Will Leitch took an in-depth look at the game in 2019 with a series exploring Major League Baseball's Data Decade. From the best World Series, to the best starting pitchers and more, Leitch ranked, dissected and celebrated all the things we loved most about the Great American Pastime during the past 10 years.
Every World Series is amazing. Seriously. Even the blowouts, even the sweeps, even though ones from the past that you can’t quite recollect every detail from, now that you’re thinking about it. The World Series is something that lasts forever, even if your team loses. A World Series is something you never forget … even if you might want to.
So much has changed about baseball in the last decade, but in many ways, the World Series is the same. It’s still Joe Buck and FOX, and it’s still going to take up your entire last week of October, leaving you a giddy, sleep-deprived mess. And it’s still the greatest honor this sport has to offer.
As part of our ongoing Data Decade series look back at the last 10 years of baseball, we attempt to rank all World Series these decade. These are the ones with staying power.
1. 2016: Cubs over Indians, 4-3
MVP: Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF
There were two truly transcendent World Series this decade, instant all-timers, and this one gets the nod for the top overall spot for three reasons. First, it featured two longtime suffering fan bases facing off for a World Series that had long eluded them. Second, it saved the best game of the series for Game 7, even adding in a rain delay and a big inspirational speech for good measure. But mostly: This was the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. For all the incredible memories of this baseball decade, it’s very possible the only one anyone will remember 50 years from now will be this one. It’s still just the most incredible thing.
2. 2011: Cardinals over Rangers, 4-3
MVP: David Freese, 3B
Freese's home run to walk off Game 6 is the lasting highlight, but for our money, the greatest moment of that truly epic Game 6 was Freese’s triple in the bottom of the ninth. He had two strikes on him, against a then-dominant Neftali Feliz, and this thing looked fully and deeply over. And then Freese hit that ball over Nelson Cruz’s head -- kids, there was once a time when Cruz would be in right field during the potential last out of the World Series -- and the Busch Stadium crowd has never been louder. It shouldn’t be lost to history that Lance Berkman was down to his last strike an inning later before tying the game himself with an RBI single, this on the heels of Josh Hamilton -- then a force of nature -- giving the Rangers another lead in extra innings. This heart-stopper of a series ends up finishing second this decade because it lacks the 2016’s series historical important and because Game 7 wasn’t that exciting … but it would top many decades’ lists.
3. 2017: Astros over Dodgers, 4-3
MVP: George Springer, OF
After Game 5, this seemed like not only the best World Series ever, but maybe the best World Series possible. You had Clayton Kershaw mastery in Game 1, multiple ninth-inning comebacks in Game 2, a wild five-inning tiebreaking ninth inning in Game 4 and then … whoa, we’re still recovering from Game 5. Here are all the different scores of that Game 5:
Dodgers 3-0 after 1.
Dodgers 4-0 after 3 1/2.
Tied 4-4 after 4.
Dodgers 7-4 after 4 1/2.
Tied 7-7 after 5.
Dodgers 8-7 after 6 1/2.
Astros 11-8 after 7.
Astros 11-9 after 7 1/2.
Astros 12-9 after 8.
Tied 12-12 after 9.
Then Alex Bregman hit a walk-off in the bottom of the 10th, and we had a truly face-melting World Series game. The only bummer is that Games 6 and 7 weren’t nearly as dramatic … though one suspects Astros fans are fine with that.
4. 2019: Nationals over Astros, 4-3
MVP: Stephen Strasburg, RHP
Remember when the Nationals looked like they were toast? Down 3-2, heading back to the maelstrom that was Houston, having blown a 2-0 road series lead, against one of the best teams in recent memory. Heck, they looked like they might be toast late in Game 7 … until a historic, glorious rally vanquished the Astros and gave the Nats their first World Series title. A seven-game series with a terrific Game 7? And only fourth? What a decade of World Series this has been.
