The 2018 Boston Red Sox steamrolled through the regular season and didn’t let up through three playoff rounds on their way to becoming World Series champions.
Within hours of completing their five-game triumph over the Los Angeles Dodgers, Alex Cora’s team – already the best Red Sox team ever assembled – was already being hailed as one of the best to ever take the field. In fact, there’s no doubt that they now belong on this list.
With that said, here’s a freshly updated list of the 10 greatest teams in Major League Baseball history.
The 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners both won a record 116 games. The 1954 Cleveland Indians won a former AL-record 111 and employed five Hall of Famers. The 1969 Baltimore Orioles won 109, still a franchise record; the 1931 Philadelphia A’s won 107 en route to a third straight pennant. What do these great, memorable, and dominant teams all have in common? They didn’t win the World Series, and thus can’t be included here.
10. 1970 Baltimore Orioles
In 1969, the Orioles won 109 games but were upset in the World Series by the “Miracle” Mets. In 1970, Earl Weaver’s squad would not be denied. They won 108 games using only 12 pitchers all season (three of those pitchers won 20 games), and the offense featuring Frank and Brooks Robinson and MVP Boog Powell ran roughshod over their opponents. In the playoffs they almost ran the table, only losing once to the Reds in an otherwise dominating World Series win. This was Weaver’s only championship with the Orioles, and it’s one that will be remembered for a long time.
9. 1961 New York Yankees
Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle dueled for single-season home-run supremacy all year long, and Maris ultimately emerged to hit 61 and break Babe Ruth’s record en route to his second straight AL MVP. Meanwhile, Whitey Ford won the Cy Young on the strength of 25 wins and 283 innings pitched. That was all the ingredients that the Yankees and rookie manager Ralph Houk needed to stroll to 109 regular-season wins and ultimately a dominating five-game World Series victory over Cincinnati. Ford was named MVP of the series after not allowing a run.
8. 1932 New York Yankees
A record nine Hall of Famers played for these 107-win Yankees. They’re most famous for being the last Babe Ruth-led club to win the World Series, and of course, for Ruth supposedly calling his shot at Wrigley Field. But they’re also one of only two teams in history that went an entire season without being shut out. The Yankees overpowered the AL, then swept the Cubs (who had four Hall of Famers of their own) to win the franchise’s fourth championship. It was truly a fitting end to the Ruth era.
7. 1986 New York Mets
A mix of homegrown talent and veterans – most of whom knew how to enjoy themselves on and off the field – the ’86 Mets romped to a franchise-best 108 wins and won the NL East by 21 1/2 games. They took first place for good on April 22, in the midst of an 11-game win streak, and never lost more than four contests in a row all year. October wasn’t as easy; the Astros took them to six games in a classic NLCS, and they needed a little cursed magic to win the World Series. But no matter – these Mets are an all-time great team.
6. 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates’ 110 wins in 1909 remain a franchise record, and they still own the best winning percentage for a World Series champion. A pair of Hall of Famers in legendary shortstop Honus Wagner and outfielder/manager Fred Clarke powered this team; Wagner had an incredible year, leading the NL in all three slash-line categories as well as doubles and RBIs. The pitching staff led by Howie Camnitz (1.62 ERA, 133 strikeouts) and Cooperstown inductee Vic Willis was often untouchable. After cruising to the pennant, the Bucs defeated Ty Cobb and the Tigers in seven games to win the World Series.
5. 1939 New York Yankees
The ’39 Yankees are still the only team to ever post a plus-400 run differential, a testament to its dominance. Buoyed by a balanced rotation, a lineup that had eight players reach double digits in home runs, and – in a true rarity for their era – a lights-out bullpen, Joe McCarthy’s squad romped uncontested through the AL and then swept the Reds in the World Series, the Yankees’ fourth consecutive championship. They featured five future Hall of Famers, including AL MVP Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig, who appeared in just eight games thanks to the onset of ALS, which ended his career and life. Other teams may have won more games, but few were as top-to-bottom powerful as this group.
4. 2018 Boston Red Sox
Power, speed, defense, starting pitching, a dominant closer, star power – the 2018 Red Sox could beat you any time, any place, and in any way. Perhaps most impressive of all was the fact that these Red Sox beat two other 100-win teams in the AL playoffs, including the defending champion Astros, before dispatching the Dodgers with relative ease. Their 119 total wins – regular-season and playoffs – are the third-most ever, trailing only the 2001 Mariners and another legendary team that we’ll get to in a moment.
It may seem like recency bias to rank them this high on the list so quickly, but give it a few years and it will become a little more clear that this kind of historic team doesn’t come along very often. We’ll be talking about it for decades to come.
3. 1975 Cincinnati Reds
The Big Red Machine never looked better than in 1975. They were the only NL team to post a winning record on the road in ’75 and also won 64 home games while running away with the division. Joe Morgan – one of five Hall of Famers on this team – had one of the finest MVP seasons ever recorded, while teammates Johnny Bench and Pete Rose also finished top five in the voting as part of an offense that had no discernible weakness. Manager Sparky Anderson was revolutionary in his handling of the bullpen, and this team is one of the forefathers of today’s game that relies heavily on relief pitching.
Although the Reds did need seven games to beat the Red Sox in one of the greatest World Series ever contested, they did win it all, and in the history books that’s what matters.
2. 1927 New York Yankees
All these years later, “Murderer’s Row” strikes fear into the hearts of opponents. These Yankees featured seven Hall of Famers – six players, plus manager Miller Huggins – and they flexed their muscle at every opportunity both offensively and on the mound. Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, and he and Lou Gehrig combined for 214 extra-base hits during the regular season. After winning a then AL-record 110 games the Yanks swept the NL champion Pirates in utterly dominating fashion, outscoring them 23-10 while trailing in just three of the series’ 36 innings.
1. 1998 New York Yankees
Sorry, Red Sox nation, but these Yankees remain the cream of the crop, and it will take a lot to unseat them.
The best team of the “Core Four” (and Bernie Williams) era also featured a tremendous supporting cast on both sides of the ball. The Yankees averaged an AL-best 5.96 runs per game, while also allowing a league-low 4.05 runs. They hit over 200 home runs while allowing the fewest round-trippers in the Junior Circuit en route to a then-AL record 114 victories. The playoffs were a cakewalk, as they only lost twice in three rounds to claim the championship. Including both regular-season and playoff contests, the 1998 Yankees won 125 games, an overall record that will likely never be touched.