So, that World Series we just got done with was pretty terrible, huh? Uncompetitive, low-scoring, unmemorable: that sound about right? Unfortunately, 2011 excluded, we’ve lived through a bunch of shitty World Series lately. But it’s important to remember: they’re not all that bad. Some of them are pretty great! That’s why we’re ranking all the World Series since 1975 in order, considering entertainment, level of play, quality of the teams involved and historic value. Why 1975? Because that’s the year The Dilemma made his way into this dark world…meaning I’m much more familiar with World Series since then than I am with those from 1974 and earlier. And hence, more qualified to judge them. Really, that’s what this blog is all about: judginess. Just how low will the 2012 World Series rank? And which decade gave us the best Series? Read on, friends.
Let’s get some Hot Stove action going.
38. 1994: Expos 4, Yankees 3
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37. 2007: Red Sox 4, Rockies 0
The Rockies rode a red-hot streak into the World Series but stand as one of the least-deserving finalists of the modern era. The Red Sox outscored them 29-10 in route to a dull sweep that lacked the romance and sense of history of their win three years before. The Rockies started Josh Fogg, Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis in this series, for God’s sake.
36. 1989: A’s 4, Giants 0
Only the earthquake that struck in the moments before Game 3 saves this Series from ranking dead last. The A’s, playing up to their potential for the only time in their shoulda-been Bash Brothers dynasty, crushed an undermatched Giants team in four non-competitive games.
35. 2005: White Sox 4, Astros 0
Good God, was this World Series boring. Neither team even brushed up against greatness, and the White Sox’ vaunted starting pitching was much closer to “consistent” than “excellent”. It’s tough for a deciding game in a World Series with a final score of 1-0 to be excruciating to watch, but Game 4 managed.
34. 2006: Cardinals 4, Tigers 1
Our lowest-ranking non-sweep, so you know it had to be extra terrible. And it was. The 83-win Cardinals continued their dual mission of defying logic by winning postseason series and boring the country to tears in doing so. The lasting memory from this World Series was learning that Kenny Rogers did not suddenly and magically become a great pitcher through guile and grit.
33. 2012: Giants 4, Tigers 0
OK, so at least this year wasn’t the worst World Series ever, right? That’s something to hang your hat on. The Tigers’ offense completely disappeared, and Justin Verlander’s perplexing struggles in the postseason continued, leading to a leisurely win from another forgettable team. Only Tim Lincecum coming flopping out of the bullpen gave this Giants’ squad any character or definition.
32. 1983: Orioles 4, Phillies 1
Notable for being Cal Ripken Jr.’s only World Series appearance and victory, this matchup featured a team of up-and-comers on the Orioles against a group of past-their-prime vets on the Phillies. So while the overall collection of talent (Steve Carlton, Eddie Murray, Mike Schmidt, Jim Palmer, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan) looks breathtaking on paper, the reality was something different and disappointing. Neither team hit much, as serviceable pitchers like Scott McGregor kept the Phillies’ bats in remission.
31. 2008. Phillies 4, Rays 1
As time passes, it becomes more amazing that this Phillies team was the one to take a championship back home to Dennis, Dee, Mac and Charlie. Cole Hamels pitched like an ace, but Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton are not the stuff of memorable World Series rotations. Meanwhile, later teams featured Roy Halladay and/or Cliff Lee pitching like heroes and came up empty. This Series was also marred by the ugly weather suspension in Game 5, which probably killed whatever small chance the upstart Rays had left.
30. 1999: Yankees 4, Braves 0
The rematch of the 1996 World Series couldn’t live up to the original, as the Yankees strengthened their dynasty case with a romp. Only Game 3, with surprising clutch home runs from Chuck Knoblauch and Chad Curtis, provided much drama.
29. 1984: Tigers 4, Padres 1
This Tigers team gets overrated because of their 35-5 start, which rendered the A.L. East race over before it started, but they followed that up with .560 baseball the rest of the season. Good, not great. And the ’84 Padres didn’t exactly provide memorable competition. Sorry, Skinny Tony Gwynn.
