duke Snider and Gil Hodges played on the 1959 World Championship team—in Los Angeles.   Maury Wills was in the organization before they moved.   Tommy Davis was a Brooklyn native who signed with his hometown team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, after receiving a personal phone call from Jackie Robinson.  

                It would not be accurate to say that Branch Rickey was a people person.   He wasn’t.   He was an idea person.    People mostly didn’t take too well to him.

                But part of what made Rickey effective was that he did have very good instincts about people.  A year or so after he moved to Brooklyn, Rickey was looking for a minor league manager.   He remembered this minor league first baseman he had had with the Cardinals, Walter Alston.   Something about Walter he always liked.   He thought he would offer Walter a chance to manage in the minor leagues.  

                Rickey was able to judge, about a young player, whether he would quit when the going got tough, or whether he would fight his way through it.    The sweet spot that he had exploited so brilliantly in St. Louis had caved in, but Rickey was able to do essentially the same thing with the Negro Leagues, buying out their best talent before the other teams got on top of it.    He also did that for legitimate reasons of conscience:   He was opposed to segregation.    He figured out how to make it work for him.

                Since we haven’t done this for a while, let’s review the accounting to see why the Dodgers are credited with 28 points from 1946 to 1966.

                The Dodgers won 96 games in 1946; that’s one point.

                They won the National League in 1947; that’s 3 points, which makes their running total four. 

                In 1948 they had an unproductive season; that costs them two points, which makes their running total two.

                In 1949 they won the National League, which is worth 3 points, which brings the running total to 5.  

                In 1950—losing the pennant in the final weekend—they had an unproductive season, which knocks their running total back to 3.

                In 1951, although they blew the huge lead, the Dodgers won 97 games, which has a value of one point, which brings their running total to 4.

                In 1952 they won the National League, which gives them 3 points, which brings their total up to 7.    Through 1952, then, the Dodgers had been the class of the National League for seven seasons, but they had not yet qualified as a dynasty.

                In 1953 the Dodgers—the Boys of Summer—won the National League and won 105 games, which is worth four points, which gives them a running total of 11.   They’re now officially a dynasty.

                In 1954 they won 92 games, which is one point, which makes the running total 12.

                In 1955 they won the World Series, which is worth 5 points, which makes the running total 17.

                In 1956 they won the National League again, which is worth 3 points, which makes the running total 20.  

                In 1957—their last year in Brooklyn—the Dodgers had an unproductive season, which costs them 2 points, running total 18.

                In 1958, their first year in Los Angeles, they had a worse year, winning only 71 games and finishing in7th place.   That’s a negative 3, and that knocks the running total down to 15 points.

                The running total is now 15 points, but dynasties don’t end because the running total goes to zero.    Dynasties end because teams have three straight unproductive seasons.   If the Dodgers had not had a productive season in 1959, their dynasty would have been over, and would have ended in Brooklyn.

                The 1959 Dodgers won the World Series.   5 points.   Their running total is back to 20.

                The 1960 Dodgers won only 82 games, knocking them back two points to 18.

                The 1961 Dodgers won 89 games, just missing by one of having what we would consider a productive season, but knocking them back to 16, and placing the team once more in a position to have the dynasty declared dead if they didn’t produce in 1962.

                The 1962 Dodgers opened up a big lead in July, collapsed in September and lost in a playoff to the Giants, but they still won 102 games.  That’s two points, and that restores the running total to 18.

                The 1963 Dodgers won 99 games and the World Series, so that’s 5 points, and that puts them at 23.  

                The 1964 Dodgers finished under .500,which knocks them down 3 points, and puts them at 20.

                The 1965 Dodgers won the World Series.   That’s 5 points, and that puts them back at 25.

                The 1966 Dodgers won 95 games and won the National League, although they lost the World Series, so that’s three more points; that’s 28.

                The 1967, 1968 and 1969 Dodgers all had unproductive seasons, so that marks the end of the dynasty, which ends in 1966.   The high-water mark for that dynasty is a running total of 28, so we score them at 28 points.   The sixth-greatest dynasty in major league history. 

 

23.  The New York Yankees

1947-1964

68 points.   The Greatest Dynasty of All Time.

