Most World Series champions will simply tell you that the only thing they cared about was winning the title. That's a fair point, but it's always fun when you can dream bigger.
The World Series has been presented to baseball's champion since 1903, but the common fan can only recall so many of the winners. That's why it's a good idea for a World Series champion to try and be the best of the very best. The king of kings. The champion of all champions.
Because when you're the ultimate champion, nobody will stop talking about you. Just think about the 1977 Montreal Canadiens, 1972 Miami Dolphins and 1996 Chicago Bulls. Every other champion would love to be recognized as the true champion like those three teams were.
For MLB champions, it's quite the debate when trying to come up with the best World Series winner ever. So let's keep it simple and look at the recent victors. Here are my rankings for the last 25 World Series champions. Enjoy!
*Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference*
25 St. Louis Cardinals (2006)
The Cardinals only won 83 games in 2006, which is almost never enough for a team to make the playoffs. A team that qualifies with less than 90 wins in today's MLB is fortunate enough. But the Red Birds were lucky that the NL Central was a disaster in 2006, as the 83-78 record was enough to take the division.
But the Cardinals were probably better than their record indicated. Albert Pujols was the game's most feared slugger, Yadier Molina was also really good while perennial All-Stars like Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen rounded out the lineup.
Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan formed a solid trio in the rotation. The Cardinals took down the San Diego Padres in the NLDS, upset the powerhouse New York Mets then polished off the dominant Detroit Tigers in five games. The Cardinals were a reminder that it's not how you start, but how you finish.
24 San Francisco Giants (2014)
The Giants maintained their odd trend of missing the playoffs in odd years but winning the World Series in even years. They needed just 88 wins to earn the second NL Wild Card Spot, where they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in the one-game playoff. San Francisco would upset the Washington Nationals in the NLDS before eliminating the powerhouse Cardinals in the NLDs.
That set up a showdown against the red-hot underdog, Kansas City Royals. Many knew the Giants weren't to be taken lightly, having just won two titles in the past four years under dominance from Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and others.
The heroics of Bumgarner led the Giants to dynasty status, beating the Royals to win their third championship in five years. Bumgarner went 2-0 in the World Series with an 0.43 ERA in 21 innings pitched. Absolute money.
23 St. Louis Cardinals (2011)
Yep, the Cardinals have sometimes been about being barely-above in the regular season then red-hot in the postseason. But they needed quite a bit of luck to reach the playoffs in 2011.
The Atlanta Braves led the NL Wild Card race by 8.5 games in September, but they went 9-18 in the month. They lost Game 162 to the Philadelphia Phillies, while the Cardinals went 18-8 in September to nab the NL Wild Card by a hair.
St. Louis pulled off a major upset over the 102-win Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS, before taking down the Milwaukee Brewers to book yet another trip to the Fall Classic. The Cardinals would defeat the Texas Rangers in a seven-game thriller, thanks to the clutch play from unlikely hero Davis Freese.
22 Florida Marlins (2003)
After a 16-22 start under manager Jeff Torborg, the Marlins replaced him with respected veteran Jack McKeon, who would turn the season around in a way nobody could have imagined.
The Marlins would go 75-49 under McKeon, snatching the NL Wild Card spot. They were carried by a 20-year-old named Miguel Cabrera, star catcher Ivan Rodriguez and other vets like Derrek Lee and Mike Lowell. Florida had a terrific rotation led by youngsters Josh Beckett and Dontrelle Willis, plus veterans Brad Penny and Carl Pavano.
Florida would take down juggernaut after juggernaut. It started with Barry Bonds' Giants in the NLDS, then the Chicago Cubs (that included the Steve Bartman incident). The Marlins made most of America happy by shocking the dynastic New York Yankees in six games. It was their second championship in six years.
21 New York Yankees (2000)
It feels weird putting a team that won its third consecutive championship (and fourth in five years), on the list. But the 2000 New York Yankees were just another example of a championship team that got hot at the right time.
The Yankees finished with a mere 87-74 record, but none of that mattered once October started. They managed to get through the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS, before overpowering the elite Seattle Mariners in the ALCS.
Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada did the rest. The Pinstripes defeated their Subway Series rivals in the New York Mets to capture the 2000 World Series. It was one fitting way for the Yankees to pull off the amazing three-peat.
20 Arizona Diamondbacks (2001)
In just their fourth year of existence, the Diamondbacks would be World Series championships. That was thanks in large part to the additions of legendary pitchers Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. But it wasn't just those two baseball icons that carried the D-Backs to the promised land.
Arizona had a well-balanced lineup that included Luis Gonzalez (who hit 57 home runs), Mark Grace, and Craig Counsell. The Diamondbacks went 92-70 under manager Bob Brenly, and the Cinderella story carried through the postseason.
Behind Johnson and Schilling, Arizona defeated the Cardinals in the NLDS and the powerhouse Atlanta Braves in the NLCS. They met the New York Yankees -- who were looking for their fourth straight championship -- in the Fall Classic.
Arizona needed a seventh game and a ninth inning comeback off legendary closer Mariano Rivera to pull it off. Luis Gonzalez hit the bloop single over Derek Jeter, and Arizona won their only World Series championship to date.
19 San Francisco Giants (2010)
Despite a dominant season that saw them win 92 games while finishing with a plus-114 run differential, not a lot of folks were expecting the San Francisco Giants to win the NL pennant. The Philadelphia Phillies had won 97 games and looked on point to reach their third consecutive World Series championships.
The Giants -- led by star catcher Buster Posey and star pitchers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain -- took down the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. They followed it up by upsetting the Phillies in six games for the NL pennant.
San Francisco met the Texas Rangers, who were powered by a dangerous lineup consisting of Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre. Nonetheless, the Giants star-studded rotation shut down Texas and won the championship in five games -- the franchise's first championship since 1954.
18 Florida Marlins (1997)
The Marlins were a pretty good team under manager Jim Leyland, posting a 92-70 record. But Barry Bonds' San Francisco Giants and the Atlanta Braves (who won five NL pennants in the '90s), were quite a bit better. Nobody really opted to take the low-budget Marlins squad seriously.
Florida didn't look that great on paper. None of their regulars batted .300, and only two players hit 20 homers. But Kevin Brown, Alex Fernandez and Al Leiter all won double-digit games, with the former posting a 2.69 ERA.
The Marlins defeated the Giants in the NLDS before shocking the Braves in six games to capture the franchise its first NL pennant. Florida met the powerhouse Cleveland Indians in the World Series. Trailing by a run in the bottom of the 9th, the Marlins tied it before Edgar Renteria walked it off in extras. The '97 Marlins were a very good championship team. Just, 17 of the past 25 were better.
17 San Francisco Giants (2012)
With apology to my editor who's a passionate San Francisco Giants fan, none of their World championship teams of the 2010s make the top-15. Another example of how a team just got hot at the right time. But the 2012 San Francisco Giants are undeniably the best squad this team has put together in the decade.
The Giants went 94-68, finishing with a plus-69 run differential. Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey both batted well over .300, though the latter was the only player to mash at least 20 homers.
But San Francisco was mostly carried by a dominant rotation that included five starters who all won double-digit games: Matt Cain, Barry Zito, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong. The Giants overcame a 2-0 deficit over the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS. Then a 3-1 deficit against the Cardinals in the NLDS. They finished the job by sweeping MVP Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series.
16 Philadelphia Phillies (2008)
The Phillies were powered by three perennial NL MVP candidates in slugger Ryan Howard and star infielders Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. The rotation wasn't actually all that inspiring, outside of southpaw Cole Hamels and ageless veteran Jamie Moyer. But the Phillies had a lights-out bullpen that featured closer Brad Lidge, who didn't blow a save all season long.
Philadelphia finished with 92 wins and a remarkable plus-119 run differential. They scored a ton of runs and had the pitching staff that was reliable enough to get the job done. The Phillies took care of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS before polishing off long-time rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Phillies then closed out the World Series in five games, taking down the Cinderella story Tampa Bay Rays. Amazingly, this was the only championship that the Phillies won in the dominant Howard-Utley era.
