MLB hasn’t had a repeat World Series champion since 1999 when the New York Yankees won their second of three consecutive titles. Ever since then, fans have been searching for baseball’s next dynasty and have ultimately failed to find it.
This streak is the longest of the four major North American professional sports. The NHL had a repeat champion last year, the NBA’s last came in 2013, and the NFL’s in 2005.
It says a bit about baseball and its reputation for being the most unpredictable and even league in the country. However, for a sport that thrives on its rich history perhaps more than any other, it seems as if fans are ready for a team to once again take over the majors.
At the end of last season, it was the Chicago Cubs ready to take the mantle as the next great dynasty. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein had built a team with an impressive girth of young talent, centered on MVP Kris Bryant and 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta.
The team’s farm system was loaded with both high-end and midrange prospects, ready to make an impact for Chicago on the major league level or traded for more talent. No doubt about it, the Cubs were operating a textbook baseball club.
12 months on, and Chicago handily lost the National League Championship Series in five games. All their on-field and operational flaws exposed as the best-laid plans of Cubs and men went awry. Their vanquishers, the Los Angeles Dodgers, were the new toast of baseball but really, that is a mantle that could belong to any of this year's playoff teams.
The Houston Astros built an equally irresistible tour de force, featuring likely American League MVP Jose Altuve, and superstar starters Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. Similarly, the Yankees are looking to climb their way back to the top of baseball the Hal Steinbrenner way. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez combine with an All-Star rotation of starters, offering New York multiple ways to beat opposing teams despite their eventual Game 7 loss over the weekend.
Are dynasties dead?
Whichever team wins the Fall Classic will receive the same treatment the Cubs did this time last year. The real challenge will be living up to it, which so many teams of the past 16 years have failed to do.
The season before Chicago won its first pennant in 71 years, the team was swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS. The Mets boasted an irresistible rotation of Bartolo Colon, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Jon Niese, and Noah Syndergaard.
deGrom, Harvey, and Syndergaard were 27, 26, and 23 years of age respectively, while 24-year-old Steven Matz had also just begun his career as a starter. In modern baseball, this was a recipe for domination. In two tries since, however, New York has only made it as far as the NL Wild Card Game.
While not the youthful juggernaut of the Cubs and Mets, the Kansas City Royals also built their house on solid foundations of pitching, defense, and extraordinary baserunning. KC made the World Series in 2014 and 2015, including one winning effort in the latter year, before they reverted to the Major League scrap heap of October-less baseball last season, finishing just .500 (81-81).
It’s an odd variance on the norm for sports fans. While baseball enthusiasts crave the domination of reigns passed, the NFL is subject to dominance by the same players and teams year in and year out.
Likewise, for all the NHL’s trumpeting of a league prone to upsets and college-style Cinderella runs, they have enjoyed only four champions in the past nine seasons while the NBA has played out the same decider three years in a row.
The random and competitive nature of Major League Baseball sees billion-dollar empires such as the Yankees go toe-to-toe with “grit and grind” ball clubs such as Kansas City and this should be welcomed rather than resisted. Maybe we won’t see the greatness of a three-peat such as the 1998-2000 Bronx Bombers for a while, but this only makes that achievement all the more special.
What we have now is imperfect, erratic baseball brilliance in its own right. Let us enjoy it and quell the talk of dynasties until it’s reasonably warranted.