Century

Best MLB Franchises of the 21st century

Methodology

In order to figure out who truly deserves to be one of the best MLB teams of the century, I factored in several aspects to evaluate each team. I am including every game during the regular and postseason from the beginning of the 2000 season up until the 2017 All-Star break. I created a point system that is calculated as follows:

Win-Loss Differential- 1 point per game

Playoff Appearances- 10 points

Division Title- 10 points

League Champions- 30 points

World Series Champions- 50 points

Consistency- 20 points for every three consecutive playoff appearances + 10 bonus points for each consecutive year after that

Teams should get credit for being able to sustain success for an extended period of time, rather than having one year where they played exceptional followed by several bad years. It’s also important to distinguish playoff appearances from division titles.

For example, the Phillies should get more credit for winning their division with 102 wins in 2011 than the Cardinals winning the wild card with 90 wins. It’s also important to reward playoff success, therefore teams received a lot of credit for being able to win their league and/or winning the World Series.

It’s also pivotal to give teams credit for being successful during the regular season even if they have struggled in postseason play.

With the point system out of the way, here are the 10 best MLB teams of the 21st century thus far.

10. Texas Rangers

best mlb teams 21st century

Beltre, Hamilton and Young were at the heart of the Rangers lineup when they made their runs to the World Series (Zimbio)

Win-Loss: 1,439-1,404 (.506) = 35 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 5= 50 points

Division Titles: 4= 40 points

League Champions: 2= 60 points

World Series Champions: 0= 0 points

Consistency: 2010-2012 = 20 points

Total= 205 points

The Rangers did not start to show up until about a decade into the century. They might have had a World Series championship under their belt if they did not run into hot playoff teams like the Giants and Cardinals. If Nelson Cruz would have been a few steps back and didn’t let a ball go over his head then they would definitely have a championship.

It is somewhat surprising to find the Rangers this high on the list. They did not crack 90 wins or make the playoffs in the 21st century until 2010. They did have playoff success starting that year and that is what gets them to No. 10.

9. Philadelphia Phillies

Win-Loss: 1,439-1,401 (.506) = 38 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 5= 50 points

Division Titles: 5= 50 points

League Champions: 2= 60 points

World Series Champions: 1= 50 points

Consistency: 2007-2011= 40 points

Total= 288 points

best mlb teams 21st century

The Phillies rotation was advertised to be unstoppable in 2011 (USA Today)

The Phillies seemed to be a juggernaut around the same time the Rangers were taking off. They have had some of the most talented players in the past 20 years like Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. On top of that, they had what was thought to be the best pitching rotation in a generation.

When Philadelphia signed Cliff Lee in 2011, they were described as the best rotation in baseball hands down. This was after they had been to two consecutive World Series in 2008 and 2009.

The Lee signing made the top four in their rotation Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Especially with their core hitters still intact, it was hard to imagine anyone stopping them given they had an ace pitching almost every game.

Even with 102 wins in 2011, the Phillies were expecting to win more games in that season.

They ended up getting knocked out by St. Louis in the divisional round of the playoffs in 2011. They have yet to reach the playoffs again since that year largely because of their aging core. Philadelphia appeared to be close to having an uptick with some of their young prospects recently, but they have backslid as they are the worst team in baseball in 2017.

8. Oakland Athletics

Win-Loss: 1,499-1,342 (.542) = 157 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 8= 80 points

Division Titles: 6= 60 points

League Champions= 0= 0 points

World Series Champions: 0= 0 points

Consistency: 2000-2003, 2012-2014= 50 points

Total= 347 points

Thanks to Billy Beane, the Athletics were dominating baseball for the first few years of the 21st century. He found a way to revolutionize the game using “moneyball”. Through his sabermetrics and smaller salary cap, he built a rotation that rivals the Phillies one I mentioned earlier.

Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito made up a powerful rotation that led the team to 392 wins in the four-year stretch that they made the playoffs from 2000-03. They have been a great regular season team most seasons since 2000, but they have yet to translate that to playoff success. They have not made it to the World Series since 1990.

While they showed promise of possibly making a run a few years ago, they have regressed once again. It looks like it may be a while before the Athletics return to the postseason especially considering the juggernaut that is rising in Houston.

7. Atlanta Braves

Win-Loss: 1,518-1,320 (.534) = 198 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 9= 90 points

Division Titles: 7= 70 points

League Champions: 0= 0 points

World Series Champions: 0= 0 points

Consistency: 2000-2005= 50 points

Total= 408 points

best mlb teams 21st century

Freeman has taken the reigns from Jones in Atlanta (MLB)

If we included the 1990s, the Braves would shoot up this list in a hurry. Atlanta went to the playoffs 10 consecutive years that included three National League championships and one World Series championship. However, half of those seasons are not going to count towards this list. Despite that, many of their successful players carried over into the 21st century and still dominated.

