After the Top 100 prospect lists came out this offseason, I had a thought. The World Series-winning Red Sox had landed a good number of players on those lists, and the success of 2013 combined with the promise of the future seemed like perfection: This might just be the best time ever to be a Red Sox fan.
They scored a lot of runs, won a lot of games, had great players like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, and, of course, enjoyed post-season success. The farm system was bursting with young talent. But were they really the best the Red Sox organization had offered their fans in 100-plus years of organizational history? I decided to do some math and find out.
As it turns out, according to my calculations, 2013 was not the best time to be a Red Sox fan. In fact, 2013 is in a three-way tie for the seventh-best season to be a Red Sox fan. Thanks a lot, math.
I decided to try to calculate the best time to be a fan of all 30 major league baseball teams. But before I reveal the results, let's back up a little. So much goes into what we enjoy about baseball and our teams, and I'd like to acknowledge that discovering, cataloguing and assigning a properly weighted system of points to all that we find vital about our favorite pro teams is, because of the subjectivity involved, essentially impossible. I tried anyway.
The idea was to come up with a list of all the things that make being a fan of a team fun and enjoyable on a day-to-day basis, as well as memorable and historically relevant. Of course fans like winning (much more than, for example, losing). They like great players, and they like amazing individual performances. They like being the very best, and the promise of greatness, which can be almost as great as greatness itself.
With all that in mind, I assigned points in seven different categories:
1. The World Series
Winning a World Series is the most valuable thing a team can do. It's worth 10 points that season, six points the following season and two the season after that because the glow lingers before it fades -- thus the evaporating point system. Getting to the World Series is an accomplishment too, so losing the series is worth four points. It's also worth pointing out that I used the first World Series as a cut-off point, so no teams before 1903 were considered.
2. Making the Playoffs
Making the playoffs in any capacity is worth four points. This biases the system in favor of the present, as more teams make the playoffs now than ever before. However, there are also more teams now, and as you will see, some of the other categories are biased towards older teams. I felt it evened out in the end.
3. Winning More Games Than You Lose
Teams that finished above .500 received four points, because, of course, it's more enjoyable to follow a team that wins more than it loses. Teams that won 100 games or more were awarded four additional points because it's more fun to watch a team that win lots more than it loses.
4. Winning a Major Award
A team that fields an MVP, Cy Young, or Rookie of the Year winner gets two points. This biases the system in favor of teams that played after the awards were available. The Rookie of the Year award didn't come into being until 1947, while the first Cy Young wasn't awarded until 1956, and for its first 11 seasons there was only one Cy Young winner, as opposed to one given out by each league. The MVP goes back to 1911.
5. Hall of Famers
Having a Hall of Famer on the roster is worth two points. This biases the system towards older teams -- there are not any Hall of Famers playing right now, simply because they haven't been elected yet. Also, more Hall of Famers were elected from the first thirty years of the 1900s than any other time, because the Veterans Committee thought it would be fun to enshrine all their drinking buddies. Briefly I considered not counting those selected by the Veterans Committee, but lest this reach a level of complexity that causes my eyeballs to bleed, I decided a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer. The one exception: I awarded no points for Hall of Fame managers.
6. A Highly Rated Minor League System
I gave three points for the best minor league system, two for the second best system and one point each for the third, fourth and fifth best systems. I lumped three, four and five together because there is no real difference from a fan's perspective. I used Baseball America's minor league system rankings, which I could only locate back to 1984, so this is another one that favors more recent teams (also, try as I might, I could not locate BA's rankings from 1990).
7. Scoring Runs and Preventing Runs
Great teams score the most runs and allow the fewest, so I awarded four points each to the team that scored the most runs and the team that allowed the fewest runs (in all of baseball, not by league).
A few other notes before we get to the rankings:
- I thought about trying to penalize teams that played in the segregated era, since that was obviously not the best time to be a fan of Major League Baseball for a large swatch of the country. But it's simply too big and serious an issue to be dealt with by a points system. Still, it's certainly something to acknowledge and keep in mind.
- I ignored the 1994 season when the World Series was cancelled, as that was just a rotten time to be a fan of any team.
- Much as you have likely done your whole life, I ignored the existence of the Federal League in 1914 and 1915.
- This is by organization, so the Philadelphia A's are lumped in with the Kansas City A's and the Oakland A's, the Brooklyn Dodgers are combined with the Los Angeles Dodgers and so on.
So what was the best time to be a fan of your favorite team? The alphabetical list below will tell you. Enjoy!
