ESNY ranks the very best New York Yankees’ teams that were dominant, but unable to obtain a World Series Championship.
Baseball is unique in that some of the best teams don’t necessarily win the World Series. And while the New York Yankees have 27 World Championships, they could have had more if some of their teams lived up to their ceiling.
On one side, you have the dominant Yankees’ teams that did get the job done. We’re talking about the 1927 Yankees led by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, the 1961 Yankees fueled by the M&M boys and the 1998 Yankees, who finished with a franchise record regular-season record of 114–48.
Then, there’s the other side of the spectrum. Like the teams listed above, the teams you are about to read about have fallen into obscurity despite wrecking havoc on the sport during the regular season. The catch is, the following Yankees’ teams weren’t able to add to the long-list of championship teams.
No one remembers who finished second, but ESNY ranked the top Yankee teams that didn’t finish as World Series championships. Proceed with caution, as it’s unbelievable that the following teams don’t have a ring to their name despite being so powerful.
10. 2002 Yankees
2002 marked the 100th season that the Yankees were in New York, the first year the YES Network hit the air, and presented the opportunity for the franchise to continue its dominance of the sport despite a World Series loss the year prior.
The Yankees finished the regular season 103-58 and 10.5 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox for the AL East crown. This was thanks in large part to newly-acquired Jason Giambi, who signed a seven-year, $120-million contract in the offseason.
Giambi slashed .314/.435/.598, ripped 41 home runs, drove in 122 runs and smacked 34 doubles to earn a fifth-place finish in the MVP voting. Two places ahead of him in the voting was Alfonso Soriano, who became just the 27th player in baseball history to join the 30-30-30 club that season.
As a team, the Yankees led the American League in runs scored (897), on-base percentage (.354), slugging percentage (.455) and OPS (.809).
The success would not transfer over to the playoffs, however, as Torre was handed his first first-round exit in the postseason since 1997 after falling to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim three-games-to-one in the ALDS.
9. 1964 Yankees
In the Yankees’ last playoff appearance until 1976, manager Yogi Berra won 99–63 games in the regular season and finished the season with the 29th pennant in franchise history. It was the 15th time in the last 18 years that the Fall Classic featured the Yankees.
Mickey Mantle finished second in the AL MVP race after slashing .303/.423/.591 with 35 home runs. All-Stars Whitey Ford,
Elston Howard, who finished third in the MVP voting, Joe Pepitone, and Bobby Richardson joined him to form the Yankees last threat for quite some time.
Entering the World Series on a 27–8 run, the St. Louis Cardinals put a stop to the reign of terror the Yankees were implementing on the sport.
Bob Gibson (2-1, 3.00 ERA) backed a stellar offensive showcase by Tim McCarver (.478/.552/.739) to knock off the Yankees in seven games.
A notable statistic in the series for New York was that Mantle, who was playing in his final World Series, hit three home runs to set a record for 18 World Series homers, passing Babe Ruth‘s mark of 15. In the end, it didn’t matter, however, as no championship means failure in the Bronx.
8. 1985 Yankees
It’s an utter shame that Don Mattingly never won a ring during his time with the Yankees, but nothing was more heartbreaking than the 1985 season.
Mattingly slashed .324/.371/.567 with 35 home runs, 48 doubles, 145 RBI’s and scored 107 runs en route to an All-Star appearance, silver slugger award, and MVP award. As a cherry on top, the 24-year-old also won his first gold glove award. It was a season to remember.
As a whole, they won 97 games, which shockingly wasn’t even enough to sneak into the postseason in 1985. They finished two games behind the Toronto Blue Jays (99-62) and would eventually see the 91-win Kansas City Royals win the World Series.
7. 2004 Yankees
The historic three-game collapse to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS takes people’s attention away from the fact that the 2004 New York Yankees were the best team in baseball that season.
Although the rotation was suspect, the back-end duo of Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera in addition to the stacked lineup, which crushed 242 home runs and scored a total of 897 runs, helped the team finish three games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East race.
Their 101-win season also marked the third straight season of 100-plus wins for the Yankees, the first occurrence in franchise history.
In the postseason, the Yankees took down the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS before becoming the first and only team in baseball history to lose a seven-game playoff series after taking a 3-0 lead. All that collapse does is make us wonder what could have been and forget how one of the best Yankees’ lineups in recent memory wasn’t showcased in the Fall Classic.
6. 1955 Yankees
The Yankees won six World Series titles in the 1950’s (1950-53, 1956, and 1958) but were unable to do so in 1955 with one of the most dominant teams of the decade.
The 1955 New York Yankees finished the regular season with a record of 96-58, good enough for a three-game lead over the Cleveland Indians for the AL Pennant.
Mickey Mantle led the AL with 37 homers, 11 triples, and a .611 slugging percentage while teammate Yogi Berra won his third MVP award after driving in 108 runs. Contributions from Hank Bauer and Gil McDougald helped one of the deepest lineups finish tied for third in the sport with 761 runs scored.
Pitching, however, is what set this team apart. Whitey Ford (18-7, 2.63), Bob Turley (17-13, 3.06), Tommy Byrne (16-5, 3.15) and Don Larsen (9-2, 3.06) formed a scary foursome atop the rotation as the team’s overall ERA of 3.23 was the best in the Major Leagues.
