In 1968, the New York Yankees won 83 games and lost 79, which is a .512 winning percentage. They finished in fifth place, 20 games behind the first place Detroit Tigers and 17 ½ game ahead of the 10th place Washington Senators.
The 1968 Yankees were considered a mediocre team, which was an accurate assessment. They had won only 72 games in 1967 and followed their 83 wins in 1967 with 80 in 1969.
Expansion occurred in 1969. Each league was broken into a pair of six-team divisions. To win the division and get into the best-of-five playoff series, a team had to finish ahead of five teams.
Following the 1993 season, each league consisted of three divisions. The division winners and one wild card would meet in the playoffs, which had expanded to a best-of-five series followed by a best-of -seven series to determine the pennant winner.
What is the point of the above? Well, I am a “sneaky” Yankees fan that claims that not all world championships are equal.
Don’t get me wrong. Each of the Yankees world championships is equally “sacred,” but when the Yankees won the World Series in 1923,1927, 1928, 1932, 1936-38, 1941, 1943, 1947, 1949-53, 1956, 1958 and 1961-62, they had the league’s best record. Only in 1943, 1952, 1953, 1955 and 1962 did they beat a team in the World Series that had a better record.
Divisional play has put excellence in jeopardy. No, it has virtually eliminated it.
The 1973 Mets were 82-79 and they came within a game of winning the World Series. The 1987 Minnesota Twins won 87 games and they were world champions as were the 87-win 2000 Yankees.
In 2001, the Seattle Mariners won 116 games. The Mariners didn't make it through the playoffs and the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that won 92 games, won the World Series. Now that there are two wild cards for each league, there will be a greater chance that a team like the 2006 Cardinals or the 1968 Yankees will win the World Series.
One disclaimer to the position that the Yankees first 20 world championships were worth more than those that followed.
To most Yankees fans, no World Series win is worth more than the one in 2000. The Yankees team with only 87 wins won the World Series they couldn’t afford to lose