The best indicators of truly great baseball teams, of course, are the number of games they’ve won. Nearly forty clubs have won over 100 games in a season since 1900, but only nine of them managed to win 108. Those nine teams are automatically included in our survey of baseball’s best teams.
There are, however, a number of great teams that didn’t reach the 108-win plateau — namely, those that played fewer than the 154- or 162-game standard seasons. For those clubs, we’ve set a .700 winning percentage as the benchmark: the 1909 Pirates, 1931 Athletics, and 1939 Yankees all fall into this category. (The 1907 Cubs and 1970 Orioles would also, but we’ve chosen the superior 1906 and 1969 editions to represent their respective dynasties.)
These twelve clubs, as demonstrated by their season-long dominance and remarkable records, have earned the right to be considered “the best of the best.”
The ’98 Yankees had no superstars, but consistent excellence from their entire roster helped them win an AL-record 114 regular-season games.
The 1987 Minnesota Twins were no juggernaut, but rode an unprecedented home-field advantage to garner the first championship in franchise history.
After a 35-5 start, it was smooth sailing for Sparky Anderson‘s veteran club — only the third team ever to spend an entire season at the top of the standings.
The first “Big Red Machine” team to win it all, with a combination of power and speed rarely seen before or since.
The centerpiece of a dominant three-year run, the 1970 version staked its claim as the best of the bunch by accomplishing what the other two couldn’t manage — winning the World Series.
The ’69 Orioles represented the pinnacle of Baltimore’s defense-oriented and pitching-rich baseball tradition.
Mantle and Maris weren’t the only outstanding individual performers on the ’61 Yankees; they also had a fine pitching staff and stellar defense.
Bill Veeck‘s willingness to sign black players was criticized by some, but his ’54 Indians, well-stocked with black stars, set an AL record with 111 wins.
The first of three consecutive pennants for the Cardinals, the first team to develop raw, unproven ballplayers in a farm system.
“Connie’s Bull Elephants” featured six future Hall of Famers, three 20-game winners, and a pair of great streaks; 17 consecutive wins in May and 13 in July.
After a valiant but unsuccessful run at the powerful Yankees in 1928, Mack’s “White Elephants” finally took the pennant in 1929.
Few teams have been able to totally demoralize their competition like the ’27 Yankees; their “Murderer’s Row” included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Led by Honus Wagner, the ’09 Pirates had the highest winning percentage (regular season and post-season) of any modern World Series champ.
The ’06 Cubs finished twenty games ahead of the second-place Giants with the most wins of any team in baseball history.
The ’02 Pirates romped through the season with the second-best winning percentage of the twentieth century, but never faced the AL champs.