The conclusion of the 2020 World Series meant the conclusion of the 10th full season of mine with CBS Sports and what an incredibly fun ride its been. It's been a decade's worth of outstanding World Series. Who would've thought when I started in February of 2011 that the next 10 World Series would see the Royals, Cubs, Astros and Nationals win World Series while the Yankees would be shut out? There were zero repeat champions (that is, the same team going back-to-back). The Giants and Red Sox did win multiple titles while we also saw the Royals, Astros, Dodgers and Cardinals win multiple pennants, but there was still good variety in the matchups. We saw zero rematches in the 10 year set.
Best of all, the actual World Series themselves were outstanding. Five of them went the distance while seven went at least six games and we only saw one sweep. Even in the sweep there was history.
I got to witness all but 2020 in person and obviously watched every single pitch. What follows are my subjective rankings on the 2011-20 World Series. Ranking criteria: Number of games (nothing beats a Game 7 due to it being the only game in our sport where either team can become the champion), overall series excitement, history, atmosphere and anything else that felt like it moved the needle. There will be disagreement on these matters and that's fine. Rank them on your own. Here's a starting point.
10. 2012, Giants over Tigers in four
Pablo Sandoval joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players in history to hit three homers in a World Series game. It happened in Game 1 when the underdog Giants jumped all over Justin Verlander and the heavily favored Tigers. We have to point out the amazing Giants starting pitching (Madison Bumgarner threw seven scoreless innings in Game 2 and that pretty much sealed the series) and Tim Lincecum as a lockdown reliever was also fun. Marco Scutaro singled home the series-winning run in the top of the 10th in Game 4 and that sounds pretty great, but what was the worst-case scenario for the Giants? They were up 3-0 in the series. The weather and atmosphere in Comerica Park for Games 3 and 4 (who could blame Tigers fans with the bad weather and terrible Tigers play after coming home down 0-2?) were miserable. This was overall a dud for non-Giants fans.
9. 2018, Red Sox over Dodgers in five
Other than Red Sox fans, most people probably forget that several games in this series were exciting (check Games 1 and 2 box scores for surface-level stuff, including a big pinch-hit, Eduardo Nunez three-run homer). There was the historic 18-inning Game 3, though I'd challenge anyone who actually thinks this was an exciting game. It was seven hours and 20 minutes, most of which (save for the 13th, where each team scored and that was pretty cool) was sitting around waiting for a solo homer.
For a brief moment in Game 4, it looked like we'd have a series when the Dodgers scored four runs in the sixth to take a 4-0 lead, but the Red Sox scored nine in the next three innings. There were plenty of moments and it was a fine series on a game-by-game basis. This is just a loaded decade.
8. 2015, Royals over Mets in five
Alcides Escobar started the series for the Royals with an inside-the-park home run. In the ninth inning of that same game, Alex Gordon homered to force extras. In Game 2, Johnny Cueto nearly threw a shutout. Noah Syndergaard caused controversy by buzzing Escobar to start Game 3 in Citi Field. An error opened the door to an eighth-inning rally for the Royals to take Game 4 after the Mets were a few outs from evening things up at two games apiece. Who could forget the Matt Harvey situation in Game 5? He had a shutout going with the Mets leading 2-0, ready to force a trip back to Kansas City. Manager Terry Collins had apparently told him he was done before the ninth. He talked his way out of being removed and went back out for the ninth, much to the delight of the home fans. He was replaced after a walk, steal and Eric Hosmer double to cut it to 2-1. After a grounder moved Hosmer to third, the Mets lost the lead ... on a grounder.
The Royals would win in 12 to close things down. It was a very good five-game series, much like the Dodgers-Red Sox. They were just both only five games.
7. 2020, Dodgers over Rays in six
The ranking position doesn't do justice to how much there was to like about this series. It nearly went the distance. The teams alternated wins through the first five games. Game 4 was possibly the most amazing and ridiculously dumb, at the same time, ending in the history of the World Series. There was the Randy Arozarena story. Clayton Kershaw said "eat it, haters!" (I kid, he's far too nice to be negative like that). The removal of a previously-dealing Blake Snell in Game 6 followed immediately by the Dodgers scoring two to take the lead would have vaulted this thing up the rankings if it was Game 7. It was not, though, and we have to consider the atmosphere lacking due to the damn pandemic meaning we were watching a neutral park not even close to half full. Picture Game 6 unfolding exactly like it did in a packed Dodger Stadium? Man, that would've been something. I'm pretty sure it would have moved this series up one spot in these rankings (especially also considering that Game 4 ending would've happened in The Trop).
Regardless, after so many years of playoff failures, it was cool to see the likes of Dave Roberts, Kenley Jansen and, of course, Kershaw get a ring.
6. 2013, Red Sox over Cardinals in six
Remember, this was the Red Sox team that went worst-to-first and was a leader in the city following the horrific Boston Marathon bombing that April. Everyone grew beards, many named them, and a city rallied together. This gives the series a bit of a bump, though not enough to eclipse any seven-game series.