Key Figures:  Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris

                In terms of personnel, the 1947-1964 Yankees are no match for the Ruth and Gehrig Yankees.  The Ruth/Gehrig Yankees have a Hall of Fame catcher (Dickey), one of the greatest first basemen ever (Gehrig), two Hall of Fame second basemen (Lazzeri and Gordon), a Hall of Fame shortstop (Rizzuto), at least three Hall of Fame outfielders (Ruth, DiMaggio, and Earle Combs), and at least four Hall of Fame pitchers (Gomez, Ruffing, Pennock and Waite Hoyt.)   All the 1947-1964 Yankees have is Mantle, Berra, Ford, and the second half of Phil Rizzuto’s career.  

                But in terms of dominance on the field, the 1947-1964 team accomplished more in 18 years than the 1920-1943 team did in 24.    Ruth and Gehrig were in the Yankee lineup together for ten years, and won four pennants.    Mantle and Berra were in the Yankee lineup together for eleven years, and won nine pennants.    They dominated their league—and the other league—to a greater extent than any other team ever has.

 

 

24.  Cleveland Indians, 1948-1955

12 points, 30th All Time

Key Figures:  Bob Lemon, Bob Feller, Larry Doby, Al Rosen, Early Wynn

                Here again, it may seem counter-intuitive to designate the Indians a "dynasty" while the Yankees are winning the pennant almost every year.   Don’t get hung up on the language; they did what they did.   They won the World Series in 1948, won 90+ games in 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953 and 1955, and won 111 games (and the American League) in 1954.    The only season they didn’t win 90 games (1949), they won 89.

                The Indians, put together by Bill Veeck, were the Brooklyn Dodgers of the American League, the team that was ahead of the curve on the issue of race.   The only real difference between the Indians and the Dodgers, 1948-1955, was that the Indians had the Yankees in their league, rather than waiting for them at the end of the road.

 

25.   The Milwaukee Braves, 1956-1961

9 points, failed to achieve the status of a dynasty

Key Figures:   Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, Lew Burdette, Del Crandall, several absolutely horrible managers.

                No team in history ever wasted a greater opportunity than the Milwaukee Braves.    They had talent coming out of their ears…Bob Buhl, Joe Adcock, Johnny Logan, Bill Bruton, Wes Covington.  

                On July 26, 1956, the Braves were 5 and a half games in first place in the National League.     They lost that pennant race by one game; that came out as a one-point season.

                In 1957 they won the World Series, 5 points, giving them 6.

                In 1958 they won the National League, 3 points, giving them 9.   One point away from being on our list.

                In 1959, with two 21-game winners and the two best hitters in the National League (Aaron and Mathews), they finished in a tie with the Dodgers at 86-68, lost the playoff, and had a wasted season.   -2 points, running total, 7.   There has never in the history of baseball been a team that good beaten in a pennant race by a team as weak as the 1959 Dodgers.

                In 1960 they won 88 games, finished second once again; -2, running total 5.   They finished second to the Pirates.   They should have beaten the Pirates by ten games.   

                After the 1960 season they traded Joey Jay and Juan Pizarro to the Cincinnati Reds for a 30-year-old shortstop with a career OPS (at the time of the trade) of .652.     (His end-of-career OPS was .635.)   Jay went 21-10 for the Reds; Pizarro, flipped to the White Sox, went 14-7.   The Braves won 83 games, their third straight unproductive season, ending their dynastic ambitions.  

                After that the Braves started talking about moving to Atlanta, and got into a feud with their fans.    From 1953 to 1958 the Braves had drawn an average of more than two millions fans a season, the best attendance in baseball.   In 1965 they drew 556,000.

 

26.  St. Louis Cardinals, 1963-1968

10 points, tied for 36th All Time

 

Key Figures;  Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Curt Flood, Orlando Cepeda

                The Yankees and Dodgers stayed on top of their leagues for so long, from the late 1940s into the 1960s, that there was limited space for any other dynasties to emerge.   The Braves obviously should have had a dynasty, but blew it.  

                The Giants of the 1960s are almost the same; they had a hell of a lot of talent there, and didn’t do much with it.   It left an opening.

                The 1963-1968 Cardinals barely qualify for our list.   This doesn’t seem right; it seems like they were a greater team than that, with Bill White and Kenny Boyer and some other good players.  

                As we score them:   The Cardinals in 1963 lost a thrilling pennant chase to the Dodgers, but won 93 games; that’s 1 point.   In 1964 they vaulted from fourth place to the pennant in the last two weeks, and won the World Series.   That’s 5 points, running total of 6.

                In 1965, however, the Cardinals were under .500, and in 1966 they were barely over .500.   That knocks them back to a running total of 1.

                In 1967 they won 101 games and the World Series, a 6-point season that gives them a running total of 7.   In 1968 they won the National League, which puts them at ten, which qualifies them for our list. 

