Top 25 World Series Winners over the Past 26 Seasons
It is the reason why they play the game, it is the ultimate goal: to win the World Series, get the ring, and hold the trophy. There have been 105 teams that declared themselves champions, not by a poll of writers voting them champions, but by beating every challenger on the diamond.
Many times teams were invincible, like the 1927 Yankees, who dominated the American League season, winning the league by a then-record 19 games. They put on a hitting display in batting practice before Game One and completely intimidated the Pittsburgh Pirates before dismantling them four games to none.
All teams since then have tried to live up to that Murderer's Row. The dynasty of the Yankees from 1936-1941 included some of the best teams ever, ushering in the brilliant Joe DiMaggio but also waving goodbye to their fallen hero, Lou Gehrig.
After a brief respite, the Yankee dynasty took hold again, winning five consecutive World Series titles from 1949-1953. The Yankees also won several titles in the 1960's before they crumbled for a dozen years, only to be resurrected in the late 1990's by Joe Torre, a former New York Giant fan who grew up in Brooklyn.
Go figure that one out!
The Oakland A's won three straight titles from 1972-1974, proving that the players did not have to all get along in order to achieve greatness.
How can a team achieve greatness? Great pitching, timely hitting, and key players who can take over a game or an entire series. Most of all staying healthy, although the 1973 A's still won the World Series without their MVP Reggie Jackson.
This list is a ranking of the top 25 World Series teams over the last 26 years, as the 1994 World Series was canceled. (If it was played it would have been the New York Yankees vs. the Montreal Expos.)
That worked out perfectly as one of my favorite teams, the 1984 Detroit Tigers, was now eligible.
The teams were ranked based upon domination during the regular season, ease of which they moved through the post season, and dominant players involved.
#25 1997 Florida Marlins
Nothing special except that Jim Leyland was hired as manager before the season to mold together a bunch of other teams' castoffs.
Leyland did a great job. He was one of the best managers in the game at that time and still is one of the best even today.
Not a single .300 hitter, no 30-plus home runs hitters, and only one decent pitcher in Kevin Brown.
They might not have even gotten to the World Series if Eric Gregg did not give Livan Hernandez a 24-inch strike zone in Game Five of the NLCS against Atlanta.
A good team, not anywhere near great, but they did win the 1997 World Series.
Because of Jim Leyland.
#24 2006 St. Louis Cardinals
Not only did they have the worst regular season record of any World Series winner in the last 25 years, but it took a late inning Game Seven home run by Yadier Molina to squeak by the New York Mets in the NLCS.
They were not the best team in the World Series that year (Detroit was), but the Cardinals took advantage of Detroit's fielding miscues, and used their starting pitching (not one impact guy from the St. Louis system on their staff) to hold off the mighty Tigers lineup.
They had one good bat in Albert Pujols, but like the 1997 Marlins, they had a manager in Tony LaRussa who knew how to push the right buttons.
Ironically, the manager of the losing team, Jim Leyland, was the same manager of those 1997 Marlins.
#23 1985 Kansas City Royals
This is a team which barely won its division by one game over the California Angels, barely upset a heavily favored Toronto Blue Jays team in a tightly contested seven game ALCS, and used a controversial umpire call in their favor to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in a seven game World Series.
All that said, they had really good pitching in 21-year-old Bret Saberhagen, 22-year-old Mark Gubicza, 23-year-old Danny Jackson, and the veteran at 28, Charlie Leibrandt.
The only key member of the pitching staff over 30 was closer Dan Quisenberry, who was dominant and virtually unhittable that season.
So manager Dick Howser used that young staff, and one hitter in George Brett, to win the 1985 World Series. Their overall hitting was at the bottom of the league, but their young pitching was at the top.
Three teams so far with no hitting, but good pitching. Notice this trend?
You will see it again.
#22 - 1987 Minnesota Twins
One of my favorite teams as one of my favorite players, Kent Hrbek, finally came through against St. Louis Cardinals left handed reliever Ken Dayley.
Bases loaded with the lefty Dayley facing Herbie, Twins up by one, 6-5. Dayley had frustrated Hrbek most of the series, but this was the biggest moment yet.
One grand slam later and the Twins used their home field advantage to help win that Game Six and also Game Seven.
But while this team was fun to watch and root for, they had a mediocre 85-77 regular season record, did not have great pitching, but they did have power.
It was a different way of winning a World Series title.
It was a fun team, but they really weren't THAT good.
#21 - 2000 New York Yankees
The first subway series in 45 years pitted the New York Mets, who had a much better regular season record, against the New York Yankees, a team which was mired in a deep late-season slump.
