• Los Angeles is challenging those other teams for the most wins in baseball history. Here's a look at where the Dodgers stand and what they're up against.
By Jay Jaffe
August 23, 2017

The Los Angeles Dodgers are lapping the major league baseball field this year, with huge leads in both the NL West and for the best overall record in baseball. Nonetheless, they are in a much closer race of a different kind: The chase to finish with among the best records ever.

At 89-35 through Tuesday, Aug. 23, the Dodgers were on pace to finish with 116 wins, which would have tied them with the 1906 Cubs and the 2001 Mariners for the most in baseball history. Alas, just four days later Los Angeles embarked on its worst stretch of the season, one that has seen them lose 10 times in 11 games. In order to catch the Cubs and the Mariners, the Dodgers would have to win each of their remaining 24 games.

But even if the record is out of reach, the Dodgers still have a chance to finish among the best teams ever. They were one of 16 teams to have at least a .700 winning percentage through 124 games, but five of those clubs—the 1904 and '05 Giants, the '44 Cardinals, the '69 Orioles and the '95 Indians—couldn't keep it up.

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Here are the standings in the Best Team Ever race, updated through play on Sept. 5, 2017, with each team's first 138 decisions (i.e. no ties):

Team Record PCT. GB
1906 Cubs 105-33 .761
1902 Pirates 102-36 .739 3
1909 Pirates 102-36 .739 3
1904 Giants 100-38 .725 5
1998 Yankees 100-38 .725 5
1907 Cubs 99-39 .717 6
2001 Mariners 99-39 .717 6
1954 Indians 98-40 .710 7
1927 Yankees 97-41 .703 8
1931 Athletics 97-41 .703 8
1939 Yankees 97-41 .703 8
1905 Giants 96-42 .697 9
1944 Cardinals 96-42 .697 9
1995 Indians 95-43 .688 10
1969 Orioles 94-44 .681 11
2017 Dodgers 92-46 .667 13

Los Angeles could also end up behind some other teams not mentioned above. These legendary teams were not at a .700 winning percentage when we began our check-in, nor did they finish there, but they rank among the very best in baseball history: the 1961 Yankees (109-53, .673), the '75 Reds (108-54, .667), the '84 Tigers (104-58, .642) and the '86 Mets (108-54, .667). The Dodgers are on pace to finish with 108 wins, which would make them just the 12th team to do so.

Here's a quick rundown of the 10 teams that have finished with a winning percentage of .700 or better:

Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

1906: 116-36, .763; lost World Series
1907: 107-45, .704; won World Series

Starring the famous double play combination of shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers and first baseman Frank Chance as well as fellow Hall of Famer Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown, the staff ace, the 1906 Cubs set a single-season record for winning percentage of .753 that still stands. The last time they lost consecutive games came on July 23 and 24. From that point on they went a bonkers 55-8, an .873 winning percentage. That stretch included winning streaks of 11 and 14 games and a period in which they won 37 of 39 games. They picked a bad time for their next two-game losing streak: Games 5 and 6 of the World Series, when the White Sox, their crosstown rivals, suddenly forgot they were known as the Hitless Wonders and put up eight runs in both games to win the title. 

With a virtually identical cast of characters the next year, the Cubs kept pace with their predecessors through 118 decisions; both went 87-31. From there, Chicago went "only" 18-10 (.643), but this time around, it won the championship, sweeping four straight games from the Tigers after a Game 1 tie. (The picture above shows Chance batting during that year's Fall Classic.)

Getty Images

1902: 103-36, .741; no postseason
1909: 110-42, .724, won World Series

Both the modern World Series and the 154-game schedule were a year away from being invented when the 1902 Pirates—led by Hall of Famers in star hitter Honus Wagner (pictured above), ace Jack Chesbro and manager/outfielder Fred Clarke—trounced the rest of the NL to the tune of a 103-36 record. Amazingly, the Bucs never lost more than two in a row en route to winning their second of three straight pennants by 27 1/2 games. Incidentally, it was owner Barney Dreyfus who conceived the idea of the World Series after this season, an extension of the peace treaty he had brokered with the two-year-old American League.

The Pirates went 91-49 the next year before losing to the Boston Americans (now Red Sox) in the World Series. Pittsburgh's first title came in 1909, when it finished 110-42 before handing Ty Cobb's Tigers their third straight World Series defeat, in seven games.

Bettmann-Corbis/Getty Images

Record: 111-43, .721; lost World Series

Loaded with future Hall of Famers—starters Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Early Wynn, reliever Hal Newhouser, centerfielder Larry Doby and manager Al Lopez all have plaques in Cooperstown—Cleveland put together two 10-game winning streaks that year to help beat out a 103-win Yankees team. Interestingly, it was New York's highest win total in the 10 seasons from 1949 to '58 yet the only time it didn't win the pennant. 

