In this edition of “They Should’ve Been a Dynasty,” we explore recent MLB teams that should have won more than they ultimately did.
Remember the rules: I see as a dynasty: a team that has won at least three championships in a 10-year window. It can be a smaller window (i.e. a three-peat), but I think the simplest barometer is winning three championships within a certain window of time, showing that you were the best of your sport, and you showed it repeatedly.
Ranges of time are flexible depending on the eye of the reader, but this is how I view them.
St. Louis Cardinals (2000-2015)
World Series championships: two (2006, 2011)
World Series appearances: four (2004, 2006, 2011, 2013)
NLCS appearances: nine (2000, 2002, 2004-2006, 2011-2014)
The St. Louis Cardinals are a baseball factory, and one of the best teams in the history of the sport, and that was put on full display during the beginning of this century. They have three of the twenty-two 100-win seasons this century (second to the Yankees, who have five), and all were in this 16-season interval. They only missed the playoffs four times during this run as well.
This is the longest stretch of any team during this exercise, but look just how good the Cardinals were for 16 seasons.
They made the NLCS NINE (9) TIMES! Now they were 4-5, and had a stretch of being 4-2 (2004-2013), but the fact they made the NLCS that many times and came away with just 2 World Series titles has to leave a sour taste in your mouth. From 1996 to 2011, the New York Yankees made the ALCS nine times, but they also made the World Series seven (7) times, and won the World Series five (5) times. If the Cardinals pulled that off (and they were close), we could be talking about them as the team of this century thus far, in the same air as the late 1990s/early 2000s Yankees, and also the stretch of success the Red Sox have had.
The Cardinals had some close years in particular that sting in hindsight.
In 2012, coming off of their second World Series in six seasons, the team lost slugger Albert Pujols to free agency. However, they made it back to the NLCS, and were a game from the World Series. They had a 3-1 lead over the San Francisco Giants, but they lost their next three games, outscored in the process 20 to 1. San Francisco went on to win the World Series.
They reached the World Series in 2013, their fourth trip in 10 years. They held a 2-1 series lead over the Boston Red Sox, but lost three straight games, including two games at home, losing to Boston for the second time in 10 years.
They reached the NLCS in 2014 for a fourth straight season, facing the Giants just like 2012. After splitting the first two games of the series, the Giants won the final three games of the series. It was close, as St. Louis was either tied or had a lead in each of the final three games, but they could not prevail.
The team won 100 games in 2015, but it was the end of the road, as they lost to the upstart Chicago Cubs 3 games to 1 in the NLDS. They have not made the postseason since.
Those latter years stick out to me because they were close in different instances to either reaching, or winning, the World Series more than they did. They gave themselves a chance for years, but failed to capitalize.
During this era, St. Louis had great players such as Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Jim Edmonds, etc., but at the end of the day, as good as winning two championships is, it seems like an era that could have given the city a lot more, but it did not.
Philadelphia Phillies (2007-2011)
World Series championships: one (2008)
World Series appearances: two (2008, 2009)
NLCS appearances: three (2008-2010)
When I was younger, the Phillies were one of my favorite non-Red Sox teams. I thought Ryan Howard was awesome, and they had other great pieces like Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, future Red Sox Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels, and later Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.
This was also one of the best runs in the history of the franchise.
The team showed a bunch of promise in 2006 as Ryan Howard, coming off of winning NL Rookie of the Year, proceeded to win the NL MVP. In 2007, it was his teammate Jimmy Rollins that won the NL MVP, and the team reached the postseason for the first time in 14 years. They faced the Colorado Rockies, who had made the playoffs the last day of the season in a wild play-in game versus the San Diego Padres, and they were swept. Colorado went on a crazy run that year before being swept in the World Series, but nevertheless, the Phillies made no noise.
The team came back hungry in 2008, reaching the postseason yet again, the first time they had made the playoffs in back-to-back years since 1980-1981. They won their first playoff series since 1993, and made the World Series for the first time since that year. Facing the Tampa Bay Rays, Philly won in 5, easily winning a title. It was their first championship in 28 years.
That was their peak.
In 2009, they replaced Pat Burrell with Rual Ibanez, and added starters Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez during the season. They reached the World Series again, the first team to make it back-to-back seasons since the Yankees (1998-2001). Oh, and did I mention they were playing the Yankees this time. Anyway, the Phillies won the first game, but lost three straight, and were able to take it to Game 6, but that was it. The team has not reached the World Series since.
In the offseason, the team traded Cliff Lee in a deal that netted them star pitcher Roy Halladay.
The team reached the NLCS in 2010, where they split the first two games with the San Francisco Giants, but were unable to do much else, as they lost the series in 6.
The team signed Cliff Lee in the offseason, rolling out a rotation that included of Lee, Halladay, Hamels, and Roy Oswalt, but 2011 did not go any better. The team lost in the NLDS 3 games to 2 after having a 2-1 lead, but the image that will stick out is when slugger Ryan Howard tore his achilles on the last at-bat of the game.
It unfortunately came to capture the end of an era. Since the 2011 NLDS, the Phillies have not made the postseason, and progressively continued to get worse, only winning less than 73 games each season between 2013 and 2017.
They won the NL East 5 straight years between 2007 and 2011, but have only finished as high as third in the seven seasons since. No players from the current team were on the roster the last time the Phillies made the postseason.
The era is over, and it’s one where talent did not win out as much as it should have, and as the city has waited so long to get back to October baseball, must make them wonder even more what could have been.
Part Four of this series (NHL) will be released May 15
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