Every World Series is perfect. The NBA Finals have more glamour -- you won't see Beyonce sitting out in the Boston cold for four hours this week -- the NCAA Tournament has more relentless drama and the Super Bowl has more spectacle, scope, broad appeal and rampant, shameless consumerism... but for my money, nothing beats the World Series.
Baseball is a game that can be savored over the grand arc of a full season, when every pitch means both everything and nothing. That every small moment matters is the reason it adds up to so much. It's a sport meant for macro. Then, for seven days or so in October, the game shifts into hyperdrive. Every little twitch from every player over the next week-plus is going to matter -- forever. It is a whole season -- a whole chapter in the history of the sport -- written immediately. It's almost overwhelming. We're all going to be sleepless, dehydrated, semi-mad zombies the rest of this month, unable to process basic information or perform even the simplest human tasks. It's the best. The World Series rules.
Since every World Series, to my eyes, is perfect -- considering watching the World Series is better than watching anything else -- they are all tied for the best World Series in my heart. But that doesn't make for riveting Internet discourse, now does it? So, henceforth: Here's one man's unofficial, arbitrary, totally subjective ranking of of every World Series this century, from "worst" to best. A reminder: The century began on January 1, 2001, not January 1, 2000. Sorry, Subway Series. You wouldn't have been in the top half anyway.
Remember: All World Series are perfect. If your team's title is ranked lower than you'd like, you can take solace in fact that your team won the World Series and thus it doesn't make a lick of difference what I or anyone else thinks.
12. 2012: San Francisco Giants 4, Detroit Tigers 0
We begin with the most recent, which was over before you really quite realized it had started. We've had an unusually high number of sweeps this century (four), and this one didn't even have the benefit of historical import behind it. The Giants had just won the Series two years before -- thus lessening the building of tension -- and the Tigers went 20 innings, right in the middle of the series, without scoring. The deciding game went into extra innings, which would be wonderful for a seven-game series but is just sort of delaying the inevitable in a sweep.
11. 2007: Boston Red Sox 4, Colorado Rockies 0
Another sweep, one lacking the lifting-of-the-heavens-and-parting-of-the-seas of the Red Sox's breakthrough three years earlier. This one also loses points for having a Rockies ticketing fiasco. It's supposed to be hard to get tickets for the World Series, but it's not supposed to be THIS hard:
Side note: The 2007 postseason was really lousy. The Division Series had three sweeps and one 3-1 series, and the NLCS was a sweep. Only the Red Sox-Indians series -- in which the Sox game back from a 3-1 deficit -- had much drama to it. I remember this vividly because I had to write a twice-daily blog about those playoffs for The New York Times and ran out of topics in, like, an hour.
10. 2006: St. Louis Cardinals 4, Detroit Tigers 1
Not a sweep -- the only game the Tigers won was the infamous Kenny Rogers Has Some Sort of Smudge On His Hand game -- but almost certainly the worst-played World Series this century. Tigers pitchers made errors in every game, and the Cardinals, as their fans are constantly reminded, had the worst record of World Series champion ever. When David Eckstein is your series MVP, with no homers and four RBIs, it wasn't exactly aesthetically pleasing. Cardinals fans, who hadn't had a World Series winner in 24 years , didn't mind.
9. 2003: Florida Marlins 4, New York Yankees 2
This World Series could have been the all-timer to end all-timers, had Game Six of the 2003 National League Championship Series gone differently. Imagine that Yankees-Red Sox series being followed by a Cubs-Yankees series. Heavens. Instead, we had this uninspired matchup between an exhausted Yankees team and a Marlins team everyone knew would be dissolved within a few weeks of the Series anyway. The Yankees treated this series as an unnecessary afterthought following the Aaron Boone-Red Sox drama of the previous week, and they played that way. At least Jack McKeon got his one title.