While the Braves have yet to make a World Series since 2000, they still have had a good run of making the postseason and doing well in the East. Their nine playoff appearances are second most in the National League behind the Cardinals.

Bobby Cox led the club until 2010 with the likes of Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Andruw Jones and John Smoltz. These players made up a Braves core that rivaled the best.

Their lack of postseason success is what keeps them from moving up the rankings. However, they are showing signs of improving as they have proven to be a team that will fight with the best of them.

6. Los Angeles Dodgers

Win-Loss: 1,540-1,303 (.541)= 237 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 8= 80 points

Division Titles: 8= 80 points

League Champions: 0= 0 points

World Series Champions: 0= 0 points

Consistency: 2013-2016= 30 points

Total= 427 points

best mlb teams 21st century

Kershaw is making a case to be one of the greatest pitchers of all-time (Baseball Essential)

The Dodgers have had a similar story to the Braves. They have managed to have regular season success and have been reaching the playoffs, however they have trouble getting past the league championship. It is still surprising to see them this high on the list, but that goes to show just how good they have been in the regular season as opposed to the postseason.

Clayton Kershaw already seems to be able to get into the Hall-of-Fame before reaching the age of 30. However, he has been part of the problem in the postseason. Kershaw is 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA in 14 starts in postseason play.

Especially with how much the Dodgers rely on him to be the ace that he is known to be, it is difficult for them to be able to make it very far in the playoffs.

This year may rewrite the script in terms of the Dodgers postseason woes. Their young lineup mixed with a spectacular pitching staff makes the Dodgers a force to be feared. If the article was to be written a year or two from now, the Dodgers may be moved up a couple spots on this list.

5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Win-Loss: 1,535-1,311 (.539)= 224 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 7= 70 points

Division Titles: 6= 60 points

League Champions: 1= 30 points

World Series Champions: 1= 50 points

Consistency: 2007-2009= 20 points

Total= 454 points

Since 2009 the Angels have only made the playoffs once. They were successful in the regular season leading up to that, but have not been able to reach the World Series since winning it in 2002.

Anaheim currently may have the best baseball player since Willie Mays in Mike Trout. However, they have not been able to do much with him on the team despite also signing Albert Pujols. The Pujols contract may be what is keeping them back though. The amount of money they have invested in him may prevent them from being able to resign Mike Trout when that time comes. These big contracts are showing why they don’t work since it is difficult to build a good team around these mega deals.

Even with some of the legendary players on the Angels it seems that their future is at an interesting juncture. I expect them to move down this list in a few years while others rise.

4. San Francisco Giants

Win-Loss: 1,496-1,345 (.526)= 151 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 7= 70 points

Division Titles: 4= 40 points

League Champions: 4= 120 points

World Series Champions: 3= 150 points

Consistency: No consecutive playoff appearances three years in a row= 0 points

Total= 531 points

The Giants managed to gain the reputation of winning the World Series only in even years, as they won in 2010, 2012 and 2014. They have not been as good of regualr season teams as others on this list. San Francisco has only one four division titles since 2000 which is low compared to others on this list. However, there may not be much debate in saying they have had the most playoff success out of all these teams.

One of the biggest names for San Francisco since the turn of the century is Barry Bonds, who even though is tainted by the steroid era could still be one of the best hitters of all time. Much of their success has come from their pitching staff though. Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, and at one time Tim Lincecum have all been big contributes to the Giants success in the playoffs. Overall though, during their stretch of winning championships they were able to work well as a team. There were not a whole lot of big names outside of Bumgarner or Posey, but they had a supporting cast that did what they had to do and took them all the way.

Things are different this year. The Giants are currently in the midst of one of their worst years in the history of their franchise. Which is really saying a lot seeing as they are one of the oldest organizations in baseball. It is hard to see what is in store in the future for the Giants, but knowing them they will find away to make it back to the playoffs soon.

3. Boston Red Sox

Win-Loss: 1,557-1,285 (.547)= 272 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 8= 80 points

Division Titles: 3= 30 points

League Champions: 3= 90 points

World Series Champions: 3= 150 points

Consistency: 2003-2005, 2007-2009= 40 points

best mlb teams 21st century

Boston broke their World Series drought by sweeping St. Louis in 2004 (Boston Globe)

Total: 662 points

In 2004 the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. Since then, they have won another two championships. They also had perhaps the greatest comeback in playoff history, coming back from 3-0 against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS.