A famed Big Papi pep talk and Jonny Gomes three-run shot turned the series around in Game 4 with the Red Sox trailing in the series, two games to one. Speaking of Big Papi, David Ortiz hit .688/.750/1.188 in the six games. Yes. He was 11 for 16 with two doubles, two homers and eight walks. This was the year he hit the grand slam in front of the "Bullpen Cop," too, that was just in the ALCS.
Four of the six games were close and I'm going to guess this is the only World Series ever that had back-to-back games end on an interference call and then a player getting picked off -- as a pinch runner -- to end the game. As a six-gamer, this was hard to beat. Alas, it didn't go the distance like our top five.
5. 2019, Nationals over Astros in 7
Juan Soto becoming a national star, a spotlight on the Nationals three aces and several other things about this series were fun. How about a big moment in Game 7? Take it away, Anthony Rendon and Howie Kendrick:
There was a lot of scoring in the late innings, but unfortunately the overwhelming majority of it was the team already in the lead just putting the game away and removing ninth-inning drama. Game 1 was 5-4, but other than that, the margin of victory was 9, 3, 7, 6, 5, 4 by game, respectively.
On the plus side, after so many playoff failures, the Nationals finally took their first World Series title and lots of veteran players finally won their first ring.
On the negative side, the road team won all seven games. Sure, it sounds like a fun little side story, but being in person to see thousands and thousands of dejected fans -- who spent so much money to be there -- got a little (relatively!) depressing seven games in a row.
Overall, great series, but there were better in the last 10 years.
4. 2014, Giants over Royals in 7
Through six games, there had been an awful lot of fun, but it was mostly one-sided on a game-by-game basis. That is to say, five of the first six games were decided by at least five runs. Game 3 was only a one-run game, but there were no lead changes and the Giants didn't threaten after the sixth. Game 5 did feature Madison Bumgarner's shutout and it was only 2-0 going to the eighth, but the Giants scored three runs in the bottom to put it out of reach. I guess the Giants' Game 4 comeback in the 5th and 6th innings was pretty fun, too, but they had a seven-run lead after the seventh.
Wait, if I'm being negative, how did this outrank the Nats-Astros? Two things.
I mentioned the Bumgarner shutout. This was the series that he cemented himself as one of the greatest big-game pitchers of all time. In Game 7 on two days' rest, he threw the final five innings, all scoreless, allowing just two hits while striking out four without a walk. In the series, he threw 21 innings, allowing just one run on nine hits while striking out 17 against one walk. He was the only reliable starter the Giants had by the World Series. He carried them across the finish line. His entire 2014 playoff line? 1.03 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, 45 K, 6 BB, 52 2/3 IP. He had two shutouts and a save.
Oh, but Bumgarner almost didn't complete the job. That's the second reason: This play and all the discussion that came of it (go to 1:15 for the actual play)
I will never, ever forget watching that live. Everything going through my head the entire time. Watching the Royals crowd realize the tying run was on base, then the rising roar as Gordon continued to circle the bases with the two outfield miscues. Will they send him? Could he actually score? Will the World Series end on a close play at the plate? What if Gordon scores and this goes extra? Will Giants the have to pitch someone else? Who? Holy cow. Chills. And I didn't even care who won!
If the series other than Bumgarner and the final inning were lackluster in the drama department, those two things alone vault this series up the all-time list.
(Oh, and by the way, I wish the Royals would have sent Gordon for drama purposes, but my guess is Brandon Crawford would've hosed him).
3. 2017, Astros over Dodgers in 7
I went back and forth on this one and 2014. Ultimately, this was the better series as a whole with so much more drama per game.
Game 1 featured Kershaw with an absolute gem, allowing one run in seven innings while striking out 11 in 100-plus degree heat. Game 2 saw the Astros get two runs off Jansen, including a game-tying homer in the ninth by Marwin Gonzalez, to force extras. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa went back-to-back in the top of the 10th, but the Dodgers answered with two in the bottom half to keep the game alive. George Springer (surprising, I know) hit a two-run shot in the 11th. Charlie Culberson hit a solo shot, but Yasiel Puig struck out to end the game. They split the next two games (the Dodgers scored five runs in the ninth of Game 4 to break a 1-1 tie, by the way) before one of the craziest World Series games in history.
Game 5 featured 25 runs on 28 hits, including seven home runs. The scoring progression (using half-innings and excluding those with zeroes): 3-0 Dodgers, 4-0 Dodgers, 4-4, 7-4 Dodgers, 7-7, 8-7 Dodgers, 11-8 Astros, 11-9 Astros, 12-9 Astros, 12-12 (this was the ninth when the Dodgers tied it), 13-12 Astros on an Alex Bregman walk-off single.
