MLB History: Ranking the 10 World Series Winners of the Decade
A new decade of Major League Baseball will officially begin this Sunday when the defending World Champion New York Yankees visit the Boston Red Sox on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.”
Yanks-Sox, aside from being perhaps the greatest rivalry in sports history, is also a matchup of the only two teams to win multiple championships in the last decade.
So, before we begin the 2010s, let’s look back at the last 10 World Series winners, and see where each of these teams rank among the decade’s elite.
No. 10: 2006 St. Louis Cardinals
The Cards won 105 games in ’04. They won 100 more in ’05. But they took home the WS with just 83 regular season wins in 2006. Go figure.
In 2006, Albert Pujols was his usual brilliant self (.331, 49, 137), finishing second in NL MVP voting.
But St. Louis had just a 25-36 record after July 26, barely hanging on to win the NL Central by 1.5 games over Houston.
After beating San Diego in the first round, the Cards defeated the Mets in one of the biggest LCS upsets in history. They won the WS by beating the upstart Tigers, four games to one.
The Cardinals’ regular season win percentage was the lowest of any WS winner in history.
No. 9: 2003 Florida Marlins
These Marlins got hot, stayed hot, and some how, some way, eventually overcame every obstacle they encountered. The stars aligned for this team that wallowed in last place in the NL East at 19-29 six weeks into the season.
The raw, but extremely talented Marlins went 75-49 after 72-year-old Jack McKeon became manager in mid-May. Eventual ROY Dontrelle Willis, 21, and Miguel Cabrera, 20, made tremendous contributions as mid-season call-ups and helped Florida finish with 91 wins and the Wild Card.
Grizzly veteran Pudge Rodriguez was seemingly in the middle of every key postseason play…except the one involving spectator Steve Bartman during the NLCS. No Cubs’ fan will ever forget that one.
And by the time Josh Beckett completed one of the most clutch pitching performances in postseason history in the hallowed halls of Yankee Stadium, the small-market Marlins were world champs for the second time in six years.
No. 8: 2000 New York Yankees
They had the tradition, they had they talent, and they only won 87 regular season games. It wasn’t pretty. But in the end, the Yankees were World Champions for the third straight season and for the fourth time in five years.
Somehow, the Yankees lost 15 of their last 18 regular season games, winning the AL East by just 2.5 games.
But there was no reason to worry. The Yankees real season began in October. New York tip-toed past Oakland and Seattle in the AL playoffs before defeating the cross-town rival Mets, four games to one, in the “Subway Series.”
Of course, the Roger Clemens-Mike Piazza “splintered bat” controversy in Game Two marked the final chapter in their heated on-field “exchanges” that began that past June.
But when the smoke cleared, these Yankees had established themselves as one of the greatest dynasties in sports history.
No. 7: 2002 Anaheim Angels
The Yankees would have appeared in every ALCS between 1998 and 2004…if it weren’t for the Wild Card Angels beating them in the first round of the 2002 playoffs.
Anaheim won 99 games during the regular season, and after beating the favored Yanks in a four-game series, finished off the Twins in a five-game ALCS, reaching the WS for the first time in franchise history.
The Angels then beat San Francisco in a classic, seven-game WS against Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, and company.
Trailing the series 3-2 and facing a 5-0 deficit in Game Six at home, the resilient Angels scored six runs in their final two at-bats to win, 6-5. They then won Game Seven the following night, 4-1, behind rookie John Lackey.
After losing 87 games in 2001, the Angels won their first world championship in 2002, thanks to a determined team that got the most out of its talent, a rising managerial star in Mike Scioscia, and a very small, but very popular, mascot known as the Rally Monkey.
Not the real monkey obviously, but a pretty cool photo.
No. 6: 2008 Philadelphia Phillies
The Phils had the talent to dominate the regular season. But when it comes to sports, nothing comes easy in Philadelphia.
The Fightins needed one of their patented, furious late-season comebacks to finish with 92 wins and overtake the hated Mets (once again) to win the NL East.
In 2008, closer Brad Lidge finished a combined 48-for-48 in save chances. Cole Hamels won both the NLCS and WS MVP. And overall, the Phillies won 24 of their final 30 games after September 11.
Philly fans had waited 25 years for a major professional sports championship. So in the Fall Classic, it was no surprise that torrential rain suspended the conclusion of Game Five until two nights later. Again, nothing comes easy in Philadelphia.
The ’08 Phils were inconsistent during the summer. But under the pressure of September and October, the team’s championship-starved fanbase and numerous national detractors got to see just how great these Phillies could really be.
Teams still in the mix
* 2009 Yankees
* 2007 Red Sox
* 2001 Diamondbacks
* 2005 White Sox
* 2004 Red Sox
No. 5: 2007 Boston Red Sox
For years, the Sox had settled for being the second-rate AL East power, finishing second in the division every single year from 1998 to 2005. Sox fans don’t need to be reminded who won the division each of those years…
But in ’07, the Red Sox collected 96 regular season wins and finally won the division for the first time since 1995, en route to the World Series title.
