The Yankees are a powerhouse -- but right now, they're not even the biggest powerhouse in their own division. And that could put them in some unusual territory come October.The Bronx Bombers are 73-43 entering play Sunday, putting them on pace for 102 wins. Topping the century mark is a
The Yankees are a powerhouse -- but right now, they're not even the biggest powerhouse in their own division. And that could put them in some unusual territory come October.
The Bronx Bombers are 73-43 entering play Sunday, putting them on pace for 102 wins. Topping the century mark is a distinct possibility. But so is finishing second in the American League East to the Red Sox, who hold a nine-game lead in the division and are on pace for an incredible 114 wins, at 83-35.
It's not often that a 100-win team is relegated to second best in its division. In fact, that's only happened three times in MLB's divisional era, which began in 1969. Before that, going back to 1903, the year of the inaugural World Series, only six additional 100-win teams finished second in a pennant race.
MLB.com looks back at those unlucky nine -- the 100-win, second-place teams since the beginning of the Major League postseason. Teams are listed chronologically, starting with the most recent.
2001 A's: 102-60
Finished second to: Mariners (116-46)
The 2001 A's had plenty of star power. On the mound, they were led by the dynamic young starting pitching trio of Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Barry Zito. At the plate, they had Jason Giambi, plus the likes of Miguel Tejada and Eric Chavez. Giambi (.342/.477/.660, 38 home runs, 120 RBIs) finished second for the AL Most Valuable Player Award, and Mulder (21-8, 3.45 ERA) finished second for the AL Cy Young Award. It took a historically great Mariners team to prevent Oakland from winning the AL West. Yes, this was the year Seattle tied the MLB regular season wins record, led by Ichiro Suzuki, the breakout AL Rookie of the Year Award and AL MVP Award winner. At least Oakland still made the playoffs as the Wild Card -- unlike the other teams on this list, which had the misfortune of playing before the Wild Card era. The A's lost a dramatic five-game AL Division Series to the Yankees.
1993 Giants: 103-59
Finished second to: Braves (104-58)
In 1993, Barry Bonds, the reigning National League MVP Award winner with the Pirates, left Pittsburgh to sign with the Giants -- and San Francisco went from a 90-loss team to a 100-win team. Bonds won the first of his five MVP Awards in San Francisco, hitting .336/.458/.677 with a Major League-leading 46 home runs and an NL-best 123 RBIs. While he was piling up those numbers, the Giants were battling the Braves in an NL West division race that came down to the wire. On the final day of the regular season, the two teams were tied at 103-58, with the Giants having just won 13 of 15 games to pull even. But in Game 162, the Giants lost to the Dodgers, and the Braves beat the Rockies to win the division by a single game. The Giants missed the postseason as the only NL team in the divisional era to win 100-plus games and not win their division.
1980 Orioles: 100-62
Finished second to: Yankees (103-59)
The 1980 season was the last time the Orioles reached the century mark in wins. But they ended the season with nothing to show for it. They were in striking distance of the Yankees entering the stretch run -- 1 1/2 games back when September began -- but the Yankees never faltered, winning the AL East by three games, even though Baltimore took the season series, 7-6. This Orioles team had more than one Hall of Famer -- a 24-year-old Eddie Murray anchored the lineup, hitting .300 with 32 homers and 116 RBIs, and a veteran Jim Palmer was still in the rotation, going 16-10 with a 3.98 ERA in 224 innings.
1962 Dodgers: 102-63
Finished second to: Giants (103-62)
A thrilling pennant race between the rival Dodgers and Giants ended with the two teams tied after 162 games with identical 101-61 records. That forced a three-game tiebreaker series to determine who would represent the NL in the World Series against the Yankees. The first two games were split -- the Giants knocked Sandy Koufax out early in Game 1, but the Dodgers pulled out a walk-off win in Game 2. In the winner-take-all Game 3, Los Angeles held a 4-2 lead entering the top of the ninth inning, but San Francisco rallied for four runs to take the pennant. The Dodgers' season had some high highs -- Koufax threw his first no-hitter, Don Drysdale won the Cy Young after going 25-9 with a 2.83 ERA and Maury Wills stole 104 bases to win MVP -- but there was no postseason berth waiting at the end of it.