15 New York Yankees (1996)
After a frustrating '80s decade and start to the '90s, the 1996 New York Yankees finally reminded their fans what it was like to be on top of the baseball world. This squad featured rookie Derek Jeter. The Yankees were probably better than what the 92-70 record and plus-84 run differential showed.
Five players batted above .300, with two others batting slightly above .290. The Yankees also had one of the most dominant rotations ever assembled in Andy Pettitte, David Cone, Kenny Rogers (not the singer), Dwight Gooden and Jimmy Key. Mariano Rivera wasn't even a closer! That role belonged to John Wetteland.
In a memorable postseason that was highlighted by 12-year-old fan Jeffrey Maier's infamous and controversial catch, the Yankees cruised to their first championship under manager Joe Torre -- defeating the defending champion Atlanta Braves in six games.
The birth of a dynasty.
14 Boston Red Sox (2007)
The Red Sox gave pitching icon Curt Schilling the perfect send-off by winning their second World Series championship in three years. With 96 wins and a ridiculous plus-210 run differential, the Red Sox were a nearly unstoppable juggernaut throughout the season.
Boston was fueled by the addition of Japanese pitching star and free agent signing, Daisuke Matsuzaka and the trade deadline pickup of Eric Gagne. As if Schilling David Ortiz, Jason Varitek, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell, Manny Ramirez, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester weren't scary enough.
The Red Sox had a relatively easy postseason, with the exception of the ALCS which required them to erase a 3-1 deficit from the Cleveland Indians. But they got through and swept the Colorado Rockies to win the World Series. One of the more dominant champions of the 21st century.
13 Kansas City Royals (2015)
Given how 2014 appeared to be a complete fluke and stars James Shields and Billy Butler left during free agency, most people could confidently agree that K.C. wouldn't get back to the World Series. In fact, many prognosticators didn't even pick them to make the playoffs.
Well, the Royals were on a mission to finish business after falling a game short of the World Series in 2014. Built by blazing speed and contact hitting from the likes of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain, the Royals featured five hitters who batted .270 or better.
The Royals got by a rotation of B-level pitchers that included Yordano Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Danny Duffy. The trade deadline acquisition of Johnny Cueto didn't help as much as planned, however.
The bullpen that consisted of Ryan Madson and Wade Davis was nearly untouchable. The Royals upset the favored Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS then used rally after rally to take down the New York Mets in five games -- winning their first World Series in 30 years.
12 Chicago White Sox (2005)
Looking to win their first World Series since 1917, the White Sox didn't open up the 2005 season with the highest of expectations. Most of the baseball world expected the AL to be dominated by the Red Sox, Yankees and Anaheim Angels. But the White Sox appeared to be a team of destiny, judging by their extremely dominant run in the postseason.
Chicago finished with 99 wins and just 63 losses under manager Ozzie Guillen. They also had a plus-96 run differential. The lineup was led by Paul Konerko (40 homers), Jermaine Dye (31), and Carl Everett (23). The White Sox also had a near-flawless rotation that consisted of Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras and Freddy Garcia -- who all posted ERAs of 3.61 or under.
The White Sox crushed and swept the defending champion Red Sox in the ALDS, before polishing off the Angels in five. Chicago then ended the championship drought by sweeping the Houston Astros in the World Series.
Easily one of the best championship teams of the past 20 years. One that many seem to forget about existed, too.
11 Anaheim Angels (2002)
The Angels won 99 games...as a wild card team. Their AL West rivals in the Oakland Athletics just happened to go 103-59, so the Angels had a tough task of facing the powerhouse New York Yankees in the ALDS.
With a balanced lineup that included Adam Kennedy, Garrett Anderson, Tim Salmon and Troy Glaus, the Angels wrecked the Yankees pitching to polish off the four-time defending AL champions. The rotation of John Lackey, Kevin Appier, Ramon Ortiz and Jarrod Washburn held its own, too.
Anaheim took down the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS, setting up a World Series clash against Barry Bonds and the San Francisco Giants. In a Game 6 elimination game, the Angels erased a 5-0 deficit by scoring a trio of runs in the seventh and eighth innings. They'd go on to win Game 7, 4-1.
10 Boston Red Sox (2013)
Following three consecutive non-playoff seasons that included a last-place finish in the AL East during the 2012 season, logic suggested that the Boston Red Sox would once again be among the worst teams in the offseason.