The Big Apple caused these Indians another problem, however, in the form of the crosstown Giants, who swept them out of the World Series in four games highlighted by Willie Mays' famous catch of Vic Wertz's deep fly ball in Game 1.

Sporting News/Getty Images

Record: 116-46, .716; lost ALCS 

Having shed superstars Randy Johnson (a mid-1998 trade to Houston), Ken Griffey Jr. (traded to the Reds after the 1999 season) and Alex Rodriguez (lost to free agency after the 2000 campaign) in successive years, the Mariners didn’t figure to be world-beaters in 2001. But thanks to holdover designated hitter Edgar Martinez and Japanese import Ichiro Suzuki, the latter of whom won both the league's MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, they set an American League record for wins.

Seattle reeled off a 15-game winning streak in May and June but still trailed the pace of the 1998 Yankees in the race for an AL wins record entering the final two weeks of play. But by winning 10 of 11, they not only passed New York, they tied the Cubs' all-time mark of 116 wins with one game to go. With a chance at setting a new record in Game 162 on Oct. 7, they hosted the last-place Rangers in Seattle and were tied 3-3 in the ninth inning before Texas pushed across a run with a two-out rally for a 4-3 victory.

That wasn't the last disappointment for the Mariners that month. After beating Cleveland in the Division Series, they dropped a six-game ALCS to the Yankees. Seattle hasn't been back to the postseason since.

Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, New York Yankees
Bettmann-Corbis/Getty Images

Record: 110-44, .714; won World Series

Arguably the most famous team in baseball history, the "Murderer's Row" Yankees boasted seven Hall of Famers, hit a then major-league-record 158 homers, outscored opponents by 376 runs and won the pennant by 19 games, the most to that point in American League history. They then swept the Pirates in the World Series in four games. Babe Ruth (a then-record 60 homers) and Lou Gehrig (47) would one day be joined in Cooperstown by teammates Tony Lazzerri, Earle Combs, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock and manager Miller Huggins.

Ron Vesely/Getty Images

Record: 114-48, .704; won World Series

By capping their incredible season with a World Series title—something the 2001 Mariners did not do—this edition of the Bronx Bombers is considered by many to be the gold standard of recent baseball history. Managed by Hall of Famer Joe Torre, New York featured Cooperstown-bound stars in shortstop Derek Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera, both of whom were early in their careers. The memorable cast of characters also included stars like outfielders Paul O'Neill and Bernie Williams, first baseman Tino Martinez and pitchers Andy Pettitte, David Cone and David Wells, the latter of whom threw a perfect game on May 17 of that year against the Twins.

The Yankees were neck-and-neck with the '06 Cubs' pace when they crested at 92-30 on Aug. 18 before stumbling through a 15-18 stretch. New York, though, recovered to win its final seven games of the regular season and then blew through the playoffs, going 11-2 and sweeping the Padres for the franchise's 24th World Series championship and its first of three straight titles.

Bettmann-Corbis/Getty Images

Record: 107-45, .704; lost World Series

In 50 years of owning and managing the team through boom-and-bust cycles, Connie Mack saw the best of times in Philadelphia (five pennants and three championships from 1905 to '14) and the worst (seven straight last-place finishes from 1915 to '21, including the "Pathetics" of 1916 that went 36-117).

After winning championships in 1929 and ’30 thanks to a squad that included Hall of Famers like catcher Mickey Cochrane, first baseman Jimmie Foxx, leftfielder Al Simmons and starter Lefty Grove, the '31 A’s appeared primed to make it three in a row. They won 17 straight games in May, part of a 41-8 stretch, then had a 13-game winning streak in July. Through 124 games, Philadelphia was five games ahead of its 1930 squad for the franchise’s best record to that point. Keeping up that blistering pace proved too much to ask, as the A's went 18-10 (.643) the rest of the way. They then wound up on the short end of a seven-game World Series against the Cardinals. Three years later they were back under .500 and they wouldn't reach the postseason again until 1971.

Bettmann-Corbis/Getty Images

Record: 106-45, .702; won World Series

These Bronx Bombers may have been even more fearsome than their '27 forebears. They outscored their opponents by 411 runs, a record that still stands, and they won the pennant by 17 games before routing the Reds in a four-game World Series sweep for their fourth consecutive title. Only the 1949 to '53 Yankees that won five in a row have topped that feat.

Even after losing Lou Gehrig, who was forced into retirement at the end of April due to the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, New York had little trouble running away with the American League pennant as the team won 12 in a row and 23 out of 25 from May 9 through June 4. The lineup was anchored by catcher Bill Dickey, centerfielder Joe DiMaggio and outfielders Charlie Keller and George Selkirk (pictured, left to right above), as well as second baseman Joe Gordon and third baseman Red Rolfe, each of whom either hit .300, drove in 100 runs or did both. Of that sextet, half of them—Dickey, DiMaggio and Gordon—wound up in the Hall of Fame, as did starting pitchers Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez and manager Joe McCarthy. 

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