The Red Sox have also been playing in the toughest division in baseball since 2000. If you look at their division titles they only have three, which is as many World Series wins they have. This is largely because of who they have been competing with, rather than their lack of ability to perform in the regular season. It is odd to see the third place team on this list only with three AL East titles but it is the way the game goes.

Boston has had some stellar hitters including David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. They also have had some of the greatest pitchers of all-time in Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. Their success can also be largely attributed to the supporting cast of their team. Players like Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury are the less well known players on these teams that are able to have a significant impact.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Win-Loss: 1,593-1,248 (.560)= 345 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 12= 120 points

Division Titles: 9= 90 points

League Champions: 4= 40 points

World Series Champions: 2= 100 points

Consistency: 2000-2002, 2004-2006, 2011-2015= 80 points

Total= 775 points

The Cardinals have been called the Yankees of the National League. Since 2000, they have been one of the most consistently great organizations in baseball. This is because they have had a great mix of star performers and supporting players.

best mlb teams 21st century

Known as “MV3”, this legendary trio led the Cardinals to be one of the best teams of the 21st century (InsideSTL)

Albert Pujols came from the Cardinals system and had the best 10 year start to career in the history of the game. After he left the Cardinals in 2011, they have yet to figure out a way to fill the void that Pujols left in 2013. Despite the fact that they made it to the World Series in 2013, they have still been missing that spark in the lineup. Yadier Molina has been the best catcher since Ivan Rodriguez and is also a product of the Cardinals’ farm system, however he was never entrenched at the three spot in the lineup quite like Pujols was. Pujols provided the intimidation factor that has been missing and may contribute to why the Cardinals are struggling in 2017.

The 2004 Cardinals won a monstrous 105 games. This is largely thanks to the stellar middle of their lineup in Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen. There hasn’t quite been a trio as good as them for a long time. Each one of them was the full package with offense as well as defense. They are a big reason why the Cardinals were so successful from 2004-2006.

With the combination of Hall of Fame managing in Tony La Russa as well as great upper management, the Cardinals have some of the best sustained success since the turn of the century.

1. New York Yankees

Win-Loss: 1,637-1,199 (.577)= 438 wins/points

Playoff Appearances: 13= 130 points

Division Titles: 10= 100 points

League Champions: 4= 120 points

World Series Champions: 2= 100 points

Consistency: 2000-2007, 2009-2012 = 100 points

Total= 988 points

best mlb teams 21st century

Not many would debate Derek Jeter being the face of the Yankees success (MLB)

The Yankees had a reputation for a long time for spending big money to get the best players in baseball. They did this with Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texiera, and C.C Sabathia. However, that culture has been starting to get phased out and New York has been growing their own players in their farm system. The best example of this is Aaron Judge who is busting onto the scene and may be one of the greatest rookies ever. Other homegrown players such as Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and Bernie Williams made a big impact this century as well. I haven’t even mentioned that the best closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera, racked up more saves than anyone during this time and came from the Yankees system.

Just by naming all of these players who have played in New York tells the story of how successful they have been. They have won 2 World Series titles since the turn of the century, which is low for them considering they have won 27 all together. Their heated rivals, the Red Sox, have won more championships since 2000. However, the Yankees continued success coupled with their excellent ability to get top-notch players in a variety of ways, makes them the best franchise of the 21st century…so far.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Fredi Gonzalez Fired as Braves Manager

It felt inevitable with the way things had been going that Fredi Gonzalez wouldn’t last much longer in a Braves uniform. Atlanta was just 9-28 when they decided to release their manager of five-plus years. Gonzalez sported a 434-413 record in his time with the Braves, as well as leading the team to two postseason appearances in 2012 and 2013.

With the way things have gone for Atlanta over the past two seasons, I don’t think it’s a great surprise to anybody to see Gonzalez relieved of his duties. His situation in Atlanta certainly hasn’t been ideal, but Gonzalez knows as well as anybody that it’s a tough life for baseball managers, and moves like this can occur at any time during a season like this.

It’s hard to gauge exactly why the Braves chose this moment to release Gonzalez, as that would require a much greater understanding of internal factors within the Braves organization that an outsider simply doesn’t have. Gonzalez, who was made aware of his firing Monday night when his flight itinerary showed him returning from Pittsburgh on Tuesday despite the team’s series lasting through Thursday, has been the sacrificial lamb for the Braves over the past few years. He’s seen his organization trade away established veterans (Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel) as well as some up and coming studs (Andrelton Simmons, Shelby Miller) in the hopes of establishing the bulk of a team by the time the Braves move to SunTrust Park next season.