28. 1990: Reds 4, A’s 0
The third consecutive World Series for the LaRussa/Eckersley/Stewart A’s, and the second of those three in which they fell victim to a stunning upset. The 1990 Reds got where they did on the strength of their Nasty Boys bullpen, but only two of these four games were even close enough for the bullpens to matter.
27. 1998: Yankees 4, Padres 0
Another mediocre Padres team losing another lopsided World Series. This only ranks as high it does for Tino Martinez’s Game 1 grand slam, and because it capped off arguable the greatest season of all time for the 125-win Yankees.
26. 1976: Reds 4, Yankees 0
One of the highest-ranking sweeps on our countdown, for two reasons: 1) This represented the last gasp for one of baseball’s last great dynasties, the Big Red Machine, and 2) the series was more competitive than the final scores indicated. The Yankees, who would go on to win the next two World Series, weren’t yet ready for the Reds, who didn’t realize at the time that they were about to be broken up by negligent ownserhip.
25. 2010: Giants 4, Rangers 1
Any World Series in which Edgar Renteria is named MVP is not going to rank too highly. Any World Series without a one-run game is not going to rank too highly. Pitching matchups like Tim Lincecum vs. Cliff Lee gave the ’10 Series significant potential, but their Game 1 duel resulted in an ww-7 snoozer. The Giants also featured one of the worst offenses of any Series-winning team in the modern era.
24. 2003: Marlins 4, Yankees 2
All World Series including a Jeffrey Loria-owned team incur an automatic rankings penalty of at least three spots. Plus, this Series felt like the ultimate anticlimax before it even started, given that it had to follow the twin collapses of the Red Sox and Cubs in a pair of thrilling, all-time-great Championship Series. Josh Beckett announced his presence on the national stage with a masterful clinching road shutout, but nobody really cared who won this Series. Yankees fans were still basking in the afterglow if beating Boston, the rest of the country was still fixated on Aaron Boone and Steve Bartman, and the Marlins don’t really have any fans.
23. 2009: Yankees 4, Phillies 2
This series went 6 games, and featured some dramatics in the middle set of games, but once the teams returned to New York, Game 6 served as more of a coronation then a competition. The Yankees proved that they remained Pedro Martinez’s daddy, all those years later. And ARod was clutch!
22. 1981: Dodgers 4, Yankees 2
Not a great Series, but notable for a couple of reasons. It was the last (to date) in a long line of matchups between the rival Yankees and Dodgers in the championship, and only the second time the Dodgers came out on top. Also, this was the World Series in which George Steinbrenner broke his hand by punching a wall, then claimed he broke it punching a Dodgers fan in an elevator defending the Yankees’ honor. New York reliever George Frazier took three losses out of the six games — can you imagine what would happen today if, say, Boone Logan did that?
21. 2004: Red Sox 4, Cardinals 0
An unwatchable, unwieldy series of blowout, the result of the 2004 World Series was never in doubt. After overcoming an 0-3 deficit to the Yankees in the ALCS, these Red Sox couldn’t lose. This is our highest-rated sweep because even though the games sucked, the historic importance of the Red Sox first Series win since…when was it again…locks this one down with a star next to it.
20. 2000: Yankees 4, Mets 1
The first Subway Series since 1956 featured a Mets team that didn’t really deserve to get that far against the fading Yankees dynasty. More importantly, Roger Clemens threw a fucking bat at Mike Piazza.
