Wanted: Good MLB Teams West of the Mississippi River

There was a time when Major League Baseball teams from out west actually mattered.

From 1988-1990, the Oakland Athletics went to three consecutive World Series.  In two of those appearances, they faced a fellow Californian team.  Some of the images from that brief era are forever etched into the memories of an entire generation of baseball fans.

A limping Kirk Gibson hit one of the most improbable postseason home runs in MLB history against one of the most dominant relief pitchers of all time.  The Bash Brothers, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, thrilled fans by hitting baseballs absurdly long distances.  There was even a tragic earthquake that struck San Francisco minutes prior to a World Series game.  For three glorious seasons, the Western United States was the center of the baseball world.

And then, seemingly overnight, like a truck full of football equipment leaving the city of Baltimore, their teams vanished from the Fall Classic.

In all, there have been 22 World Series played since the A’s last took part in one.  And during that time, despite the San Francisco Giants winning a pair of titles recently, only four of the 22 winners (18.2%) – and just nine of the 44 participants (20.5%) – played their home games in a city entirely located west of the Mississippi River.

To be fair, only 11 of MLB’s 30 teams reside west of America’s most famous dividing line.  But that figure represents 36.7% of the sport’s franchises, just over double the ratio of champions they’ve produced.  And if the league is separated evenly based on where each team plays its Spring Training games, the results out west aren’t much better.

Seventeen of the 22 winners (77%) began their seasons in the Florida’s Grapefruit League.  Even 17 of the 22 losing teams (77%) in those World Series spent their springs somewhere between Fort Myers and Lake Buena Vista.

A lot of large cities are located on the East Coast.  However, while it may seem reasonable to assume that teams with larger payrolls set up their camps in Florida, it simply isn’t true.  The top eight, top 14 and top 20 franchises ranked by 2013 payroll are all evenly split between Arizona and Florida during spring training this year.

Even if the eight combined titles won by the perennially well-financed Yankees and Red Sox during that time were removed from the equation, nine of the remaining 14 World Series champions (64%) since 1991 have practiced in the Sunshine State each spring.


World Series Participants That Trained in Florida, 1991-2013

1991 Twins 1991 Braves 1992 Blue Jays 1992 Braves 1993 Blue Jays
1993 Phillies 1995 Braves 1995 Indians* 1996 Yankees 1996 Braves
1997 Marlins 1997 Indians* 1998 Yankees 1999 Yankees 1999 Braves
2000 Yankees 2000 Mets 2001 Yankees 2003 Marlins 2003 Yankees
2004 Red Sox 2004 Cardinals 2005 Astros 2006 Cardinals 2006 Tigers
2007 Red Sox 2008 Phillies 2008 Rays 2009 Yankees 2009 Phillies
2011 Cardinals 2012 Tigers 2013 Red Sox 2013 Cardinals

World Series Participants That Trained in Arizona, 1991-2013

1998 Padres 2001 Diamondbacks 2002 Angels 2002 Giants 2005 White Sox
2007 Rockies 2010 Giants 2010 Rangers 2011 Rangers 2012 Giants

* The Indians have since relocated to Arizona for Spring Training

So remember, when planning that family vacation in March, there are a lot of great golf courses in both Arizona and Florida, but Junior is going to be a lot more likely to recognize the baseball players on TV in October if you go east.

(photo by Y2kcrazyjoker4)

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