By Sam McPherson
If the San Francisco Giants end up winning the World Series this October, there will be a lot of discussion about whether their third championship in a five-year span warrants the “dynasty” label.
It’s a fair question, but the Giants represent a strange and unique conundrum in this discussion.
Again, this depends on them winning the Series against the Kansas City Royals, and that isn’t a sure thing. Of course, none of the Giants’ recent Series titles were, either. Far from it, in fact. San Francisco seems to be the underdog every time out, but that doesn’t stop the team from winning.
Here’s the issue, though: the Giants didn’t make the playoffs in 2009, 2011 or 2013. They won the World Series in 2010 and 2012—and they have a chance to win in 2014.
Dynasties usually win consecutive titles — or at least make the playoffs two years in a row, don’t they?
This is not meant to diminish the current win streak the Giants have going in the playoffs, of course; they haven’t lost a postseason series since 2003. After missing the playoffs from 2004-09, they have now done this “even-year only” thing three times.
Yet that regular-season inconsistency eliminates them from the dynasty discussion, even if they win the Series again this year.
The Last MLB Dynasty
It has to be the New York Yankees from 1996-2001, when they won four World Series, lost another and made the postseason every season — six in a row, in all. In fact, the Yankees made the playoffs every year from 1995-2007.
That was a dynasty.
It also included a three-peat World Series run, from 1998-2000, when New York won three straight titles. That’s what dynasties do.
Those Yankees may be the last dynasty we see until MLB gets a salary cap. There hasn’t been a repeat Series winner since those Yankees in 2000, and only the 2001 Yankees and the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies even got back to the Series with a chance to defend their titles.
With the new round of wild-card playoffs, there is too much random chance at play now in the postseason. One example is the 2013 Series, between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals: it was the first time since 1999 that the teams with the best records from each league met in the Series.
Generally, dynasties win multiple championships in a row, because they’re in the playoffs multiple years in a row. They also are rare. Any previous “real” dynasty before these Yankees was probably from the 1970s, when the argument could be made there were at least two of them: the Oakland Athletics and the Cincinnati Reds, if not also the Yankees as well.
(No disrespect meant to the 1992-93 Toronto Blue Jays, of course, either, but they didn’t have an extended playoff run like the teams above did.)
Giants’ Impressive Run Is Something Different
There’s no doubt what the San Francisco organization has done is impressive, but this also is a franchise that hasn’t finished in first place during the regular season two years in a row since the 1930s. When you can’t win your division in back-to-back seasons, how good can you really be? You’re inconsistent, for sure, even if your highest highs are pretty darn lofty.
If the Giants win the Series again, they will clinch a different moniker: Team of the 2010s. But they won’t really be a dynasty. That term needs to be reserved for teams that do something really special: win back-to-back titles and have extended playoffs runs. S.F. doesn’t qualify under either, and they don’t need to in order to be the team of the decade.
All this will be moot, of course, if the Royals continue their magical run through the 2014 MLB postseason. But the Giants have a chance to win a third title in five years, and that is magical — especially for a franchise that went from 1954-2009 without winning a championship.