Then, the World Series happened. Facing the Brooklyn Dodgers, who would win two titles in the decade, the Yankees fell in seven games including a Game 7 loss at Yankee Stadium — making them the only home team to lose in the 1955 Fall Classic.
5. 1954 Yankees
The 1954 Yankees (103-51, .669) are the best team in franchise history to not make the World Series. In fact, they eight (!) games behind the Cleveland Indians, who broke the Yankees’ 1927 AL record by winning 111 games in the regular season.
New York led the sport in runs (805) thanks to an MVP campaign by Yogi Berra. The backstop slashed .307/.367/.488, hit 22 home runs, and drove in 125 runs, making him the last catcher — and the third All-Time — to ever bat over .300, hit more than 20 home runs and drive in 125 runs in a single season.
The Indians, however, ended the Yankees’ reign of five straight World Series titles from 1949-53, thanks to a dominant pitching staff that was enough to outduel the big, bad Yankees for the pennant. It didn’t take long for the Bronx Bombers to return to the top, as they made the World Series the following season and won it again in 1956.
4. 1963 Yankees
Led by Elston Howard, the first black player in the history of the American League to win the AL MVP award, and Whitey Ford, who won 24 games and finished the regular season third in the MVP voting, it seemed as though the 1963 Yankees were destined for their third-straight World Series championship.
However, the baseball Gods don’t always side with the best team. New York finished with a 104–58 record that season and 10.5 games above the Chicago White Sox to clinch their 28th pennant but was swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series — marking the first time in franchise history that they hadn’t won a game in the Fall Classic.
Sandy Koufax won the series MVP honors by pitching two complete games with 23 strikeouts in 18 innings. Behind him, the rest of the Dodgers’ staff held the potent Bombers’ lineup to four runs in four games, making a dominant regular season performance go for naught.
3. 1942 Yankees
This team holds an unfortunate record in the franchise’s history: they are tied with the 1954 Yankees for the best record (103–51, .669) by a Yankees’ team that did not win a World Series title.
Joe Gordon took home the American League MVP award after slashing .322/.409/.491 with 18 home runs and 103 RBI’s while starting pitcher Tiny Bonham anchored the staff with a 21-5 record and a league-leading 22 complete games. Joe DiMaggio, in his final year in baseball before leaving for military service, also had a solid campaign as he slashed .305/.376/.498 and smacked 21 home runs
The Yankees cruised to their 13th pennant, finishing nine games ahead of the Boston Red Sox. Waiting for them in the Fall Classic, however, were the 106-win St. Louis Cardinals, who dominated the series in five games to make that year’s Yankees team one of two teams in franchise history to not win the World Series from 1936 to 1943.
2. 2001 Yankees
1978 to 1995 was one of the longest World Series droughts in team history, but they were crowned yet again in 1996 and took home three straight World Championships starting in 1998. In 2001, Joe Torre’s squad was looking for a four-peat.
New York finished the regular season with a 95-65 and 13.5 games ahead of the second-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East and was ready to make another run with many of the pieces that helped clinch the last three titles.
Derek Jeter (21 HR, .311/.377/.480) and Bernie Williams (26 HR, .307/.395/.522) led the Bombers by forming a dynamic 1-2 punch, a career-year from Tino Martinez (34 HR, 113 RBI’s) helped take the lineup to a new level, a rotation led by Cy Young award-winner Roger Clements (20-3, 3.51 ERA) backed up by All-Star Andy Pettite and 17-game winner Mike Mussina developed a feared rotation while Mariano Rivera did his thing at closer.
Looking to keep the dynasty rolling, the star-studded Yankees defeated the 102-win Oakland Athletics in the ALDS before sending the 116-win Seattle Mariners home in the American League Championship Series to clinch their fifth pennant in six years. The Fall Classic, however, was a different story.
New York held a 3-2 series lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series, but lost Game 6 by a score of 15-2 before Rivera blew a lead in Game 7 to lose the series. The core was intact, they just couldn’t pull the trigger on their fourth consecutive championship.
1. 1921 Yankees
Despite not having a World Series win to support it, the Yankees were the best team in baseball in 1921.
In his second year with the team, Babe Ruth blasted 59 home runs and drove in 168 runs while leading the Major Leagues in OBP (.512), SLG (.846) and OPS (1.359). He even ripped 44 doubles, 16 triples, and batted .378 in 152 games played in what is considered by many to be one of the best seasons a hitter has ever produced.
Led by Ruth and strengthened by Wally Pipp, Bob Meusel, Home Run Baker and Wally Schang, New York led the American League in runs (948), home runs (134) and total bases (2,436) while finishing with 98 wins — 4.5 games over the defending champions, the Cleveland Indians — and the franchise’s first AL pennant.
Tabbed as the team to beat heading into the World Series and enhancing those odds with a 2-0 series lead over the New York Giants, things took a serious turn for the team seeking their first title in franchise history.
After Ruth suffered a serious elbow injury sliding into third base in Game 2, his action throughout the rest of the series was limited. The Giants took full advantage, rallying to take the best-of-nine series five games to three.