All-time Pennant Races
A few years ago I decided to take a look at the long-term pennant races.
What are the cumulative (from 1900) records of the 8 pre-expansion franchises? Dave Studenmund took a look at these as well and added some useful commentary.
I follow John Warner Davenport's convention, using games over .500 so that a win in 1901 has the same impact as a win in 2008.
The AL race started with Connie Mack's A's jumping out to an early
lead. With his fire sale response to the Federal League the White and
Red Sox quickly took over the top spots, with the Red Sox holding onto
first until selling Base Ruth and the White Sox taking over first just
in time for the team to be blown apart by the Black Sox scandal. By the
late 20s the Yankees (6th when they purchased Babe Ruth) had taken over
first, followed closely by the A's until the depression caused Mack to
sell off his next batch of stars. As the A's dove downwards, the
Indians and Tigers battled for second place with the strong Indians
teams of the 50s opening a large lead on the collapsing Tigers, which
was reversed as the Indians wandered into mediocrity. To
post-Impossible-Fream Red Sox rose from fifth to take over 2nd place at
the beginning of the century, with a resurgent Indians franchise in
3rd, and the Tigers recovering form their late 80s collapse just in
time to battle the White Sox for fourth place, with the Tigers holding
a 11.5 game lead after 2008.
At the bottom, the manic-depressive A's have ridden the success of the
Billy Beane era to 6th place, and the resurgent Twins have grabbed 7th
place form the collapsing Orioles.
In the NL, the race started as a three team race, with the Pirates
chased by the Cubs and Giants. After the retirement of Honus Wagner,
the Giants shot into first place and haven't left it. The Cubs and
Pirates battled for second, but began treating 2nd as a hot potato
after World War II, allowing the Dodgers and Cardinals to join them.
The Murtaugh/Cleente/Stargell Pirates managed to hold on to second
place, but by the mid 80s the Dodgers wrested 2nd place form the
Pirates, briefly relinquishing it to the Barry Bonds Pirates, but
opening a wide lead once the Pirates collapsed in the post-Bonds era.
The Cardinals have steadily advanced from last place in 1920 to a firm
hold on third. The Pirates are in a weakening fourth place, and the
Cubs have been able to come back to respectability in time to regain a
small lead over the Reds for fifth place (47.5 games after 2008). The
Braves passed the disastrous Phillies in the forties, and their strong
Milwaukee and Bobby Cox teams have put them firmly in seventh place.
The Phillies have done better the last few years, but have several
hundred games to make up, so they will likely remain in last for at
least another decade, probably several.