It's that time of the year, March Madness. The annual sports holiday that has fans rushing to sports bars to watch days packed with basketball action and filling out brackets in hopes that certain institutions of higher learning will win them money in office bracket pools. While the sports world is focused on this annual spectacle of basketball, I thought what if baseball had an NCAA Tournament? So one night while browsing the 2015 NCAA bracket looking for upsets and hotshot teams I thought of an idea. What if baseball had their version of the NCAA Tournament? Bring together sixteen of the greatest teams ever assembled for a winner takes all single elimination playoff. So here we are, it's time to decide the greatest team of all time once and for all.
The tournament bracket is set up with 16 teams simply because including 64 teams would be unrealistic time wise. The tournament works as follows: there will be polls to determine the winner of each matchup. After one week the voting closes and on Thursday of every week the results will be revealed until and ultimately a winner is crowned. Bare in mind that the tournament is set up like the single-elimination tournament just like the NCAA Tournament and not a seven game series. That means that each team will have their ace on the mound for a winner take all game.
#1 1927 New York Yankees vs. #16 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers:
The 1963 Dodgers featured one of the greatest pitching staffs of all time featuring Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. In 1963 Koufax was on another level going 25-5 and posting a 1.88 ERA. The Dodgers fall just short of a higher seed due to their average offense that finished sixth in the NL in batting.
The Dodgers' opposition is the famous 1927 "Murderers' Row" Yankees. Led by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, the Yankees are more then worthy of the seed in this tournament. In the 1927 season Babe Ruth smashed 60 Home Runs and notched 164 RBIs. That season the Yankees led the league in batting average and runs scored. As for the pitching staff it was anchored by two future Hall Of Famers in Waite Hoyt and Herb Pennock. In 1927 Pennock posted a 22-7 record and an ERA of 2.67
#8 1995 Cleveland Indians vs. #9 2001 Seattle Mariners
The 1995 Indians are one of the greatest teams to never win the ultimate prize, falling to the Atlanta Braves in the 1995 World Series. A premiere offense led by Albert Belle who went yard 50 times in 1995 led the Indians to 100 wins. Kenny Lofton stole 54 bases and five players clubbed at least 20 home runs in one of the finest offensive seasons ever seen. The Indians downfall was their rotation comprised mainly of aging veterans but, closer Jose Mesa was lights out recording 47 saves and 1.13 ERA.
The Mariners tied the league record set by the 1906 Chicago Cubs by winning 116 games in 2001.The Mariners ultimately fell short of their goal, losing in five games to the New York Yankees. Rookie Ichiro Suzuki became a phenomenon in his first season grabbing both MVP and Rookie of the Year honors. Ichiro batted .350 and stole 56 bases in 2001. Veteran Brett Boone hit 37 Home Runs and batted in 141 runs. Jamie Moyer was sensational as well posting a 20-6 record and a 3.43 ERA and Freddy Garcia emerged as a strong second starter going 18-8 with a 3.05 ERA. Closer Kaz Saski was efficient as well saving 45 games.
#4 1961 New York Yankees vs. #13 1984 Detroit Tigers
While Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle engaged in the great home run chase to break Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs the 1961 Yankees became one the most well rounded teams of all time. Even though Mantle eventually fell to Maris in the home run chase, Mantle still put together a very respectable season hitting 54 Home Runs and notching 128 RBIs. Elston Howard and Yogi Berra also had good seasons, both hitting over 20 home runs each. Bill Skowron was also outstanding hitting 28 Home Runs. On the mound, future Hall Of Famer Whitey Ford won the Cy Young award and finished the season with a 25-4 record. The Yankees finished the season on top winning the 1961 World Series.
The 1984 Tigers won 104 games on their way to the 1984 World Series crown. Lance Parrish and Kirk Gibson both unleashed monster seasons both hitting over 25 home runs on the season. Parrish stood out in particular as he smashed 33 home runs and batted in 98 runs. Jack Morris and Dan Petry both enjoyed career seasons on the way to the World Series. Closer Willie Hernandez saved 32 games and had a banner season appearing in a league high 80 games and taking home AL Cy Young and MVP honors. The Tigers completed their quest by beating the San Diego Padres for the World Series Crown..
#5 1939 New York Yankees vs. #12 1986 New York Mets
The 1939 Yankees smashed teams with the largest run differential in baseball history. The Yankees dominated baseball in 1939, winning 106 games and capturing the World Series crown. The Yankees offense was powered by three future Hall of Famers in Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, and Joe Gordon. DiMaggio capped a legendary 1939 season hitting 30 home runs and tallying 186 RBIs. The Yankees pitching staff was no slouch either led by two Hall of Famers in Red Ruffing and Lefy Gomez. Ruffing, the ace of the 1939 staff, finished with a record of 21-7 and a 2.93 ERA.
