One of my regular readers emailed me and another blogger earlier week. The reader wrote:
We know the HOF honors indivdual players, but has anyone thought about having a way to honor great teams? Maybe select no more than one or two teams per decade from each league perhaps? If there aren’t any teams that measure up in any decade, then you don’t have to enshrine any.
I like the idea. While much of the rest of the blogosphere is writing about the playoffs (and expect something here on Monday about the Giants and Phillies– I’m just waiting for first blood) I thought I’d offer some thoughts on teams that could be enshrined in Cooperstown.
The following is purely subjective, as my posts about the Hall of Fame often are. This is merely a starting point, and I invite others to expand upon it.
Here are my picks:
1901-1910: Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Giants: What a difference a century makes. The Bucs won at least 90 games eight out of the first ten years of the 20th century and appeared in two World Series, winning in 1909. The Giants were perhaps baseball’s worst team at the start of the decade but transformed into contenders after John McGraw became manager in 1903. Interestingly, both these teams got great raiding others: Pittsburgh plucked Honus Wagner and others from the Louisville Colonels and McGraw brought much of the old Baltimore Orioles roster with him when he joined the Giants. Nefarious perhaps, but it worked brilliantly.
1911-1920: Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Sox: Connie Mack’s first dynasty produced three World Series appearances and two titles in the first four years of the decade, led by players like Hall of Fame pitcher Chief Bender. The Red Sox are here because they won four World Series in the decade (including three times with young ace Babe Ruth) and because the last title was followed by an 86-year championship drought.
1921-1930: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Athletics: Some people regard the Murderers Row Yankees as the best team in baseball history, though Sports Illustrated put out a cover story some years back suggesting they were rivaled by Mack’s second dynasty that gelled at the end of the ’20s.
1931-1940: St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees: The Gashouse Gang produced two World Series championships, 1931 and 1934. It marked the triumph of St. Louis general manager Branch Rickey and his brainchild: the farm system. Meanwhile, the Yankees in the ’30s had, at different times, an aging Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio turning in productive years. It helped for a staggering five World Series titles between 1931 and 1940, with no worse than a third place finish any year of the decade. Four times in club history, the Yankees have scored more than 1,000 runs in a season. These years were 1930, 1931, 1932, and 1936.
1941-1950: St. Louis Cardinals, Brooklyn Dodgers: Stan Musial missed most of World War II, and it helped the Cardinals become a dominant team once more, winning three World Series between 1942 and 1946. The Dodgers would be on here even if they were a terrible team in those years (they weren’t) as they broke baseball’s color barrier with Jackie Robinson in 1947, another Branch Rickey idea.
1951-1960: New York Yankees, New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers: New York was again baseball’s capital in the 1950s, with every World Series between 1951 and 1958 featuring a New York team. So many of baseball’s icons played at least a year in New York in the ’50s from Robinson and Duke Snider on the Boys of Summer Dodgers to DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle on the Yankees to Willie Mays on the Giants.
1961-1970: St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers: Baseball was all about pitching in the 1960s, and these two teams exemplified this. The Cardinals were a machine led by Hall of Fame hurler Bob Gibson, who delivered Game Seven victories in the 1964 and 1967 World Series and then amassed a modern era-record 1.12 ERA in 1968, only to fall to the Tigers in the World Series. The Dodgers also won two World Series and made it to another behind ace Sandy Koufax.
1971-1980: Oakland Athletics, Cincinnati Reds: Two of baseball’s more colorful clubs, the Mustache Gang A’s and Big Red Machine accounted for every World Series title between 1972 and 1976. Perhaps no two teams in the same decade were so filled with characters– and talent. Oakland and Cincinnati also signified another thing in baseball in the ’70s: the abrogation of the Reserve Clause which led to both clubs losing core players.
1981-1990: No one: Perhaps the Dodgers deserve recognition, seeing as they won the World Series in 1981 and again in 1988. But compared to most of the other teams written of here, these LA clubs seem nowhere near as memorable. In general, this was a decade defined by teams I don’t care to celebrate: the steroid-addled A’s, the coked-out Mets. Why should Cooperstown lionize that?
1991-2000: New York Yankees: The Yankees resurrected themselves from a decade-long slump in the mid-1990s and became a powerhouse once more, winning the World Series in 1996, and again in 1998, 1999, and 2000. The ’96 club was even somewhat likable, a collection of non-superstars like Paul O’Neill and Bernie Williams, led by everyman manager (everymanager?) Joe Torre.
2001-2010: Boston Red Sox: What’s the best way to shake off close to a century without a World Series title? By hiring a crack young general manager, assembling a contender, and winning everything twice in four years. In a decade where eight teams have won the World Series, Boston is the only club with multiple titles.