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The 2001 team of course won the World Series over the Yankees in seven games, when not-quite-MVP Luis Gonzalez looped a single to center off of Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth inning to score two runs. Beyond that, though, they weren't a particularly amazing team to follow. Although Randy Johnson did win the Cy Young, they were not a truly amazing offensive or defensive team. The score would go up to a more respectable 26 if you awarded Hall of Fame plaques to Johnson (he'll get one) and Curt Schilling (he might get one).
The '57 Milwaukee Braves were stacked. They led the league in runs scored, which shouldn't be a surprise considering the lineup featured Eddie Mathews and MVP Hank Aaron, who hit a combined 76 home runs. Cy Young winner and future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn was the ace of the staff, though oddly it was Lew Burdette who started three World Series games against the Yankees and won all three, beating Whitey Ford, Don Larsen and Bobby Shantz.
Since the team moved to Atlanta in 1966, the system says the best time to be a Braves fan was 1995. That team won the World Series, Greg Maddux grabbed his fourth Cy Young award and the Braves basically gave up no runs at all that entire season.
Baltimore Orioles/St. Louis Browns
The Browns became the Orioles in 1954, and though I included the organization's entire history in the system, I needn't have done so -- the organization's 50 years in St. Louis produced exactly one playoff appearance. The Orioles have fielded some great teams, but it should come as no surprise that the 1970 team was the best to follow. Besides winning the World Series (after losing it the previous season), the team fielded three Hall of Famers (the Robinsons, Brooks and Frank, and Jim Palmer) and the league MVP, Boog Powell, while allowing the fewest runs in baseball. The system puts the '71 team in second place, two points behind the '70 team, so if you were an Orioles fan during that two-year stretch, consider yourself the luckiest O's fan ever.
Boston Red Sox
It's appropriate to point out here that the system just doesn't recognize some key things. For example, no points are awarded for winning a World Series after an eight-decade drought -- so while '04 finished with a respectable 22 points, it is still 10 points behind 1912. In fact, 1915, 1916 and 2007 all finished with higher scores.
While 2004 will always be special, being a fan of the 1912 team was pretty great. That Red Sox team featured two future Hall of Famers in Harry Hooper and MVP Tris Speaker, who had a slash line of .383/.464/.567 (188 OPS+) and a then-impressive 10 homers. There was no Cy Young award yet, but if there had been, it is conceivable Boston's Smoky Joe Wood and his 1.91 ERA (179 ERA+) in 344 innings would have won it. The team scored the second most runs in baseball and allowed the fewest on their way to a 105-47 record, which took the American League by 14 games. Then they went on to beat a 103-48 Giants team in the World Series. That's a type of domination no Red Sox team has matched before or since.
Certainly any Red Sox fan currently alive and past adolescence would pick 2004 as the best season ever to be a Red Sox fan, and maybe it was. Maybe you give a 20 point bonus for winning after 86 years and another 10 point bonus for coming back to beat the arch-nemesis Yankees after being down three games to none in the ALCS. But as it stands here, there was no better time to be a Red Sox fan than 1912.
If you were a Cubs fan in 1907, you were in the midst of a three-year period of domination that no other Cubs fan in any other stretch of time could compete with. The 1907 team won the World Series after winning 107 regular season games with just 45 losses, a .704 winning percentage. (The 1906 Cubs were an even more dominant regular-season team with 116 wins, but they lost the World Series to the White Sox.) The '07 team featured four Hall of Famers, with Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown on the mound and the famous double play combination of Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance in the infield. They led baseball in pitching and defense, allowing a league-low 390 runs. There were no awards given out that season, nor were there any minor league system ratings to fatten their score. The Cubs were just good, very good in 1907. And in the decades since, well, not as much.
Chicago White Sox
In 113 years, the Chicago White Sox have made the playoffs nine times, winning the World Series three times. So what makes 1917 better than 1906's 22 points or 2005's 20 points? Chicago won 100 games in 1917, the only time in their history they've done so, and the system gives points for that. They led baseball in runs scored and featured three Hall of Famers (Red Faber, Ray Schalk and Eddie Collins), something that neither other World Series winning White Sox teams can boast.
As with the Red Sox, maybe there should be a bonus awarded to 2005 for being the year that the White Sox won the series after 88 years, but there isn't in the current system. The 1917 team featured better players, and was more dominant, but there is an argument that 2005 was a more joyful for White Sox fans.
