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MLB History: 21st Century Super-Teams That Failed

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The Los Angeles Dodgers recently brought in Trevor Bauer, assuring that one of the best rosters in MLB history just got better. While expectations are high for the reigning world champions, that doesn’t guarantee success. Some franchises have tried valiantly to put together a star-studded roster but have fallen flat. There are plenty of examples that show that just because your team looks good on paper doesn’t mean that they will win the World Series.

MLB History: Failed Dynasties

2009 New York Mets

The Mets entered 2009 with a brand new ballpark and high expectations. They had shored up a struggling bullpen by bringing in All-Stars J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez. Sports Illustrated picked the Mets to win the 2009 World Series, and through the end of May, the Mets were battling with the Phillies for the division lead.

Around that time though, injuries began to pile up for the Mets and the season spiraled downward with a 9-18 June. The team was 42-45 at the All-Star Break, but they went 29-47 for the rest of the season including going 8-20 in September. Almost every starter on the Mets missed time because of injuries, making the team almost unrecognizable.

The Mets struggled mightily to hit for power in their new ballpark –– Daniel Murphy led the team in homers with only 12. They were also terrible on the road, going 29-52 in away games. Not only was this team a failure, but they were one of the more snakebitten teams in MLB history.

2011 Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies enjoyed a run of success that included a World Series title in 2008. 2011 though was supposed to be the most dominant team perhaps in franchise history. After signing Cliff Lee and trading for Hunter Pence at the Trade Deadline, there were very few reasons to bet against the Phillies. They had one of the most dominant pitching rotations in MLB history, with Roy Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. After Joe Blanton got injured, the team called up Vance Worley, who dazzled and finished third in Rookie of the Year voting.

The Phillies finished the regular season with the best record in baseball at 102-60. They won the NL East by 13 games and were still heavy favorites to win the World Series. In the playoffs though, the Phillies and the rest of the baseball world were stunned as the Cardinals upset the Phillies in the NLDS. Their season ended with Ryan Howard tearing his Achilles on a ground out that completed Chris Carpenter’s complete-game shutout in Game 5. Since that year, the Phillies haven’t had a winning season.

2012 Miami Marlins

The Marlins had an uninspiring 72-90 record in 2011, but they were extremely active in the 2011-12 offseason. Stark Raving Sports recently did a video on the 2012 Marlins and they explained how expectations were understandably high heading into the season. The team had brought in 2011 NL batting champion Jose Reyes, adding to an exciting lineup that featured Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton. They also added Mark Buehrle to shore up their pitching staff and had a new manager in Ozzie Guillen.

After a rough start to the season that included Ozzie Guillen said that he loved Fidel Castro, everything started to click for the Marlins. They went 21-8 in May and were tied for first in the NL East on June 3. Unfortunately, the wheels fell off after that hot stretch as the team lost 17 of their next 24 games. The Marlins never recovered from this slump and actually finished the season with fewer wins than they had in 2011.

2013 Toronto Blue Jays

The 2013 Blue Jays were in essence a byproduct of the 2012 Marlins’ failure. In November of 2012, the two teams agreed to a blockbuster trade that sent Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Johnson, and John Buck to Toronto. The Jays then used Buck as part of a trade with the Mets to acquire reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey. Toronto also inked Melky Cabrera to join an already potent line-up including Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. With the rest of the division largely inactive, the Jays were heavy favorites to win the AL East in 2013.

The Blue Jays tripped out of the gate with a 10-17 April and none of the pieces they acquired lived up to expectations. They showed some signs of life in June when they rattled off 11 straight victories, but that only moved them two games over .500. Overall, the Blue Jays finished the season at 74-88, good for the last place spot in the AL East. They would have to wait until 2015 to finally break their long playoff drought.

2014 Oakland A’s

The 2014 Oakland A’s had one of the most talented rosters in baseball. They sent seven players to the All-Star Game. In the middle of the season, they beefed up their roster by acquiring Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs. At the end of July, the A’s were 66-41 and had the best record in MLB. They then committed one of the biggest sins in MLB history and traded clean-up hitter Yoenis Cespedes in exchange for a rental of Jon Lester.

The following two months were a struggle for the A’s, especially for their offense. After spending over 100 days in the first place spot, the A’s surrendered their division lead on August 16. Their 12-17 August ended with them getting swept in a four-game series by the Angels, putting Oakland five games back in the AL West. The A’s went 10-16 in September and they blew a four-run lead in the AL Wild Card Game against the Royals. That offseason, Oakland dealt six of their seven All-Stars, including 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson.

2015 Washington Nationals

The Nationals had the best record in the NL in 2014, going 96-66 before getting ousted in the NLDS by the Giants. Washington had a loaded pitching rotation, led by Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister, and Jordan Zimmermann. The team led the majors with a 3.03 ERA and added to it in January of 2015 by signing former Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer. The Nationals were favored by many to win over 100 games and cruise to a World Series title.