19. 1997: Marlins 4, Indians 3
The Loria factor again comes into play. The ’97 Series came down to the 11th inning of the seventh game, but was also extremely sloppy, boring at times, and largely unmemorable. That it led to a victory for Loria’s band of mercenaries only makes it worse. It’s also a shame that the mid-90’s Indians never won a title. They never quite had the pitching, but that lineup was so stacked with Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar, Carlos Baerga…
18. 1995: Braves 4, Indians 2
If it’s a shame that the Indians of this era never won it a World Series, then it’s also a shame that the Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz Braves only won one. Five of these six games were decided by one run, culminating in Tom Glavine’s 1-0 vicotry in Game 6, with David Justice’s home run providing the only offense for either team.
17. 1980: Phillies 4, Royals 2
Philadelphia’s first World Series title ever gave us eventual MVP Mike Schmidt vs. George Brett. Tug McGraw (author of Lumpy!) vs. Dan Quisenberry. And six hard-fought competitive games.
16. 1988: Dodgers 4, A’s 1
This series only went five games, but come on: Kirk Gibson home run. Plus, Orel Hershiser riding the aftereffects of his record-breaking scoreless inning streak and a pretty sizable upset of the mighty A’s.
15. 1987: Twins 4, Cardinals 3
An exciting series overall, but it loses points for the utter ineffectiveness of both teams on the road. The Twins were not a very good team that year (85 wins), but they simply couldn’t lose at home during the playoffs. The noise level at the Metrodome was off the charts, and white Homer Hankies filled the air. The Twinkies had a fun core, including Frank Viola, Bert Blyleven, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Gary Gaetti, and they overcame a Cardinals team playing in its third World Series in six years.
14. 1985: Royals 4, Cardinals 3
…and here those Cardinals are again. This Series is best remembered for Don Denkinger’s blown call at first base in Game 6, and the Cardinals’ subsequent collapse in Game 7, but it’s best remembered as the consummate 1980s World Series. Both teams played on turf and were built to take advantage of that surface with speedsters and slap hitters like Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, Willie Wilson and Lonnie Smith. Whitey Herzog matched wits with Dick Howser. And these two teams dominated the mid-’80s even if each only came out with one title to show for it.
13. 1993. Blue Jays 4, Phillies 2
The Joe Carter home run highlighted this six-game set, though the wild 15-14 Game 4 shouldn’t be overlooked. The two teams combined for 32 hits as the Jays scored six runs in the 8th inning to catch and pass Philadephia and take a three games to one lead in the process. I may have hated this Phillies team (kind of a precursor to the Red Sox 2004 Idiots) but you can’t deny they had personality, with the likes of Jon Kruk, Lenny Dykstra and Darren Daulton rubbing dirt and tobacco juice on one another.
12. 1977: Yankees 4, Dodgers 2
Reggie Jackson homered three times in a World Series game, the first to do so since Babe Ruth. And he homered on four consecutive pitches. Meanwhile, the Yankees returned to prominence after a decade and a half in the wilderness, and the Dodgers Garvey-Lopes-Russell-Cey infield entered the spotlight.
11. 1992: Blue Jays 4, Braves 2
Even though they were appearing in their second straight World Series, this Braves team hadn’t quite jelled into the juggernaut it would become a few years later. Greg Maddux was still a Cub and the Chipper and Andruw Jones had not yet entered the league. The Blue Jays, though, carried a fascinating roster: late-period Jack Morris; the bullpen power arms of Henke and Ward; Jimmy Key, David Cone, David Wells and Juan Guzman rounding out the staff; and an offense blending young homegrown talents like John Olerud with shrewd acquisitions like Roberto Alomar and Devon White, rounded out with veterans like Dave Winfield. Very fun team.
10. 1979: Pirates 4, Orioles 3
The rematch of the 1971 World Series ended the exact same way: Bucs in 7. The We Are Family Pirates eclipsed a three games to one deficit, thanks mostly to their fantastic uniforms.
9. 1978: Yankees 4, Dodgers 2
The Yankees capped off a season in which they erased a 13.5 game deficit in the A.L. East by erasing a 2-0 deficit in the World Series. Young fireballer Bob Welch and Reggie Jackson provided thrilling, compelling at-bats, and Graig Nettles put on a show in the field.