Sometimes these are going to be eye-opening, like the 1912 Red Sox beating out the historic '04 team, but other times the answer will be obvious. The Indians have two World Series wins in their history, 1920 and 1948, so when figuring the best time to be an Indians fan, we're really picking between those two seasons. The system gives 1920 24 points, a full 12 points behind 1948, and the difference between the two is most stark when it comes to Hall of Famers. The 1920 Indians featured one, all-time great Tris Speaker, while the '48 Indians had six with Satchel Paige, Larry Doby, Joe Gordon, Bob Lemon, Lou Boudreau and "Bullet" Bob Feller. Sometimes the obvious answer is the correct one.
By this system, the 1976 Reds were the second-best team to be a fan of in baseball history. The team won 102 games, outscored the second highest-scoring team in baseball by 87 runs and won the World Series for the second consecutive season. Joe Morgan won the NL MVP, Pat Zachry won Rookie of the Year and the team boasted three Hall of Famers in Morgan, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez, and that would have been four if not for Pete Rose's indiscretions. There was nothing they were bad at. They were dominating, historic and a joy to root for.
We move from the system's second highest scoring team to its lowest -- well, okay, tied for the lowest. In their short history, the Rockies haven't had lots of success. To date, nobody with a plaque in Cooperstown has ever put on a Rockies uniform. The franchise has one World Series appearance and was promptly swept. I don't want to make it seem like 2007 was a bad time to be a Rockies fan -- it certainly wasn't. The team made the World Series, which is quite an accomplishment, and had good young talent on the major league roster and the second-highest ranked minor league system. The present was fun and the future was promising.
The system sees three dominating Tigers teams: 1934, 1935 and 1984. The 1934 team won over 100 games, but lost the World Series to the Cardinals. The '84 team won both 100 games (104, in fact) and the Series, but suffers from a profound lack of Hall of Famers. If you agree that Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell should be Hall of Famers, that would vault '84 over the mid-30s. But if we're revising history, then you'd have to take the 1984 Cy Young and MVP away from Willie Hernandez, possibly among the most undeserving recipients of the awards ever. Then things start getting messy. It's at least arguable, and the system only sees a slight difference between the two.
The case can be made that the '30s teams get the edge when you raise the sample above a single season, as the '84 Tigers, great as they were, were a one-season phenomenon. The '35 Tigers were stacked with Hall of Famers. Mickey Cochrane caught, Hank Greenberg and Charlie Gehringer manned the right side of the infield and Goose Goslin patrolled the outfield. Today we'd call that a strong core. While the '35 Tigers didn't win an extraordinary amount of regular season games compared to some of Detroit's other great teams, the fact that they won in the postseason and were coming off a World Series appearance combined with the Hall of Fame talent they had on hand puts them over the top.
Year(s): 2005, 1986, 1981, 1980
Considering there is no World Series win yet in the franchise's history, it's tempting to say the early '80s were the best time to be an Astros fan and leave it at that. Nolan Ryan, Joe Niekro and J.R. Richard were strong calling cards for those early 80s teams and the late-career version of Joe Morgan didn't hurt either. Many might prefer the '86 team that featured a less effective Ryan and no Morgan, but a Cy Young-winning Mike Scott. The Craig Biggio/Jeff Bagwell Astros are represented as well in 2005 and that would be my pick for the best season to be a baseball fan in Houston. That wasn't a truly great team, but it had some success in the playoffs, it had Biggio and Bagwell and it had a starting rotation that was incredible. Between them, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt threw almost 700 innings of mid-2.00 ERA ball.
But almost certainly, the best days of being an Astros fan are still ahead.
Kansas City Royals
You'll be shocked to learn that the system pegs the sole World Series winning season in Royals history as the best time to be a Royals fan, and I doubt that will meet with much controversy. The '85 Royals were a good-not-great pitching team and a mediocre hitting team (though George Brett had an incredible season) that met with success and, Cardinals fans will tell you, not a little bit of luck in the playoffs. That's not a knock, as this is about fan experience. During and following the '85 playoffs, I doubt the organization's ability to maintain success in the coming seasons or the team's overall historic worth were issues occupying Royals fans' minds. Winning the World Series is never not fun.
Los Angeles/California Angels
For a World Series winning team, 18 points is low. Part of the reason for that in this case is despite winning 99 games (not 100, so no arbitrary four point bonus), the '02 Angels lacked great players. They won the World Series, led the league in fewest runs allowed and that's it. What's more, there aren't going to be any Hall of Famers here, so you can't even fudge it. The closest the team might get is John Lackey, but even if he continues his post-surgery resurgence his chances are very slim. After 2002, the 1979 team comes close with 16 points, but how could you seriously suggest it was better to win 88 games and lose in the ALCS than win the World Series? 2002 it is.
Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers
Year: 1965, '55, '53 (tie)
Since the system is giving us a three-way tie, here's another way to look at it. Essentially there are two multi-year periods from which to pick. The 1952-56 teams went to four World Series in five seasons and won the organization's first-ever World Series in 1955. That team featured Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson and at the tail end, Sandy Koufax. Heck, throw Gil Hodges on there too. That team could hit as well as you'd think based on those names and they could pitch a little too. Anytime a team makes the Series four seasons out of five, that's a great time to be a fan.
The other option came after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, so if that matters to you, well then 1962-1966 was certainly the best time to be an L.A. Dodgers fan. That team went to three World Series in four seasons, winning two of them.
The Marlins have never finished in first place, but they've made the playoffs twice as a Wild Card and won the World Series both times. For 1997 the system gives the Marlins 19 points, just a point behind the 2003 team. Both teams finished with win totals in the low 90s and neither dominated their league in anything. In fact, Pythagorean record shows both to be high-80s win teams by true talent. Still, they both won the World Series, and likely the 2003 season will edge further ahead down the road, when Miguel Cabrera and Ivan Rodriguez are elected to the Hall of Fame.
Minnesota Twins/Washington Senators
Year: 1924, 1925
The World Series winning Twins teams of 1987 and 1991 were both 22-point teams with Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett. The 1987 squad also featured Bert Blyleven. And the greatest regular season team in Twins history is probably the 1965 team that won 102 games and lost the World Series to a probably inferior Dodgers team. (That's what you get when you go up against Sandy Koufax in Game 7.)
However, the 1924 and '25 seasons let Senators fans watch Hall of Famers Goose Goslin, Sam Rice and most of all, Walter Johnson. Johnson won the MVP that season, and it's a fair guess that had the Cy Young award existed then, he'd have won that too. Twins fans may feel differently, but to me, it's hard to argue against MVP Walter Johnson coming in to pitch the ninth inning of Game 7 of the World Series and then the subsequent three when the game went to extra innings. Despite having thrown a complete game two days earlier, he remained on the mound until his team finally scored to win the Series in the bottom of the 12th inning. There are no points awarded for theater, but I have a hard time arguing against it.
Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers
For a fan base that has suffered through so much poor baseball, the 1982 season wasn't bad. I mean, okay, it was bad because the Brewers lost Game Seven of the World Series to the Cardinals, but the ride was a good one. And any team with Paul Molitor and Robin Yount at the top of the order is nothing to sneeze at. Also Cecil Cooper. I love Cecil Cooper, as did Brewers fans that year, as Cooper hit 32 homers -- which was only good for third on the team, as Ben Oglivie hit 34 and Gorman Thomas hit 39. Yount managed only 29 but was MVP anyway, maybe because of his awesome mustache. Speaking of mustaches, on the pitching side Brewers fans were treated to maybe the best the game has ever seen (mustache-wise) in Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers and Don Sutton.
The next highest scoring Brewers season is a full 10 points behind, so if you want controversy I suggest you look elsewhere. Like maybe …
New York Mets
People love miracles, so it should come as no surprise that following the Miracle Mets in 1969 was the best time to be a Mets fan. The 1986 team is four points behind, but forget the system for a second: The '69 Mets are one of the all-time great teams.
Here's what the Mets did in the seven seasons before 1969: last place, last place, last place, last place, second to last place, last place, second to last place. Then, in 1969, they won 100 games and crushed an Oriole team that had won 109 games and featured three Hall of Famers at the height of their powers. You can have your Darryl Strawberry and your Ray Knight and whatever. I'll take Ed Kranepool, Tommie Agee and Cleon Jones. Oh, and Tom Seaver. I'll take him too.
New York Yankees
Going back through the list so far, the 1976 Reds were the only team to break 40 points. The 1939 Yankees broke 50. In fact, eight different Yankee seasons are rated at 40 points or more. As for 30 point seasons, there are like a billion or something. The times when it hasn't been great to be a Yankees fan are fewer than the times when it has been.