Despite his lack of star power, Gonzalez had nothing but praise for the 2016 Braves roster when he spoke to the Atlanta Journal Constitution following his firing:

“I will tell you this, through all this stuff, my team played hard. They busted their asses. They had to answer questions that they shouldn’t have to answer about the manager, and per man they all handled it with class, and they played their asses off.”

The Braves are near the bottom of the MLB in nearly every single statistic in 2016. The Braves have scored just 123 runs through their first 38 games, and have just 13 home runs on the year, 17 homers below the next closest team in Philadelphia. On the pitching side of things, a staff ERA of 4.70 is 25th in the Majors.

Brian Snitker was named Atlanta’s interim manager on Tuesday. Image courtesy of alchetron.com

So from here the question is, what happens now in Atlanta? The Braves have promoted Triple-A manager, Brian Snitker, to interim manager for the foreseeable future. It wouldn’t make sense to me for the Braves to make a major hire before 2017, as Snitker at least has some past experience with Atlanta, serving as bullpen coach in 1985 and from 1988-1990. Snitker’s 2016 debut was inauspicious to say the least, as starter Aaron Blair surrendered seven runs in the first inning against the Pirates on Tuesday. According to ESPN, Snitker is the first manager in 68 years, since Joe Kuhel with the Washington Senators, to have a debut that poor.

The good news about Snitker’s debut is that Mallex Smith had two home runs on Tuesday night. Smith is just the second Brave to record multiple homers on the season, now with three. As the former Triple-A manager, Snitker has already worked with several of the young arms that Atlanta is now working with in the rotation. This could help the players, most of which are still learning the ropes at the big league level, be a little bit more comfortable in their still new environment.

Snitker is not the Braves endgame at manager however, so the question remains who Atlanta will attempt to bring in to fill the void at the position. Chipper Jones is a name that Atlanta fans have certainly been discussing. While it would be a dream come true to have the former Braves legend third baseman return to the diamond, Jones has already allegedly, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, stated he is not interested in being the next Braves manager. I think Jones would not be the wisest move, anyways. Despite the huge publicity it would get with the Atlanta faithful, Jones has no former managerial experience and is working with a team full of young and developing talent that would benefit greatly from having a long-time manager at the helm.

Bud Black is one potential managerial candidate for the Braves in 2017. Image courtesy of timesofsandiego.com

Two men with plenty of managerial experience would be Bud Black and Ron Gardenhire. Black, who was formerly a manager with the Padres, is a name who has come up often, as he is know for being a strong developer of pitching. Black was in the mix for Washington’s manager vacancy this offseason, but the Nationals eventually decided on Dusty Baker. The biggest problem the Braves would have pulling one of these more experienced managers is their apparent lack of a timetable on when they think they can start competing again. Black and Gardenhire probably wouldn’t want to come in and develop a young team when they could instead wind up on a team with potential to make a playoff run then and there.

So, the Braves may have to look for someone lower on the radar. One name who has come up, and even received a vote of confidence from Chipper Jones on the matter, is former player Mark DeRosa. DeRosa was a utility player for a number of different teams. While he doesn’t have past managerial experience, he seems more open to the possibility than Jones on the job and, due to having no other past experience as a manager, may be willing to take on a young and developing team.

It’s hard tell at this point who the Braves are planning to have at the helm in 2017, but it will have to be a guy who is willing to work with a young team and help them develop into a contending ball club. Atlanta will also have the new SunTrust Park in 2017. Combine that with a brand new manager and the hype surrounding the Braves coming into the 2017 season could be very real, especially if they’re able to mature quickly and put up a season similar to Philadelphia this year. For now, however, the Braves just have to scrape on and see how far Brian Snitker can take them.

Information from ESPN.com was used in this report.

Adrian Beltre: Future Hall of Famer

adrian-beltre-onlineathens

Photo Courtesy of OnlineAthens.com

Adrian Beltre is a future Hall of Famer who does not get the credit or recognition that he deserves.

Discussions of the best hitters of the past two decades often see Beltre left out of the picture. Someone who is good, but, not good enough to be mentioned with other elite hitters of the 21st century.

Since debuting for the Los Angeles Dodgers at the ripe age of 19 in 1998, Beltre has been one of the best players in all of baseball.

He has racked up 2,767 career hits, well on his way to becoming a member of the 3,000 hit club. The only two players to join the 3,000 hit club that have not been elected to the Hall of Fame are Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro. Both of whom have been kept out of the Hall because of their own poor decisions, not because of their on-field credentials.

