Today’s Pinch Hitter is Vincent Capone, a teacher, writer and real estate agent who started cheering for the Yankees at age 8 (back when the Yankees were an underdog against the powerhouse Braves in 1996). Vincent has lived in New Jersey all his life and “has endured numerous arguments about territorial bragging rights with Phillies fans in the battleground of Central Jersey.” His favorite Yankees: “David Cone and anyone who has worn No. 11, especially Brett Gardner.”
For his post, Capone looked back at past World Series wondering what would have happened had Major League Baseball never changed the playoff format.
After last year’s Royals-Giants World Series was set, I heard rumblings that it was one of the worst World Series matchups ever. Granted, the Royals and Giants weren’t the juggernauts we might have expected or hoped for, but this got me thinking: What if the 162-game season still determined the league champions?
What would the past 46 seasons have looked like if there were no wild cards or play-in games, no divisions or playoff series? What if the best team in the American League met the best team in the National League, and the best of the two won it all?
Here’s a World Series projection – assuming no extended playoffs and giving benefit of the doubt to the team with the best record — for each season since 1969 (granted, with ties there are some hypotheticals in here):
1969 – Baltimore Orioles (109-53) defeat the New York Mets (100-62) to win their second title. Amazin’s find moral victory in their first pennant.
1970 – Orioles (108-54) repeat, beating the Cincinnati Reds (102-60).
1971 – Baltimore (101-57) wins third straight title, this time over the Pittsburgh Pirates (97-65).
1972 – Oakland (93-62) takes the AL pennant and the World Series, beating the Pirates (96-59).
1973 – The Reds (99-63) avenge 1970 with a World Series win over Baltimore (97-65). It’s the Reds’ first title since 1940.
1974 – Los Angeles Dodgers (102-60) roll to nab their fifth title over the Orioles (91-71).
1975 – The Big Red Machine (108-54) gets back on top with a win over Oakland (98-64) for its fourth title.
1976 – The Reds (102-60) steamroll the Yankees (97-62), who are back in the Series for the first time in 12 years.
1977 – Royals (102-60) squeak past Yankees (100-62) for the American League pennant, then they beat the Phillies (101-61) for their first World Series win.
1978 – Third time is the charm! Riding the momentum of a one-game playoff win over the Red Sox, the Yankees (100-63) defeat the Dodgers (95-67) for their first title since 1962.
1979 – Orioles (102-57) beat the “We Are Family” Pirates (98-64) in a 1971 rematch, securing the title of Team of the 70’s; it’s the Pirates’ fifth championship.
1980 – The Cinderella Houston Astros (92-70), coming off their first NL pennant, lose to the Yankees (103-59), who capture their 22nd title.
1981 – In a severely-shortened strike season, the Reds (66-42) again defeat the Athletics (64-45) for their sixth World Series championship.
1982 – Harvey’s Wallbangers, the Milwaukee Brewers (95-67), win their first World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals (92-70).
1983 – The Chicago White Sox (99-63) finally erase the demons of the 1919 Black Sox, beating the Dodgers (91-71) for their third title.
1984 – The Chicago Cubs (96-65) finally make it back to the Series, but it’s not enough as the Detroit Tigers (104-58) win it all.
1985 – The Toronto Blue Jays (99-62) continue the decade of Cinderella teams with their first pennant, but it’s not enough to overcome the Cardinals (101-61).
1986 – The Curse of the Bambino lives and the Mets (108-54) get their first World Series win over the Red Sox (95-66).
1987 – The Tigers (98-64) beat the Cardinals (95-67) in 1968 rematch for their fifth Series win.
1988 – Athletics (104-58) defeat the Mets (100-60) to win their seventh World Series.
1989 – Athletics (99-63) repeat as the Cubs (93-69) are once again denied in the Fall Classic.
1990 – Oakland (103-59) becomes first “Three-peat” champs since the 1969-1971 Orioles, beating the Pirates (95-67).
1991 – The Pirates (98-64) topple the Twins (95-67) for their fourth title, and first since Mazeroski’s 1960 walk-off.
1992 – Blue Jays (96-66) return to the series – they win the pennant over Oakland – but ultimately fall to the Braves (98-64).
1993 – Atlanta (104-58) denies Toronto (95-67) again; the Braves repeat and win for the fourth time.
1994 – What strike? The Montreal Expos (74-40) win their first pennant and first World Series over the Yankees (70-43).
1995 – The Cleveland Indians (100-44) win for the first time since 1948, beating the Braves (90-54).
1996 – The Indians (99-62) and Braves (96-66) go at it again, with the same result. Cleveland captures 3rd championship.
1997 – The Braves (101-61) get over the hump, defeating the Orioles (98-64).
1998 – In Joe Torre’s third season, the Yankees (114-48) cruise to their 23rd world title, and even the four consecutive NL pennants of the Braves (106-56) can’t stop them, in one of the best World Series matchups ever.
1999 – Again the Braves (103-59) return for a rematch, but this time they prevail over the Yankees (98-64). It’s the Braves’ fifth straight NL pennant and fourth title in seven years, clinching supremacy as Team of the 90s.
2000 – San Francisco Giants (97-65) beat the White Sox (95-67) for their sixth crown and first since moving from New York. In the Bronx, Torre feels the heat for his team’s September slide of 15 losses in 18 games.
2001 – While America’s heart is with the Yankees and Mets after the September 11 terrorist attacks, it’s the Seattle Mariners (116-46) who sprint to an AL record 116 wins, their first pennant, and their first World Series win over a fellow expansion team, the Astros (93-69).
2002 – The Yankees (103-58), after a tiebreaker with the Athletics (103-59), clinch No. 24 by beating the Braves (101-59).
2003 – The Yankees and Braves with identical 101-61 records meet for the fourth time in six years. The Braves, with Chipper Jones, prevail over the Yankees and their rental third baseman, an underperforming Aaron Boone, acquired from Cincinnati at the trade deadline. The trade proves to be a loss for the Yankees when Boone tears up his knee the following February, ending an unremarkable six months in the Bronx.
2004 – The Cardinals (105-57) beat the Yankees (101-61) to win their tenth title.
2005 – The Cardinals (100-62) repeat against the White Sox (99-63).
2006 – All aboard! The Subway Series returns for the first time in 50 years as the Yankees (97-65) and the Mets (97-65) clash in the Fall Classic. The Amazins, riding the momentum of a four-game winning streak from the end of the regular season, take down the Bombers, who are still searching for No. 25. Blame for the Yankees’ inexplicable loss inevitably falls on Alex Rodriguez.
2007 – The expansion Diamondbacks (90-72), in their tenth season, clinch their first pennant, but fall to the Red Sox (96-66), who survived a tiebreaker with the Indians to conquer the Curse of the Bambino after 89 years.
2008 – The curse continues for the Cubs (97-64), who win their third NL pennant in 25 years but lose to the Angels (100-62), who claim their first World Series title.
2009 – The Yankees (103-59) secure their 25th championship, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67) in a rematch of 1978.
2010 – The Rays (96-66) make their first World Series, but the Phillies (97-65) win their first championship in their 127-year history.
2011 – After a 127-year wait, the Phillies (102-60) waste no time repeating, this time over the Yankees (97-65).
2012 – The Washington Nationals (98-64) join the party with their first title as the reincarnation of the Expos, again defeating the Yankees (95-67).
2013 – Boston (97-65) meets St. Louis (97-65) and the Red Sox claim their seventh ring.
2014 – The Angels (98-64) get their second championship, taking down the Nationals (96-66).
Associated Press photos