Determining a Dynasty

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For obvious reasons there has been a great deal of conversation revolving around the idea of “dynasty” baseball teams. Specifically, the idea that the Giants are now a dynasty because they’ve won three championships in 57, I’m sorry, 5 years. Of course, some purists will say that their absence from the post season for two of those years makes it a good run but not a dynasty to which the modernist will argue that with an extra round of playoffs and a wild card game and the ALCS being a best of 7 the days of “three consecutive wins” are a thing for history books.

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I think both of those arguments are wrong. One cannot evaluate and assess a dynasty team while it is still a functioning team. Dynasty teams are for history to decide. Have the Giants had a great run? Absolutely, there’s no argument there. Their achievements since 2010 are enviable and will be difficult to duplicate for any team but this does not make them, by default, a dynasty team. Here is how I evaluate a dynasty. I welcome your suggestions and amendments.

1. Post Season Runs

Winning it all is great but by the time a team gets to the World Series, it’s pretty much a flip of a coin as to who will win. Very rarely has a truly awful team made it all the way to the big series. Therefore, when I look at potential dynasty teams I start with consecutive and closely grouped championship wins then championship appearances then post season berths.

We all know about the triple titles in 1972, 73 and 74 but often overlook that that particular Athletics team also took their division (then six teams) in 1971 and 1975 and came in second in 1969, 1970, and 1976. That’s eight seasons in the top two with five playoff berths and three World Series titles. That, my friends, is a dynasty team.

By these standards, I’ll also grant the team of my childhood, the late 80’s model Athletics, dynasty status. Between 1988 and 1992 that team made four post seasons, three championships and won a World Series. Including 1991 when they took 4th place, the team in that span had a .572 winning percentage.

2. The Roster

I don’t give much weight to the notion that it’s only a dynasty team if the core of the team remains in tact. For the most part, a hot team isn’t going to trade off all of their players and contend the following year. There might me small changes to personnel that make the end of a dynasty look different than the start of a dynasty but the changes from season to season are, typically, minimal. Where I do place importance is who is on the roster.

The late 80’s Athletics have a hall of fame manager and two (so far) hall of fame players on their roster. There were records set during that team’s reign that have yet to be broken and a staggering percentage of those players are still involved with baseball in some respect. Guys like Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson, Dave Stewart, and Dennis Eckersley are still legends of the game. Their names have stood the test of time, for better or for worse, and have attained a status ordained to very few players.

Same goes for the early Oakland Athletics. Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson, Joe Rudi, Ray Fosse, Sal Bando, and Bert Campaneris are names that demand respect. These are names that appear in history books. These are men for whom awards are named after. Their legend, too, has stood the test of time and when these men step foot in the O.co, their beers are free!

Is Madison Bumgarner a pheonominal pitcher right now? You bet your hat he is! What he did in the World Series this year was nothing short of amazing and if anyone says I’m not a “true” A’s fan for acknowledging that, they’re not a true baseball fan. Is Bumgarner the next Vida Blue? Now, that remains to be seen.

This is why it’s impossible to judge dynasty teams in the moment. There are three or four young players on the Giants that are having hall of fame career trajectories. If they retired today, they wouldn’t get in because they didn’t put in the hours but if they start stinking up the joint next season, they won’t get in because they sucked. It’s easy to look at guys like Buster Posey or Bumgarner and say, “he’s going to be in the hall of fame some day, this is a dynasty team,” when they’re all 25 and playing at their peak but everyone said the same thing about Tim Lincecum when he was collecting Cy Young awards like Cracker Jack prizes and now he’s the highest paid bench warmer in baseball.

We have to let time pass before we call any team a dynasty. In the moment teams are great and having a good run but attaining dynasty status has to come after all the cards have been dealt. Once history is recorded and we can go back and look at what came before and what happened after, then we can determine if any given team is truly a dynasty.

None of this is to diminish the accomplishments of any team, rather, it’s a simple reminder to keep hyperbolic labeling to a minimum and just enjoy the game and the team that you’re rooting for.

Play ball.

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