According to the system, being a Yankees fan during the 1939 season was the best time to be a fan of any team ever. The Yankees won the World Series for the fourth consecutive time that season. Three of those four teams won 100 games, and the one that didn't (1938) won 99. That 1939 team had six Hall of Famers* with Joe Gordon, Joe DiMaggio, Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, Bill Dickey and Lou Gehrig. Gehrig only played in eight games that season, and on July 4 of that season, gave his famous "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth" speech; he would be dead in less than two years. That season the Yankees scored the most runs of any team in baseball and gave up the fewest. DiMaggio won the MVP with 30 homers, six triples and a 1.119 OPS. He was 24 at the time.
*The 1930-33 teams had nine Hall of Famers.
There are other sections of Yankee history that could qualify. For example, from 1947 through 1964 the Yankees failed to make the World Series just three times. They made it the other 15, winning an astounding 10. So that was a pretty OK time, too. Just throw a dart at a calendar, or heck, stand there in your underpants eating a popsicle and looking at the wall. That right there was the best time to be a Yankee fan! For this team, this article asks the wrong question. It should be, when wasn't the best time to be a Yankees fan?
Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland A's
The A's have been a team of extremes. The early 20th century was a great time to be an A's fan. So were the late 1920s and early 30s. So were the early 70s and late 80s. Pretty much every other time has been lousy.
If you're only interested in the franchise since they came to California in 1968, there are two eras for you to choose from. 1972, '73 and '74 were great seasons for A's baseball. Three World Series wins makes for a fun time. Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers headed the three Series winners; for many organizations, that might be the top of the heap. Then the late '80s featured Dennis Eckersley and the Bash Brothers, though depending on your feelings about the S word, that team might be more or less legitimate.
But as good as those times were, none were as good as the 1911 season. That season, the A's scored the most runs of any team in baseball and allowed the fewest. They won 101 games, and did it with four Hall of Famers: Eddie Plank, Chief Bender, Eddie Collins and Home Run Baker. Then they won the World Series, just as they had the year before. There were no awards to win or minor league systems to gush over at the time, just the best A's team, but that was probably enough.
From the franchise that brought you pitchers Cy
Young Blanton and Lefty Grove Hoerst (and also 10,000 losses) comes two World Series winners in 131 years! So, you know, take your pick. The 1980 team had inner-circle Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton, and unless Chase Utley makes it, the 2008 team will oddly be devoid of Hall of Famers. That's the eight-point difference between the two. On paper, the 2008 team was probably better, though marginally so, but the existence of true greatness tips the scales back to 1980. And if you're one of those people who thinks Pete Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame, he played on the '80 Phillies, so there's two more points there.
Year: 1909, 1960
The Pirates are like the Phillies: decades upon decades of bad baseball punctuated by seasons of true goodness (often surrounded by a few seasons of decency). Hey, smoke 'em if you got 'em, right? 1960 was a moment of blinding light in midst of four decades of cover-your-eyes darkness. That makes it special, if also slightly sad. The 1909 season was a bit happier for Pittsburgh baseball fans, with the Pirates returning to the World Series for the second time in six seasons that saw them not fall below 87 wins. The star in 1909 was Honus Wagner, though Fred Clarke was no slouch either. The Pirates won 110 games that year, still the most (by seven wins) of any Pirates team in the organization's 131-year history. They also boasted the highest winning percentage in Pirates history. The We Are Family teams of the late 70s were great as well, but not on the same level. It's odd to say, but Pirates fans have been waiting 103 seasons to improve on what fans had back in 1909.
San Diego Padres
It's not been a great run for the Padres. Their uniforms look pre-dirtied, and the system sees just five seasons of 10 or more points in their past. Imagine what would happen if you didn't count Tony Gwynn! The 1984 Padres wore their ugly brown uniforms and lost the World Series. This was not too different than their 1998 descendants, though the Padres did have the good grace to win a single World Series game in '84. If '84 came after '98, then that would be progress, but since the laws of mathematics prohibit it, never mind.
New York/San Francisco Giants
Year: 1905, '22, '24, '33
Surprisingly the four greatest seasons to be a fan of the Giants all happened in New York and all happened before Willie Mays joined the organization. The Giants lost the World Series in 1924, so we can safely eliminate that season, but after that, the choice becomes an exercise in personal preferences. I'd take the 1905 season, as that team was the best on the field winning 105 games, 12 more than in 1922 and 14 more than 1933. The '05 Giants enjoyed Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson, Joe McGinnity and Roger Bresnahan, while the '22 and '33 teams had four Hall members each. (The 1925 Giants had eight Hall of Famers but failed to make the playoffs.)
