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Greatest Teams

 

by Aman Verjee

 

     So, who's the greatest?  The best measure of success is, of course, the number of games they've won - based on winning percentage, then, we've culled the best squads of the century:

 

 

Team

Record Win pct.
1902 Pittsburgh Pirates 103-36 .741
1906 Chicago Cubs 116-36 .763
1909 Pittsburgh Pirates 110-42 .724
2001 Seattle Mariners 116-46 .716
1927 New York Yankees 110-44 .714
1929 Philadelphia Athletics 104-46 .693
1931 Philadelphia Athletics 107-45 .704
1939 New York Yankees 106-45 .702
1942 St. Louis Cardinals 106-48 .688
1954 Cleveland Indians 111-43 .721
1961 New York Yankees 109-53 .673
1969 Baltimore Orioles 109-53 .673
1970 Baltimore Orioles 108-54 .667
1975 Cincinnati Reds 108-54 .667
1984 Detroit Tigers 104-58 .642
1986 New York Mets 108-54 .667
1998 New York Yankees 114-48 .704

 

     Next, here's what we looked for to rank the teams: 

 

     First of all, forget about sentimental notions regarding clutch performances and winning close games.  Truly great teams win their fair share of tight games, sure, but where they really set themselves apart is in run differential - runs scored minus runs allowed.  Since 1900, teams with winning percentages of .600 or above have an aggregate winning percentage of .633 - .686 for blowouts (4-run games or more) and .580 for close games.  So the great teams play well in close games but make their money in the blowouts.  So the most important consideration was run differential - how many runs did the team score, relative to the league mean?  How many did they allow, again relatively speaking?

     Using this formula approach one can develop a Pythagorean mean - a number of expected wins based on runs scored and runs allowed.  Pythagoras was of course the great mathematician who lived around 530 BC, and whose ideas of the tripartite soul and whose unique blend of mysticism and science informed his observation of the length of the hypotenuse of triangle.  I have run dozens of statistical analyses to determine the relationship between runs scored, runs allowed and winning percentage, and the resulting relationship can be described as a Pythagorean relationship such that:

 

     Expected winning % =                 Runs scored 1.8

                                   _______________________________

                                   (Runs Scored 1.8 + Runs Allowed 1.8)

 

     So, for instance, the 1998 New York Yankees scored 965 runs and allowed 656 - based on the formula above, they should have won .667 of their games.  That translates to a 108-54 record; by winning 114, they outperformed my expected wins measure by 6 wins.  Notice that the creation of runs increases wins not in a linear relationship but roughly in relation to the square root of the runs created.

     Other researchers have used variations of a Pythagorean expectation.  Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein used a standard deviation score, which measures how many standard deviations above a league average an offense performs, and adds that to the number of standard deviations below league ERA a pitching staff performs.  Through 1998, only 37 teams have put together a cumulative standard deviation score of 3.00 or better.  For instance, in 1927, the New York Yankees scored 975 runs while the league mean was 762; the standard deviation that year was 115, so the Yankees were 1.85 SD above the mean.  Meanwhile their formidable pitching allowed 599 runs; the standard deviation of runs allowed was 88.5, so the Yankees were 1.84 SD better than the league in runs allowed.  In total, the '27 Yankees were 3.69 SD (1.85 + 1.84) better than the American League.

 

     I looked at both of these statistics, as well as others, to set my rankings.  But I also looked for teams with stars, players who could lift their performance to levels consistent with the occasion.  Teams without league leaders and Hall of Famers typically are beneficiaries of luck - out of context seasons where everything clicks, but then reversion to the mean brings them down the following year.

     Finally, I looked for depth - players without weak links can sustain rallies and beat you in many more different ways than teams with just a few sluggers, who can be intentionally walked or who can get cold.

 

     Based on these criteria, here are my rankings of the greatest teams of the century:

 

1. 1939 Yankees

2. 1906 Cubs

3. 1927 Yankees

4. 1975 Cincinnati Reds

5. 1970 Baltimore Orioles

6. 1929 Philadelphia Athletics

7. 1998 New York Yankees

8. 1954 Cleveland Indians

9. 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates

10. 2001 Seattle Mariners

 

Honorable Mention - 1986 New York Mets

 

They just missed the cut: 1902 Pirates, 1942 Cardinals, 1912 New York Giants, 1961 Yankees, 1990 Oakland Athletics, 1962 Giants, 1955 Dodgers, 1974 Oakland Athletics, 1911 Philadelphia Athletics, 1995 Indians, 1998 Atlanta Braves, 1953 Yankees

 

 

1. 1939 Yankees - 106-45, .702

 

Manager: Joe McCarthy

Runs Scored: 967 (20.7% above league average)

Runs Allowed: 556 (30.6% below league average)

ERA+: 132

 

SD score: + 3.52

 

Pythagorean Expectation: .730

Expected Record: 110-41

Actual Record: 106-45

 

Hall of Fame talent: CF Joe DiMaggio; C Bill Dickey; 1B Lou Gehrig (did not play most of season); and P Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez.  Manager Joe McCarthy.  

   Very underrated 2B Joe Gordon is not in the Hall of Fame, but should be.

 

Lineup:

 

SS - Frank Crosetti

3B - Red Rolfe - .329 AVG, 14 HR, 80 RBI

RF - Charlie Keller - .334 AVG, .447 OBA, 11 HR, 83 RBI

CF - Joe DiMaggio - MVP - .381 AVG, .448 OBA, .671 SLG, 30 HR, 126 RBI

C - Bill Dickey - .302 AVG, 24 HR, 105 RBI

LF - George Selkirk - .306 AVG, 21 HR, 101 RBI, .452 OBA

2B - Joe Gordon - .284 AVG, 28 HR, 111 RBI, 11 SB

1B - Babe Dahlgren

 

   For my money, the '36-'39 Yankees are the best four-year dynasty in baseball history.  Much less celebrated than their 1927 counterparts, the 1939 Yankees dominated their league to an almost equal extent; during the year, sportswriters constantly referred to the rest of the league as "The Seven Dwarfs."  In every season from 1936 through 1939, the Yankees led the league in both runs scored and fewest runs allowed.