8. 2005: Chicago White Sox 4, Houston Astros 0
This should have been a far more thrilling series than it was, considering it featured two somewhat historically tortured franchises trying to finally win that elusive title. Unfortunately, it was another sweep. At least all the games were close, including a fun 1-0 White Sox clincher with a crazy final play. The White Sox have always gotten short shrift for this World Series because it came so quickly after the 2004 Red Sox madness. Sadly, in this list, it is no different.
7. 2009: New York Yankees 4, Philadelphia Phillies 2
The next in the line of who-is-the-best-team-of-this-decade/century series, this one was close enough to earn some points even though, you know, Yankees titles by definition hardly feel particularly revolutionary. That said, it had been nine years, and this did count as the only title for players like Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia. Also: Featured the weirdness of a position player (Hideki Matsui) winning the Series MVP even though he only started half the games.
6. 2008: Philadelphia Phillies 4, Tampa Bay Rays 1
This was an unusually fun Phillies team, and ended up being the only one of the Utley-Howard core to ever grab a title. (Probably.) I'd forgotten that the Phillies won their championship before Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay came on board; This was Cole Hamels' team. (He won the Series MVP.) Earns credit for some solid close games and earning Jamie Moyer a ring, but loses for the bizarre Game Five. A rain delay stopped that game in the sixth inning on Monday, and it didn't begin again until Wednesday.
5. 2010: San Francisco Giants 4, Texas Rangers 1
This wasn't the most thrilling series either -- Edgar Renteria was MVP of this Series? Really? -- but it was all worth it to see the rapture of Giants fans. The Giants have one of the most loyal, giddy fanbases in the game, and this was their first title since the team moved to San Francisco. This video, made in the streets minutes after the championship, displays the joy that baseball can provide a city and a community:
4. 2004: Boston Red Sox 4, St. Louis Cardinals 0
I'm breaking my own rule here. This was a sweep, and a rout in every sense of the term: The Cardinals never even had the lead, the whole series. There weren't many moments when this series was in doubt, and technically speaking, it should probably be a tie with the White Sox series above. But anyone who attended any of these games will never forget it: There really was something different about the Red Sox winning that first championship. This was a World Series that made the cover of Time magazine. That the baseball itself wasn't competitive, in the long run, doesn't matter.
3. 2002: Anaheim Angels 4, San Francisco Giants 3
Now we're getting into the good stuff. This series is known for many things: Barry Bonds falling just short in his last chance at a ring; Troy Glaus going nuts; The Rally Monkey. But for my money, the whole series came down to this moment:
The Angels are down 5-0, with eight outs to go, and the Giants are so certain they're about to win a championship that Dusty Baker lets starter Russ Ortiz keep the ball as a memento. The Scott Spiezio hits a three-run homer -- on a good pitch -- and suddenly the Giants are falling apart. The Angels were behind even after Spiezio's homer… but no one watching had any doubt, afterward, who was going to win that game. I wonder if Ortiz still has that ball.
2. 2011: St. Louis Cardinals 4, Texas Rangers 3
The series leading into Game Six had some highlights -- most notably Albert Pujols' three-home runs in Game Three and Tony LaRussa's bullpen phone troubles in Game Five -- but Game Six is all anyone will remember. For my money, it's the best Game Six of all time: Extra innings, last at-bat comebacks (twice!) and a dramatic walkoff homer featuring the best call of Joe Buck's career. Worth noting: This game might have been the peak experience of my baseball watching life.
1. 2001: Arizona Diamondbacks 4, New York Yankees 3
Forget all the business with "New York healing in the weeks after 9/11." This series had nothing to do with that, other than when President Bush trotted out to throw the first pitch. This was an amazing baseball series regardless of context. Three taut, emotional one-run games at Yankee Stadium in the middle -- including a walkoff homer and a two-run ninth inning comeback -- followed by the best Game Seven in 50 years. The whole thing just wrung you out. To have that one final twist, the Diamondbacks coming back against Mariano Rivera of all people, secured it: All World Series are perfect, but this was the most perfect.