Also, this happened:
8. 1996: Yankees 4, Braves 2
18 years later, and another 0-2 hole overcome by the Yankees. This time, though, they fell behind at home and won the next three games in Atlanta. Games 4, 5, and 6 were all World Series classics and included highlights like Jim Leyritz’s home run, the Andy Pettitte/John Smoltz 1-0 pitchers’ duel, and Joe Girardi tripling off Greg Maddux, the best pitcher on the planet, to clinch the Series.
7. 1982: Cardinals 4, Brewers 3
A study in contrasts, with the slap-happy National League Cardinals taking on the Harvey Wallbanging Brewers of Gorman Thomas and Cecil Cooper. The Cardinals ultimately prevailed in a back-and-forth affair between two really fun teams. Also, between Rollie Fingers, Pete Vukovich and Thomas, this might have been the best-ever World Series for mustaches.
6. 2002: Angels 4, Giants 3
Let’s not kid ourselves. We all knew Barry Bonds was on steroids at the time. And that does take a little something away from the historic greatness of this World Series, but that’s also its only demerit. It went seven games, featured four one-run games and included an all-time postseason collapse by the Giants in Game 6. The upstart Angels drew excitement from rookie Francisco Rodriguez and an offense that could suddenly do no wrong, hitting line drives all over the ballpark everywhere they marauded.
5. 2011: Cardinals 4, Rangers 3
The only great World Series of the last ten years was indeed an all-time classic. Twice, the Rangers were one strike away from winning the title in six games, and twice the Cardinals clawed back. Albert Pujols also blasted three home runs in Game 3, the first time someone had achieved that since Jackson in ’77. My only complaint here is that the Cardinals won the Series for the second time in six years with a relatively weak team.
4. 1991: Twins 4, Braves 3
This Series featured a lot of no-names on both sides, but also an extraordinary level of play and fantastic, enthralling games. Three of those games went into extra innings, including the final two, as the Twins once again refused to drop a game in the Metrodome. A 1-0, 10-inning Game 7 complete game win for Jack Morris followed Kirby Puckett’s 11th-inning walk off home run from the night before.
3. 2001: Diamondbacks 4, Yankees 3
A weird one. The Yankees’ dynasty era team was running on fumes, and by all rights should have been knocked out in the ALDS against the A’s or the ALCS against the 116-win Mariners. Their opposition, the Diamondbacks, were devoid of personality and charm, other than their twin-tower aces, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Their lineup included steroid monster Luis Gonzalez, Matt Williams, and a bunch of detritus. And they were managed by an imbecile. Three of the 7 games were non-competitive Arizona blowouts. But three of the other games rank among any top ten list of greatest World Series games ever played. And let’s just stop talking about this one right now.
2. 1975: Reds 4, Red Sox 3
Five one-run games. Carlton Fisk. More heartbreak for the Red Sox. And most importantly, the Big Red Machine at their absolute peak.
1. 1986: Mets 4, Red Sox 3
You know how this one goes. Buckner. Wade Boggs crying. Jesse Orosco flinging his glove in the air. But beyond the exciting, improbable ending of Game 6, this Series ranks first because of the two teams involved, both of which teemed with character and characters. These were the Mets of Gooden and Strawberry against the Red Sox of Boggs and Clemens, both fresh off nail-biting series victories in the LCS. Amazingly, Boggs, Jim Rice and Gary Carter are the only three participants in this Series that have made the Hall of Fame thus far. (And Rice doesn’t even deserve to be in.) At the time, you would have gotten long odds if you took the under at 5 HOFers playing.
From looking at the order of the rankings, it becomes apparent that playoff expansion has hurt the quality of the World Series. Sure, adding Wild Card teams increased excitement in the early rounds of the playoffs, but it also harmed baseball’s signature event by diluting the quality of the teams that make it to the Series. As ever, thanks Bud Selig.