1961 Tigers: 101-61
Finished second to: Yankees (109-53)
The 1961 Tigers won 101 games, but not only did they finish second in the AL, the Yankees actually ran away with the pennant. New York finished the season 109-53, eight games ahead of Detroit. The Tigers entered September just 1 1/2 games back, but they lost their first eight games of the month -- including a sweep at the hands of the Bronx Bombers, who won their first 12 games of September to open up an 11 1/2-game lead over the Tigers. Even the star efforts of Norm Cash, who won the batting title with a .361 average and also belted 41 home runs and drove in 132 runs, weren't enough; the Yankees had both of the top two MVP finishers, with winner Roger Maris hitting 61 homers to break Babe Ruth's single-season record, and Mickey Mantle hitting 54 of his own.
1954 Yankees: 103-51
Finished second to: Indians (111-43)
Despite all their success as a franchise, the Yankees themselves were on the receiving end of 100-win misfortune. It came on the heels of their record five straight World Series wins from 1949-53. That's because in 1954, the Indians set a then-AL record with 111 wins, breaking the 1927 Yankees' mark by one. Those 111 wins were enough to best the Bronx Bombers by eight games to win the pennant. The Yankees had the AL MVP in Yogi Berra, who hit .307 with 22 home runs and 125 RBIs, and also got strong seasons from Whitey Ford (16-8, 2.82 ERA) and a young Mickey Mantle (.300 batting average, 27 homers, 102 RBIs). But they had to wait until 1956 for their next World Series title.
1942 Dodgers: 104-50
Finished second to: Cardinals (106-48)
The 1942 Dodgers had as large as a 10-game lead in the NL as late as Aug. 5, but the Cardinals mounted a comeback over the final two months of the season to best Brooklyn by two games in the pennant race. That included St. Louis taking three of four games -- two of which were walk-off wins -- in a late-August series, as well as winning the clubs' final two meetings in mid-September to tie the Dodgers in the standings. The Cards surpassed the Dodgers the next day, and even though Brooklyn closed the season on an eight-game winning streak, there was little they could do with the Cardinals winning 12 of their final 13 games.
1915 Tigers: 100-54
Finished second to: Red Sox (101-50)
The Tigers have won 100 games five times as a franchise. Two of those times, they missed the postseason, making them the only team to appear twice on this list. The 1915 Detroit club had Ty Cobb in his prime -- Cobb had a Major League-best 208 hits and 96 stolen bases, and his .369 batting average won him his ninth straight batting title, part of a run of 12 batting titles in 13 seasons from 1907-19. But the Red Sox beat out the Tigers by 2 1/2 games for the AL pennant, led by Hall of Famer Tris Speaker in the lineup -- and, yes, pitcher Babe Ruth in the starting rotation. The Bambino went 18-8 with a 2.44 ERA on the mound that year. He also hit a team-high four home runs at the plate.
1909 Cubs: 104-49
Finished second to: Pirates (110-42)
This was the year that started the Cubs' 108-year World Series drought. The 1909 Cubs were the reigning World Series champions, and they had a stacked team that included Hall of Famer Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown on the mound (27-9 with a 1.31 ERA in 342 2/3 innings), as well as the Joe Tinker-Johnny Evers-Frank Chance double-play combination of poetic fame. But despite the Cubs' 104 wins, the Pirates took the pennant by 6 1/2 games with 110 wins of their own. It wasn't a particularly close race, as the Cubs never got closer than 4 1/2 games back of Pittsburgh in the final month of the season. Little did the Cubs know that their World Series title the year before would be their last for more than a century.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.