Determining the best MLB team of all time is a difficult task. The first World Series champions got crowned way back in 1884. That is a ton of history to pore over to answer the question. Baseball boasts an excessive amount of statistics that can change narratives around many teams.
For this exercise, I’m not interested in too many statistics. All we require is the winning percentage, who they beat in the playoffs, how many individual accolades the players won that specific season, and won the World Series. For example, unfortunately, the 2001 Seattle Mariners don’t get in our top five. The following five teams are in the grand final: the 1998 New York Yankees, the 1927 New York Yankees, the 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates, the 1939 New York Yankees, and the 1970 Baltimore Orioles. Let’s find out who is the greatest team of all time.
Five – 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates
The 1909 Pirates sported the greatest shortstop ever. At age 35, Honus Wagner was still playing at an exceedingly high level. The all-world shortstop led the National League in batting average (.339). He led the league in RBI’s and slugging percentage. Wagner played baseball 50 years too early, and he was ahead of his time.
Powered by Wagner’s excellent batting, the Pirates sailed to the NL Pennant. Wagner wasn’t alone, however; Tommy Leach, Dots Miller, and Fred Clarke all contributed with the bat. Pitching-wise, Howie Chemnitz, and Vic Willis were top five pitchers in wins.
The Pirates perfected the dead-ball era game, Wagner left an indelible mark on the sport. The Pirates won the World Series in a Game 7 over the Detroit Tigers. There is no doubt that this team became the first great team in baseball’s early years. Sadly, due to playing in a very competitive series, that counts against this great team.
Four – 1970 Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore won 108 games in the 1970 regular season. Pitching led the way as the team boasted a superb team ERA of 3.15. Baltimore also saw three of their pitchers break the 20-win barrier as the O’s blew past their opponents. The batters played a supporting role as Baltimore perfected the art of small ball. Boog Powell and Frank Robinson did most of the damage as the pair combined for 60 home runs for the season.
Powell won the American League MVP award while Robinson scooped up the Babe Ruth Award and World Series MVP. Baltimore swept the Twins in the ALCS before they dismantled the Reds in five games. Baltimore set the standard for the ’70s with their precise, perfect baseball.
Three – 1939 New York Yankees
No list of all-time teams is complete without the New York Yankees. The most extraordinary organization in the history of sports boasts an entire museum full of success and trophies. The 1939 Yankees possessed the finest hitter of the era; Joe DiMaggio, the original Broadway Joe, won the first of his three MVP awards as he hit 30 home runs with a .381 batting average. He did that despite only playing 120 games through injury.
Pitchers Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing posted 20-plus wins for the season. The duo dominated batters; they would wind up into the Hall of Fame one day. The Yanks swept the Reds in a 4-0 demolition job to take another World Championship back to the Bronx. The team dominated baseball’s marathon season as they won 106 games. They topped it off with the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Two – 1927 New York Yankees
The Murderers Row Yankees slide into second on our list. The men in Pinstripes won 110 games that season. Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs underpinned that success, while Lou Gehrig took the AL MVP Award. There was at least six Hall of Famers on the Yankees roster. New York surged their way to the American League pennant; then they swept the Pirates to take the World Series.
The 1927 Yankees played a different ballgame to everyone else. For seven decades, this team stood above all the rest. The 1927 Yankees set a bar that most observers thought would never get beaten.
One – 1998 New York Yankees
The 98 Yankees rewrote the meaning of success in baseball. No all-time list is complete with this team off the list when baseball attempted to create competitive balance. Then, the Bronx Bombers came along to break baseball. The Yankees ran away with the AL East as they totaled 114 wins. In previous years, that record would’ve automatically sent the Yankees to the World Series.
By the time 1998 rolled around, the MLB postseason consisted of three rounds. The divisional, championship, and World Series. That created more jeopardy for the top teams. We saw Seattle a few years later win a ton of games, only to get bounced out in the postseason without making it to the World Series.
After rampaging to 114 wins, New York went 11-2 in the playoffs. They swept the Padres 4-0 to win the World Series. Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettite, Mariano Rivera, and Darryl Strawberry were some of the Yankee clubhouse’s superstars.
In the list of all-time teams, the 1998 New York Yankees are the greatest team in MLB history. They redefined a sport, and the 98 championships came amid a five-year run where New York won four titles. They are the undisputed best.