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5 overlooked franchise-best teams

October 20, 2017

For the most part, Associated Press writers swung, connected and cleared the fences this week when they picked their version of the greatest team ever for each of the 30 Major League franchises.Who could argue with a straight face that the 1927 Yankees weren't the best collection of guys ever

For the most part, Associated Press writers swung, connected and cleared the fences this week when they picked their version of the greatest team ever for each of the 30 Major League franchises.
Who could argue with a straight face that the 1927 Yankees weren't the best collection of guys ever in pinstripes?
No question, those A's teams of Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Sal Bando were splendid, and they showed as much by winning three consecutive World Series championships during the early 1970s. Still, none of those squads had the "wow" factor of Connie Mack, Lefty Grove, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane and Eddie Collins. Those six Baseball Hall of Fames are why no A's team surpasses that one from 1929.
Oh, and the Dodgers are in the World Series for the 19th time after a dominant regular and postseason. They've spent their stint in Los Angeles since the late 1950s producing more than a few memorable teams courtesy of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, then Steve Garvey and Don Sutton, then Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson.
1955 never goes away from our baseball consciousness. Ever hear of Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella and Pee Wee Reese? They're in Cooperstown with Walter Alston, the manager of those Dodgers from Brooklyn, and Koufax was their 19-year-old rookie.
Nice job, AP writers, but you were a little off regarding five teams.
There are several things wrong with those AP writers picking the 1906 Northsiders for their list. Here's one: They lost the World Series. I'm sorry, but you can't rate them as the standard bearer for a franchise if they weren't even the best team in baseball that year.
Interestingly, those 1906 Cubs featured the magical names of Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance, along with Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown, and they stayed intact enough to win back-to-back World Series titles in '07 and '08.
The Cubs' stretch of dominance back then is impressive, but it's not as impressive as what happened last season when the Chicago defeated a solid Cleveland team and overcame the Curse of the Billy Goat to win it all for the first time in 108 years. Who knows whether  Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell will have plaques in the Baseball Hall of Fame someday next to those other Cubs icons. But we do know no Cubs team ever had to battle so much to reach so far -- and the 2016 team did.

Red Sox
See the previous entry about the 2016 Cubs and insert the Red Sox -- at least the ones who did the improbable in '04. Actually, the '04 Boston team foreshadowed its glory to come by doing the unprecedented when it became the first team to go from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series to the next round.
They also did it against the Yankees.
From there, the 2004 Red Sox reached the World Series, and you know the rest. While the Cubs had the Billy Goat to contend with, Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez had the Curse of the Bambino in their way. That is, until they swept away the Cardinals in the World Series -- and that 86-year-old horror created by the trade of Babe Ruth to the Yankees.
So, with apologies to the AP writers, their choice of the 1912 Red Sox was pretty good, but not the best.

Those AP writers picked yet another team that didn't win the World Series. Yes, the 1965 team had several princes in Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew, Gold Glove shortstop Zoilo Versalles and Tony Oliva, the American League's batting champion in '64 and '65. It's just that the '91 Twins had Kirby Puckett, their undisputed king who led his subjects to the throne of a shocking World Series title.
Which brings us to the bigger part of the story, which is how the 1991 Twins accomplished that. With much help from Puckett and the clutch right arm of Jack Morris, they went from worst to first -- just like the Braves, their NL counterparts during an electrifying Fall Classic.
If you have connected the dots so far, you see I'm huge on teams that win World Series championships, both physically and mentally, compared to others in their franchise history.

Here we go again. To hear the AP writers tell it, the 2011 Phillies were more impressive than, say, the '08 team who won it all. You know, with the same core players of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, who were around in '11.
The difference, according to those writers, is starting pitching. They mentioned how the 2011 Phillies had one of baseball's most fearsome rotations ever with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. In addition, Vance Worley finished with an 11-3 record, and he was just a rookie.
The Phillies lost more games during the 20th century than any other Major League team. But until 2008, the franchise hadn't managed a World Series championship since 1980.
Case closed.

I was the world's biggest Big Red Machine fan, so trust me on this one. The AP writers blew it here. Big time. I'm guessing they mostly selected the 1976 Reds since that team won the second of consecutive World Series titles for the franchise by sweeping its way through the NL Championship Series and the World Series when there wasn't a Wild Card Game or Division Series.
The 1975 Reds were better.
Pete Rose. Johnny Bench. Joe Morgan. Tony Perez. Sparky Anderson. All of those magical folks were around both years. Even so, along the way to finishing one victory shy of tying the record by the 1961 Yankees for the most home victories in a season (65), the '75 Reds won 108 games to the 102 of the '76 team. Consider, too, that the '75 Reds were below .500 in late May until Anderson made one of the gutsiest managerial moves ever. He switched Rose from left field to third base to get George Foster and his potent bat into the lineup, and those Reds exploded from there.
If the Rose-Foster switch happened earlier, the 1975 Reds might have won 120 games or more to shatter the record of 116.
Finally, I'll continue my theme of how several teams overcame huge obstacles along the way. Let's return to the bottom of the 12th inning of Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park. Those Reds watched their momentum vanish in a flash after Carlton Fisk slammed his classic homer against the foul pole in left field.
The Red Sox didn't win Game 7.

Terence Moore is a columnist for