                In 1969 they finished fourth, and broke up their team post-season with a bunch of trades that nobody understands to this day.    The Cardinals of the 1960s were Gods of my childhood, larger-than-life heroes.    I can still recall 700 things that happened to the Cardinals in those years. ..Dick Nen’s home run, and Brock being called out at the plate in the ’68 series, and the no-hitter exchange with the Giants in September of ’68, and Gibson pitching all those shutouts, and Larry Jaster shutting out the Dodgers five times in 1966 (he threw 7 shutouts in his major league career, 5 of them against the Dodgers in one season.)     I remember a game in which the Cardinals had a big lead (or the Braves did, not certain which), and it was threatening to rain in the top of the fifth inning.   The team that was six or eight runs ahead started trying to run into an out on the basepaths, trying to make it an official game before it was stopped by rain, so the other team started deliberately refusing to record the out.    

                They were larger than life, but the facts are the facts.   As dynasties go, they were small potatoes.  

 

27.  Baltimore Orioles

1964-1983

32 Points, 5th Place All Time

Key Figures;   Earl Weaver, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken

 

                The difference between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Baltimore Orioles is the difference between a team that was great for five years and a team that was great for twenty years.  

                Paul Richards took over as manager of the Chicago White Sox in 1951.   The White Sox hadn’t finished over .500 in almost ten years, and hadn’t been in contention for 30 years.    Richards guided them forward with remarkable consistency:   81-73 in 1951, 81-73 again in 1952, 89-65 in 1953, and 91-54 at the time that he resigned from that position with a week left in the 1954 season. 

                He resigned to take over as manager of the Baltimore Orioles.   Compared to the Orioles, the White Sox’ history was luminous.   The Baltimore Orioles began life as the St. Louis Browns, a down-at-the-heels franchise chased out of St. Louis by the Cardinals’ success.   They had gone 54-100 in 1953 in St. Louis, and 54-100 in 1954 in Baltimore.    They had been losing 100 games more often than not for the better part of 30 years. 

                Richards delivered the same sort of steady progress in Baltimore he had shown in Chicago, guiding the team to records of 57-97, 69-85, 76-76, 74-79, 74-80, 89-65, and 95-67.     By the time Richards left Baltimore for Houston in late 1961, the Orioles had become one of the better teams in the American League.

                We don’t credit all of this to Richards.   The Orioles in the late 1950s were a forward-looking organization that invested in the farm system.   The organization came up with Brooks Robinson and, a few years later, Boog Powell.    Still, the 1964 Orioles were mostly built out of retreads and second-chance players.    The Orioles signed Hoyt Wilhelm off the scrap heap in 1958, and were able to package him with some minor leaguers and injured guys in 1962 for Luis Aparicio.    They acquired Jim Gentile in 1959 as a minor leaguer, for a player to be named later; he drove in 141 runs in 1961.  The regulars on the ’64 Orioles included players who had been given up on by other teams, like Jackie Brandt and Stu Miller, and the 37-year-old Robin Roberts, who had been released by the Phillies and then by the Yankees, but who was able to win for the Orioles.   

                For almost 20 years after that, the Orioles were consistently able to find and acquire under-valued players like Mike Cuellar, Don Buford, and Rick Dempsey.   Putting these guys together with a handful of home-grown solid players like Paul Blair, Davey Johnson and Mark Belanger and an un-ending string of crafty left-handed pitchers, the Orioles were able to stay in contention until the mid-1980s.    Of course, getting Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas didn’t hurt, and when the expansion teams passed on Jim Palmer, that was a wee bit of a break, but the fact is, they did it.   They won the World Series in 1966, 1970 and 1983, and were in the World Series in 1969, 1971 and 1979.     Pitching, defense, and three-run homers. 

 

28.   Leaderboard

                We’ve done five more teams; let’s update the chart:

Rank

City

Team

Lg

First

Last

Points

1

New York

Yankees

AL

1947

1964

68

2

New York

Yankees

AL

1920

1943

60

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

Baltimore

Orioles

AL

1964

1973

32

6

Bkn/LA

Dodgers

NL

1946

1966

28

7

Chicago

Cubs

NL

1904

1912

25

8

St. Louis

Cardinals

NL

1941

1949

23

9

New York

Giants

NL

1904

1913

22

9

Philadelphia

Athletics

AL

1909

1914

22

9

Boston

Red Sox

AL

1912

1918

22

12

 

 

 

 

 

20

12

 