If we're only looking at the time the Giants have spent in San Francisco (they moved in 1958), we'd have to go with the 1962 Giants, who won 103 games with Willie McCovey, Willie Mays, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal, though they lost the World Series.
St. Louis Cardinals
Year: 1944 (1967, 1931)
Following the Cardinals in 1944 must have been peculiar. One on hand, the Cardinals won 105 games en route to their third consecutive World Series appearance and their second win of the three. On the other, the United States was in the depths of World War II. That meant a number of things such as, you know, the future of the world being at stake, but for baseball it meant a depleted workforce as a number of players were off fighting in Asia and Europe. Was following baseball during World War II fun? Can a time when young men around the globe were being killed on a daily basis really be the best time to follow a baseball team? Maybe so, but it seems dubious, so I'm going to pull rank on the system and give the crown to 1967 and 1931.
The system has both seasons at 34 points, just two points behind 1944 for Cardinals fans, so it's almost a judgment call anyway. The Cardinals won 101 games in 1931, were the best at keeping opponents off the scoreboard and did so with Hall of Famers Burleigh Grimes, Frankie Frisch, Jim Bottomley and Jesse Haines. The 1967 and '68 teams were spectacular as well, with two World Series appearances, a 101-win World Series winner in '67, plus Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Lou Brock and Orlando Cepeda. I'll take the '67 team, but take your pick. You can't go wrong.
This may be obvious but obvious isn't bad, and in 2001 the Mariners were historically good. That they couldn't get it done in the postseason hurts them, but doesn't diminish their regular season success: 116 wins while leading baseball in runs scored and runs allowed. Seattle fans also had the pleasure of watching the international sensation that was MVP, Rookie of the Year and future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki. If you're not going to win the Series, then this is the next best option.
Tampa Bay Rays
Seventeen points doesn't look like much, but if you judge the '08 Rays in context, you might come away with a score twice as high. Unfortunately the system doesn't take stadium location, organizational resources or the economy of the metropolitan statistical area into account. Maybe next time. For now, Rays fans will have to be content with the fact that, had they won the Series in '08, they'd have had a pretty great score. Somewhere in an alternate universe, Bizzaro Matt Kory is writing an article that includes a 30-point World Series-winning 2008 Rays team.
But the misses of the past aren't what will define the best Rays team to root for. Instead, it will be the fact that the team came seemingly from nowhere, as the Rays had finished last so often (10 of their 11 seasons) it was almost as if they'd bought matching furniture and drapes and just couldn't bear to give the place up. The 2008 season changed all that for Rays fans, and though that doesn't show up on the scoreboard, that doesn't mean it doesn't count.
Washington Senators/Texas Rangers
Ron Washington might tell you that 18 points don't mean anything, but then he'd probably also tell you to bunt while ordering dinner at a drive-thru. In a world where winning the World Series is the only acceptable outcome before you can claim success, he'd at least be right about the first part. However, that the Rangers spent their first five decades doing no more than existing needs to enter into this. The 2010 Rangers won 90 games and made the World Series. Josh Hamilton won the MVP. They do not qualify as an all-time great team, but judged against Rangers history, they're the '27 Yankees.
Toronto Blue Jays
Despite a spotty record, the Blue Jays of the early '90s are one of the excellent teams of modern times (non-Yankees division*). Led by a bunch of great players, including Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Paul Molitor (Rickey Henderson also joined the team from Oakland at the trade deadline), the Jays won their second straight World Series on the strength of Joe Carter's three-run ninth-inning home run. If memorability garnered points, the Jays would be even higher.
*Sorry, they are in the Yankees' division. Never mind.
Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals
It's a shame, because the Expos could've been something. When the 1994 players strike wiped out the rest of the season and the World Series, it wiped out an Expos team that was on a 105-win pace. Excluding that potentially playoff-bound '94 team, 1981 is the only season Montreal tasted the playoffs, and still that doesn't get them to the top of the (admittedly meager) list. The '79 group tops them, three Hall of Famers to two (thanks Tony Perez!), and they beat Houston out for the least runs allowed that season by one run.
As for the Nationals, the 2012 season stands at the pinnacle of recent Washington baseball fan satisfaction, but after winning 98 games, the team lost in the divisional round of the playoffs. It was a letdown powerful enough to run an entire city's new television sets (which everyone had to buy after a chucking heavy objects through their old ones). The Nationals have a brighter future ahead for many reasons, but the most basic is that their organizational past has the brightness of a blindfolded man in a cave.