It was apparent the World Series experience the Yankees had helped them as the Mets made various mistakes, none bigger than Timo Perez's lack of hustle in Game One on Todd Ziele's sixth inning double.
The Yankees won that Game One, their 13th straight World Series win, before losing Game Two.
This Yankee team did not have that same feel as the others which won titles during their great 1996-2000 run.
They were middle of the pack in most hitting and pitching statistics, and did not have that dominant feel.
Luckily they had Derek Jeter.
#20 - 2003 Florida Marlins
Yes, both Florida World Series teams are near the bottom of the rankings.
They just weren't that good compared to other World Series teams, but were good enough to win THAT season.
Similar to other winners, they rode the arm of a young stud, Josh Beckett, who had his coming out party. But, they were also extremely lucky that the Chicago Cubs had a meltdown in the NLCS, or the Marlins would not have gotten the opportunity.
Two key moves by upper management gave the Marlins an chance. First, they signed Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez as their starting catcher to work with the young pitching staff.
Second, they fired Jeff Torborg early in the season, and hired elder statesman "Trader Jack" McKeon as manager. What McKeon did was let his players play and his pitchers pitch.
And the players did the job.
#19 - 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers
This team was primarily about one pitcher, Orel Hershiser, and one big at-bat, Kirk Gibson's ninth inning home run off Dennis Eckersley in Game One of the series.
Hershiser was on the greatest pitching roll since Steve Carlton in 1972, and single-handedly beat the New York Mets in the NLCS.
And the single best World Series moment might have been Gibson's home run.
The best scouting story is that Kirk Gibson would later say that prior to the series, Dodger scout Mel Didier had provided a report on Dennis Eckersley that claimed with a 3–2 count against a left-handed power hitter, one could be absolutely certain that Eckersley would throw a backdoor slider.
Gibson said that when the count reached 3–2, he stepped out of the batter's box and, in his mind, could hear Didier's voice, with its distinctive Southern drawl, reiterating that same piece of advice.
Gibson did get that 3-2 backdoor slider and deposited that pitch into baseball lore.
Both the man and the moment were exciting, and everybody was rooting for the Dodgers, but the two events get them this high and no higher.
#18 - 1990 Cincinnati Reds
They were OK, not great, but pulled off the biggest upset in the World Series since...well, two years earlier when the Dodgers beat these same Oakland A's.
Although they led the league in batting average and slugging, the lineup was weak.
And in the pitching rich game of baseball, none of their starting pitchers were great.
But they had the "Nasty Boys," a triumvirate bullpen force of Randy Myers, Rob Dibble, and Norm Charlton. They were reminiscent of the great Red bullpens of the mid-1970s.
Those three guys and a hot Joe Rijo were good enough to win a World Series over a much superior team in Oakland,.
#17 - 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks
The recipe for success against a perennial World Series Champion?
Two dominant pitchers, a single great player among a bunch of good ones, and then letting these guys play ball.
Since it was only the fourth season for the expansion Diamondbacks franchise, there were no homegrown players making big contributions, but the veteran players which were brought together did perform well.
And it was a veteran team, with every starting position player over 30 years of age and a veteran starting pitching staff,led by the dynamic duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.
Both pitched 250 regular season innings, won at least 21 games and had a sub-3.00 ERA. Can someone say Spahn and Sain and pray for rain?
The offense had 10 different players with double-digit home runs, and had a great season from Luis Gonzalez.
But while they had a good season, winning 92 games, they struggled in the postseason, taking a tough five game series in the NLDS, and were two outs away from losing the World Series before the Yankees' mystique imploded.
#16 - 1996 New York Yankees
The team that won America's heart, with the run of Joe Torre's Yankees and the news of Torre's brother, Frank, who was waiting for and received a new heart during the Series.
The Yankees had tons of veteran talent both in the lineup and on the bench, and good (but not great) starting pitching.
But while they hit for average, they did not have power, and while the bullpen was great, the only reliable starter was Andy Pettitte.
And luck was a big factor here, from Derek Jeter's HR in the ALCS that was helped by Jeffrey Maier, to Jermaine Dye running into umpire Tim Welke while chasing a foul ball hit by Jeter in the sixth inning of Game Five.
Jeter would eventually single, and the next four guys would get on base, leading to three runs.
The stars were aligned for this team, and they took advantage.
A solid team, but easily the worst of the Yankees late-1990's run.
#15 - 1993 Toronto Blue Jays
A veteran team of players culled from all over baseball.
