Much has been written about the greatest dynasties in baseball history. The 1996-2000 Yankees. The 1949-1953 Yankees. The 1936-1939 Yankees. Okay, so most of them were Yankees teams. But there were also the 1972-1974 Oakland A’s and the 1910-1913 Philadelphia A’s. In less transient teams, there were the 1915-1918 Boston Red Sox and the 1942-1946 Cardinals. And then there are the 2010-2014 San Francisco Giants. They won three titles in five years, a huge accomplishment. But they never even won 95 games in the regular season, were downright bad in between two of their championship seasons with a record of 76-86 in 2013, and had an unimpressive 88 wins as a Wild Card playoff team in their 2014 title run. As far as dynasties go, these Giants are not even as impressive as the hugely popular show “Dynasty” that aired on ABC in the 1980s but are probably better than the “Dynasty” reboot currently airing on the CW.
I’m defining “dynasty” here as a team that won at least three titles with no more than one season not winning it between each championship. The 2010-2014 Giants are one of eight such teams, alongside the others mentioned. That said, these Giants are also pretty clearly worse than many other dynastic-ish teams, like the 1970s “Big Red Machine” Cincinnati Reds (titles in 1975 and 1976, but also World Series appearances in 1970 and 1972), 1963-1965 Dodgers (two titles in three years, plus a World Series appearance in 1966) and even the 1991-2005 Braves (just one World Series win, in 1995, but 14 straight division titles and four additional World Series appearances) and 1947-1956 Brooklyn Dodgers (just one win, in 1955, but five other World Series appearances in a decade). Not to mention the 1927-1928 Yankees, the 1961-1962 Yankees, and the 1977-1978 Yankees, all of which lost the World Series the year before winning back-to-back titles (the Yankees also lost the Series in 1963 and 1964, making five straight appearances). Unlike all these far superior teams, those 2010-2014 Giants teams never made any additional World Series appearances. They just managed to win the Series whenever they got there (a pretty important thing, no doubt, but not as indicative of sustained success as always being in contention).
These earlier dynasties and almost-dynasties each featured multiple Hall of Famers, including elite all-time greats Joe Dimaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Reggie Jackson, Eddie Collins, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Johnny Bench, Greg Maddux, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, and a young ace pitcher for the 1915, 1916, and 1918 championship Red Sox teams named Babe Ruth. But the 2010-2014 Giants have an excellent shot to be the first dynastic team in MLB history to have a grand total of zero Hall of Famer players. If anything, there’s a good chance that their sole representative in the Hall will be their manager, Bruce Bochy. And he would deserve it. After all, he somehow won three World Series championships with a team with no Hall of Fame players!
These Giants teams were led by their starting pitchers, and the biggest pitching stars were Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner. Lincecum had arguably the most noteworthy career, winning back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008 and 2009. But that was before the dynasty began. He was still good in their first championship season in 2010, but went into rapid decline after 2011 and was a below-average pitcher for their final two titles in 2012 and 2014. He ended his career with a mere total of 19.5 WAR*. For reference, the average pitcher in the Baseball Hall of Fame has a career WAR of 73.3. Zito had a career WAR of 31.9, but after making three All-Star teams and posting an ERA under 4,00 in six of his seven seasons with the A’s from 2000-2006, he then never did either again in his next seven seasons with the Giants. In the Battle of the Bay Barry Zitos, Oakland Barry Zito destroys San Francisco Barry Zito.
Cain played his entire 13-year career with the Giants but was only an elite pitcher from 2009-2012 and ended his career with a WAR of 29.1 and a win-loss record 14 games under .500. Like Posey, Bumgarner once appeared on track to be a possible Hall of Famer, with four straight All-Star appearances and a legendary 2014 postseason run, but he’s been a below-average pitcher since turning 30 and going to the Diamondbacks two years ago. His career WAR of 36.2 is very impressive for a 31-year-old, but with a 6.48 ERA in the shortened 2020 season and more struggles this year, his performance is trending in a horrible direction. What he did in the 2014 postseason (4-1 with a 1.03 ERA to be named the MVP of both the NLCS and the World Series) is one of the greatest postseason performances in baseball history, but the fact that Bumgarner carried an 88-win team to a title almost by himself is only further proof that it wasn’t much of a team.
The best hitters on those Giants teams were Pablo Sandoval, Aubrey Huff, and Buster Posey. Sandoval has a career WAR of 19.2 and is most notable for his nickname Kung Fu Panda, which is due to his being shaped like the rotund star of the animated movies of the same name. Funny and lovable? Yes. The stuff legends are made of? No. Huff had a career WAR of 20.5 and is now most notable for having been disinvited to the 2010 team’s reunion for his repeated offensive tweets. Huff would probably claim that he’s more notable for something he did on the field, but he would say it in a really offensive way and everyone would agree he’s a big jerk who wasn’t all that great a player.
With a career WAR of 43.7, Posey is by far the most accomplished of the team’s hitters, but his career took a major downward turn by his age 31 season in 2018. However, after taking the 2020 season off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he has bounced back in a big way in 2021 and if he can sustain this performance for a couple more years, he may end up giving the team one Hall of Famer after all. But no matter what he does, he will never be able to strip them of the title of “Worst Dynasty Ever.” Only a worse dynasty in the future can do that. God forbid.
*All WAR totals according to baseball-reference.com. WAR means Wins Above Replacement level player. If you want to find out about players with truly outstanding career WAR totals, look at players on teams that are not the 2010-2014 Giants.