Bringing back old friend John Farrell to manage the team turned out to be one of the smartest moves in franchise history. Boston led the AL with 97 wins while finishing with a plus-197 run differential. They had a powerful lineup that included David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino, while Jon Lester and John Lackey powered the Red Sox rotation.
Boston took down the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS before unseating the defending AL champion Detroit Tigers in six. They'd meet the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Boston used timely hitting and a tremendous performance from Lester to win their third World Series in nine years.
9 Toronto Blue Jays (1992)
After a handful of heartbreaking playoff defeats, the Toronto Blue Jays finally put it all together in 1992. Cito Gaston managed a team that won 96 games, and the Jays didn't have a weakness anywhere on the roster.
Joe Carter, Dave Winfield and Candy Maldonado supplied the power bats, while Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar batted .310. Toronto's lineup was dangerous, but the rotation was their biggest strength. It was highlighted by 21-game winner Jack Morris, Jimmy Key and Juan Guzman -- who posted 16 wins and a 2.64 ERA.
With a plus-98 run differential, the Jays were balanced all over. They defeated the Oakland Athletics to win the ALCS, before facing the powerhouse Atlanta Braves. Toronto came together to unite a country, as they defeated the Braves in six games to win Canada its first-ever World Series.
8 Minnesota Twins (1991)
Kirby Puckett led the Twins as the heart and soul leader of the franchise. He led the Twins with a .319 batting average. The Twins batted .280 as a team, using a great combination of power and small ball to form a dangerous lineup. Their offence was only half the story, however.
Minnesota also featured a three-headed monster in the rotation, including Jack Morris, Kevin Tapani and 20-game winner Scott Erickson. All three players racked up over 100 strikeouts, with all their ERAs being at 3.43 or under.
The Twins won 97 games and finished with a whopping plus-224 run differential. They defeated the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS, before meeting the Atlanta Braves in the Fall Classic.
Puckett hit a walk-off homer in Game 6 to force a winner-take-all seventh bout. Jack Morris pitched 10 shutout innings, and Gene Larkin hit an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th to walk it off. The Twins finished off one of the most impressive championship runs in history.
7 Boston Red Sox (2004)
If you don't believe in destiny, perhaps the 2004 Red Sox can change your mind.
Consider the 2004 Boston Red Sox one of the greatest wild card winners ever. They won 98 games and finished with a tremendous plus-181 run differential. They batted .282 as a team, and were powered by superstars Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Johnny Damon and Jason Varitek. Boston was also scary on the mound, with a pair of pitching legends in Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. Mike Timlin and Keith Foulke rounded out a strong bullpen, too.
You know the story: Boston beats Anaheim in the ALDS, before becoming the first team in MLB history to erase a 3-0 deficit. The Red Sox defeated the arch rival New York Yankees in the ALCS, before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals to win their first World Series in 86 years.
The Red Sox didn't just have the storyline and sentiments playing into their memorable championship run. They just happened to be one of the most dominant champions in the past 25 years as well.
6 New York Yankees (2009)
After missing the playoffs in 2008, the Yankees went on a crazy offseason shopping spree to rebuild a championship contender. C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira were signed in free agency, joining a stacked core that already included Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera, among others.
New York had one dangerous lineup, scoring 915 runs as seven players hit 20 home runs and eight regulars batting above .270. The Yankees also owned a strong rotation in Sabathia, the on-and-off Burnett and Andy Pettitte. New York won 103 games and cruised through the playoffs without many problems.
They swept Minnesota in the ALDS, took down the Angels in the ALCS and eventually finished off the defending champion Phillies in six games. It was A-Rod's first championship, and the 27th title for the Yankees. Easily one of the more dominant champions of all-time.
5 Toronto Blue Jays (1993)
You want wins, run differential and star power? The 1993 Toronto Blue Jays are the greatest team ever formed from north of the Canada-US border. Toronto went 95-67 with a plus-105 run differential. As good as the '92 squad was, the '93 Blue Jays were quite a bit better.
