Aught Lang Syne: Franchises of the Decade

After running through the Teams of the Decade this morning, it’s time to rank the Franchises/Programs of the Decade—those that have consistently churned out competitive and championship-winning teams. My criteria included things like regular-season record, number of playoff appearances, conference titles, and championships into the equation, alongside less quantifiable measures such as historical imprint and landmark players.

NFL

(all information prior to Week 16 of 2009 NFL season)

WORST: Detroit Lions (0 playoff appearances, 0-16 season, 42-116 record)

5. New York Giants (1 title, 2 conference championships, 6 playoff appearances, 6-5 playoff record, 88-70 regular season)

4. Philadelphia Eagles (1 conference championship, 8 playoff appearances, 10-7 playoff record, 102-55-1 regular season)

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (2 titles, 2 conference championships, 6 playoff appearances, 10-4 playoff record, 101-56-1 regular season)

2. Indianapolis Colts (1 title, 1 conference championship, 9 playoff appearances, 7-7 playoff record, 115-43 regular season)

1. New England Patriots (3 titles, 4 conference championships, 7 playoff appearances, 14-3 playoff record, 111-47 regular season)

This might be the easiest choice on the board. While the Colts have set the bar high with the most regular-season wins ever in a decade with their 115 (and counting), the Patriots’ 14-3 postseason record tops the Niners of the ‘80s (13-4) and the Steelers of the ‘70s (14-4).* They won three Super Bowls, lost a classic fourth one as an 18-0 team, and gave us one of the league’s best quarterbacks ever in Tom Brady and coaches in Bill Belichick. The Patriots were part of no fewer than five of the 10 best games of the decade, and as I’ve said throughout this month, the story of the Aughts (especially in football) is the story of the New England Patriots.

*Of course, New England’s playoff record will change next month. Provided they don’t lose their opening game, the Patriots will finish the Aughts with the most postseason wins in a decade in NFL history.

NBA

WORST: Memphis Grizzlies (3 playoff appearances, 0-12 playoff record, only team to play entire decade without winning playoff series)

5. Dallas Mavericks (1 conference title, 9 series victories, 9 playoff appearances)

4. Miami Heat (1 title, 1 conference title, 8 series victories, 7 playoff appearances)

3. Detroit Pistons (1 title, 2 conference titles, 16 series victories, 9 playoff appearances)

2. San Antonio Spurs (3 titles, 3 conference titles, 19 series victories, 10 playoff appearances)

1. Los Angeles Lakers (4 titles, 6 conference titles, 23 series victories, 9 playoff appearances)

Sucks to be the Spurs, doesn’t it? You make the playoffs every year, win 19 series en route to three titles, and you still aren’t the best in your own conference. The Lakers hoisted the Larry O’Brian trophy just under half the time in the Aughts, fueled first by a Shaq/Kobe dynasty that rivaled some of the greatest teams in NBA history and later by a revitalized Kobe taking his game to a new level. Only two upset losses in the Finals to the Pistons and Celtics prevented LA from matching the Bulls’ six titles in the ‘90s.

MLB

The Yankees' credentials might be better, but Boston is the defining team of the Aughts.

WORST: Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates (0 winning seasons for two proud franchises)

5. Philadelphia Phillies (1 World Series, 2 pennants, 5 series victories, 3 playoff appearances)

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (1 World Series, 1 pennant, 5 series victories, 6 playoff appearances)

3. St. Louis Cardinals (1 World Series, 2 pennants, 8 series victories, 7 playoff appearances)

2. New York Yankees (2 World Series, 4 pennants, 11 series victories, 9 playoff appearances)

1. Boston Red Sox (2 World Series, 2 pennants, 8 series victories, 6 playoff appearances)

Probably the most controversial call because, by any mathematical standards, the Yankees had a better decade than their northeast rivals: They made the playoffs more, they won more series, they won more pennants, they won the same number of World Series. But, when we think back on the Aughts, we will think back to the Boston Red Sox overcoming that 3-0 series deficit and finally toppling the Yankees, the Cardinals, and the “curse.” A second title three seasons later and a roster that included luminaries such as Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Josh Beckett only cemented Boston’s hold as the defining franchise of the Aughts.