     In 1939, the team was led by DiMag at the height of his career - 30 HR, 126 RBI, and he flirted with .400 for most of the year before settling at .381.  Dago, George Selkirk and Charlie Keller finished third, second and fourth in the AL in on-base average that season.  They also got great production from second baseman Joe Gordon, who had over 100 RBI, and catcher Bill Dickey (.302, 24 HR, 105 RBI) - five regulars hit over .300, same as the 1927 Yankees.  For that matter, so did pitcher Red Ruffing - he hit .307 and drove in twenty runs in 114 at bats.  All-Stars Red Rolfe, Keller, Selkirk, and Gordon (an underrated second baseman who should be in the Hall of Fame) each had career years, and pinch-hitter Tommy Henrich kept getting big hits in key situations - he found his way into 99 games and drove in 57 runs.

     But their real strength was in their pitching staff and impeccable defense - next to the 1906 Cubs, no one has ever had better pitching.  The Yankees made 41 fewer errors than any other team, while their pitchers' 3.31 earned run average also topped the league; no other American League team had an ERA below 4.00.  They are the only team since 1920 to allow 30% fewer runs than the league average.

     The 1939 Yankees had three great starters: Red Ruffing (21-7, 2.94 ERA) and Lefty Gomez (12-8, 3.41 ERA) finished fourth and fifth in the ERA race that year, and Bump Hadley (12-6, 2.98 ERA) would have finished fourth but didn't work the 10 complete games necessary to qualify him for the ERA title.  Their fourth starter - hard-throwing Atley Donald - went 13-3 with a 3.71 ERA, well below the league average ERA of 4.62, and would have finished in the top 10 pitchers in ERA if the AL had used the modern standard of one inning pitched per game played instead of the 10 complete-game requirement to qualify pitchers for the ERA title.  And Monte Pearson (12-5, 4.49 ERA), their weakest starter, could have been a number 3 on most other teams.

     But flame-throwing Marius Russo was arguably the best of the lot - with an 8-3 record, and a 2.41 ERA, he threw 9 complete games (one more CG and he would have won the ERA title) in 11 starts, performed in relief 10 times and threw 116 innings.  Playing in an era before specialized relief pitching became the norm, Johnny Murphy posted a league-best nineteen saves, while Steve Sundra (11-1, 2,76 ERA) and Oral Hildebrand (10-4, 3.06 ERA) combined to deliver 248 IP, a 2.92 ERA and a 21-5 record, numbers which look a lot like Ruffing's stats.

     Simply incredible - a team with three, maybe four All-Star starting pitchers, and three pitchers in Russo, Sundra and Hildebrand who made 37 starts between them and platooned their way to a Cy Young performance.

     So why this team and not the 1927 Yankees?  Well, this squad actually underperformed their Pythagorean expectation by 4 games.  Their run differential of 411 is the highest of this century, but somehow they didn't live up to what they could have done.  In part, that's because Joe DiMaggio missed almost six weeks due to a torn calf muscle.  (On the other hand, they did go 28-7 in his absence, so maybe he wasn't missed after all.)  The team also lost Lou Gehrig on May 2, and had to replace him with the mediocre Babe Dahlgren - he was the worst first baseman in the AL tha year.  Throw in a month of Joe DiMaggio, give them a capable first baseman, and let them play the three extra games that were missing on the schedule, and this team would have won the four more games it needs to catch the '27 squad.  Plus, they had better depth in their bullpen and better defense - in a series against another team, that counts for something.

 

 

2. 1906 Cubs - 116-36, .763 (1st)

 

Manager: Frank Chance

Runs Scored: 705 (28.4% above league average)

Runs Allowed: 381 (44.0% below league average)

ERA+: 150

 

SD Score: + 3.73

 

Pythagorean Expectation: .752

Expected Record: 114-38

Actual Record: 116-36

 

Hall of Fame talent: Player/mgr 1B Frank Chance; P Mordecai Brown; 2b Johnny Evers; and SS Joe Tinker

 

Lineup:

 

CF - Solly Hofman

LF - Jimmy Sheckard

RF - Wildfire Schulte - .281 AVG, 7 HR, 60 RBI, 25 SB

1B - Frank Chance - .319 AVG, 3 HR, 71 RBI, 57 SB

3B - Harry Steinfeldt - .327 AVG, 3 HR, 83 RBI, 29 SB

SS - Joe Tinker

2B - Johnny Evers - 49 SB

C - Johnny Kling

 

     The Cubs from 1906-1908 posted a record of 322-136, a .704 winning percentage - the best three-year total this century.  Although they really only had one legitimate Hall of Famer - pitcher Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown - they simply had no weaknesses: their pitching and the depth of talent on this team was unmatched - they were also fundamentally supersound on defense, with every position filled capably and most positions filled by All-Stars.

     They had three pitchers finish 1-2-3 in the league in ERA, something which only a handful of other teams can claim to have done: the 1907 Cubs repreated the feat, the 1927 Yankees did it, the 1943 St. Louis Cardinals did it, and the 1954 Cleveland Indians managed to do it as well.  Mordecai Brown himself posted his single best season - perhaps the single best season by any pitcher, anywhere: a 26-6 record, 277 IP, 27 complete games in 32 starts, 9 shutouts, 4 saves, and a microscopic ERA of 1.04 (the league average ERA was 2.62) that still stands as the third best all-time.  Teammates Jack Pfiester and Ed Reulbach were second and third in the ERA race, with 1.51 and 1.65 marks; the front three starters were a combined 65-18.  And two other starters - Orval Overall and Jack Taylor - were both 12-3, and would have finished 5th and 7th in the ERA race if they had qualified ( Taylor pitched 147 innings and Overall had 144 innings, but neither worked the 10 complete games necessary to qualify for the ERA title.)

     Incredibly, the Cubs came close to doubling their opponents' runs, outscoring all comers by a shocking 705 to 381 margin; Chicago lost just 10 of their last 65 games to finish twenty games ahead of the second-place Giants.  

     First baseman Frank Chance and third baseman Harry Steinfeldt, who had been acquired in the off season, ranked second and third in runs created, behind Honus Wagner, and both finished in the top five in the league in batting average and on-base average.  But the real key to the lineup was its depth - everyone except Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers had an on-base average above the league average; all but Tinker and outfielder Jimmy Slagle had an above-average slugging percentage.  Chance's .327 average, coupled with the league-leading 83 RBIs compiled by Steinfeldt, provided a strong anchor for a well-rounded lineup which consistently plated the Cubs' swift baserunners.

     The Cubs scored runs with a slash and burn offense, not with power - manager Frank Chance used speed to create runs by stealing bases, developing hit and runs, sacrificing batters, and moving runners along.  He perfected "Whitey ball" before Herzog was even born.  Realizing two to three runs was all he needed per game, Chance utilized his team's speed whenever possible, ordering his men to run at any opportunity.  Chance himself totaled a league-high 57 steals but he was by no means the only man in the Cubs' lineup who knew how to swipe a bag -  everyone in the lineup stole 25 bases or more that season, except catcher Johnny Kling, who swiped 14 bases in under 100 games.

