Six teams remain to be listed in the rankings of the greatest teams of the 2010s, and for the first time, every team listed below is one that I consider to be a legitimate contender for the crown. All have some compelling argument to be the decade’s best team, though since there is a Part 5 coming tomorrow, I don’t think any actually are the team of the decade. But there’s at least some intrigue.
6. San Francisco Giants
Regular season: 821 wins (13th in MLB)
Postseason: Four NLDS appearances (2010, 2012, 2014, 2016); three NLCS appearances/World Series appearances/World Series victories (2010, 2012, 2014)
Best season: 2012, 94-68, 1st place in NL West, World Series champions
Best position player: Buster Posey (53.0 fWAR)
Best pitcher: Madison Bumgarner (31.3 fWAR)
There is one and only one argument for the San Francisco Giants being the team of the 2010s, but to be fair, it’s a pretty good one–no team won the World Series title more in the decade than the Giants. In a decade where only one other team won the World Series twice, the Giants won the World Series three times. But the argument against is what leaves the Giants merely in sixth place on this list–the Giants only made one more playoff appearance outside of those three title teams, they only won their division twice, and even in the most dominant of their 2010s season, 2012, they were hardly anybody’s idea of an all-time great champion. They produced one of the decade’s best players in Buster Posey and one of the decade’s great postseason heroes (slash very good pitcher) in Madison Bumgarner, but they were never a juggernaut. But again, rings don’t lie.
5. Washington Nationals
Regular season: 879 wins (4th in MLB)
Postseason: Five NLDS appearances (2012, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019); one NLCS appearance/World Series appearance/World Series victory (2019)
Best season: 2019, 93-69, 2nd place in NL East, World Series champions
Best position player: Anthony Rendon (32.7 fWAR)
Best pitcher: Stephen Strasburg (36.7 fWAR)
Prior to 2019, the Nationals seemed destined to also-ran status in this discussion–they were a great regular season team, but they had infamously never won a playoff series. For all intents and purposes, they had the same argument as the Tampa Bay Rays–above-average, sure, but not the team. But adding a World Series ring does add an interesting wrinkle to the conversation. Only one team with a World Series title won more regular season games than the Nationals in the 2010s, and while the 69-93 record to start the decade in 2010 can’t be ignored, the Nationals spent the rest of the decade as the home of era-defining stars such as Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer. Under a specific set of parameters–won a title, was among the best teams over the entirety of the decade, went out on top–this is a legitimate pick.
4. New York Yankees
Regular season: 921 wins (1st in MLB)
Postseason: Six ALDS appearances (2010, 2011, 2012, 2017, 2018, 2019); four ALCS appearances (2010, 2012, 2017, 2019)
Best season: 2019, 103-59, 1st place in AL East, ALCS appearance
Best position player: Brett Gardner (33.6 fWAR)
Best pitcher: CC Sabathia (25.8 fWAR)
One could make a reasonable, if not overwhelming, argument for the Yankees as the team of nearly every decade since the 1920s, and the 2010s are no different. The most obvious argument in their favor is very simple–no team won more regular season game in the 2010s than the Yankees. In their worst season of the decade, they still finished 84-78–no other team in baseball had a better worst season than the Yankees. But while the Yankees were consistent, they weren’t consistently dominant. They only won the AL East three times and never had the best record in baseball. More importantly, the Yankees not only never won a World Series, they never even appeared in one. Clearly they were the best team that can say this, but can a team be the team of the decade without so much as appearing in the Fall Classic? It’s a challenge, though I’m willing to consider the possibility. But not for a team that was only barely the best regular season team during the stretch.
3. Boston Red Sox
Regular season: 872 wins (5th in MLB)
Postseason: Four ALDS appearances (2013, 2016, 2017, 2018); two ALCS appearances/World Series appearances/World Series victories (2013, 2018)
Best season: 2018, 108-54, 1st place in AL East, World Series champions
Best position player: Mookie Betts (37.2 fWAR)
Best pitcher: Chris Sale (17.4 fWAR)
There’s certainly an argument to be made for the Red Sox. Unlike the other multi-title winners of the decade, the Giants, the Red Sox were not a middle of the pack regular season team but instead one of the five best across the decade. And both World Series teams were more dominant champions than any of the Giants’ even-year-magic squads–both teams either led the Majors or tied for the lead in the Majors in wins. But the Red Sox also finished in last place three times in the decade, and in the three seasons where they didn’t finish in first or last, they finished in third. In the median Boston Red Sox season of the 2010s, they finished seven games back of first place. In many ways, the Red Sox were as characterized by not living up to expectations as their championships. This doesn’t mean they aren’t a worthy candidate–21st century Boston isn’t exactly known for measured championship expectations–but it doesn’t help.
That will be a wrap for Part 4. Part 5 drops tomorrow.