NCAA Basketball

HONORABLE MENTION: Gonzaga Bulldogs (4 Sweet 16s, 10 Tourney appearances)

5. Kansas Jayhawks (1 title, 3 Final Fours, 7 Sweet 16s, 3 1-seeds, 10 Tourney appearances)

4. Florida Gators (2 titles, 3 Final Fours, 3 Sweet 16s, 1 1-seed, 8 Tourney appearances)

3. Duke Blue Devils (1 title, 2 Final Fours, 8 Sweet 16s, 6 1-seeds, 10 Tourney appearances)

2. Michigan State Spartans (1 title, 4 Final Fours, 5 Sweet 16s, 2 1-seeds, 9 Tourney appearances)

1. North Carolina Tar Heels (2 titles, 4 Final Fours, 5 Sweet 16s, 4 1-seeds, 8 Tourney appearances)

It hurts, I know, but the Tar Heels clinched the Program of the Decade with their second title in five seasons in 2009. Even after a rough start to the Aughts that saw an 8-seed (who went to the Final Four, mind you), a second-round upset loss to Penn State, and two straight years at home in March, the hiring of Roy Williams returned UNC to its usual pedestal. Even after the bulk of their 2005 title team left for the NBA, the Tar Heels quickly reloaded and earned a 3-seed in the following year behind a freshman named Tyler Hansbrough, who would go on to become the school and the ACC’s all-time leading scorer.

NCAA Football

Bush helped push Leinart and the Trojans to the top of this list.

HONORABLE MENTION: Boise State Broncos (2 BCS appearances)

5. Texas Longhorns (1 title, 2 conference titles, 4 BCS appearances)

4. LSU Tigers (1.5 titles, 3 conference titles, 4 BCS appearances)

3. Oklahoma Sooners (1 title, 6 conference titles, 7 BCS appearances, 2 Heisman winners)

2. Florida Gators (2 titles, 3 conference titles, 5 BCS appearances, 1 Heisman winner)

1. USC Trojans (1.5 titles, 6 conference titles, 7 BCS appearances, 3 Heisman winners)

From 2002 right up until this college football season, the Trojans have been a bona fide top-5 team constantly in the national championship picture. USC boasted three Heisman trophy winners in Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, and Reggie Bush—the latter two propelling a 34-game winning streak that resulted in a split national title in 2003 (when the top-ranked Trojans were kept out of the BCS championship), an undisputed title in 2004, and either a fourth-down conversion on offense or stop on defense away from a second (or third) straight championship in 2005. That epic loss to Texas was the only BCS bowl game USC lost in the Aughts.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by doc on December 26, 2009 at 9:39 AM

    As a Mets fan (i.e. I hate the Yankess) Tim, I have to disagree with your choice of the Bosox as the number one baseball franchise of the Aughts. You have already made the point that the Yankees had a better record and more playoff appearances, but great teams are remembered decades later because of the players. The Bosox will have Manny and Pedro go to the Hall of Fame, if Manny stays away from further use of female sex hormones. The Yankees will have Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, ARod, and possibly Clemens and Messina go to the Hall. Jeter, Rivera, Andy Pettite (with a brief vacation), and Jorge Posada have been at the heart of the team for the whole decade. ARod is the player of the decade and may end up, if he stays healthy, the best ever. It’s nice that the Bosox finally erased the curse of the Babe, but that’s not a good reason to help make them the team of the decade.

    Interesting side note – Clemens and Doc Gooden, a Yankee on the 2000 championship team, came up at the same time and were often compared in the first part of their careers. If you look at their records after 12 years in the majors (when the Bosox let Clemens go, legitimately thinking he had reached his peak), they are almost identical. Gooden used illicit drugs and went downhill and Clemens used steroids and had a ridiculous late career surge. Clemens will be remembered, but should never be voted into the Hall, unless they have a “steroid wing”. Hanging there should be the famous photo of Clemens winging the broken bat at Mike Piazza.

    Reply

    • Posted by John S on December 26, 2009 at 2:04 PM

      Seconded….although Albert Pujols is probably the player of the decade.

      Reply

    • Posted by Tim on December 26, 2009 at 2:18 PM

      I acknowledged in the post that mathematically, the Yankees’ decade stacks up to that of the Red Sox’. But narratively, this decade was a disappointment for the Bronx Bombers–one that saw them consistently lose in the playoffs to worse teams, blow the biggest lead ever in a playoff series, and run their respected manager out of town. Their bookend World Series titles will in the future be viewed as the culmination of one dynasty (1996-2000) and perhaps the start of another one (2009-???). Jeter, Rivera, and Pettitte are at least as tied to the last decade as they are this one, which can’t be said for Ramirez, Ortiz, or Beckett (I am purposely omitting Pedro from this list).

