Twenty-eight teams have been listed and analyzed as candidates for Team of the 2010s. And now, two teams remain (if this is your first time checking out the series, you may want to catch up before you continue forward, though that’s really up to you–here are Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4). Those who have followed along have noticed which two teams have not been mentioned. Each team has a compelling and slightly different case for the title. Those teams are the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Upon my first calculation, the two teams actually tied, and that was a bit of a letdown. It felt like a copout, even as it was a formula which had determined it. But luckily, I checked the numbers and it turned out that, by the slimmest of margins, a true victor had emerged.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Regular season: 919 wins (2nd in MLB)
Postseason: Seven NLDS appearances (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019); four NLCS appearances (2013, 2016, 2017, 2018); two World Series appearances (2017, 2018)
Best season: 2017, 104-58, 1st place in NL West, NL pennant winners
Best position player: Justin Turner (25.3 fWAR)
Best pitcher: Clayton Kershaw (59.1 fWAR)
As with the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s, the name of the game for the Los Angeles Dodgers this decade was consistency. The Dodgers won seven NL West titles, the most division crowns of any team in baseball by three. Starting in 2013, the Dodgers never won fewer than 91 games in a season, and over the course of the decade, they averaged 92 wins per season. Like the Braves, the Dodgers did have a much-forgotten losing season mixed in there–they went respectable but still below .500 80-82 in 2010, and in the next two seasons, the Dodgers were nondescript non-contenders, finishing with 82 and 86 wins apiece. But perhaps most notably unlike the Braves, the Dodgers never finished the deal. I would feel unflinchingly comfortable declaring the Dodgers as the team of the 2010s if they had flipped the result of just one of their World Series losses in 2017, turning a seven-game defeat into a series victory. And really, should one game be the determining factor in selecting “the best” team of the decade? Probably not, but to a large extent, that’s not what we are choosing here. We are determining the defining team of the era, not necessarily the best. It’s hard to imagine a team that didn’t win a World Series being the defining team of its era, even as I recognize the fickleness of choosing a team that only won one, and knowing first-hand how many times that one World Series result nearly changed. But I suppose that is the nature of such a wide-open decade. It’s not going to always be fair, hence why I created a formula to determine something that cannot actually be determined with any degree of certainty.
St. Louis Cardinals
Regular season: 899 wins (3rd in MLB)
Postseason: Six NLDS appearances (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019); five NLCS appearances (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019); two World Series appearances (2011, 2013); one World Series victory (2011)
Best season: 2013, 97-65, 1st place in NL Central, NL pennant winners
Best position player: Yadier Molina (41.7 fWAR)
Best pitcher: Adam Wainwright (27.7 fWAR)
If you work under the assumption that the Team of the Decade has to have won at least one World Series, the Cardinals are the World Series champion that won the most regular season games. They’re the World Series champion that appeared in the playoffs and in the League Division Series most frequently. They are the team, World Series champion or not, that appeared in the League Championship Series the most often. The Cardinals were, more than any other team in this decade, associated with simply being in October. They were, for their generation, perpetual.
The worst St. Louis Cardinals season was 83-79, half a game worse than their record when they won the World Series in 2006. In an era where teams from outside of New York and Los Angeles felt that they needed to traverse several hundred-loss seasons in order to make a run at a championship, the Cardinals refused even a moment of obscurity. They were relentless and stayed relevant consistently from 2010 through 2019, and that is why I am confident in picking them as Team of the 2010s. I can see the argument for other teams, and I’m not saying that the Cardinals are definitely the right pick, but I view this pick as utterly defensible, and while being the guy on the website name after St. Louis championing the St. Louis team may reek of bias, the numbers back up the credibility of the case.