John Olerud, newcomer Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar and Tony Fernandez all batted above .300. Devon White was also a slick hitter (.273), with terrific defence in the outfield. All told, Toronto's offence was dangerous from top to bottom. The rotation was led by two superstars in Juan Guzman and Pat Hentgen, with the latter being a 19-game winner. Four Jays starters won double-digit games, forming one of the top rotations of the '90s.
The Jays defeated the White Sox in the ALDS. Everyone knows how the rest went, as Joe Carter's legendary home run in the 6th game walked off the World Series. Toronto had defended its championship in grand fashion.
4 New York Yankees (1999)
Teams aren't recognized as dynasties until they win that third championship in a short span. The 1999 New York Yankees made the dynasty official by winning their third title in four years.
What can we say about the Yankees? They won 98 games and scored a ridiculous 900 runs while allowing just 731. Derek Jeter had one of his best years, batting .349 while he, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez all crushed 20 homers. The Yankees were truly the Bronx Bombers.
Then there was that iconic rotation that featured five starters who won double-digit games. Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and David Cone led the way. Mariano Rivera had entrenched himself among the game's top closers, too.
New York swept Texas in the ALDS, defeated the rival Red Sox in five games during the ALCS then swept the Braves to win the World Series. Only one playoff loss. That's how dominant the '99 Yankees were.
3 Atlanta Braves (1995)
Due to the infamous strike that cancelled the end of the 1994 MLB season (with no World Series champion being crowned), the 1995 campaign was limited to 144 games. That didn't stop the Atlanta Braves from dominating, as they finished with 90 wins and just 54 losses on the season. They had a plus-105 run differential, thanks in large part to arguably the best rotation ever assembled.
Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz -- the trio of legendary pitchers who combined for seven Cy Young awards and are all in the Baseball Hall of Fame. That's all you need to know about why the Braves cruised to the World Series championship. But we'd be ignorant to not mention star hitters like Chipper Jones, David Justice and Fred McGriff. There, now you know how dominant the Braves were.
Atlanta took down the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS, finished off the Cincinnati Reds in an NLCS sweep then defeated the powerhouse Cleveland Indians in five games to win the World Series. Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz were just untouchable in the series.
2 Chicago Cubs (2016)
Just about everyone expected the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series in 2016. They were the NL runner up in 2015, then added star pitcher John Lackey and elite outfielder, Jason Heyward.
The Cubs made the regular season look easy, with 103 wins and a ridiculous plus-252 run differential. Chicago owned baseball's best pitching staff, where Jon Lester (19 wins), Jake Arrieta (18), Kyle Hendricks (16), John Lackey (11), and Jason Hammel (15), formed a powerful rotation. Chicago's rotation combined for a 3.15 ERA.
Then there was that NL MVP guy named Kris Bryant, plus other stars Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell and Dexter Fowler. The Cubs boasted their hopes by acquiring flame throwing closer Aroldis Chapman at the trade deadline, too.
The Cubs took down the Giants in the NLDS -- ending the trend of San Fran winning the World Series in even years. Chicago then defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS before erasing a 3-1 series deficit to capture the 2016 World Series from the Cleveland Indians. Their 108-year drought ended in style as the second most dominant champion of the past 25 years.
1 New York Yankees (1998)
The question isn't whether or not the '98 Yankees are the greatest team of the past 25 years. The question is if the '98 Yankees are the greatest MLB team of all time. They made their case, that's for sure.
In an era that featured many heavyweights in both the AL and the NL, the Yankees reigned supremacy. They won an insane 114 games while losing just 58. They had a ridiculous plus-309 run differential. So how did all of that come about? Well...
Four players hit 20 homers, and the team batted .288 altogether. Martinez, Williams, Jeter, Paul O'Neill and Darryl Strawberry were among the many names on this star-studded lineup. The rotation was virtually the same as the '96 and '99 squad, but this one also had David Wells, while Cone won himself 20 games.
New York swept Texas in the ALDS, needed six to beat Cleveland in the ALCS then swept the San Diego Padres to win the World Series. They cemented themselves as the top team of the decade. Nearly 20 years later, and no World Series champion has come close to the dominance of the '98 Yankees. Perhaps no future World Series champion ever will come close.