      When people think of Baseball in the Aughts, they will not think, “The Yankees were dominant.” They will think, “This is the decade where the Red Sox caught up.”

      Reply

  2. Posted by doc on December 26, 2009 at 8:26 PM

    Being from the D.C. area, I checked what The Washington Post had to say, and in Dave Sheinin’s blog (national baseball reporter) before the Yankees made it to the 2009 World Series, he felt that the Yankees had the advantage over the Bosox if they just went to the World Series. Again, it’s just one man’s opinion, but he agrees with me! By the way, I give ARod player of the decade as he was/is a much better fielder at two tougher positions than Pujols, although the latter has a better head on his shoulders. Strangely, Sheinin thinks the player of the decade could be Bonds (sorry, too much steroids fore my liking) or Pujols. Here’s what Sheinin had to say:

    Are Yankees Already Team of the Decade?

    This, of course, will be the final baseball postseason of the Aughts (or whatever we’re calling this decade), which means for the rest of this year you will be seeing all sorts of lists of the Best This or That of the Decade. It also means we get to dish out silly, made-up titles such as Player and Team of the Decade. (Maybe some other day we’ll tackle the Player of the Decade issue, but off the top of my head it’s going to be hard to choose between Barry Bonds or Albert Pujols.)

    Anyway, Team of the Decade … It’s not an easy thing to determine. Do you reward World Series titles above all else (in which case it would be the Red Sox, the only team that, so far, has won it all twice in the ’00s)? Or do you reward steadiness — getting into the playoffs (almost) every year, getting to the World Series a few times, and winning once (so far)? That would be the Yankees.

    Other contenders? The Phillies didn’t win jack in the first half of the decade, so even if they win it all this year — matching the Red Sox with two World Series titles — the other holes on their resume are too great to overcome. The Cardinals also have an impressive resume, including one World Series title, but it doesn’t compare to the Yankees’ across the board. The Angels could make a strong case if they win a second World Series this year, but they would be in a virtual tie with the Red Sox.

    Here is a chart to make things easier. WST stands for World Series titles, WSA is World Series appearances, DT is division titles, PA is playoff appearances and PSW is playoff series won (all totals are up to date, through the 2009 Division Series):

    TEAM WST WSA DT PA PSW
    Angels ..1……1……5……6……5
    Cards ..1 …..2…..6…..7…..8
    Phils ..1……1….. 3……3….. 4
    R Sox ..2……2……1……6….. 8
    Yanks ..1……3…….8…..9……9

    So there you have it. To me, it looks like it comes down to the Yankees vs. Red Sox. (Even if the Angels win the World Series this year, they will have won one fewer postseason series in the decade than the Red Sox, which breaks the tie in my mind, more so than the Angels’ edge in division titles. Regular season success, to me, is the least important category, particularly when you factor in the relative strength of their divisions.)

    Now here is the critical question: What if the Yankees lose to the Angels in the ALCS? A Yankees fan would say it doesn’t matter — even with one fewer World Series title than the Red Sox, the Yankees’ edge in World Series appearances and total postseason series wins would push them over the top. And that’s not to mention the 8-to-1 lead in division titles. How could the Red Sox top the Yankees as team of the decade when they could beat them in the AL East only once (okay, twice, including 2008, when the Rays beat them both) in 10 years?

    A Red Sox fan, on the other hand, would say: Two World Series titles, baby.

    Here’s what I say: The Yankees are Team of the Decade IF they beat the Angels and advance to the World Series. No matter what happens in the World Series, that would give them four World Series appearances and 10 postseason series wins, two more than the Red Sox in either category — and enough to make up for the lack of a second World Series championship.

    If the Yankees lose to the Angels, I’m calling the Red Sox the Team of the Decade, because the Yankees’ edge in the other categories would not outweigh those two championships — which, after all, is the whole point.

    I distinctly remember the 1999 World Series, the first one I covered for The Post, being for the undisputed title of Team of the ’90s. It seemed easy then. The Yankees already had two World Series titles in the decade. But the Braves, with a win, could have earned a second World Series title to add to a dazzling resume already filled with playoff appearances and postseason series wins. Of course, the Yankees won, and that was that.

    It’s much harder this time, because it isn’t head-to-head and it’s subject to a lot more interpretation and debate. Speaking of which, it’s your turn to interpret and debate: Do we already have a Team of the Decade, or are the Yankees playing for the title the rest of this postseason?

    Reply

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