Ranking the Most Successful MLB Franchises of the Decade

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 31, 2019

Ranking the Most Successful MLB Franchises of the Decade

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The last decade in Major League Baseball had a palpable "anything goes" sense to it. Teams were rising and falling all the time, and even the league's supposed superpowers weren't, well, super powerful.

    This makes it tough to rank the top teams of the 2010s. However, we went ahead and did it anyway.

    We had little choice but to get subjective in devising our list of the 10 most successful franchises of the last decade. We considered regular-season success, but much more so postseason success. We also weighed the innovations and general legacies of the decade's great teams.

    In any case, we're reasonably confident that baseball fans won't soon be forgetting these teams and all they accomplished.

10. New York Yankees

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    Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

    Reg. Season W-L%: .569

    Postseasons W-L%: .471

    Championships: 0

    The New York Yankees are the only team on this list that didn't make a World Series appearance in the 2010s. Which is odd considering that they're, you know, the Yankees. 

    Previously, the 1910s were the last decade without a World Series in The Bronx. The purchase of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox in December 1919 changed everything, kicking off a long reign in which the Yankees hoarded expensive stars and won 27 World Series titles.

    But as baseball's talent base shifted younger throughout the 2010s, the Yankees' model for domination suddenly didn't work so well anymore. The middle of the decade, especially, saw them struggle to keep up with rosters mainly populated by older players who struggled to earn their exorbitant salaries.

    Still, the 2010s weren't a total loss for the Yankees. They led all of MLB with 921 regular-season wins, and they at least made it to the postseason seven times. And after getting the hint and establishing homegrown stars like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez, they ended the decade on a high with consecutive 100-win seasons.

    If the club's record-breaking $324 million deal with Gerrit Cole is any indication, the Yankees are now determined to make up for lost championships in the 2020s.

9. Texas Rangers

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Reg. Season W-L%: .520

    Postseason W-L%: .476

    Championships: 0

    Surprised to see the Texas Rangers here? If so, you may have forgotten how they started out the last decade.

    Buoyed by an overwhelming offense that was led by Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli and, come 2011, future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre, the Rangers played in each of the first two World Series of the 2010s.

    They lost both, of course, but at least they had fun and were a ton of fun to watch. It's also not hard to imagine an alternate history in which they were victorious over the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 Fall Classic. They were one strike away from victory in Game 6 not once, but twice. 

    Though the Rangers failed to return to the World Series, the rest of their decade hardly went to waste. They went back to the playoffs in 2012, 2015 and 2016, the last two of which came via American League West titles. Most other years, their 91-win season in 2013 would have been good enough for still another playoff berth.

    Altogether, the 2010s are easily the most successful decade in the Rangers' 59-year history. 

8. Kansas City Royals

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Reg. Season W-L%: .468

    Postseason W-L%: .710

    Championships: 1

    To the extent that they lost 104 more games than they won, the 2010s weren't the best of times for the Kansas City Royals. To every other extent, however, they had a grand ol' time.

    After notching their 18th straight losing season in 2012, the Royals turned a corner with a winning season in 2013, and then proved they were for real in 2014. They won 89 games and, starting with a thrilling win in the American League Wild Card Game, waltzed to their first World Series since 1985.

    That trip to the Fall Classic ended tragically in Game 7 with the tying run just 90 feet away. Yet the pain didn't linger for long. In 2015, the Royals responded with a 95-win romp and a relatively easy win in the World Series over the New York Mets in five games.

    Though the Royals themselves faded after that, their influence on baseball didn't.

    Thanks to homegrown stars like Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez, they were a sort of proof of concept for how a smaller-market team could turn an elite farm system into a championship core. And for better or worse, teams around the league scrambled to replicate Kansas City's overpowering bullpen trio of Greg Holland, Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera. 

7. Chicago Cubs

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    Matt Marton/Associated Press

    Reg. Season W-L%: .504

    Postseason W-L%: .514

    Championships: 1

    In the 2010s, the Chicago Cubs won more often than they lost, made four trips to the playoffs and, oh yeah, won their first World Series championship in 108 years.

    That particular deed was accomplished by the 2016 Cubs, who broke through the Curse of the Billy Goat by winning 103 games and later dispatching the Cleveland Indians—who, by the way, just missed the cut for this list—in seven games in the World Series.

    Beyond their special place in the franchise's 144-year history, the '16 Cubs also deserve a high standing among the best teams of the 2010s. They had by far the best run differential in baseball that year, which was a byproduct of being arguably the league's best team on offense, defense and on the mound.

    Alas, the Cubs didn't become the dynasty they should have become. They fell short of expectations in 2017 and 2018 and didn't even make the playoffs in 2019.

    Still, the Cubs showed what could happen if the Royals' championship blueprint also had the benefit of a big-market budget. They achieved as much as they did both by growing their own stars (i.e., Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez) and by aggressively spending (i.e., Jon Lester, Jason Heyward and Yu Darvish) on parts they were missing. 

6. Houston Astros

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    Reg. Season W-L%: .487

    Postseason W-L%: .560

    Championships: 1

    For the first five years of the 2010s, the Houston Astros were nobody's idea of a model MLB franchise.

    They averaged 100 losses a year between 2010 and 2014, with the absolute pits being their 111-loss clunker in 2013. These were the inevitable results of them basically running out of talent at the end of the 2000s and then taking their sweet time finding replacements.

    The latter effort finally paid off in 2015 when a club led by Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Dallas Keuchel clinched the organization's first postseason berth since 2005. A step back followed in 2016, but the Astros more than recovered from it over the next three seasons.