 

 

 

 

20

14

Pittsburgh

Pirates

NL

1900

1912

19

14

Philadelphia

Athletics

AL

1927

1932

19

16

 

 

 

 

 

18

17

St. Louis

Cardinals

NL

1926

1935

17

18

New York

Giants

NL

1921

1928

16

18

 

 

 

 

 

16

18

 

 

 

 

 

16

21

 

 

 

 

 

15

21

 

 

 

 

 

15

21

 

 

 

 

 

15

24

St. Louis

Browns

AA

1885

1889

13

24

New York

Giants

NL

1933

1937

13

24

 

 

 

 

 

13

24

 

 

 

 

 

13

24

 

 

 

 

 

13

24

 

 

 

 

 

13

30

Cleveland

Indians

AL

1948

1955

12

30

 

 

 

 

 

12

32

Chicago

Cubs

NL

1880

1886

11

32

 

 

 

 

 

11

32

 

 

 

 

 

11

35

Boston

Braves

NL

1891

1893

10

35

St. Louis

Cardinals

NL

1963

1968

10

35

 

 

 

 

 

10

 

 

 

29.   Cincinnati Reds, 1970-1979

(The Big Red Machine)

20 Points, tied for 12th All Time

 

Key Figures:   Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose, Sparky Anderson, Tony Perez

               

                You probably know the story of this team as well as I do.

 

 

 

30.   Pittsburgh Pirates, 1970-1979

(The Family)

16 Points, tied for 18th All Time.  

Key Figures:  Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Roberto Clemente, Al Oliver

                If you’re going to have a famous dynasty with a lot of success in post-season play, my recommendation would be that you try not to do in the same league in the exact same years as the Big Red Machine.

                In terms of colorful players and colorful events, the 1970s Pirates may be the all-time champions.   There are so many things people remember about them—Steve Blass, and Doc Ellis, Roberto’s death, the hats that were adopted by some street gang, the "We-are-Fam-a-lee" blaring during the 1979 World Series.

                Manny Sanguillen hitting line drives on balls a foot out of the strike zone.

                Ed Ott slamming Felix Millan to the turf.

                Rennie Stennett going 7-for-7. 

                Omar Moreno stealing bases.

                It was a good time to be young. 

 

31.   Oakland A’s, 1971-1975

(The Moustache Brigade)

20 Points, Tied for 12th

Key Figures:   Charley Finley, Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Reggie Jackson, Bert Campaneris

                The A’s were only good for five years, but they were really good for five years. 

 

 

32.   Los Angeles Dodgers, 1973-1991

13 points, Tied for 24th All Time

Key Figures:  Tommy Lasorda, Steve Garvey, Fernando Valenzuela

                Lasorda’s Dodgers were the opposite of Finley’s A’s; they were never exactly dominant, but they were pretty good for a very long time.  

                The way I defined the borders of a team—when they become a dynasty and when they are no longer a dynasty—those rules work to my satisfaction 95% of the time.    Those rules, however, make it possible for a team to hang around, the dynasty never exactly being over and done with, for a very long time.   A dynasty is not done until a team zeroes out or has three consecutive unproductive seasons.   That means that as long as a team wins 90 games once every three years, they’re still "alive" as a dynasty.  

                It’s possible, but it never happens—until now.   Then, in the 1980s, it happens twice at the same time, once in each league. 

                In 1981, after they won the World Series, the Dodgers’ dynastic running score was 13 points.   That was the team that kept their infield together an impossibly long time.   I forget the details or never knew them, but I think those four infielders (Garvey, Lopes, Cey and Russell) played something like three times as many games together, as a unit, as any other infield in baseball history.  

                The Dodgers were consistently good in the 1970s, winning 102 games in 1974, playing in the World Series in 1974, 1977, 1978, 1981.   After 1981 the team sputtered on like an old Ford tractor engine that would run for 30 seconds after you turned off the switch.     The Dodgers won 91 games and their division in 1983, won the division again in 1985, won the World Championship in 1988, won 93 games in 1991—but they were under .500 in 1984, 1986, 1987 and 1989.  

                The way this system works, those "up" years keep the "dynasty" tag attached to the team—but do NOT improve the status or stature of the dynasty unless they outweigh the negative years that are mixed in.   The Dodger dynasty would rate exactly the same as it does, in my system, had they come crashing to a conclusion after the 1981 World Championship.    The tag-along seasons expand the size of the dynasty, but not the scale of their accomplishments.    We can’t give a dynasty extra credit for being good every other year.  