The Sox opened up 2007 with a 36-15 record, leading the AL East by as many as 11.5 games. Boston eventually won the division by just two games over New York, but sprung back to life in October.
The Sox had an 11-3 record in the playoffs, sweeping the Angels, overcoming a three games-to-one series deficit to take down the Indians, and sweeping the Rockies (a team that had won 21 of its previous 22 games) in the World Series.
Notorious big-game pitchers Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling went 4-0 and 3-0, respectively, in the postseason. In the AL Playoffs, Manny Ramirez was 12-for-30 with four HR, and 14 RBI. The Sox won their last seven postseason games by a combined score of 59 to 14.
No. 4: 2005 Chicago White Sox
Can you think of a more underrated WS winner?
Offensively, they weren’t much.
No White Sox scored 100 runs or hit .300 (Scott Podsednik led with a .290 average). But this club won 99 games thanks to the best pitching staff in the league. And it was that dominant pitching that led Chicago to an 11-1 postseason record while making a mockery of the Red Sox, Angels, and Astros in the playoffs.
Their four-man rotation of Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, and Freddy Garcia collectively put together one of the greatest pitching displays in postseason history.
Thanks to the starters, the White Sox bullpen only had to get two outs in the entire five-game ALCS against the Angels. Two outs! The Sox pitching held Houston scoreless for the final 15 innings of the World Series.
Yes, these Sox were a one-year wonder. But they really were wonderful for that one year.
Speaking of pitching, on to No. 3…
No. 3: 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona finished with 92 regular season victories in winning the NL West. But this team wasn’t built to win 100 games April through September. It was built to win 11 games in October (and November, as it turned out).
Ironically, the Diamondbacks roster was filled with some of the best players of the decade who had never won a WS: Mark Grace, Matt Williams, Steve Finley, Randy Johnson, and Curt Schilling. But it all came together in 2001.
During the season, Luis Gonzalez was an MVP candidate (.325, 57, 142). The one-two rotation punch of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling went 21-6 and 22-6 in the season, and 5-1 and 4-0 in the postseason, respectively.
After beating St. Louis in a classic five-game NLDS, Arizona took out the Braves in the NLCS with three straight wins in Atlanta. In the end, Arizona pitching gave up more than four runs in just one of its 17 postseason games.
Johnson and Schilling were the co-MVPs of perhaps the greatest WS ever played, won by an expansion team in its fourth season against the most successful sports team in history that was going for its fourth straight championship. Simply the stuff of legends.
No. 2: 2004 Boston Red Sox
David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez established themselves as the most potent 3-4 lineup combo in the game, leading the Sox to 98 wins and the Wild Card.
The Red Sox swept the Angels in the first round of the playoffs, only to fall behind New York in the ALCS, three games to zero.
Of course, no team in baseball history had ever overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a series.
So, at this point, Boston making it to the Fall Classic was about as unlikely as Terry Francona (who averaged 91 losses per season in his tenure as the Phillies skipper from 1997 through 2000) leading the Sox to their first WS title since 1918 in his very first year as manager.
But then magic happened.
Boston won Games Four and Five on a pair of game-winning, extra-inning hits by Ortiz. Back in the Bronx, Boston used a gritty Game Six performance by Curt Schilling and a six RBI night from Johnny Damon in Game Seven to accomplish the impossible.
After traveling to hell and back against their arch-rivals, Boston’s sweep of the 105-win Cardinals in the World Series was just a formality. The Sox held the Cards to a single run in the final 19 innings of the series on the way to ending their franchise’s championship drought.
No. 1: 2009 New York Yankees
This team had it all: hitting, pitching, and defense.
New ace C.C. Sabathia led the AL in wins. New first baseman Mark Teixeira led the league in home runs and RBI. And the Yanks went 57-24 in their launching pad of a new home stadium en route to 103 total victories during the season.
After starting the season 15-17, the Yanks went 87-42 the rest of the way—a record that was eight games better than the ML’s second best team over that period.
All year long, the NL champion Phillies had overcome the chronic struggles of two of their ’08 championship heroes, Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge. Only the Yankees were great enough to finally make the Phillies pay…
New York turned the series around with a come-from-behind victory over Hamels in Game Three.
And Johnny Damon’s unforgettable performance in the ninth inning of Game Four against Lidge perfectly exemplified how dangerous these Yankees could really be.
Just seven months after admitting to steroid use, Alex Rodriguez finally came through in the clutch, and took part in a celebration big enough for the Empire State.
The Yankees ended the decade the same way they began it: as World Champions. And it wouldn’t be too surprising to see them celebrate the start of the new decade with another title.