     This was the famous "Tinkers to Evers to Chance" squad, a keystone combination made famous by a Giants fan, Franklin P. Adams, in a poem published in the New York Evening Mail, on July 10, 1910.  While the Tinker-Evers duo never led the NL in double plays, and it has become fashionable of late to question their Hall of Fame selections, the fact is that when you look at the number of baserunners allowed by the Cubs' superlative pitching staff, this keystone combination was the finest of its era.  For instance, from 1906 to 1911, the duo turned 491 double plays; that puts them third in the National League.  But if you adjust for the number of runners who made it to first base (thereby controlling for the chances the team had to turn a double play), they rank first for this period.  They may not have been as good as Bill Mazeroski and Gene Alley, but they were certainly in the top handful.

     Unfortunately, the Cubs of 1906 were tarnished by an inexplicable World Series loss to a White Sox team that had been mired in fourth place in the American League in the beginning of August.  Known as the "Hitless Wonders," the South Siders (who had posted an AL-worst .230 batting average, not to mention a .286 slugging percentage) closed out the overconfident Cubs in six games; they got superlative pitching from Nick Altrock in Game and Ed Walsh in Game 3, and while Three Finger Brown's Game 4 shutout leveled the Series at 2-2, the White Sox (led by star shortsop George Davis) uncharacteristically got to Reulbach and Pfiester in Game 5 for 7 runs.  In Game 6, Chance went with an exhausted Brown on the mound, and the star pitcher gave up 7 runs in 1 2/3.

     The Cubs rebounded in 1907 and 1908 to win the World Series in both years.

 

     

3. 1927 Yankees - 110-44, .714 (5th best)

 

Manager: Miller Huggins

Runs Scored: 975 (28.0% above league average)

Runs Allowed: 599 (22.7% below league average)

ERA+: 120

 

SD score: + 3.52

 

Pythagorean Expectation: .706

Expected Record: 109-45

Actual Record: 110-44

 

Hall of Fame talent: RF Babe Ruth; 1B Lou Gehrig; 2B Tony Lazzeri; OF Earle Combs; P Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock.  Manager Miller Huggins.

 

Lineup:

 

CF - Earle Combs - .356 AVG

SS - Mark Koenig

RF - Babe Ruth - .356, 60 HR, 164 RBI, 158 R, .487 OBA, .772 SLG

1B - Lou Gehrig - MVP - .373 AVG, 47 HR, 175 RBI, 52 2B

LF - Bob Meusel - .337 AVG, 8 HR, 103 RBI, 47 2B

2B - Tony Lazzeri - .309 AVG, 18 HR, 102 RBI

3B - Joe Dugan

C - Pat Collins

 

     This was the famous "Murderer's Row" squad: the moniker usually refers to the heart of the lineup - Ruth, Gehrig, Meusel and Lazzeri - though sometimes leadoff man Combs is included.  Ruth, at the height of his powers, hit 60 HR and scored 158 runs, and Lou Gehrig drove in 175 runs - all league-leading totals.  Ruth in particular was spectacular, putting in one of the five greatest non-pitching performances in baseball history, according to Total Baseball - the other four are Ruth in '21, Ruth in '23, Barry Bonds in 1992 and Cal Ripken, Jr., in 1984.

     The league ERA that season was 4.14, lower than it has been in recent years, so it isn't taking numbers out of context when I note that the team hit .307, and posted an awesome slugging percentage of .489 - 90 points above the league average.  Five regulars topped .300: Ruth (.356), Gehrig (.373), Combs (.356), Meusel (.337), and Lazzeri (.309).  Ruth and Gehrig finished one-two in slugging percentage and one-three in on-base average.  Ruth and Gehrig were neck-and-neck in the home run department until Ruth went on a late season tear, hitting 17 of his 60 in the month of September. No American League club had as many as 57. Gehrig finished with 47 for the year, topping all but three other teams; teammate Tony Lazzeri was a distant third in the AL home run chase with 18.  And maybe the most incredible stat of all: in road games, the Yankees outhomered their opponents 75-12.  Overall, they out-tatered their opponents 158-42 - that gives you an indication of just how dominant these guys were (for instance, Gehrig's 47 circuit clouts were more than four other teams in the league).

     But while the Bronx Bombers led the league in every individual offensive category except for batting average, what is little known is that their pitching staff dominated the league to an almost equal extent, with an ERA over seven-tenths of a run lower than the nearest rival.  They had three pitchers finish 1-2-3 in the league in ERA: Wilcy Moore (19-7, 2.28 ERA), Waite Hoyt (22-7. 2.63 ERA), and Urban Shocker (18-6, 2.84 ERA).  Moore pitched mostly in relief, winning 13 games out of the bullpen and leading the league with 13 saves.  The team's third and fourth starters were terrific as well: Herb Pennock  was 19-8, with a 3.00 ERA (that would have placed him 8th in the AL by today's methodology), and Dutch Ruether was 13-6 with a 3.38 ERA.  They may not have the bullpen or the depth of the 1939 Yankees, but they were still one of the top pitching staffs this century has produced.

 

 

4. 1975 Reds - 108-54, .667

 

Manager: Sparky Anderson

Runs Scored: 840 (25.7% above league average)

Runs Allowed: 586 (12.3% below league average)

ERA+: 107

 

SD score: + 3.42

 

Pythagorean Expectation: .657

Expected Record: 106-56

Actual Record: 108-54

 

Hall of Fame talent: C Johnny Bench; 2B Joe Morgan; and 1B Tony Perez.  Manager Sparky Anderson.  3B Pete Rose is ineligible, but would be voted in on the first ballot.

 

Lineup:

 

3B - Pete Rose - .317 AVG, 7 HR, 112 R, 74 RBI, 47 2B

RF - Ken Griffey - .305 AVG

2B - Joe Morgan - MVP - .327, 17 HR, 94 RBI, 132 BB, 10.52 RC/27 outs

C - Johnny Bench - .283 AVG, 28 HR, 110 RBI

1B - Tony Perez - .282 AVG, 20 HR, 109 RBI

LF - George Foster - .300 AVG, 23 HR, 78 RBI, 24 2B

SS - Dave Concepcion

CF - Cesar Geronimo

 

     Oh, what a lineup - maybe the best ever.  The Murderer's Row Yankees could beat you with their power, but the Big Red Machine was a more nuanced threat.  They outscored their closest competition by over 100 runs, led the league in stolen bases and committed 25 fewer errors than any other team.  While they didn't score runs at the same clip as Ruth's Yankees, they were arguably just as difficult to keep off the scoreboard - they had two players finish in the top five in on-base average, and two different players finish in the top five in slugging.  Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and Pete Rose all finished in the top five in MVP voting.  And while the '27 Yankees had a couple of weak hitters in their lineup, every one of the Reds had a total production number above the league average.

