If you are of the school of thought that this century started in 2000 rather than 2001 -- which is technically incorrect, but irritatingly pedantic; can we all just say the year that starts with a 2 is in a different century than the one that starts with a 1 -- there have been 20 World Series champions so far this century. All World Series winners are excellent teams: They won the World Series, after all. But they are not all treated equally. Some will go down in history as some of the greatest teams of all time; others, we’ll mark them solely for their good fortune and fortuitous timing.
So, this Thanksgiving week, we rank those past 20 World Series winners, 1-20. This list might be controversial, but it shouldn’t be: After all, if you’re on this list, even if you’re farther down on it, you’re still World Series champions. And that’s all that matters.
1) 2018 Boston Red Sox
They won 108 games, the most any team had won since the 2001 Seattle Mariners, but honestly, the Red Sox were just getting started. They went 11-3 in the playoffs -- beating two 100-plus win teams along the way -- and were never seriously threatened. They also had one of the most terrifying offenses in a century renowned for its offensive exploits. The Red Sox have had many great teams this century, but this was the most truly dominant.
2) 2016 Chicago Cubs
The target was on the Cubs’ back from Spring Training, as was the spotlight: From late February to early November, this team had the pressure of trying to end the franchise's 108-year curse without a ring. They seemed to thrive on that pressure as a fun, young team that never seemed to feel the weight of history. That came in handy in the World Series, when they fell behind, 3-1, against Cleveland and then blew a Game 7 lead. But after that famous rain delay -- and Jason Heyward's speech -- they went out and made history with a win. It still seems crazy that we live in a world where the Cubs recently won the World Series.
3) 2004 Boston Red Sox
The 2004 Red Sox have a reputation as underdogs, but that was just because the Yankees had been beating up on them for so long. (And, you know, history.) But this was a terrific team, with an overpowering offense (David Ortiz! Manny Ramirez!) and a rotation that’ll likely end up with multiple Hall of Famers in Pedro Martínez and Curt Schilling. Still, they’ll always be known for their American League Championship Series comeback from 3-0 down, which will always make them seem scrappier than they really were. (After all, they subsequently swept a 105-win Cardinals juggernaut in the World Series.) And we know you’ll never admit this, but it’s true: Unless you were a Yankees fan, you were rooting for this team in '04.
4) 2005 Chicago White Sox
They are without question the most underappreciated champion of the last 25 years. The 2005 White Sox were incredible. They won 99 games, the most in the AL and the second-best in baseball, mostly thanks to a pitching staff that had four 14-game winners and a consistent and timely offense. But more to the point, they had a postseason that teams dream of. They swept the Red Sox 3-0 in the ALDS. They won in five against the Angels in the ALCS. And they swept the Astros (then in the NL) in the World Series, even though they only outscored Houston by six runs. And for all the talk of the Red Sox the year before and the Cubs 11 years later, the White Sox ended an 88-year drought themselves. We should all talk about the '05 White Sox more.
5) 2009 New York Yankees
This was the first year of the new Yankee Stadium, and for the first two months, all anyone could talk about was how easy it was to hit home runs there. You almost failed to notice that the Yankees, largely because of a free-agency spending spree that brought in Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, were putting together an incredible season. They won 103 games, swept the Twins in the ALDS, cruised past the Angels in the ALCS and blitzed the defending champion Phillies in the World Series. They even got Alex Rodriguez a ring! The Yankees were about to have a down decade (by their standards), but they ended the previous one in the best possible way.
6) 2017 Houston Astros
You might be of the belief that somehow the recent sign-stealing allegations somehow damage this team’s accomplishments -- that seems like quite an overreaction, but everybody rides their own horse on this one -- but one cannot deny how fantastic this team was. This was the reward for all those years in the wilderness as they built this team, not just for the fans, but for players like José Altuve, who had been there from the beginning. They also played a truly fantastic World Series. Because of the sign-stealing allegations, we might not always remember this team fondly. But they were outstanding in the moment.
7) 2013 Boston Red Sox
These were the “This is our [bleeping] city” Red Sox, a team that unified a mourning city in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing to be maybe the most truly inspiring of all the Red Sox title teams. Big Papi wasn’t just the heart and soul of this team, he was its muscle, particularly in the postseason, in which he turned into a modern Babe Ruth. (He hit .688 in the World Series. .688!) No one will ever forget the Boston Strong season.
8) 2015 Kansas City Royals
Because they’re the Royals, there’s a general sense that the 2015 Royals were plucky underdog upstarts who got hot at the right time in the postseason. But this was a 95-win team that had home-field advantage in every one of its postseason series, and one that had the valuable October experience after coming up just short in the '14 World Series. And there were stretches when you wondered whether it was even possible to score against this bullpen. Maybe one of our more underappreciated champions.
9) 2002 Los Angeles Angels
The Yankees and Athletics had the most wins that season, and Barry Bonds’ quest for his first title got all the headlines, but this season, and postseason, belonged to the Rally Monkey. This Angels team was a deeply inspiring one -- Scott Spiezio and Troy Glaus will be Angels legends forever -- but it’s also one that won 99 regular-season games and was stacked with power bats. This was perhaps not our favorite incarnation of Angels uniforms, but this was as electric as crowds have ever been in Anaheim. And Angels fans will happily remind you they’ve won a title more recently than the Dodgers have.
10) 2019 Washington Nationals
Yes, sure, they were a Wild Card team. But that was mostly because of a wretched start. By the time October came around, this is the team the Nationals always thought they would be, with a fantastic rotation, stars all around the diamond from veterans like Anthony Rendon to young phenoms like Juan Soto and just enough bullpen arms to get them through. This victory was the culmination of so many postseason failures, and all told, now that it’s over: Isn’t it better that this is the Nationals' team that won, rather than some of those other ones?
