What is the best MLB team of all time? The Los Angeles Dodgers are the best baseball team as the reigning World Series champions, but it would be a stretch to call them the greatest team in MLB history.
A lot of factors help determine what is the best MLB team of all time. It’s more than just winning the World Series, as teams like the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals scrapped their way to earning the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Of course, it’s also not determined entirely based on MLB standings. You just have to look back at the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who tied the record for most wins in MLB season (116) and then collapsed in the American League Championship Series.
We must factor in the regular-season record, a World Series trophy and stats to determine who is the best MLB team of all time. Before we reach a decision, let’s take a look at the best candidates.
1998 New York Yankees
The truth is, this is just the first of several New York Yankees teams under consideration for the best MLB team of all time. It’s also the only club among our candidates to be post-1975, a sign of how baseball has changed and dynasties are largely a thing of the past.
After winning the World Series in 1996 and then dropping the ALCS the following year, the Yankees launched the last MLB dynasty in 1998. New York’s lineup featured AL MVP candidates Bernie Williams (.997 OPS) and Derek Jeter (.864 OPS), along with sluggers Paul O’Neill (.882 OPS), Scott Brosius (.843 OPS) and Tino Martinez (.860 OPS). The Yankees finished the regular season leading MLB in runs scored (965), OPS+ (116) and finished top five in batting average (.288), stolen bases (153) and hits (1,625).
New York’s pitching staff was nearly as dominant. The Yankees posted the sixth-lowest ERA (3.82), threw the second-most team shutouts (16) and posted the fourth-best K/BB ratio (2.32). Three starters won 16-plus games (David Cone, David Wells, Andy Pettite) and Mariano Rivera (36 saves, 1.91 ERA) was spectacular. It culminated in a +309 run differential.
- Hall of Famers on 1998 New York Yankees: Derek Jeter, Joe Torre, Mariano Rivera and Tim Raines
It all culminated in a 114-win season, with New York winning the AL East by 22 games. The Yankees swept the Texas Rangers in the ALDS and then took the ALCS in six games. After sweeping the San Diego Padres in the World Series, the Yankees secured MLB records for most single-season wins by a World Series champion (125).
1975 Cincinnati Reds
The 1975 Cincinnati Reds won 108 games in the regular season, winning the NL West by 20 games. You can’t debate the best MLB team of all time without looking at “The Big Red Machine” and the accomplishments of its Hall of Famers.
- How many members of the “Big Red Machine” are in the Hall of Fame? Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and skipper Sparky Anderson
Imagine being a pitcher in the 1970s, a time when hitters are just crushing baseballs. When the Reds’ lineup was on the schedule, it meant facing Bench, Morgan and Perez. During that ’75 season, the trio combined for 457 hits, 313 RBIs and each produced an OPS+ over 120. On top of that, Morgan stole 67 bases that season and this lineup also featured Pete Rose.
But for all the focus on the batting order, Cincinnati could also pitch. It posted the sixth-lowest ERA (3.37) and the seventh-best WHIP (1.31) in baseball that year. It all culminated in a +254 run differential, a 7-3 postseason record and a Game 7 victory over the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.
1927 New York Yankees
The 1927 New York Yankees will forever hold a place in baseball’s record books, thanks to the best lineup in MLB history. New York set single-season records for OPS (.872), wRC+ (126) and an outstanding .307 batting average. The “Murders’ Row” destroyed opposing pitchers.
- How many Hall of Famers were on the 1927 Yankees? Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Tony Lazzeri and pitchers Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock
Consider these stats from the 1927 Yankees season. Gehrig (1.240 OPS) and Ruth (1.258 OPS) combined for 107 home runs and 246 walks. Combs hit 23 triples with a .925 OPS, Bob Meusel posted a 135 OPS+ and Joe Dugan had the lowest battering average at .269). Gehrig (218 hits, 47 homers, 173 RBIs) was named 1927 AL MVP.