     It isn't an exaggeration to say that Joe Morgan's season was just as impressive as Ruth's 1927, and may be one of the top ten seasons of all time.  His on-base average topped the league average by 139 points (Ruth in '27 topped the AL average by 123 points) and while his slugging prowess didn't match Ruth's, his 67 steals added a dimension to his team that the '27 Yankees didn't have.  And, of course, he was a Gold Glove caliber player at a key defensive position - in fact, he was one of four Reds to win Gold Gloves that year (Concepcion, Bench, and Geronimo were the others).

     One more factor that would have made this team extremely difficult to beat in any sustained series - they rode a tremendous home field advantage by going 64-17 in Riverfront Stadium.

     If only this club had a staff ace, they might have been even higher.  As it was, their top two starters - Don Gullett (15-4, 2.42 ERA, 8 CG), who missed half the season due to a broken finger, and Gary Nolan (15-9, 3.16 ERA) - were as good as any other front two in the league, save perhaps the Dodgers' Andy Messersmith and Don Sutton.  The Reds' strong defense and reliable bullpen masked a mostly mediocre and unmemorable bunch of starters, and Sparky Anderson (dubbed "Captain Hook" for his numerous pitching changes during ballgames - 277 all told in 1975) did a masterful job of making the most with what he had; six Cincinnati pitchers managed double-digit win totals.  His Reds tossed the fewest complete games in the NL, but led the league in saves by a wide margin.  The bullpen was reliable and deep - an earlier version of the 1990 Nasty Boys.  Clay Carroll (2.63 ERA) was the bullpen ace, but 24-year-old stopper Rawley Eastwick's 22 saves tied for the lead in the National League with Al "The Mad Hungarian" Hrabosky.  Co-closer Will McEnaney put together a string of 52 appearances without allowing a home run.  Though not used to the pressure of pitching in big games, Eastwick also won two World Series games and saved another.

     (At one point, the Reds set a record for most consecutive games without a starter going the distance.  When Pat Darcy endured oppressive heat for nine innings to record his first complete game of the year, breaking the streak, he was asked if he knew people were fainting in the stands.  "Because I pitched a complete game?" he replied.)

     The post-season added to the Reds' case as the best team of the last half-century.  They won their first of two consecutive championship trophies, sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS and then defeating the stubborn Boston Red Sox in a memorable seven-game World Series.

 

 

5. 1970 Baltimore Orioles - 108-54, .667

 

Manager: Earl Weaver

Runs Scored: 792 (17.2% above league average)

Runs Allowed: 574 (17.8% below league average)

ERA+: 116

 

SD score: + 3.31

 

Pythagorean Expectation: .641

Expected Record: 104-58

Actual Record: 108-54

 

Hall of Fame talent: 1B Boog Powell; 3B Brooks Robinson; OF Frank Robinson; and P Jim Palmer.  Manager Earl Weaver.

 

Lineup:

 

LF - Don Buford - .272 AVG, .406 OBA, 109 BB, 99 R

CF - Paul Blair

1B - Boog Powell - .297, 35 HR, 114 RBI, .549 SLG

RF - Frank Robinson - .306, 25 HR, 78 RBI

3B - Brooks Robinson - .294 AVG, 18 HR, 94 RBI

C - Elrod Hendricks

2B - Davey Johnson

SS - Mark Belanger

 

     I could just as easily have picked the 1969 Orioles - or the 1971 Orioles, for that matter.  The '69 squad actually had a better SD score (+3.33) but this one, the crown jewel of the three-year dynasty, was the only one to win the World Series.  The talent level was roughly the same across the board in these years, but the '69 and '71 squads caught some tough breaks.  In 1970, Brooks Robinson would cement his reputation as one of baseball's greats by almost single-handedly dismantling the Reds at the plate and in the field during the World Series.  "I will become a lefthanded hitter to keep the ball away from that guy," Reds catcher Johnny Bench said after the Series.

     Their post-season mediocrity aside, during those three seasons, their regular season SD score (+9.86) was the best ever over a three-year period, and they had nine 20-win seasons in this stretch.  They had three first-ballot HOFers, and a Hall of Fame manager - I mean, what else can you do?

     They were so steady and fundamentally sound, they were almost boring.  But with a deep and well-balanced attack, they scored a surprisingly high number of runs considering that they only had one .300 hitter and one 100-RBI man.  Boog Powell put up an MVP season, with a 961 OPS (second only to Yaz that season), and Frank Robinson (who missed about 30 games) finished fifth in the batting race and had a solid season.  No one else starred on this team (though Brooks Robinson had some solid numbers) but everyone except Mark Belanger had a slugging percentage above the league average, and all but Belanger and catcher Ellie Hendricks hit above the league mean.

     While the Orioles hit .257 (7 points above the league average), their league-leading OBA of .351 (29 points higher than the average) is a better measure of their patient, opportunistic offense.  The '70 Orioles drew 248 walks more than they gave up - the highest this century.  With Mark Belanger and Brooks Robinson, no infield has ever had a slicker leftside duo on defense, and 2B Davey Johnson gave them a third Gold Glover in the infield.  Paul Blair also won a Gold Glove that year, giving them four fielders who were tops at their position - only the Reds in the mid-70s matched that feat (the '69 and '71 Orioles actually did have four Gold-Glovers; in 1970 Mark Belanger was beaten out by Luis Aparicio, though he would go on to win 6 more from 1973 to 1978).

     Their patient, balanced, clutch-performance attack was supplemented by the best pitching staff in this half of the century - three starters logged 296 innings or more, and two were 24-game winners (Mike Cuellar, 24-8, 3.48 ERA, and Dave McNally, 24-9, 3.22 ERA).  But their staff ace was 24-year-old Jim Palmer, who was 20-10 with a league best 2.71 ERA and a league-leading 305 innings.  Cuellar (who had won the Cy Young in 1969), McNally and Palmer finished second, fourth and fifth in Cy Young voting, an unprecedented event.  With so much talent among the starters, relievers seemed almost superfluous, but manager Waever had no shortage of quality arms to choose from in his bullpen.  Two lefties (Marcelino Lopez and Pete Richert) threw over 55 IP each and had ERA's below 2.08.  Dick Hall and Eddie Watt provided steady, middle-innings relief - though with their front three starters providing 54 complete games, the importance of relief was greatly diminished.

