So who are baseball’s most storied franchises anyway?


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:

1. Yankees
2. Cardinals
3. Giants
4. Dodgers
5. Athletics
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?

Who will be the 2016 World Series’ breakout star?

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Javier Baez #9 of the Chicago Cubs looks on prior to game six of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Watching baseball most every day between April and October is a lot of fun, but it also can be a bit desensitizing. People like me and like many of you see some of baseball’s biggest stars every night and some of those same stars multiple times a week. We appreciate them but, after a little while, we tend to take them a little bit for granted.

The World Series, however, is a time when a lot of people who only watch their own team on a regular basis start watching other teams. It’s also when a lot of people who don’t watch a lot of baseball in general pay closer attention to a sport that may only be their second or third love. These people are getting a first glimpse, in many cases, of some truly special players performing on baseball’s biggest stage for the first time. They’re seeing stars break out. Their very act of paying attention to them now contributes to the breakout. It’s a cliche, but October is when stars are born.  It’s like relativity or something: they’re born because so many people are looking on, seeing their light for the first time.

The Indians have a handful of exciting young players who have not fully captured national attention as of yet. Sure, Francisco Lindor has been on the radar of baseball obsessives for a few years now, but he’s just completing his second big league season and is, for all practical purposes, entering the national spotlight for the first time this postseason. Jason Kipnis has played for six seasons and, for many of those seasons, was one of baseball’s most underrated and overlooked stars. Eventually, as happens with a lot of players like that, hardcore baseball fans came to truly appreciate him . . . but is he that well known to casual fans and those who have not seen much of the Indians over the past few years? Could his playing this World Series with a sprained ankle turn him into something bigger than he already is in the public consciousness?

The Cubs have a bit more of a national following and have had players in advertising campaigns and the like. As a result, even casual fans know who Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are. But have they seen them play as much as they’ve seen their images in TV commercials? Even if they have, there are still some generally overlooked and relatively unknown players on that Cubs roster. Catcher Willson Contreras didn’t come up until the middle of June. If you’re a Cubs fan or a fan of one of the many teams the Cubs have vanquished on their way to the World Series you know and love (or, possibly, loathe) Contreras well, but most people haven’t had a chance to see him much. Now he’s poised to play in the Fall Classic. Second baseman Javier Baez has been up and down in his brief major league career, but he’s been electric down the stretch and in the postseason, having drastically cut down on his strikeouts and having flashed some serious leather of late. There’s something about him that just screams “superstar,” and he now has the chance to show that to the world.

The idea of a “breakout star” is a bit amorphous. It could be someone young who shows himself and his talents to the world for the first time, like a Lindor or a Baez. It could, on the other hand, be someone who has been around for a long time — say, a David Ross or a Rajai Davis — who creates a signature moment for himself in the Fall Classic with one big swing of the bat. Heck, Edgar Renteria did both of those things in two different World Series, announcing his presence on the national stage with a big hit in the 1997 Series and bowing out gracefully with a big hit in the 2010 Series. Someone could create a prologue or an epilogue to a wonderful career, starting tonight.

Ultimately the question in the headline above is a rhetorical one, not a predictive one. We don’t know who will make the 2016 World Series his own and who will, in turn, make himself into a household name. But a short series, laden with drama like the World Series, all but guarantees that we’ll have one. A player who, after the next five to nine days, will forever be known by both the baseball obsessives and the casual fans. Watching that star being born will be just as enjoyable as watching the overall content at hand.

World Series Game 1 Lineup: Schwarber and Coghlan in, Heyward out

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Chris Coghlan #8 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after lining out to end the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the ninth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Cubs and Indians have released their lineups for Game 1 of the World Series.

Joe Maddon makes two notable changes: Kyle Schwarber as the DH and Chris Coghlan in right, with Jason Heyward on the bench.

Heyward has been close to a lost cause at the plate all season for the Cubs and is 2-for-24 in the playoffs this year. While his defense is a plus, Maddon has decided that he’d rather have the lefty Coghlan facing Corey Kluber.

1. Dexter Fowler (S) CF
2. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
4. Ben Zobrist (S) LF
5. Kyle Schwarber (L) DH
6. Javier Baez (R) 2B
7. Chris Coghlan (L) RF
8. Addison Russell (R) SS
9. David Ross (R) C

For the Indians:

1. Rajai Davis (R) CF
2. Jason Kipnis (L) 2B
3. Francisco Lindor (S) SS
4. Mike Napoli (R) 1B
5. Carlos Santana (S) DH
6. Jose Ramirez (S) 3B
7. Brandon Guyer (R) LF
8. Lonnie Chisenhall (L) RF
9. Roberto Perez (R) C