Unfortunately for the Nationals, they tripped out of the gate and never seemed to find a groove throughout the season. While Scherzer had another fantastic season and Bryce Harper had one of the best seasons in MLB history, the rest of the team fell flat. Strasburg and Anthony Rendon both missed significant time with injuries. The only everyday players with above-average offensive years were Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Yunel Escobar. The Nationals couldn’t do anything to stop the red-hot New York Mets on their road to an NL Pennant. The Nats finished at just 83-79 and missed the playoffs.

2015 Seattle Mariners

The Mariners are one of the more unlucky teams in MLB history. After missing the 2014 playoffs by just one game, the Mariners added Nelson Cruz, J.A. Happ, and Mark Trumbo to beef up their already talented roster. Cruz performed to expectations, but the rest of the team lagged. After winning on Opening Day, the Mariners didn’t spend another day above .500 for the rest of the season. As a result, the team fired general manager Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon.

2015 San Diego Padres

2015 may have the most failed super-teams for one season in MLB history. The Padres had a new GM and were very aggressive in the offseason. They picked up an entire outfield featuring Wil Myers, Justin Upton, and Matt Kemp. The Padres also traded for All-Star catcher Derek Norris and signed James Shields to anchor their pitching staff. On Opening Day, they traded for Craig Kimbrel, which was supposed to be the missing piece to their contending roster.

The problem with this team was that most of the people San Diego added were aging. The Padres won 10 of their first 15 games, but then they lost seven of their next eight games and never really recovered. They finished the season at 74-88 and immediately began selling off assets that offseason.

2017 Cleveland Indians

The Indians fell just short of glory in 2016 and they were a common pick to win the 2017 World Series after they added Edwin Encarnacion in the offseason. In the regular season, the team lived up to the hype. That summer, the Indians rattled off 22 straight victories, which is the second-longest winning streak in MLB history. After finishing the season with an AL-best 102 wins, the Tribe won the first two games of the ALDS against the Yankees. Cleveland fell apart in the next three games though and was stunned by the Yankees. The Indians have yet to make it past the ALDS since that season.

2006-2017 Detroit Tigers

The Tigers have had so many seasons where they failed expectations that we’re going to group them all for the sake of this list. Urinating Tree made a whole video on these Tigers teams and all of their talents that ultimately was wasted.

Detroit made the World Series in 2006, but they were upset by the 83-win Cardinals. The Tigers’ roster remained talented in 2007, but despite scoring the second-most runs in the AL, the Tigers missed the playoffs. The team continued to add talent, as they acquired Edgar Renteria, Dontrelle Willis, and Miguel Cabrera in the offseason. The offense continued to produce in 2008, but the pitching staff continued to regress and the Tigers finished 74-88, good for last place in the AL Central.

2009 may have been the most painful season of this stretch. After winning six games in a row at the beginning of September, the Tigers had a seven-game lead in the AL Central. After that streak though, the Tigers went just 11-15 including losing five of six to the 97-loss Royals. Meanwhile, the Twins won 18 of 26 to catch the Tigers and force a Game 163 in Minnesota, which the Twins won in walk-off fashion.

The 2010s Tigers had some of the most talent in MLB history. They had a potent lineup led by Miguel Cabrera and they added to it by signing Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. They also made a key trade for Jhonny Peralta and eventually traded Fielder for Ian Kinsler. In 2014, they added J.D. Martinez, who blossomed in Detroit. At one point, the Tigers also had three Cy Young Award winners in their pitching rotation –– Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and David Price. They had solid depth pieces too such as Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez, and their bullpen had multiple great closers in Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit, and Joe Nathan.

Yet despite all of this great talent and their four consecutive AL Central crowns, the Tigers failed to do anything of note in the playoffs. They made the World Series in 2012, but they were swept by the Giants. The Tigers made it to the ALCS in 2011 and 2013, but couldn’t go the extra mile either year. In 2014, the Tigers were swept in the ALDS by the Orioles. The Tigers would continue to add in 2015, most notably they picked up Yoenis Cespedes in a trade with the Red Sox. After a 15-8 April though, the Tigers began to fall apart. Cespedes and Price were traded that summer and the team finished in last place.

Despite the disappointing season, the Tigers somehow continued to add by handing out big contracts to Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton. While the team would bounce back and win 86 games, they missed the playoffs by three games. All hope faded after the Tigers finished 2017 at 64-98, giving them the worst record in MLB. This stretch for the Tigers is the definition of a failed dynasty.

Closing Thoughts: MLB History’s Failed Dynasties

While the Dodgers may be the heavy favorites to win the World Series in 2021, MLB history shows that the best teams on paper don’t always win. These teams should serve as a cautionary tale for any stacked team that success is never guaranteed.

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Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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Mathias is a senior journalism major at The College of New Jersey. He has served as the Sports Editor and Opinions Editor for the school's newspaper, The Signal. He joined Overtime Heroics as a writer in June of 2019 and became an editor in December of 2020. Mathias is also a varsity swimmer and is the youngest of five kids.