     With their three top starters going at you, the Orioles were a formidable opponent in a short series.  From 1969 to 1971,  they swept the competition in three games each time.  McNally, Cuellar and Palmer won 7 of those 9 games.  But in the World Series, the heavily favored Orioles were upset in the 1969 World Series by the Miracle Mets: Cuellar out-pitched Tom Seaver in Game 1, but McNally lost a 2-1 pitching duel in Game 2 to Jerry Koosman.  Palmer pitched well in Game 3, but the Orioles were shut out by Gary Gentry and Nolan Ryan.  In Game 4, Cuellar was magnificent, but Tom Seaver's 10-inning performance beat him 2-1.  Koosman outduelled McNally again in Game 5.

     In 1970, the Orioles beat the Reds in 5 - their pitching was solid though not spectacular.  In 1971, the Orioles lost a Game 7 to the Pirates - McNally won twice and Palmer won Game 2, but the decider was a terrific pitching duel with Cuellar scattering 4 hits and no walks over 8 innings, but the Pirates' Steve Blass getting the win, 2-1.

 

 

6. 1929 Athletics - 104-46, .693

 

Manager: Connie Mack

Runs Scored: 901 (17.5% above league average)

Runs Allowed: 615 (19.8% below league average)

ERA+: 123

 

SD score: + 2.97

 

Pythagorean Expectation: .676

Expected Record: 101-49

Actual Record: 104-46

 

Hall of Fame talent: 1B Jimmie Foxx; C Mickey Cochrane; OF Al Simmons; and P Lefty Grove.  Manager Connie Mack.

 

Lineup:

 

2B - Max Bishop - 232, 3 HR, 36 RBI, 128 BB

CF - Mule Haas - .313 AVG, 115 R, 82 RBI

C - Mickey Cochrane - .331 AVG, 95 RBI, 113 R, .412 OBA

LF - Al Simmons - .365 AVG, 34 HR, 157 RBI, .642 SLG, .398 OBA

1B - Jimmie Foxx - .354 AVG, 33 HR, 117 RBI, .625 SLG, .463 OBA

RF - Bing Miller - .335 AVG, 93 RBI

3B - Jimmy Dykes - .327 AVG, 79 RBI

SS - Joe Boley - .251 AVG

 

     The Yankees introduced uniform numbers in 1929, but the numbers put up by their rivals were the only ones that mattered.  Fifteen years after his perennial pennant-winning powerhouse was dismantled in 1914, Connie Mack finally managed to build his dynasty in Philadelphia in the late 1920s.  After a valiant but unsuccessful run at the powerful Yankees in 1928, Mack's Philadelphia Athletics finally took the pennant in 1929.  Philadelphia's White Elephants had finally usurped New York's Murderer's Row as the dominant force in the American League.

     This squad won the World Series in 1929 and 1930, and lost the 1931 joust in seven games to the Cardinals.  Over those three years, they won 313 games and posted a winning percentage of .686 - the third-best this century.  Their winning percentage in 1931 was actually better than it was in 1929, at .704, but their SD score in 1931 was just +2.26, and they didn't win the World Series that year.  Their three-year SD score of +7.22 is not in the top 50 performances this century - it is well below the 1969-71 Orioles (+9.86), the 1937-1939 Yankees (+9.70), and the latest edition of the Yankees (1997-1999: +9.41).

     But the numbers alone don't do this team justice.  They offered up a blend of hitting, pitching and sound fundamentals that created a juggernaut that simply rolled away from the competition.  Jimmie Foxx and Al Simmons were the top two offensive threats in the Al that year, leading even Ruth and Gehrig in runs created; Simmons, who won two batting titles in 1930 and 1931 with .381 and .390 batting averages, was second in the AL in batting average and in slugging percentage (to Ruth).  He topped the loop in RBI.  The As also had the best catcher in the game in Mickey Cochrane, who hit .331 and scored 113 runs.  With three Hall of Famers in the batting order, they did the little things well enough to score runs opportunistically and win games in the clutch.

     They also featured spectacular pitching - Lefty Grove (20-6, 2.81 ERA) and George Earnshaw (24-8, 3.29 ERA) led the AL in ERA and wins respectively, and Rube Walberg (18-11, 3.60 ERA) was a solid third starter.  Eddie Rommel (12-2, 2.85 ERA, 114 IP) had a tremendous year working out of the bullpen, and Howard Ehmke (7-2, 3.29 ERA) was solid and dependable in his 8 starts.

     The team had a couple of soft spots in the lineup - weak-hitting Joe Boley and leadoff hitter Max Bishop didn't sustain high batting averages, and with a weak-hitting pitcher in the lineup, the team didn't have the consistent string of hitters needed to produce runs.  In fact, they trailed the Tigers that year in runs scored - led by second baseman Charlie Gehringer, rookie phenom 1B Dale Alexander, and All-Stars third-baseman Marty McManus and LF Roy Johnson, the Tigers scored 926 runs.

 

7. 1998 New York Yankees - 114-48, .704

 

Manager: Joe Torre

Runs Scored: 956 (17.7% above league average)

Runs Allowed: 656 (19.2% below league average)

ERA+: 116

 

SD score: + 3.88 (highest this century)

 

Pythagorean Expectation: .663

Expected Record: 107-55

Actual Record: 114-48

 

Hall of Fame talent: Maybe OF Bernie Williams, SS Derek Jeter.  Maybe P David Cone and Mariano Rivera.  Probably manager Joe Torre.  OF Tim Raines was also a Yankee that year.

 

Lineup:

 

2B Chuck Knoblauch - .265, 17 HR, 64 RBI, 117 R, 31 SB

SS Derek Jeter - .324, 19 HR, 84 RBI, 127 R, 30 SB

RF Paul O'Neill - .317, 24 HR, 116 RBI

CF Bernie Williams - .339, 26 HR, 97 RBI

1B Tino Martinez - .281, 28 HR, 123 RBI

DH Darryl Strawberry - .247, 24 HR, 57 RBI

C Jorge Posada .268, 17 HR, 63 RBI

3B Scott Brosius .300, 19 HR, 98 RBI

LF Chad Curtis - .243, 10 HR, 56 RBI, 21 SB

 

     Although it may be early to anoint the recent Yankees, 114 wins and a World championship says a lot.  They led the league in runs scored, in ERA, and posted the highest SD score this century - of course, the higher number of teams since the 1960s has substantially lowered standard deviations and raised SD scores.

