By AJ Cassavell
The Giants' run of three titles in five seasons is clearly one of the best the baseball world has ever seen. But just how good exactly have they been in the context of history? Well, that's a tougher question.
Plenty of folks are tossing around the D-word when it comes to these Giants, and justifiably so. They're just the ninth team in history to win at least three titles in a five-year stretch. (That number doesn't double-count teams that crammed two five-year stretches into, say, one seven-year period, like the 1912-18 Red Sox.)
Of course, dynasties in sports aren't limited to any set period of time, so for the purposes of this exercise, we're already taking a leap by putting a five-season window on a team's achievements. Few would argue that these Giants are more of a dynasty than the 1972-74 A's, who won their three titles in consecutive seasons, dominating the sport.
But in terms of the best five-year stretches in the history of baseball, these Giants are, in fact, on a better run than Charlie Finley's A's. San Francisco has competed against 29 other teams to earn its three titles, while Oakland beat out only 23 others in the early '70s.
We broke down the nine teams that have won three titles in five seasons and came up with the likelihood of their accomplishments, all things being equal. Of course, all things aren't equal. Teams that win a title one year will inevitably have a better chance to do so the following year because of the returning talent on their roster. Also, all clubs are inherently not equal in terms of the resources they have to pull from.
But we're throwing all that out the window. All we want to know is: Given that particular five-year stretch, what are the chances a team would win the number of titles they eventually won?
Here's the list:
T7. 1910-14 Philadelphia A's, three titles
Odds: 1 in 451
Led by a middle infield of Jack Barry and Eddie Collins and a 1-2 punch in the rotation of Eddie Plank and Chief Bender, the A's won 100 games in the 1910 and '11 seasons. Their dynasty was complete in 1913 when they knocked off the New York Giants in five games to win a third title in four years -- all three of which they wrapped up in five games or fewer. Their reign of dominance came to an end the following year when they were swept by the Boston Braves in the World Series.
T7. 1915-19 Boston Red Sox, three titles
Odds: 1 in 451
Having also won the title in 1912, the Boston Red Sox turned into a powerhouse by the latter half of the decade with three titles in four years, led by Babe Ruth. But those Red Sox teams weren't all about the Babe. They also featured Smoky Joe Wood, Rube Foster and Ernie Shore in the rotation, and Hall of Famer Tris Speaker roaming the outfield. Of course, after the 1919 season, Ruth was sold to the Yankees, and the rest, as they say, is history.
T7. 1942-46 St. Louis Cardinals, three titles
Odds: 1 in 451
Before the current Giants, the 1942-46 Cardinals were the last team to earn three championships in five years, by winning every other year. To this day, they remain one of five teams in all of North American pro sports history to do so. With Hall of Famers Enos Slaughter and Stan Musial, those Cardinals teams boasted arguably the best outfield in big league history. Famously, the Cardinals won the third of those championships on Slaughter's "Mad Dash" in the bottom of the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series against Boston, when he scored from first on a single.
6. 1958-62 New York Yankees, three titles
Odds: 1 in 546
At the tail end of their reign as baseball's kings of the '40s and '50s, the Yankees reeled off one final dynasty, winning titles in '58, '61 and '62 (and narrowly missing out on one in '60, courtesy of Bill Mazeroski). The '61 Yankees are widely regarded as one of the greatest teams to ever take the field, boasting a lineup that included Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Yogi Berra and Elston Howard and a pitching staff with Whitey Ford and Ralph Terry. They cruised to the '61 title against the Reds and won in '58 and '62 in a pair of the best seven-game thrillers ever played.
5. 1972-76 A's, three titles
Odds: 1 in 1,473
For all intents and purposes, the early '70s A's dynasty lasted from '72-'74 and it clearly ranks as one of the best ever. The A's became the first team in the expansion era to win three consecutive titles, led by a pitching staff of Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman and Blue Moon Odom. Their offense was also one of the best in baseball, led by a young Reggie Jackson. The A's took the title in '72 and '73 in a pair of seven-game series, before cruising over the Dodgers in five games in '74. Their run might be best remembered for a tense Game 7 in '72 in which Gene Tenace drove in two pivotal runs in a 3-2 victory over the Reds.
4. 2010-14 Giants, three titles
Odds: 1 in 2,840
Some people will scoff at the notion of these Giants as a dynasty, given that they didn't reach the playoffs in their two non-title years. (The Giants are the only team in the four major North American professional sports to win titles every other year for five years -- and miss the playoffs entirely in the other two seasons.) But the numbers don't lie. Not only did the Giants win three championships in five seasons, but they did so in the era of free agency and at a time when there has never been more parity in the sport. Not to mention, they're the first National League team to win three in five since divisional play began in 1969, and they won this year as the second Wild Card team.
3. 1936-40 Yankees, four titles
Odds: 1 in 13,797
Ruth's Murderer's Row Yankees are the stuff of legend, but the birth of the Bronx Bombers as baseball's premier franchise didn't happen until a four-year stretch from 1936-39, when the Yankees became the first team to ever win four-straight titles. Led by Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey and -- at the end -- a young Joe Dimaggio, the Yankees were hardly even tested on their way to a four-peat, sweeping the '38 and '39 Series and never having to play a seventh game. Even after their reign ended in '40, they followed that by beating the Dodgers in five games in '41 and the Cardinals in five games in '43.
2. 1996-2000 Yankees, four titles
Odds: 1 in 397,894
An argument could be made that the late '90s Yankees had the best five-year run in the sport's history, given the era. Baseball had just expanded to its full set of 30 teams and featured far more player movement and parity than at any other point in any other Yankees dynasty.
Yet these Yankees, led not just by the so-called "Core Four," but other pivotal contributors like Bernie Williams, Paul O'Neill, David Cone and Orlando Hernandez, reeled off four championships in five years, including three straight from 1998-2000. The '98 Yankees' 125 wins (including the postseason) are the most in baseball history, and they're certainly on the short list of the greatest teams ever assembled.
1. 1949-53 Yankees, five titles
Odds: 1 in 1,048,576
It's a safe bet we'll never see another run like that of the 1949-53 Yankees, who won five titles in five years. Certainly, in this era of parity across all sports, winning even two consecutive championships is rare -- let alone a five-peat. Yes, player movement was scarce at the time, and yes, Major League Baseball was comprised of just 16 teams, but those Yankees ballclubs boasted an unprecedented seven Hall of Famers -- players Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Johnny Mize, Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, and manager Casey Stengel. For the foreseeable future -- and then some -- these Yankees teams will be the benchmark by which all dynasties are measured.