They had Joe Carter, Robbie Alomar, John Olerud, and Paul Molitor, who all had great seasons. Their pitching was good, with a young Juan Guzman and Pat Hentgen, plus a solid veteran in Dave Stewart.
Though one of the highlights was Joe Carter World Series home run, it wasn't a great series overall and the Blue Jays won a mediocre division and American League.
Ho-hum, but they did win 95 games.
#14 - 1992 Toronto Blue Jays
This was the first of two star-studded lineups for the back-to-back World Series Champion Toronto Blue Jays.
With guys like Dave Winfield, Joe Carter, John Olerud, and Robbie Alomar, this team had the making of a great squad.
They also had the dominant ace in Jack Morris, who took his services north of the border after his great 1991 World Series performance.
But it was Winfield who finally was given an opportunity at redemption and doubled in the go-ahead run in Game Six against Atlanta.
Mr. May finally delivered.
A good, but not great team with star power, and won—what I consider—a weak American League that season.
#13 - 2008 Philadelphia Phillies
The prototypical American League team which resides in the Senior Circuit.
They had power with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jayson Werth, and Pat Burrell, plus speedy table setters (who also had power) with Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino.
Throw in a dominant postseason starter in Cole Hamels, who was MVP of the NLCS and World Series, and it has the mark of a quality World Series winning team.
They beat the American League, in the World Series, at their own power game.
#12 - 2002 Anaheim Angels
A team which, after winning the AL Wild Card and running away with the ALDS and ALCS, needed a huge Game Six comeback to win the World Series the next day in Game Seven.
This team was steady throughout the season, with a consistent lineup, sturdy pitching, and a very good bullpen.
They relied on two rookie pitchers to win the Series, Game Seven starter John Lackey and key set up man Frankie Rodriguez, who won five postseason games after only having five major league innings under his belt.
#11 - 2004 Boston Red Sox
A team which captured the hearts of aged Red Sox fans everywhere.
I believe this team was great, actually better than the 2007 team, but the fact they were almost out of the ALCS before they had that great comeback against the Yankees cost them some spots.
This team had a great 1-2 top of the rotation in Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez, plus one of the most dominant 3-4 hitter combos in history with David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, each of whom had over 40 homers and 130 RBI.
With the top of the rotation and 3-4 sluggers, this 2004 team is not ranked higher than the 2007 team.
#10 - 2007 Boston Red Sox
A team which had it all, power pitching and power hitting. A great bullpen and a deep lineup which got on base, and had players who drove those base runners home.
With 99 regular season wins, and clean sweeps in the ALDS and World Series, they became part of the American League syndrome of having a tougher Championship Series than a World Series.
That showed just how dominant the last ten or so American League championship clubs have been.
Not only did they win the World Series, but if was the first time the Red Sox won their division in 13 years. That might have been a tougher task than getting another ring.
Even though the 2004 Red Sox team was more dominant, this 2007 team was more consistent, and even with a younger Schilling and Pedro in 2004, the 2007 team had better overall pitching, leading the league in ERA.
#9 - 2005 Chicago White Sox
This team won 99 regular season games, had power with Jermaine Dye (31 homers), Paul Konerko (40 homers), and seven other players who had double digit homers.
The pitching staff was strong and durable, with the top four starters not missing a start.
And during the postseason, this team was 11-1, with all four starters throwing a complete game in the ALCS against the Angels.
They had pitching, power, and dominated each of the postseason series they appeared in. They also had good, colorful manager.
It is a shame I could not place them higher.
#8 - 1991 Minnesota Twins
I am a huge Minnesota Twins fan, except when they play the Yankees, and I really wanted to put their two World Series teams higher.
But I needed to separate great World Series moments, great World Series games, and great World Series with actual great teams.
This team had all of the above.
This Twins team deserved to be in the Top 10, but since there were too many teams which were equally good, dominating, and special, they aren't ranked higher.
This team won the most games in the American League, had the best team ERA, and were first and second in batting average, OBP, slugging, and OPS.
They were really good and won a great World Series.
The 1991 World Series was one of the greatest of all time, with defining moments (Puckett's catch and HR) and games such as Jack Morris' epic 10 inning masterpiece.
The best teams win those types of games and Series.
#7 - 1995 Atlanta Braves
Of all the great Atlanta Braves teams from the 1990's, this 1995 team might not have been the best, but it was the team that won the World Series.
Pitching once again beat great hitting, as the Braves rotation of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Steve Avery dominated the powerful Cleveland Indians lineup.
They dominated the postseason, crushing Colorado and Cincinnati, and beating a very, very good Indians team.
