Month: February 2010

World Series Contestants: Usually Not the Best Teams

Since the advent of three-tiered postseason play in 1995, a league’s best team has seldom appeared in the World Series. Here’s the tally (National League teams listed first; * indicates winner of World Series):

1995 —
Atlanta Braves (division winner; .625 W-L, best record in NL)*
Cleveland Indians (division winner; .694 W-L, best record in AL)

1996 —
Atlanta Braves (division winner; .593, best in NL)
New York Yankees (division winner; .568, second-best in AL)*

1997 —
Florida Marlins (wild-card team; .568, second-best in NL)*
Cleveland Indians (division winner; .534, fourth-best in AL)

1998–
San Diego Padres (division winner; .605 third-best in NL)
New York Yankees (division winner, .704, best in AL)*

1999–
Atlanta Braves (division winner; .636, best in NL)
New York Yankees (division winner; .605, best in AL)*

2000–
New York Mets (wild-card team; .580, fourth-best in NL)
New York Yankees (division winner; .540, fifth-best in AL)*

2001–
Arizona Diamondbacks (division winner; .568, fourth-best in NL)*
New York Yankees (division winner; .594, third-best in AL)

2002–
San Francisco Giants (wild-card team; .590, fourth-best in NL)
Anaheim Angels (wild-card team; .611, third-best in AL)*

2003–
Florida Marlines (wild-card team; .562, third-best in NL)*
New York Yankees (division winner; .623, best in AL)

2004–
St. Louis Cardinals (division winner; .648, best in NL)
Boston Red Sox (wild-card team; .605, second-best in AL)*

2005–
Houston Astros (wild-card team; .549, third-best in NL)
Chicago White Sox (division winner; .611, best in AL)*

2006–
St. Louis Cardinals (division winner; .516, fifth-best in NL)*
Detroit Tigers (wild-card team; .586, third-best in AL)

2007–
Colorado Rockies (wild-card team; .552, second-best in NL)
Boston Red Sox (division winner; .593, tied for best in AL)*

2008–
Philadelphia Phillies (division winner; .568, second-best in NL)*
Tampa Bay Rays (division winner; .599, second-best in AL)

2009–
Philadelphia Phillies (division winner; .574, second-best in NL)
New York Yankees (division winner; .636, best in AL)*

There you have it. The last year in which the World Series featured each league’s best team was 1999. The only other time was in 1995.

Of the 15 Series from 1995 through 2009, 9 were won by the inferior team, as measured by W-L record. Division winners opposed each other in only 6 of the 15 Series.

Wild-card teams appeared in 8 of the 15 Series. With an all wild-card Series in 2002, wild-card teams have occupied almost a third of the 30 Series slots — 9 of 30.

As I have said, the winner of the World Series can claim nothing more than having been the better team over a span of four to seven games.