Known as "The Bad Guys," the 1986 Mets were known just as much for their trouble off the field then for their success on it. The Mets captured the 1986 World Series on the infamous Bill Buckner error that haunts Red Sox's fans to this day. Led by Daryl Strawberry's 27 home run season and Keith Hernandez who led the league in batting average and runs scored in 1986, the Mets offense was sensational. On the pitching end of things, 21 year old ace Dwight "Doc" Gooden led a pitching staff that also featured Sid Fernandez and Ron Darling. Jesse Orosco saved 43 games in the closer role.
#2 1975 Cincinnati Reds vs. #15 1942 St. Louis Cardinals
Known as the "Big Red Machine" the 1975 Reds are one of the greatest teams assembled thus earning the 2nd seed in our tournament. The Reds offense featured three Hall Of Famers in Joe Morgan, Tony Perez and Johnny Bench, who all posted great numbers in the 1974 season. Joe Morgan stood out winning the National League MVP award en route to stealing 67 bases. The real pride of the 1974 Reds was their pitching staff, led by a shutdown bullpen. With ample run support, the Reds had three starters who won over 15 games.
The 1942 Cardinals won the 1942 World Series after just barely edging out the Brooklyn Dodgers to win the National League pennant and ultimately defeated the New York Yankees in the World Series. Led by 21 year old Stan Musial, who batted in 72 runs and paired with another Future Hall of Famer in Enos Slaughter combined to drive in 170 runs. The pitching staff was the Achilles heel of the Cardinals. Mort Cooper put together a strong 22-7 season finishing with a 1.78 ERA on his way to grabbing the National League MVP award. Johnny Beazley was also sensational finishing with 21-6 record.
#7 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates vs. #10 1955 Brooklyn Dodgers
The 1902 Pirates were a legendary group, ending with the second best winning percentage in baseball history. Led by a dynamic duo of Hall of Famers Honus Wagner, and Fred Clarke the Pirates offense hit very few home runs. But the duo led baseball in a number of statistical categories such as, doubles, triples, and runs scored. Pitchers Jack Chesbro, Deacon Phillippe and Jesse Tannehill all were 20 game winners.
The 1955 Dodgers captured the 1955 World Series title behind a stacked offense. The Dodgers' lineup feature four Hall Of Famers including Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson. Snider, the leader of the group, hit 42 home runs in 1955 and batted in 136 runs. The Dodgers pitching staff was led by Hall Of Fame pitcher Don Newcombe whose 3.20 ERA led the National League. The Dodgers pitching staff also featured a young 19 year old named Sandy Koufax who would go on to be one of the greatest of all time.
#3 1970 Baltimore Orioles vs. #14 1907 Chicago Cubs
The 1970 Baltimore Orioles won 108 games en route to the 1970 World Series crown. The Orioles' high powered offense featured the powerful Boog Powell, who hit 35 home runs over the course of the 1970 season and reliable outfielder Frank Robinson who hit 25 homers himself. The Orioles' defense was anchored by 16 time gold glove winner Brooks Robinson. On the hill, Jim Palmer anchored a strong rotation who's top three starters combined for 119 stars in 1970.
Behind a great pitching staff the 1907 Chicago Cubs won their first of two consecutive titles. The Cubs' offense featured three Hall Of Famers but the real driving for was the Cubs incredible pitching staff. The 1907 Cubs' pitching staff posted an MLB record 1.73 team ERA. The club was also led by 20 game winner Orval Overall, and Mordecai Brown dominated on the mound.
#6 1998 New York Yankees vs. #11 1973 Oakland A's
The 1998 Yankees were the winningest team in the organizations'' storied history. The Yankees rolled through the postseason posting an 11-2 postseason record on their way to sweeping the San Diego Padres in the World Series. The offense was dynamic, led by veterans Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, and Paul O'Neil along with rising star Derrick Jeter. On the mound ace David Cone posted a 20-7 record as well as an ERA of 3.55.
The 1973 Oakland A's were a loveable group with great personalities. Offensively Reggie Jackson lead the way hitting 32 home runs. Jackson's power was combined with the great base stealing abilities of Bill North and Bert Campaneris. With ample run support, the A's pitching thrived and was led by Catfish Hunter, Vidal Blue and Ken Holtzman. The A's had three Hall Of Fame aces to anchor their staff. Behind the three aces was Hall of Fame closer Rolle Fingers, known most his majestic mustache Fingers saved 22 games in 1973.
So, do you want a say in who wins ends up on top? Comment below the winners of each matchup and the team that receives the most votes moves on to the second round, the winners will be revealed next Thursday. So be sure to get your votes in early.