To go along with the possibility of 3,000 hits, he is also likely to top 500 career home runs. He needs only 32 more big fly’s to reach the 500 plateau. The only players to hit 500 HR’s not currently in the Hall of Fame are either accused/confirmed steroid users or not yet eligible for induction.

The only HOF eligible player to have both 3,000 hits and 500 HR’s that has not been inducted is the aforementioned Palmeiro.

Beltre is the best 3rd baseman of his era not named Chipper Jones or Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez’ career will always be looked upon with a dark shadow due to steroid use. Meanwhile Beltre has already surpassed Jones career hit total.

When discussing a player who debuted in 1998, and led the league in HR’s in 2004, it is impossible to not bring up the steroid discussion. Despite playing right in the middle of the steroid era, Beltre maintains a squeaky clean reputation.

The only claims against Beltre in the steroid department are a few naysayers that believe he had to have been using to hit 48 home runs in 2004. This anomaly of a season in the power department can be more reasonably attributed to a HR/FB ratio of 23.3%, which is much higher than his career total of 13.4%.

His clean name makes him an even stronger candidate for the HOF. In an era where steroid allegations ran rampant, it appears as though Beltre was one of the good guys who stayed clean.

Beltre also plays the game with a smile on his face and a child-like enthusiasm. This certainly does not make his case for the HOF stronger, it just makes him more fun to watch.

Whether it be arguing with Elvis Andrus about who catches a pop up, playfully calling for time out at 3rd base, or getting agitated when someone touches his bald head, Beltre’s love of the game is contagious.

Despite his impressive resume, Beltre has always seemed to fly under the radar. He has only been an All-Star 4 times in his 18 year Major League Career. He has also won 4 Gold Gloves.

When talking about the great hitters of his era, Beltre’s name is unfairly left out. He is treated as an afterthought, someone who is pretty good, but, not elite.

This is far from the truth. Beltre’s longevity, consistency, and talent put him in an elite class in Major League history.

An elite enough class that Beltre will rightfully have a plague in Cooperstown someday. Finally putting him in the discussion he belongs to be in.

The Atlanta Braves Era Continues with Chipper Jones

Courtesy of, bleacherreport.com

Courtesy of, bleacherreport.com

Sometimes darkness can gloom over a sport organization that can weaken the hearts of those belonging to that organization. However, that same darkness can unite an organization that supplies the strengths of perseverance to continue the desires, dreams, and aspirations of what once was. I would like to give my dearest sympathies to the family and friends of Robert Walter “Bobby” Dews and the Atlanta Braves organization, whom have lost a legend who not only spent the last 35 consecutive seasons with the Atlanta Braves, but an additional 14 years spent as a coach on a major league. He helped establish some of the most respected names in MLB’s franchise history.
Although words cannot describe Bobby Dews’ loss to the MLB organization, the strength of endearment that Bobby Dews provided to fuel the players to not only play their absolute best with the skills that they practiced to perfection for, but for the passion and love for the sport. To find an individual to fill Bobby’s shoes is easier said than done. After all, it takes more than skills, passion, and experience within the sport. It takes pure heart.
When I think of the Atlanta Braves, my initial thought is of Bobby Dews, but my second thought is of Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones Jr. After all, Chipper Jones, a well-known third baseman who spent his entire MLB career with the Atlanta Braves as well as a total of 23 years as a professional baseball player in the Atlanta Braves organization. As a notable switch hitter, he originally played shortstop, left field, and third base. The Atlanta Braves recently retired his number on June 28, 2013 and has offered him to continue his relationship with the Atlanta Braves by extending the special assistant to baseball operations to him.
Chipper Jones ended his career with a .304 career batting average with 468 home runs; 1,512 walks; and 1,623 RBI’s in 2,499 games with 8,984 at bats. He holds the current record for the most career RBI’s for a third baseman. As a switch hitter, he has reached a collection of milestones which have consisted of a .300 batting average; 400 or more home runs; amassed 5,000 at bats; had a batting average of .300; a .400 on-base percentage; and a .500 slugging percentage. These statistics are absolutely remarkable and are true accomplishments that were earned with hard work, dedication, and vast amounts of practice perfecting their skills. It is a well-known fact that Chipper Jones knows the strategies to successfully execute a baseball game. In addition to, his skills as a baseball player, his knowledge of the sport as well as his experience as a special assistant to baseball operations have only advanced his career within the Atlanta Braves organization.
Other than Bobby Dews, no one has more passion and love for the Atlanta Braves, the MLB, and the love of the sport, but Chipper Jones. It just makes sense to fill Bobby Dews shoes’ with Chipper Jones. I think Bobby Dews would have wanted it that way.