Words can't do that game justice. I remember I was tasked with shooting a video afterward and I basically just kept looking in disbelief saying it was the most unbelievable game I'd ever seen. So many jaw-dropping moments.
The Dodgers were down 1-0 going into the sixth in Game 6 but got three in the next two innings. It was a very good game to force Game 7.
Unfortunately, Game 7 wasn't great. In light of that, I'd accept arguments for flipping this backward to number four. Games 1, 2 and especially 5 push this one above for me.
2. 2011, Cardinals over Rangers in 7
Everyone will always remember this for Game 6, and rightfully so, but there was so much more.
Game 1 was a one-run game. So was Game 2, but remember how it happened? It was 0-0 going to the bottom of the seventh when Allen Craig delivered a two-out, RBI single. To the ninth we go, and Ian Kinsler came through with a leadoff single and bang-bang stolen base (it was in pre-replay days and was the right call). Elvis Andrus singled and Kinsler held at third, meanwhile, there was a mishap on the cut-off that allowed Andrus to second. Two straight sac flies and the Rangers were going home tied, 1-1.
After the teams combined for eight runs in the first two games and one run through three innings in Game 3, they absolutely exploded in a 16-7 Cardinals win. It wasn't close, but who cares? We saw history. Albert Pujols went 5 for 6 with three homers and six RBI. It was the first time since 1977 a player hit three homers in a World Series game. Of the three-HR games in World Series history, no one else reached five hits, six RBI or 14 total bases. As such, this was arguably the single greatest individual offensive performance in World Series history.
The Rangers would take the next two games and both were good games. One might forget that after the travel day, there was an extra day off due to a rainout. This will matter in a second. But first, Game 6. Through the first eight innings, here is the scoring by inning:
Rangers: 1, 1, 0, 1, 1, 0, 3, 0
Cardinals: 2, 0, 0, 1, 0, 1, 0, 1
In the bottom of the ninth, the Rangers held a 7-5 lead with two on and two out for David Freese.
Yep, a game-tying triple with the Cardinals down to their last strike of the series. Josh Hamilton answered with a two-run homer in the top of the 10th, but the Cardinals tied with a two-RBI Lance Berkman single in the bottom. Then Freese ended it with a walk-off bomb in the 11th.
This is in the conversation for the best World Series game ever. I can attest the stadium shook multiple times, too.
Thanks to the rainout, the Cardinals were able to go with Chris Carpenter in Game 7 (he had started Game 5) and though he allowed two first-inning runs, that was it for the Rangers. The Cardinals took it.
Game 7 was relatively uneventful toward the end, which is about the only negative thing we can muster about this series.
1. 2016, Cubs over Indians in 7
The historical context of 1908 being the Cubs last World Series title and 1948 being the Indians' was always going to carry some weight here and it gets the nod thanks to Game 7 (if the Freese game had been Game 7 above this would've been a lot tougher decision).
Cleveland came in riding the arms of Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller and that got Game 1, as the duo and Cody Allen shut out a previously hot Cubs offense. On the Chicago side, there was Kyle Schwarber, who tore his ACL in the third game of the season, coming back to get his first game experience since the injury in the World Series. How about that? He would go 2 for 4 with two RBI in a 5-1 win in Game 2. In Game 3, with the wind screaming out of Wrigley, somehow Cleveland rode Josh Tomlin (and the trio of bullpen aces Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw) to a 1-0 win. Behind another good Kluber performance and an offensive outburst, it was 3-1 Cleveland after Game 4.
No team had come back from a three games to one deficit to win the World Series since 1985. The last team to do it with Games 6 and 7 on the road was the 1979 Pirates.
The Cubs did it.
First, it took a dramatic Game 5 win where they trailed, 1-0, going into the fifth. To get things going Kris Bryant homered, Anthony Rizzo doubled and the Cubs would get three that inning. It was especially big to get the rally before the Cleveland bullpen took over. Things were dire and the meat of the order came through. The Cubs then needed Aroldis Chapman for 2 2/3 to hold a one-run lead to send it back to Cleveland.
There, the Cubs' bats woke up, scoring seven runs in the first three innings of Game 6.
And then, Game 7. Dexter Fowler made history with the first-ever Game 7 leadoff homer.
The Cubs felt in control for much of the way after that, but then a late rally and Rajai Davis happened.
Then there was the extra-inning rain delay, the famous Jason Heyward locker room speech, Schwarber leading off with a single and a Cubs rally that peaked with Ben Zobrist's go-ahead double.
Of course, the Cubs got insurance and needed it, because the Indians would score one and get the tying run on base before the Cubs closed it down.
If we look at the context of this being a Game 7 and that the best game of all-time has to be a World Series Game 7, taking note of what was on the line for both teams here with the droughts and the drama in the game, it could be argued this was the single best baseball game of all-time. We could name others with droughts on the line and others with high drama in late innings of Game 7. I'm not sure we can find one that hits both notes like this.
In a very crowded field, 2016 was the best World Series of the past 10 years.