11) 2012 San Francisco Giants
One feels a little bad having all three Giants teams down in the bottom half of this list, but the Giants were not known for their regular-season dominance. They were the team that came together in the playoffs, the one that had the exact right formula to win in October, if they could just make it there. This was probably the best of their title teams, the one that won the most games (94) and swept the World Series against the Tigers. It’s the least inspiring of the three Giants title winners, but the strongest overall.
12) 2008 Philadelphia Phillies
There were other, later Phillies teams that were stronger in the regular season. (Later, they’d get Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. But their second-best starter this season was … Jamie Moyer?) But this team was a glorious watch, with Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley at their absolute peak and folk heroes like Carlos Ruiz and Shane Victorino contributing at the exact right times. This was still the weirdest World Series, one in which the deciding game against the Rays took place over two days due to a rain delay, and this might have been the weakest Phillies team for several years, actually. But this team got it done. And those others didn’t.
13) 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks
This was not a particularly strong National League in 2001 -- the D-backs won 92 games, and only the Astros and Cardinals, who won 93, won more -- but Arizona had, really, all that you needed: Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The two aces were brilliant all season, and they had ample support from a career season from Luis Gonzalez, who hit 57 homers and had 142 RBIs -- cartoonish numbers, really. And those are the three players most responsible for winning that otherworldly World Series.
14) 2011 St. Louis Cardinals
Of all the teams on this list, this team may have had the most magical postseason run, from that incredible NLDS against the Phillies -- which included the Chris Carpenter-Roy Halladay Game 5 duel for the ages -- to an explosive NLCS with Milwaukee, to that epic, legendary, eyes-fall-out-of-your-head Game 6 of the World Series against the Rangers. This was an extremely disappointing team for most of the regular season -- remember, they were 10 1/2 games out of the Wild Card on Aug. 24 -- but once they figured themselves out, they were unstoppable. The month of October in 2011 was about as purely enjoyable as a month of baseball can be for Cardinals fans, and they still haven’t entirely come down from the high.
15) 2010 San Francisco Giants
The Giants took over first place in the NL West in the final weeks of the season, but once they got into the postseason, they showed the mettle that would mark the first half of this baseball decade. This was Buster Posey’s and Madison Bumgarner’s rookie year, but the team’s best players were probably Matt Cain and Aubrey Huff. The faces of this team were Pablo Sandoval and Brian Wilson, lovable characters on a team it was tough not to love. And just like that, after all the turmoil of the Bonds years … San Francisco finally had its first title.
16) 2000 New York Yankees
This was the final run of that particular Yankees dynasty -- and winning three World Series in a row, and four in five years, feels like a near-impossibility these days, doesn’t it? -- and definitely the worst of those teams, winning just 87 games. As usual, that was not a problem come the postseason, as the Core Four and company edged past the insurgent A’s in the ALDS, the A-Rod-led Mariners in the ALCS and the crosstown Mets in the World Series. Roger Clemens was the best starter on this team, and it of course had Mariano Rivera as well, but check out some of the names of players who got a ring for being on this team: Jose Canseco, Glenallen Hill, Felix Jose, Lance Johnson, Roberto Kelly, Luis Sojo, Clay (father of Cody) Bellinger, Jason Grimsley, Ted Lilly, Jake Westbrook, Denny Neagle and Dwight Gooden.
17) 2007 Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox had such a good century. How can you tell? At the start of the century, the fanbase would have likely sacrificed its collective first-born for a World championship. Twenty years later, they have a title that everyone forgets they won. The 2007 postseason might have been the dullest postseason this century -- only one series went more than five games -- and the Red Sox swept a snorer of a World Series against Colorado. And this team was still in the shadow of that '04 team. But they were also a new vanguard, with young players like Jonathan Papelbon and Dustin Pedroia as the new stars. But yes. This is another Red Sox team that won a title.
18) 2014 San Francisco Giants
This turned out to be the last gasp for an aging Giants team and dynasty, but what a last gasp it was. Bumgarner was the whole story here. He single-handedly powered them through the NL Wild Card Game and then went out and won the NLCS and World Series MVPs. His heroic showing in the World Series, throwing a complete-game shutout in Game 5 and then going out and securing Game 7 with five innings of relief, will be talked about forever. It may be a while until the Giants get back to the mountaintop. But what a time atop it was.
19) 2003 Florida Marlins
This team had young talent, from a 20-year-old Miguel Cabrera to a 21-year-old Dontrelle Willis to Josh Beckett (who turned into an early Madison Bumgarner that postseason), but this team will forever be remembered more for its opponents than itself. A 100-win Giants team with peak Bonds rolled over after a Game 1 NLDS win, the Cubs had their Bartman/Alex Gonzalez disaster in the NLCS and the Yankees were so worn out from their ALCS win over the Red Sox that they barely showed up for the World Series. The Marlins haven’t been back to the playoffs since this win, by the way.
20) 2006 St. Louis Cardinals
For years, Cardinals fans were incredibly defensive about this team and the general consensus that they were the worst World Series winners ever. Sure, they only won 83 games (!), but there were outstanding Cardinals teams (most notably the 2004 team) that didn’t win a title; weren’t they due one on the back half of their run? After all, they still had Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen, and they had a young Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina. But now that it’s in the past, and now that the Cardinals had a later, more proper World Series that they won ('11), we can all admit: This was an average team (at best) that had the good fortune of having three better teams (the Padres, Mets and Tigers) falter in October. The Cardinals' postseason hero this year was Jeff Weaver, for crying out loud. But those flags, they still fly forever.