     Still, they had six regulars bat over .300 - the '27 Yankees had only five - and posted consistent excellence from all parts of their lineup.  It was frequently said that this team had no superstars, though Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams played their key defensive positions as well as anyone that year, and David Cone qualifies as a superstar.  I should also point out that Tim Raines was a Yankee in '98, and he is a likely Hall of Fame candidate.  Still, the point is made that this was a deeply talented team, one with no holes in it - the nine-hitter hit .300 and drove in almost 100 runs.  Not a single regular starter had an OBA below the league average, an almost impossible feat, and only Chuck Knoblauch and left fielder Chad Curtis had slugging percentages below the league average.  

     Their team batting average of .288 was 17 points above the league average, and their league-leading .369 OBA was a testament to their patient, selective plate discipline.  Chuck Knoblauch and shortstop-sensation Derek Jeter at the top of the order, the Yanks wore out opposing pitchers with their patience at the plate. The middle of the lineup featured fiery-tempered Paul O'Neill, AL batting champ Bernie Williams, and 1997 AL MVP runner-up Tino Martinez - all extremely effective when it came to driving men in.  The trio, equally adept against both lefties and righties, drove in 336 runs in 1998.  The bottom of the order, a weakness for most teams, was a major strength for the Yanks.  Darryl Strawberry, who missed most of 1997 with leg injuries, subbed admirably for injured DH Chili Davis, smacking 24 homers while platooning with Tim Raines.  When Straw went down late in '98 with what was later diagnosed as colon cancer, rookie sensation Shane Spencer picked up the slack.  He smacked eight home runs - including three grand slams - in the month of September.  Catcher Jorge Posada, blossoming under the tutelage of defensive whiz Joe Girardi, became a force to be reckoned with both at and behind the plate.  Oakland castoff Scott Brosius - batting seventh and eight for most of the year - raised his batting average 97 points from the previous season, while hitting 19 homers and driving in 98 runs.

     The pitching staff was terrific as well, featuring Cone (20-7, 3.55 ERA) and a career year by David Wells (18-4, 3.49 ERA), who finished sixth and fifth in the ERA race.  Orland Hernandez (12-4, 3.13 ERA) would have finished third, behind Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens, if he had logged about 20 more innings.  And Hideki Irabu (13-9, 4.06 ERA) and Andy Pettite (16-11, 4.24 ERA) were the best fourth and fifth starters in the game, and Ramiro Mendoza pitched 14 starts and 27 relief appearances, totalling 130 IP and compiling an impressive 10-2 record with a 3.25 ERA.

     The league ERA was 4.65, giving the Yankees six quality starters with below-average ERA numbers.  And the bullpen, while The club's bullpen, although not as overpowering as it was in 1996 when the unhittable Mariano Rivera was the setup man for '96 World Series MVP John Wetteland, was nevertheless extremely effective.  Rivera had 36 saves and a 1.91 ERA.  In the post-season, he didn't allow a single run. The lefty-righty setup combination of Graeme Lloyd and Jeff Nelson was extremely solid, and lefty specialist Lloyd enjoyed his best season ever, with a stingy 1.67 ERA in fifty appearances.  With Mendoza working out the bullpen as well once El Duque came onto the scene, the Yankees had more than enough arms to beat you with.

     

 

     

8. 1954 Indians - 111-43, .721

 

Manager: Al Lopez

Runs Scored: 746 (14.8% above league average)

Runs Allowed: 504 (22.5% below league average)

ERA+: 132

 

SD score: + 2.21

 

Pythagorean Expectation: .699

Expected Record: 107-47

Actual Record: 111-43

 

Hall of Fame talent: OF Larry Doby; and P Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, and Bob Feller.  P Hal Newhouser was also on the pitching staff, working out of the bullpen.

 

Lineup:

 

LF - Al Smith

2B - Bobby Avila - .341 AVG, 15 HR, 67 RBI

CF - Larry Doby - .272 AVG, 32 HR, 126 RBI

3B - Al Rosen - .300 AVG, 24 HR, 102 RBI

1B - Vic Wertz

RF - Dave Philley

SS - George Strickland

C - Jim Hegan

 

     7 years after Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby integrated the game in 1947, racist resistance to black ballplayers was still rampant across the major leagues.  10 of the 16 major-league teams still had lily-white rosters in September 1953, but Bill Veeck's willingness to sign black ballplayers created a powerhouse.  In some circles, Veeck's willingness to sign black players was criticized. As historian Jules Tygiel later pointed out, "as the number of black Indians rose, some observers blamed the team's failure to repeat its pennant success of 1948 to an excess of blacks."

     But the 1954 edition, well-stocked with black stars, helped put the issue to rest by winning an American League-record 111 games.  They had signed Doby in 1947, and leadoff man Al Smith was black as well; Doby and Jewish slugger (and defending AL MVP) Al Rosen anchored the lineup in the three-four spots.  Even though the Yankees scored more runs than the Tribe and had a higher batting and slugging averages, the Indians outpaced the Bronx Bombers with their superior pitching.

     Like the '27 Yankees and '06 Cubs (also the '43 Cardinals, who don't make this list) the Indians in 1954 had the top three ERA leaders in their pitching staff.  The Indians had 4 Hall of Fame pitchers on their roster, more than any other team in baseball history.  Mike Garcia won the ERA title with a 2.64 mark, going 19-8; Bob Lemon was even better, going 23-7 with a 2.72 ERA; and Early Wynn was best of all, posting a 23-11 record, putting up a 2.73 ERA, striking out 155 and leading the league in innings pitched with 270.  And the number four starter was a fella by the name of Robert Feller, he of the incomparable fastball and hard-breaking curveball - Feller only started 19 games, but pitched 140 IP, went 13-3 and had a 3.09 ERA.  Near the end of his magnificent career, during which he led the league in innings pitched and in wins 5 times each, and in strikeouts 7 times, Feller put in one last great performance to help the Indians down the stretch.

     The Tribe also boasted one of the most dominant bullpens in the American League, led by the rookie tandem of Don Mossi and Ray Narleski, and backed up by a 33-year-old Hal Newhouser, almost a decade past his MVP years and well past his prime (Prince Hal won just 22 of his 207 career games after his 30th birthday) but still good enough to go 7-2 and save 7 games.

