Monday, July 9, 2018

Western Division – the 10 Greatest

We play the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants in the east, but we will put Fernando Valenzuela against Barry Bonds post move. However, the 1960s matchuos if Dodgers pitchers and Giants hitters were all compelling too.
  1. Oakland Athletics, 1972, J.Rudi and the A's kicked off the most significant run in western baseball with the first of three championships in a year in which they allowed fewer than 3 runs a game - and who knows how many titles the low budget A's could have won except for free agency. Indeed the incredible slugging of the 1989 team of Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire, as well as the astonishing turn of the century teams that were the subject of Moneyball, would be run as well, but the early 1970s run was the greatest in the history of baseball in the west and perhaps the most magnificent 3-year run of non-Yankees teams ever.
  2. Anaheim Angels, 2002, The greatest two teams in the history of western MLB outside of Oakland had the misfortune of playing in the same year, and the close call as to the best was only settled in seven games as D.Erstad and company had just enough to hold off Barry Bonds. That 2014 Mike Trout team looked on the verge of being great, and with the additions of Ohtani and Upton, it sure seems like a new team could make a run in the years ahead but this year the Mariners and Astros are off to such a head start in the AL West that it could be a while.
  3. San Francisco Giants, 2002, B.Bonds incredible career included a near miss with the Pirates against the Braves for a trip to the World Series, and then a nail-biting loss to Anaheim to deny him a World Series ring. Willie Mays 1962 team likewise fell just one game short of the title, and as incredible as the Giants even year run of titles was in 2010, 2012 and 2014, those teams do not seem to have the ability to dominate like the near misses under Mays and Bonds. I do believe this team was even better than the World Series champions of Fernando Valenzuela (Dodgers 1981) and Randy Johnson (2001) as well, but obviously, Mays and Bonds would have preferred the ring.
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers, 1981, F.Valenzuela arrived from Mexico and led one of many great Los Angeles Dodgers teams to the World Series title. You can certainly opt for the 1965 World Series champions, who had the greater lefty in Sandy Koufax who improved on his 2.04 regular season ERA with an incredible 0.38 ERA in three World Series starts that included pitching complete games shutouts in Games 5 and 7. However, even Koufax would be unlikely to come close to that number and consider that feat to drag what was not that strong a team. Certainly, another option is the incredible 2017 team that fell just short to the Astros.
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks, 2001, R.Johnson went to the desert to make the Arizona Diamondbacks World Series Champions with help from Curt Schilling in a thriller series to end the 3-year run of one of the three greatest teams in history - Derek Jeter's New York Yankees - not long after the 9/11 tragedy hit New York. The Diamondbacks two years earlier looked as good as the team that would win it all.
  6. Texas Rangers, 2011, I.Kinsler and the Rangers came within one game of finally getting the Lone Star state their first World Series title just six years before the Astros won it all.
  7.  Seattle Mariners, 1995, While the rest of the pitching staff was very weak, on days that Randy Johnson pitched I believe the team of Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, and Edgar Martinez was one of the best. If the Seattle rain could have canceled all the games between Johnson's starts, this team would have been very hard to beat.
  8. San Diego Padres, 1984, While Kevin Brown's 1998 Padres team that went up against one of the greatest teams in history could be a little better, I opted for the great Tony Gwynn's team that also went up against one of the all-time great teams in the Detroit Tigers that started their season 35-5. The Padres simply pick the wrong years to go to the World Series, but off a game against that Tigers team says a lot about Gwynn, who even dialed it up for the long ball despite normally deliberately being a line drive hitter.
  9. Colorado Rockies, 2007, T.Tulowitzki and the Rockies overachieved to give the city it's only World Series appearance, and I am going to have to label this as the weakest team to ever make it to a World Series. They were coming off a 76-86 season and were only 76-72 on September 16 and looking like a MAYBE average baseball team, but give Tulowitzki and company credit for one of the most excellent and most improbable runs ever. They won 14 of their final 15 to force a one-game playoff with the Padres for the wild card birth and won that 9-8 before shockingly sweeping both the Phillies and Diamondbacks to make the World Series on a 22-1 run. At that point, the Red Sox swept them, but one of the most amazing few weeks in sports history.
  10. Seattle Pilots, 1969, The 1969 Seattle Pilots were not very good in their one year in town before going to Milwaukee to become the Brewers, but I appreciate their stay because they round out my final 10-team Division. Wayne Comer was the team's best player despite this being his only full major league season - and he hit 15 of his career 16 home runs in this one season in Seattle.

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