I wrote this earlier today and a couple of people have asked me about it:
The Yankees may be baseball’s most storied franchise, but the Cardinals and Red Sox are probably in the top four.
The question asked: who the other top-four team would be.
Good question! It was a half-throwaway thought at the time, but for what it’s worth I was thinking the Dodgers. Then I thought a bit more and realized that the Giants have an argument too, especially if you’re looking at overall franchise history and aren’t weighting more heavily for recency.
But wait! Do we weight more heavily for World Series championships? Overall record? Pennants? Some hard-to-define notion of tradition? Because that could change the answer too! For example, everyone knows the Yankees have the most World Series titles and most know the Cardinals are second. But I bet most of you can’t guess which team has the third most World Series titles. Give up? Yup, the Athletics, with nine. They rarely get talked of as One of the Great Franchises, though, because (a) they moved cities a couple of times; and (b) their gold and green and lack of either an historical or otherwise cool stadium makes them seem less TRADITIONAL.
Raw wins is a problem because it’ll weight too much for the longer-lived NL, right? I mean, the Cubs are second among all baseball teams in raw wins, but we’re not going to call them the second most-storied franchise, are we? Just feels wrong, even though they do have the crazy-old ballpark and tradition coming out of their ears.
Here the top teams in various categories:
World Series titles: Yankees (27), Cardinals (11), Athletics (9), Giants (7), Red Sox (7), Dodgers (6), Reds (5), Pirates (5), Tigers (4), [four teams tied with 3]
Pennants: Yankees (40), Dodgers (22), Giants (22), Cardinals (19), Braves (17), Cubs (16), Athletics (15), Red Sox (13), Tigers (11), Reds (9), Pirates (9)
Overall wins: Giants, Cubs, Dodgers, Cardinals, Braves, Reds, Pirates, Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox
Winning percentage: Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals, Red Sox, Cubs, Indians, Reds, Tigers, White Sox
Tradition Index [which I just made up]: Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants, Cubs, Cardinals and, then, heck, it starts to fracture.
The Yankees have to be number one, obviously. They dominate everything and have for a century. Not even close.
After that there are all kinds of arguments to make, with the big caveat being that the National League teams have a 25-year head start on the American League, thus inflating their pennant and raw win totals. Still, I think the Cardinals are a no-brainer for the top-four (my arbitrary cutoff from before). World Series titles count for a lot.
The final four teams, then, seem to be the Dodgers, Giants, Athletics and Red Sox. The Giants have the edge in World Series titles over the Dodgers but are short of the A’s. The Giants and Dodgers tie with pennants, and both had only two before the advent of the American League, so their considerable pennant advantage over Philly/KC/Oakland is still pretty legit. It shows that they were more consistent than the feast-or-famine A’s.
What to do with the Red Sox? A lot of early dominance and a lot of recent dominance, but such a relatively fallow (though rarely truly bad) period for so much of the 20th century. They made up for it in the literally “storied” aspects of this exercise because, man, they have tradition out the wazoo and people have been waxing poetically about them for so long. But really: on baseball terms they fall a bit short, don’t they? More World Series wins than the Dodgers, but far fewer pennants. A better winning percentage than the A’s but fewer pennants and World Series titles. A very interesting case indeed.
So, gun to my head, here’s what I got for my list of “most storied franchises,” whatever the heck we want that to mean:
6. Red Sox
That’s different than how I thought it would look when I came up with this half-baked notion earlier today, and it may ruffle the feathers of the people who don’t think an inconsistent, vagabond franchise like the A’s should crack this list, but it’s what my gut tells me right now.
What do you think?