     8 Indians reached double-digit home run totals, as they led the league with 156 round-trippers.  Third baseman Al Rosen didn't match his amazing numbers of a year before (he had been the first unanimous selection for MVP) but remained a key part of the Cleveland attack, hitting 24 home runs while maintaining a .300 batting average.  (In 1953, he had hit 43 HR, driven in 145 runs and batted .336, missing a Triple Crown by one base hit).

     Of course, the team was felled in the 1954 World Series by the New York Giants.  It all began when Willie Mays made his famous over-the-shoulder catch of Vic Wertz's 460-foot blast to center field, and Dusty Rhodes won the game in the tenth inning with a 260-foot pinch-hit home run down the right field line.  Rhodes smacked another key homer in Game Two, and Johnny Antonelli's sublime pitching shut the Indians down.  Ruben Gomez and Don Liddle pitched marvelously in Games 3 and 4, shutting the Indians down again, allowing 11 hits and 3 ER over 14 innings, and New York took games three and four easily as the bewildered Indians were swept by the triumphant Giants.

 

9. 1909 Pirates - 110-42, .724

 

Manager: Fred Clarke

Runs Scored: 699 (23.1% above league average)

Runs Allowed: 447 (21.3% below league average)

ERA+: 131

 

SD score: + 2.68

 

Pythagorean Expectation: .691

Expected Record: 106-48

Actual Record: 110-42

 

Hall of Fame talent: SS Honus Wagner; player/mgr Fred Clarke; and P Vic Willis.

 

Lineup:

 

3B Bobby Byrne - .256, 0 HR, 7 RBI, 8 SB, 78 BB

CF Tommy Leach - .261, 6 HR, 43 RBI, 27 SB

LF Fred Clarke - .287, 3 HR, 68 RBI, 80 BB

SS Honus Wagner - .339 AVG, .420 OBA, .489 SLG, 5 HR, 100 RBI, 

2B Dots Miller - .279, 3 HR, 87 RBI, 35 SB

1B Bill Abstein - .260, 1 HR, 70 RBI

RF Owen Wilson - .272, 4 HR, 59 RBI

C George Gibson - .265, 2 HR, 52 RBI

 

     With one of the great offenses of the dead ball era, the '09 Pirates marched to a 6.5 game pennant win over the Cubs and their great pitching.  Honus Wagner led the team with a terrific season: "The Flying Dutchman" anchored Pittsburgh's lineup as the cleanup man and won his fourth straight batting title with a .339 mark.  He led the league with 100 RBIs, 242 total bases, 39 doubles and a .489 slugging percentage.  Player/manager Fred Clarke was 36, but while hitting in the third spot in the order, he was a still a formidable presence in the lineup - he hit .287 with eleven triples, 68 RBI, and 31 stolen bases.  He also led the league with 80 walks.

     The well-balanced offense - every single regular hit above the league average batting average of .244 - plus strong defense and daring baserunning gave the Bucs a lineup that provided few easy outs.  Pittsburgh had easily the best offense in the league, leading in runs, doubles, triples, batting average and slugging average.  With the exception of catcher George Gibson, all had more than 14 stolen bases.

     The Pirates' pitching staff was equally well-balanced; their team ERA of 2.07 was second only to Chicago's microscopic 1.75.  While the Cubs Three Finger Brown and Orval Overall, and the Giants Christy Mathewson, were the league's premier pitchers, staff ace Howie Camnitz (25-6, 1.62 ERA) finished fourth in the ERA race, and Vic Willis (22-11, 2.23 ERA, 24 CG) and Lefty Leifield (19-8, 2.36 ERA) were a solid front three, and Nick Maddox (13-8, 2.22 ERA) chipped in 13 wins.  The savior of the season may have been an unknown 27-year-old left-hander named Babe Adams. In his first full big-league season, Adams posted a 12-3 record to go with a sparkling 1.11 ERA in 130 innings.  His biggest contribution came in the World Series, when Clarke turned to him three times against the Detroit Tigers.  Adams responded with three victories, including a complete-game shutout in Game Seven in which he held Ty Cobb hitless.  Thanks to Adams, the 1909 Pirates can still claim the highest winning percentage (regular season and post-season) of any modern World Series winner.

 

10. 2001 Mariners - 116-46, .716

 

Manager: Lou Piniella

Runs Scored: 927 (17.8% above league average)

Runs Allowed: 578 (25.5% below league average)

ERA+: 116

 

SD score: + 3.35

 

Pythagorean Expectation: .672

Expected Record: 109-53

Actual Record: 116-46

 

Hall of Fame talent: Doesn't seem like any players have a shot, though it's too early to tell for P Garcia and RF Suzuki.  Veteran DH Edgar Martinez, perhaps. Possibly manager Lou Piniella.

 

Lineup:

 

RF Ichiro Suzuki - .350 avg, 127 R, 242 H, 56 SB

LF Stan Javier

DH Edgar Martinez - .306 avg, .423 OBA, 23 HR, 116 RBI

1B John Olerud - .302 avg, 21 HR, 95 RBI

2B Bret Boone - .331 avg, 37 HR, 141 RBI, .578 SLG

CF Mike Cameron - 25 HR, 110 RBI

SS Carlos Guillen

3B David Bell

C Dan Wilson

 

     The Mariners were definitely a great team - they scored the most runs in the AL, allowed the fewest runs scored, committed the fewest errors and stole the most bases. I mean, what else could you want? No wonder they finished with a league record 116 wins.

     But a few things keep them from getting ranked higher.  First of all, they had no true superstars or future HOFers in their lineup; best-ever DH Edgar Martinez was the only real candidate for Cooperstown.  Instead, they got career-making performances from newcomers Ichiro Suzuki (the 2001 Al MVP), 2B Bret Boone (141 RBI, to lead the league - he posted numbers not seen at his position since Rogers Hornsby), 24-year-old ERA champ Freddy Garcia, second-year relief pitcher Kaz Sasaki, and 20-game winner Jamie Moyer.

     As a team, the top five or six hitters melded beautifully, producing runs exactly the way a perfectly balanced lineup should.  Also, their bullpen was fantastic, with the league's top set-up duo in Jeff Nelson (2.72 ERA in over 60 IP) and Arthur Rhodes (a microscopic 1.72 ERA in over 60 IP) backing up Sasaki, who logged 45 saves.  So the Mariners won a lot of tight games.

