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Major League Baseball Seasons

Our focus on the modern era of baseball begins in 1969. That’s the year that MLB expanded to 24 teams, split into divisions for the first time and began playing postseason rounds prior to the World Series. Our goal is that, for each season, we will eventually have a main page that you can find on the dropdown menu. Then, within that main page, you will see links to individual team articles about that particular season.

There’s a lot of ground to cover. After the Amazin’ Mets shocking run to the World Series title in 1969, Major League Baseball entered an era from 1970-76 where the small markets effectively ruled the world. Postseason spots were mostly monopolized by Oakland, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh, and all four of these organizations won at least one World Series title in this period. The latter three teams got back together in the 1979 playoffs for a reunion that would bookend the decade.

In between, there was the renaissance of the Yankees, a surge by Los Angeles, and the arrival of young teams in Kansas City and Philadelphia. Three of these teams joined Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine in the postseason of 1976. All four made it in both 1977 and 1978. It’s the only time the same four teams have played in the League Championship Series two consecutive years. My book, highlighted below, focuses on 1978 and covers both years. I look forward to eventually completing another book that will focus on 1979, but also reach back and capture the memories of the early 1970s.

The 1980s was a time of crazy parity. From 1979-88, 23 of what were now 26 teams made the playoffs—and in an era when you had to finish in first place to do so. No one even reached the World Series back-to-back, much less repeated as champs. The Dodgers won two titles, in 1981 and 1988. The Cardinals won three pennants and played a Game 7 of the World Series against fellow Midwestern teams (Milwaukee, Kansas City, Minnesota) each time. But no one consistently dominated, even within their own division.

That began to change in the late 1980s. While the Oakland A’s of Tony LaRussa, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire only won a single World Series championship, they won three consecutive AL flags and went 12-1 in the ALCS round. And a repeat champion would eventually come—the Toronto Blue Jays won it all in 1992 and then again in 1993 on Joe Carter’s walkoff blast.

1994 was a seminal year in the history of the sport. MLB went to our current division format, with an East, Central and West in each league. And, for the first time, they would fill out the playoff bracket with a wild-card team. Unfortunately, the historic nature of ’94 is also remembered for unedifying reasons—a labor dispute between the players and owners resulted in the cessation of play in August, and for the first time in 90 years, there was no World Series played.

When baseball came back in the spring of 1995, things had changed. Ever since then, small markets have had a tougher time competing. The late 1990s and early 2000s were marked by the complete dominance of the New York Yankees. The Joe Torre/Derek Jeter era of Pinstripes won four championships from 1996-2000, and also took home pennants in 2001 and 2003.

2004 would be another signature year. With the Yankees three outs away from another pennant, the Boston Red Sox stunned the world by rallying to win that game, and then rally from a 3-0 series deficit in the ALCS. It remains the only time that gap has been overcome. The Red Sox went on to win their first championship since 1918.

Boston went on to win two more crowns over the next decade, adding 2007 and 2013 rings. It was part of an era when the St. Louis Cardinals won twice, and the San Francisco Giants grabbed three crowns of their own.

Another pivot began in 2015. While no one team has truly defined baseball in the ensuing years, it’s fair to say the Houston Astros have come the closest. They have won four American League pennants and a pair of World Series crowns. This era has also been about the chase of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have displaced the Yankees as the team most likely to open up the checkbook each offseason—and also the most likely team to disappoint in October. The Dodgers won a World Series in the strange COVID-19 year of 2020, but have otherwise come up short in the postseason.

Speaking of COVID-19-that’s what, at least for now, serves as our end point of history. 2020 was a huge gap year for all of society and baseball was no exception. They only played a 60-game schedule. The postseason was played on neutral fields in front of empty stadiums. In any historical project, figuring out where to end it is always a challenge. With MLB, as with all the other sports covered here, 2020 is at that end point.

Perhaps that will change in a few years as each passing season settles into history and we gain a deeper perspective. For now, though, we have plenty to keep us busy. As you can see from the dropdown menu, the main seasonal pages through 2019 still have to be completed. There’s a huge number of individual team articles to be written. We have comprehensive coverage of each year through 1993, with a smattering beyond that, but the goal is to eventually fill everything up.

If any further time becomes available, we’re more likely to work backward in history rather than forward. Getting back to 1962, when the Yankee Dynasty effectively ended would be nice. Going even further back to 1947, and the start of a racially integrated sport would be even better.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to do it all. For now, enjoy what’s here, as you ride through the great history that is the modern era of Major League Baseball.