 

33.   Kansas City Royals, 1975-1985

15 Points, Tied for 21st All Time

Key Figures:   George Brett, Frank White, Willie Wilson, Dan Quisenberry, Whitey Herzog

                One of the things that drives me through life is that I never trust my own perceptions, my own judgments.    I see other people around me, people who trust their judgments absolutely, people who will argue for their gut instincts when I know for certain that they’re dead wrong.    My philosophy is based on the belief that our perceptions of the world around us cannot be trusted—meaning that mine cannot, either.

                I want to know:   How good was this team, really?    I rooted for this team, I lived and died with them, I went to many, many of their games and I believe in them—but how good were they really?   I don’t trust my instincts; I have to have some rational standard to compare them to other contenders.   How many teams like this are there in baseball history?   How many teams are there that have done more?    A hundred?  A dozen?

                Twenty, as it turns out.    They’re not the greatest team ever, but the 1975-1985 Royals won:

                A hundred games once (1977),

                90 or more games seven times (1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982 and 1985),

                One World Championship (1985),

                Two League Championships (1980 and 1985),

                Six Division Championships (1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1984, 1985)

                And were in post-season play one other season (1981). 

                They accomplished a little bit more than Mike Schmidt’s Phillies (13 points), but not quite as much as Willie Stargell’s Pirates (16 points).   They’re in the same ballpark with those teams.   They’d like to get back to that ballpark again some day.  

 

34.  New York Yankees, 1976-1986

18 Points, 16th All Time

(The Third Yankee Dynasty)

Key Figures:   George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Ron Guidry

                The Yankees are the other "sputter along" team of the 1980s.    The Third Yankee Dynasty began with a 97-win season in 1976, and the team had accomplished as much as they were going to accomplish by 1981, scoring at 18 points at that time.   But after 1981, although the team never did anything to enhance their stature, the "active dynasty" tag stays with them because they won 90+ games in 1983, 1985 and 1986.  

                The 1980s are weird.  There is an era there where there really aren’t any great pitchers, so the best pitchers are still guys like Jim Palmer and Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan, who are left over from the 1970s and not the pitchers they once were, but still better than anybody else who has come along.    The same with teams.   Whereas the 1970s have two dominant teams in every division, the 1980s have really no dominant teams for most of the decade.   

                The Yankees were a fantastic team. . .. Graig Nettles and Willie Randolph are among the most underrated players of all time.     Mickey Rivers, Chambliss, Catfish, Sparky Lyle, Munson.   Great team.  

 

 

35.   Philadelphia Phillies, 1976-1983

13 Points, Tied for 24th All Time

Key Figures:  Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Larry Bowa, Garry Maddox, Greg Luzinski

                The Phillies and Royals rank below the Pirates and Yankees of the 1970s because the Pirates and Yankees won two World Championships apiece and the Phillies and Royals won one each.   The four teams all moved on kind of parallel tracks. 

 

36.   Leaderboard

 

                We’ve added seven teams since the last update:

 

Rank

City

Team

Lg

First

Last

Points

1

New York

Yankees

AL

1947

1964

68

2

New York

Yankees

AL

1920

1943

60

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

Baltimore

Orioles

AL

1964

1973

32

6

Bkn/LA

Dodgers

NL

1946

1966

28

7

Chicago

Cubs

NL

1904

1912

25

8

St. Louis

Cardinals

NL

1941

1949

23

9

New York

Giants

NL

1904

1913

22

9

Philadelphia

Athletics

AL

1909

1914

22

9

Boston

Red Sox

AL

1912

1918

22

12

Cincinnati

Reds

NL

1970

1979

20

12

Oakland

A's

AL

1971

1975

20

14

Pittsburgh

Pirates

NL

1900

1912

19

14

Philadelphia

Athletics

AL

1927

1932

19

16

New York

Yankees

AL

1976

1986

18

17

St. Louis

Cardinals

NL

1926

1935

17

18

New York

Giants

NL

1921

1928

16

18

Pittsburgh

Pirates

NL

1970

1979

16

18

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

Kansas City

Royals

AL

1975

1985

15

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

St. Louis

Browns

AA

1885

1889

13

24

New York

Giants

NL

1933

1937

13

24

Los Angeles

Dodgers

NL

1973

1991

13

24

Philadelphia

Phillies

NL

1976

1983

13

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

 

 

30

Cleveland

Indians

AL

1948

1955

12

30

 

 

 

 

 

 

32

Chicago

Cubs

NL

1880

1886

11

32