Last week noted Cardinals rooter and writer at mlb.com, Will Leitch, ranked who he considered to be the ten most successful franchises of this past decade. It's a good piece, you should read the entire thing, but I'll go ahead and reveal his top-10:
2. Red Sox
This makes sense. The Giants won the most World Series titles, and the only team listed here without a Pennant - the Yankees - won more games this decade than any other team. You can make a case for each team listed here to be somewhere in the top-10.
Out of the gate, the only issue I had with his list is I thought the Cubs were way too high. Best story of the decade? Possibly best singular team this decade? Sure. Third best franchise this decade? No. Can't be, right? (To be fair, Leitch notes that he gave the Cubs a lot of extra credit for finally overcoming the most famous championship drought in sports.)
Luckily, I have made up my own formula for hashing out just this sort of thing, and I have used it previously to rank the MLB franchises in the Wild Card era. This is how it works.
Each team gets:
+1 point for every regular season game won;
+15 points for a division title;
Minus 10 points for a last place finish;
+2 points for every playoff game won;
+20 points for a Pennant; and
+50 points for a World Series title.
For or better or worse, this completely removes emotion or storylines from the equation, so the Cubs' historic 2016 title is worth about the same as the Red Sox' "Yeah, okay, we get it, you've done it again, I guess at least it wasn't against the Cardinals this time" 2018 title. And, as you see, this system puts a large emphasis on the regular season as well. Being that's such a big component, before we get to my top-10 with these rankings, here's how the 30 teams did over the last decade when sorting by regular season wins (via Baseball Reference's Play Index):
Now let's factor in the rest - the division titles, postseason accolades, deductions for finishing in last place, etc. I was curious how well my formula would stand up over a smaller sample (the Yankees are the appropriate runaway winners from 1995-2019), and accordingly, here, by my system, are the top-10 teams of this past decade.
Huh. Well, that seems almost problematic. A team that didn't win a single World Series in the previous decade is somehow also the team of the decade. Is this defensible? Let's see. First off, the Dodgers won almost as many games as the Yankees. Their 2019 team won more games than any National League team had won since 1986. And it obviously wasn't just that team. The primary reason that the Dodgers are first is that they easily won more division titles than any other franchise. They mattered pretty much every single year of this decade in a way that no other franchise did.
And the playoffs really are kind of a crapshoot, right? I mean, we hear that all the time. Maybe not a crapshoot to the extent in which that meme gets distributed, but every year there are several teams who are very good candidates to win the entire thing and that's before we get to the randomness of baseball in a short series. Whether the playoff version of Clayton Kershaw has been tantamount to bad luck or something else entirely, there stands a very good chance that the Dodgers have just been very unlucky in the postseason.
Or maybe my system is bad, and that Flag Fly Forever really should rule the day. I'm willing to bet that most Dodgers fans would take the place of their arch-rival and their three World Series titles even if it meant a few under .500 seasons sprinkled in.
I will say this, though: I think this system appropriately punishes the teams who spent a chunk of the decade being bad. From 2010-2014, the Cubs and Astros won the fewest games in baseball. As in the Cubs ranked 29th in wins and the Astros were dead last. That should matter, and that's why they're not in the top five. And if you count the number of World Series titles won by my top-10 teams you'll be left with nine. That's because only five teams won fewer games than the Royals this past decade which put them on the outside looking in. Appropriately so, if you ask me.
In the end, this "teams of the decade" stuff doesn't matter. It's a title conjured up for the purpose of writing pieces such as this and for arguing online. Which is totally fine, especially in the offseason. But I really do think the Dodgers were the best team of the decade. I can't prove it, and there's some compelling evidence to the contrary, so let's just leave with something we all know to be true and can prove: The Cardinals were one of the very best teams this decade and won the World Series in 2011.
Have a great holiday, and safe travels, everyone.