    As in, they topped 100 wins each year with a World Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017 and a trip back to the Fall Classic in 2019. Alex Bregman became perhaps the best of their homegrown stars, and they scored huge on trades for Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole and on Michael Brantley's free-agent deal.

    The Astros also used data and technology to revolutionize player development. It is, however, difficult to celebrate or even appreciate this revolution while its dark side and the toxic culture from which it was born are coming into focus. 

5. Washington Nationals

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Reg. Season W-L%: .543

    Postseason W-L%: .528

    Championships: 1

    It's amazing how much can change in one year, let alone a whole decade. Just ask the Washington Nationals.

    When the decade began, they were really just the perennially hapless Montreal Expos by another name. Yet hope arrived in 2010 when Bryce Harper was drafted and Stephen Strasburg made his debut. Just two years later, a 98-win outburst put the Nats atop the National League East.

    The Nationals found themselves there again in 2014 and, with much help from free-agent signee Max Scherzer, again in 2016 and 2017. No matter what they did, however, they couldn't escape the first round of the playoffs. And when Harper left as a free agent after 2018, their window seemed to have closed.

    They had other ideas in 2019. Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto more than filled in for Harper, and Patrick Corbin gave them a third ace behind Scherzer and Strasburg. They refused to be undone by a slow start to the regular season, and there was seemingly no deficit they couldn't overcome in October.

    In the end, the Nationals were too much for even the Astros in the World Series. With that, a decade that otherwise would have been a major disappointment got the ultimate validation. 

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Reg. Season W-L%: .567

    Postseason W-L%: .500

    Championships: 0

    Even if it wasn't as good as it should have been, the Los Angeles Dodgers still had a hell of a decade.

    They were in a bad place under Frank McCourt at the outset of the 2010s, yet that situation quickly became ancient history once a Magic Johnson-led group of investors took over the organization in 2012. Money began pouring into the team's payrolls, and the wins followed swiftly.

    Between 2013 and 2019, the Dodgers averaged 96 wins per year and captured seven straight NL West titles. They went as far as the National League Championship Series in 2013 and 2016, and then advanced to back-to-back World Series in 2017 and 2018.

    The Dodgers are still mired in a 31-year championship drought for a variety of reasons. They often asked too much of staff ace Clayton Kershaw in October, and clutch hits were generally more likely to hurt them than help them.

    But between their regular-season (919) and postseason (33) victories, the Dodgers still won more games than any other team in the 2010s. And while Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig are the headliners, they frankly enjoyed too many stars throughout the decade to count.

3. St. Louis Cardinals

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Reg. Season W-L%: .555

    Postseason W-L%: .500

    Championships: 1

    It's been a while since the St. Louis Cardinals were consistently the class of the National League, so perhaps it's shocking to see them ranked all the way up here.

    Yet the Cardinals certainly deserve points for consistency. They won more games than they lost in every season of the 2010s. Heck, you have to go all the way back to 2007 to find their last losing season.

    There is also, of course, the reality that the Cardinals indeed were the class of the Senior Circuit for much of the 2010s.

    After qualifying for the playoffs on the last day of the 2011 season, they went on to win the World Series on the clutch hitting of David Freese. They made another appearance in the Fall Classic two years later, and also played in the National League Championship Series in 2012, 2014 and, after a three-year hiatus from October, in 2019.

    Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina have been there through all of this, but the Cardinals otherwise cycled through several core stars (i.e., Albert Pujols to Matt Holliday to Matt Carpenter) and aces (i.e., Wainwright to Carlos Martinez to Miles Mikolas to Jack Flaherty) as the decade went along. Whether it's because of "Devil Magic" or something more benign, they excelled at working with what they had. 

2. Boston Red Sox

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Reg. Season W-L%: .538

    Postseason W-L%: .622

    Championships: 2

    How do you make the cut as one of the decade's best organizations despite three last-place finishes and only four postseason berths?

    If you're the Boston Red Sox, you win two World Series with two completely different casts of characters.

    The first came in 2013, when the Red Sox helped Boston heal from the marathon bombings by going on a 97-win crusade that ended in triumph over the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. That team was a balance of ol' standbys like David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester and hired guns like Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes and Koji Uehara.

    By the time 2018 rolled around, the Red Sox had remade their core around Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley and Andrew Benintendi. They had also brought in J.D. Martinez, Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Craig Kimbrel from outside the organization.

    Together, they formed the single best team of the 2010s. The '18 Red Sox won 108 games in the regular season, and they suffered only three losses as they tore through the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers en route to yet another championship.

    Though there wasn't much to write home about in the rest of the Red Sox's decade, two highs that high count for a lot.

1. San Francisco Giants

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Reg. Season W-L%: .507

    Postseason W-L%: .679

    Championships: 3

    The San Francisco Giants won only 821 games throughout the 2010s. A dozen teams did better than that, including their cross-bay rivals, the Oakland Athletics.

    But as they say: Count the rings.

    The Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The joke used to be that they had some kind of even-year magic. But in truth, their excellence was a simple matter of great players and great leadership.

    The Giants drafted and developed their own trio of aces in Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Though Bumgarner's hostile takeover of the 2014 postseason was certainly the pinnacle, each had his moments in the Giants' three championship runs.

    The Giants also developed an all-time great catcher in Buster Posey, as well as star infielders like Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt. And whether it was Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, Edgar Renteria, Marco Scutaro, Mike Morse, Travis Ishikawa or Hunter Pence, for a while they excelled at picking up and refurbishing veteran hitters.

    We'd be remiss if we didn't mention Bruce Bochy's role in all this. Even as the manager position arguably became obsolete throughout the 2010s, he pushed all the right buttons and pulled all the right strings as he solidified himself as a future denizen of Cooperstown.

                     

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.

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