     But weaknesses at key positions like shortstop and left field meant their offense didn't produce a tremendous amount of runs, and their SD score was somewhat below that of the '98 Yankees.  Interestingly, they outperformed their Pythagorean expectation by 7 games, more than anyone else on this list except for the '98 Yankees - chalk it up to their great bullpen and tight defense.

     Their pitching was terrific as a team, but outside of their top two or three starters it got pretty weak - in fact, an argument can be made that #2 starter Jamie Moyer wouldn't have been successful in any ballpark except cavernous Safeco Field This caught up with the  M's in the playoffs, when the Yankees top three pitchers (Clemens, Pettitte and Mussina) outduelled the Mariner's threesome.

   Had the Mariners captured the World Series, they might have ranked higher, but losing in five to the Yankees is an ominous sign.

 

 

Honorable Mention: 1986 Mets - 108-54, .667

 

Manager: Dave Johnson

Runs Scored: 783 (16.0% above league average)

Runs Allowed: 578 (14.4% below league average)

ERA+: 114

 

SD score: + 3.62

 

Pythagorean Expectation: .633

Expected Record: 103-59

Actual Record: 108-54

 

Hall of Fame talent: Possibly 1B Keith Hernandez; C Gary Carter.  Possibly manager Dave Johnson.

 

Lineup:

 

CF Lenny Dykstra - .295 AVG, 8 HR, 45 RBI, 31 SB

2B Wally Backman - .320 AVG, 1 HR, 27 RBI, 13 SB

1B Keith Hernandez - .310 AVG, .413 OBA, 13 HR, 83 RBI, 94 R, 94 BB

C Gary Carter - .255, 24 HR, 105 RBI, 81 R

RF Darryl Strawberry - .259, 27 HR, 93 RBI, 28 SB

3B Ray Knight - .298, 11 HR, 76 RBI, 24 2B

LF Mookie Wilson - .289, 9 HR, 45 RBI, 25 SB

SS Rafael Santana - .218, 1 HR, 28 RBI, 36 BB

 

     I remember this team as unbeatable.  A good part of my youth was spent watching sports, and the '86 Mets (along with the Edmonton Oilers) seemed as invincible to me as gods.

     While the '98 Yankees won coolly and professionally, the 1986 Mets won easy and loud, wherever and whenever they took to the field.  They were 55-26 at home, 53-28 on the road - unlike the '75 Reds or the '29-31 Athletics, it simply didn't matter where they played.  They were the best team in the majors, and knew it.  Their swagger, cockiness, and 108-54 record annoyed opponents, who were probably already frustrated by the Mets' uncanny knack for winning.  Their SD score is third on this list, and their clutch hitting and sound fundamentals allowed them to outperform their Pythagorean expected wins by 5 games - only the '98 Yankees and '01 Mariners outperformed to a greater extent.

     In every facet of the game, the Mets were deep, talented and passionate.  The well-balanced offense - every single regular hit above the league average batting average of .253 except SS Rafael Santana - had power, speed and guys who could manufacture runs.  Their defense was strong - Gary Carter, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling all won Gold Gloves throughout their careers, and Santana and Backman were also a superb keystone combination - and manager Davey Johnson established himself as one of the best tacticians in the game.

     Of course, the heart of this team was its starting rotation.  Dwight Gooden, the man they called "Dr. K," followed his 24-4, 1.53 ERA, 268 K 1985 season - which ranks as one of the greatest all time - with a 17-6, 2.84 ERA campaign and 200 strikeouts.  Bobby Ojeda was just as good, going 18-5 with a 2.57 ERA (second in the NL behind Mike Scott), and Ron Darling (15-6) finished third in the ERA race with a 2.81 mark.  Sid Fernandez went 16-6, and his 3.52 ERA was better than the league average of 3.59, making him the best fourth starter in the game.  And Rick Aguilera (10-7, 3.88 ERA) was the best fifth starter around.

     The bullpen was solid, too.  Doug Sisk provided excellent middle relief throughout the year, while the wacky Roger McDowell (3.02 ERA in 128 IP) and reliable Jesse Orosco (2.33 ERA 81 IP) shared the closing duties, each racking up over 20 saves.  Rick Anderson appeared in 15 games, tossed 50 IP and posted a 2.72 ERA.

     The swaggering Mets were almost dethroned in the playoffs.  The '86 NLCS was one of the most entertaining of all time.  The Houston Astros' Mike Scott, that year's Cy Young winner, had been overpowering down the stretch and compiled an 18-10 record and league-best 2.22 ERA.  He simply blew away the Mets in Games 1 and 4 - he had a complete game, 5-hit shutout with 14 Ks in Game 1, and had a 3-hit complete game 3-1 win in Game 4.  The Mets won Game 2, behind a terrific performance by Bobby Ojeda, and took Game 3 6-5 on a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth after Wally Backman beat out a controversial drag bunt single.  Dwight Gooden went in Game 5, and worked 10 innings and allowed 1 run; Nolan Ryan was just as impressive for the Astros, and it took 12 innings for the Mets to eke out a 2-1 win.  The Mets won Game 6 - and avoided facing Scott in Game 7 - with another exhausting extra-inning win; the Astros were ahead after 8 innings by a score of 3-0, with Bob Knepper working a two-hitter.  But the Mets got to him and tied it.  In the 14th the Mets went ahead 4-3, but the Astros tied in the bottom half of the frame.  In the 16th, the Mets added three more runs, and must have thought they were safe - but the Astros  were not be denied.  With one down in the bottom of the 16th and Jesse Orosco on the mound, pinch-hitter Davey Lopes walked, and singles by Bill Doran and Billy Hatcher plated him.  One out later, Glenn Davis singled in Doran, making it 6-5.  With two runners on, a tired Orosco threw six breaking balls to Kevin Bass and struck him out.

     The '86 playoffs were another memorable event.  the Red Sox jumped out to e 2-0 Series lead, thanks to a shutout by Bruce Hurst and Calvin Schiraldi in Game 1 and a much-anticipated duel between Rocket Roger Clemens and Dr. K Dwight Gooden (with both starters getting knocked out before the 6th inning) ending in a 9-3 rout.  They came back to win Game 3, 7-1, and Game 4, 6-2, behind solid pitching from Ojeda and Darling.  In Game 5, Gooden got roughed up again, and Hurst beat him with a great performance.

     Game 6 was Boston's great chance, with Clemens providing 7 solid innings and leaving with a 3-2 lead.  What happened thereafter haunts Red Sox fans and we'll gloss over it here, though you can read about it in our Century of Sports section - and the Mets knocked Hurst and Schiraldi around in Game 7 to win 8-5.

 


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