5. 2014: Giants over Royals, 4-3
MVP: Madison Bumgarner, LHP
We’ll be debating whether the Royals should have sent Alex Gordon home in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7, when the Giants' outfield almost turned a two-out single into a “Little League home run.” It seems pretty obvious to us that he would have been out by a mile, but weird things happen in the World Series. You could not deny the cement-shaking energy at Kaufmann Stadium start to finish that whole game. This was the true John Wayne moment for Madison Bumgarner, who came out of the bullpen to set down 14 batters in a row and ultimately get Salvador Perez to pop out to send the raucous Kansas City fans home staring at their feet. Don’t worry, though: They’d get another chance.
6. 2013: Red Sox over Cardinals, 4-2
MVP: David Ortiz, DH
One of only five series this decade that went six games, this will forever be known as the Boston Strong series, the one where the Red Sox lifted up a still-shaken Boston metropolitan area with one of their most likable teams ever on the heels of the Boston Marathon bombing. This is also the series that Big Papi was basically Babe Ruth from start to finish: He hit .688 against St. Louis (11-for-16) with two homers, eight walks and one strikeout. The 2004 series is the one Red Sox fans will always love the most because it ended their 86-year “curse.” But this one may have ultimately been the most joyous … and the most valuable to the city.
7. 2015: Royals over Mets, 4-1
MVP: Salvador Perez, C
Maybe if Matt Harvey hadn’t been able to talk Terry Collins into letting him stay in for the ninth inning of Game 5 at a raucous Citi Field, this series might have been higher up this list. (Because maybe Jeurys Familia doesn’t give up a leadoff walk and a double. Then again, maybe he does.) As it was, the Mets weren’t able to send the game back to Kansas City, as the Royals tied it up in the top of the ninth and then scored five in the top of the 12th to win their first World Series in 30 years. This K.C. team was immensely likable and will live on forever in that city … and considering how the Royals have played since then, they may have to.
8. 2010: Giants over Rangers, 4-1
MVP: Edgar Renteria, SS
Now that we know that the Giants would win two more World Series over the next four seasons, it feels like they’ve always been winning them. But no one knew that in 2010. In ‘10, they only knew that the Giants had never won a championship since moving to San Francisco for the 1958 season, and that this team -- with its exciting rookie catcher Buster Posey, their affable portly third baseman Pablo Sandoval, that glorious pitching quartet of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Bumgarner and Barry Zito and the bearded closer maestro that was Brian Wilson -- had at last brought them a title. Do not forget how happy this title made that beautiful city. (Side note: Renteria winning World Series MVP feels like a lifetime ago, but he hit .412 in the series with a pair of homers.)
9. 2018: Red Sox over Dodgers, 4-1
MVP: Steve Pearce, 1B/OF
If you’re ranking Red Sox titles over the last 15 years, it’s probably:
All great! But two not quite as inspiring as the other two. This one might have been the best of all those teams, though, with 108 regular-season wins and then a total blitzing of the competition in the postseason, including the first October matchup with the Yankees since that 2004 season. It is very possible this '18 Red Sox team was the best team we saw all decade. And yet, for all of their stars, it was journeyman Pearce -- who homered three times in the series -- taking home MVP honors.
10. 2012: Giants over Tigers, 4-0
MVP: Pablo Sandoval, 3B
This could have been a culmination season for Miguel Cabrera who, lest you forget, won the Triple Crown this season. And things were set up perfectly for Detroit with Justin Verlander lined up against an aging Zito in Game 1. Alas, the Tigers never put up much of a fight in this series, losing the first game 8-3 as Pablo Sandoval (Pablo Sandoval!) joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols as the only players to homer three times in a World Series game, including two off of Verlander. Detroit never held the lead all series, and it was shut out in Games 3 and 4. At least Game 4 went into extra innings, with Marco Scutaro hitting a go-ahead single and Sergio Romo closing it out. This was the only sweep this entire decade (so far at least): The 2000s had three, and the 1990s three as well.