This team had a balanced lineup and superior pitching, with three Hall of Famers in one World Series rotation—that doesn't happen very often.
#6 - 2009 New York Yankees
Three new big-money free agents in CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and MC (Mark Charles) Teixeira seriously improved a Yankee teams which missed the playoffs in 2008.
Those three newcomers, in addition to Nick Swisher (acquired via trade), helped build a better clubhouse, teaming with the standard bearers of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera to form a very solid, very large nucleus.
The 2009 Yankees won 103 games, winning their division by eight games, and went 11-4 in three postseason series. They beat the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
This Yankee squad is rated this high due to them winning that many games while competing with two other good teams within their division, great starting pitching, and a power-laden, high OBP, no breather lineup.
One thing that separates them from other recent winners is the decision to go with a three man starting staff and sticking with that game plan.
This team probably would beat many teams listed above them, but they were not as good or exciting during that particular season.
#5 - 1999 New York Yankees
A regular season record of 98-64 coming on the heels of their record setting 1998 season. Then a sweep of Texas in the ALDS, a 4-1 game trouncing of Boston in the ALCS and their second straight World Series sweep.
At this point, the Derek Jeter-led Yankees had won 12 consecutive World Series games.
Guess who had the highest OPS on this team? Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez? Wrong. It was Jeter with his career year of .349/.438/.552/.990 OPS with 219 hits, 24 HR's, 102 RBI and 134 runs scored.
It was a career season for the future Captain, but he only finished 7th in the MVP voting?
It was also the first season of the Rocket landing in New York, with Roger Clemens going a pedestrian 14-10, 4.60 ERA. The starting staff was consistent with all four starters in double-digit wins.
The offense was first or second in most categories, and the pitching staff was tops in team ERA.
A great team and the second of three straight World Series champions for the Bronx Bombers.
#4 - 1989 Oakland A's
It was literally an earth-shattering team with a 99-63 regular season record, then a dominating performance as they bashed the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS.
Entering the Bay Area World Series, the A's were delayed in their sweep of the San Francisco Giants as the Bay Area Earthquake hit.
It was a squad built on pitching, basically a four man rotation of Dave Stewart (21-9 W-L, 3.32 ERA, 36 starts), Mike Moore (19-11, 2.61, 35), Bob Welch (17-8, 3.00, 33) and Storm Davis (19-7, 4.36, 31).
Plus the closer, Dennis Eckersley, was dominant at 4-0, 33 saves, 1.57 ERA while walking only three batters all season.
This staff was a Dave Duncan special.
This team was the middle squad of three straight World Series teams, with the worst regular season record, but the only one to win the Series.
This is a vote and a ranking for all three of those great teams.
#3 - 1986 New York Mets
Truly dominating in the regular season with a 108-54 record, winning the division by 21.5 games—which, at that time, was a record lead (until the No. 1 team on this list topped that mark).
But they struggled throughout the postseason, and could easily have lost both the NLCS to the Houston Astros and in the World Series to the Boston Red Sox.
But they did not lose either series and that is why they were dropped further down.
With only two hitters with over 20 homers, they still led the league in slugging, as well as all the other percentage categories. They also led in ERA and many other pitching categories.
Dominant pitching and a steady lineup; if they were only better in the postseason.
#2 - 1984 Detroit Tigers
They got off to a 35-5 start, including a no-hitter by ace Jack Morris in the first week.
They had the best pitching in the American League that season by far, and an equal, balanced attack with power and speed.
They demolished the two teams in the postseason and had their big moments.
The home run which Kirk Gibson hit in 1988 was not the first big World Series home run of his career. In the deciding Game Five, San Diego Padres relief pitcher Goose Gossage challenged Gibson with a fastball and Gibson hit it into the upper deck.
Great all around, but not as good as the top team.
#1 - 1998 New York Yankees
A total of 114 regular season wins (at that time a major league record), and sweeps of the ALDS and World Series, gives this team the top spot.
Several times this team seemed to be in a tough spot, but they came through in the end. First, they were down 2-1 to the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS, but turned to a rookie pitcher, Orlando Hernandez and he won Game Four.
The second was Game One of the World Series, down 5-2 in the seventh inning to the San Diego Padres. A couple of key home runs by Chuck Knoblach and Tino Martinez (see photo) gave them a lead they would never relinquish.
Every starter had double-digit home runs and every starting pitcher had double-digit wins. Great veteran talent came in off the bench and the bullpen was dominant.
Dominance top to bottom, and from beginning of the season to the end, winning their division by a remarkable 22 games.
The best team over the last thirty years and one of the best of all time.