Are the Red Sox on track to be the team of the 21st century?
With 37 World Series appearances and 26 rings from 1903 through 2000, it's hard to dispute that the Yankees were the dominant team of the 20th century. That's 19 more trips to the Fall Classic than the runner-up Dodgers and 17 more rings than the Cardinals' and Athletics' 9.
After the 2018 World Series, we now have an early leader in the race for the team of the 21st century. The Red Sox claimed their fourth ring of the century, passing the Giants for sole possession of first place. In terms of appearances, they are tied with the Cardinals and Giants for the most with four. Moreover, with a team full of young talent -- particularly in the field -- they would seem to be well-positioned to add to their early totals. Less than 20 years into the current century, the Red Sox are off to a good start.
But, will they end up as the team of the century? Let's look at some possible contenders.
We've already considered the Red Sox's early case to be crowned team of the century, so here we'll offer a word of caution before you jump fully in. With their 1918 World Series victory over the Cubs, the Red Sox earned their fifth rings of the young century, good for two more than the second-place Philadelphia Athletics. The Red Sox, of course, sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees a year later and didn't win another ring until 2004.
The Yankees didn't win their first 20th-century World Series until 1923, so with a 21st-century ring already in the bag, they're off to a solid start even compared to their complete dominance of the previous century. Though they play in the same division as the Red Sox, they appear capable of challenging the 2018 champs in the short term with a core of young sluggers and a uniquely deep bullpen. It's rarely wise to bet against the Yankees in the long run.
Even-year magic may be a phenomenon of the past, but it helped the Giants bank three World Series championships from 2010 through 2014.
Coming off two consecutive losing seasons, their immediate outlook may not look as rosy as some of the other team-of-the-century contenders. However, you can't take those three rings away. Based on the Giants' long history of success, they would figure to add at least a couple more titles to their resume over the remaining 80+ years of the century.
The Cardinals have already won two World Series this century (2006 and 2011), putting them on a good early pace. Although they haven't reached the postseason since 2015, that doesn't mean they haven't been without success. In fact, the Cardinals have only one losing season -- when they went 78-84 in 2007 -- thus far in the 21st century. The Cardinals seem to have figured out how to be consistently good every year. In the long run of the century, that's worth something.
To say the Cubs had a rough go of things in the 20th century would be to engage in understatement. After winning consecutive World Series in 1907 and 1908, they didn't win another until 2016. While it might not be encouraging to hear that they're behind their 20th-century pace, things can't possibly go as badly for the Cubs as they went from 1909-2015, can they?
Even though the 2017 World Series champions didn't repeat in 2018, it is hard to say that the team didn't continue to develop and hit their stride in their follow-up campaign. Players like Alex Bregman and George Springer have continued to grow into stars around Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. Even with their core in place, the Astros keep unearthing new contributors. Josh James went from September call-up to a key piece of the team's postseason bullpen in the span of weeks. Now the former 34th-round pick figures to occupy a spot in the team's 2019 rotation. How many more Josh Jameses do the Astros have?
The Dodgers have now lost in two consecutive World Series, but that is not at all an indication that they'll be out of contention any time soon. In recent years, the Dodgers have established themselves as the Yankees of the West Coast by constantly being in the mix for prominent free agents and the biggest Trade Deadline acquisitions. Couple that willingness to spend with a core that has won back-to-back National League pennants and the Dodgers seem primed to be good for a long time and perhaps even be the Yankees of the 21st century.
Now it's your turn to decide. Who will be the team of the 21st century?