New York’s opposition rarely had opportunities to match the Yankees on the scoreboard and New York’s pitching staff only made it harder, registering a 3.20 ERA and throwing 11 shutouts. The Yankees swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series and many believe they are the best MLB team of all time.
1907 Chicago Cubs
Among our candidates for the best MLB team ever, the common theme is offense. But that’s not the case for the 1907 Chicago Cubs, who were carried by their pitching. This time period also represented the briefest Cubs’ dynasty, before a historic World Series drought that wouldn’t end for more than a century.
Numbers tell you everything to know about how unhittable this collection of arms was. The lowest team ERA in MLB history belonged to the 1907 Cubs, posting a spectacular 1.73 mark. This wasn’t a fluke either, given the second-best team ERA (1.74) and third-best mark (1.75) were accomplished by this same staff in ’09 and ’08. For comparison, the White Sox posted the second-best team ERA (2.22) in 1907.
After Game 1 of the 1907 World Series ended in a 3-3 tie, the Cubs took the next four games against the Detroit Tigers. Detroit combined to score just three runs in the final four games. The 1906 Cubs also deserve respect, but they didn’t win it all.
1939 New York Yankees
The 1939 New York Yankees will be remembered for so many reasons, one of them not even tied to the team’s success or another World Series banner. Lou Gehrig reported physical changes in his body a year earlier, but matters got even worse in 1937. After the worst start to his Hall of Fame career, feeling ill, Gehrig benched himself on May 2, 1937 and snapped his streak of 2,130 consecutive games played. Months later, he delivered the “Luckiest Man of the Face of the Earth” speech.
- When did Lou Gehrig give his speech: July 4, 1939
New York wasn’t quite the same without Gehrig, but it still delivered a phenomenal season. The Yankees’ lineup posted a .287/.374/.451 slash line, walking (11.4%) more than they struck out (8.9%) and scoring 967 runs on the year. Joe DiMaggio posted a 1.119 OPS, totaling 310 bases with 30 home runs. Just as impressive, three Yankees’ hitters produced 100-plus RBIs.
Complimented by a pitching staff that recorded the third-lowest ERA (3.31) and second-most shutouts (14), New York coasted into the playoffs with a 106-45-1 record and a +411 run differential. DiMaggio was named AL MVP and the Yankees swept the Reds in the World Series. Gehrig was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame the same year.
1970 Baltimore Orioles
When many think of the 1970 Baltimore Orioles, Frank and Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer are the first players that come to mind. It’s understandable to think of those three Hall of Famers, along with skipper Earl Weaver, first, but this entire team is really a part of MLB history.
Palmer (20-10, 2.71 ERA), Mike Cuellar (24-8 3.48 ERA) and Dave McNally (24-9, 3.22 ERA) joined the record books as only the second team with three 20-game winners. Also worth mentioning, the Orioles set the MLB mark the following season with four members of the 20-win club.
The Orioles sent seven players to the 1970 MLB All-Star Game (Palmer, Cuellar, McNally, Robinson, Robinson, Boog Powell and Davey Johnson). Across the 162-game season, Baltimore posted a 108-54 record and beat the second-place Yankees by 15 games.
Behind a lineup that scored the third-most runs (792) and a rotation with the league’s best ERA (3.15), the Orioles cruised through the playoffs. They swept the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS then knocked out the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970 World Series.
Who is the best MLB team of all time?
To the surprise of no one, the debate comes down to the Yankees. The most accomplished franchise in the history of American sports earned that title for a reason.
There’s an argument to be made for the 98′ Yankees, holding the record for single-season victories. If you put all of these teams on the field together in their prime, the ’98 Yankees win because they are more physically gifted. But it’s important to contextualize different eras when picking the best club.
If Gehrig isn’t diagnosed with ALS, we might have given the nod to the ’39 Yankees. But availability must be considered, which leads us to Murders’ Row. The 1927 New York Yankees are the best MLB team of all time.