The Royals have won two straight American League pennants. Since the beginning of division play in 1969, five teams have won three straight, all in the American League. How did they do it, and what happened next?
1969-71 Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles were very good before (1966 World Series champions) and after (1973-74 AL East Division champs). But they were dominant in this stretch, with seasons of 109, 108 and 101 victories. They had future Hall of Famers in the outfield with Frank Robinson, at third base with Brooks Robinson and on the mound with Jim Palmer during their heyday.
The Orioles swept the Twins in the first two league championship series and the A’s in the third, but won only the 1970 World Series.
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1972-74 Oakland Athletics
It took a dynasty-like run to end one. The A’s had been building a powerhouse since their last years in Kansas City and unleashed it in the early 1970s with three straight World Series titles. The Oakland juggernaut could have rolled on but owner Charlie Finley let the team break up. Catfish Hunter signed with the Yankees after 1974, Reggie Jackson was traded to the Orioles in 1976, and other stars such as Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Gene Tenace and Bert Campaneris were soon gone.
In 1977, a year after finishing second and winning 87 games, the A’s lost 98 and would lose 108 two years later.
1976-78 New York Yankees
The Yankees won the AL in 1964 and didn’t finish first again until 1976, beginning the next three-peat. This one was built from a blend of homegrown talent in Thurman Munson and Ron Guidry and the new free-agent path. That’s how Reggie Jackson arrived in 1977. The Yanks were swept by the Reds in the 1976 World Series but toppled the Dodgers the next two years. Billy Martin managed the first two pennant winners and owner George Steinbrenner’s revolving door began operation the next.
To reach the World Series in each of those years, the Yankees had to get past one team in the playoffs, the Royals.
1988-90 Oakland Athletics
The A’s won 306 regular-season games in this stretch. José Canseco and Rickey Henderson won MVPs, Bob Welch won a Cy Young, Walt Weiss was Rookie of the Year in 1988 (a year after Mark McGwire won it), and Dennis Eckersley was voted the AL’s top reliever in 1988. The A’s were loaded enough to win three World Series. But they won only one — in 1989, an event better remembered for the earthquake than the sweep of the Giants.
1998-2001 New York Yankees
These were the best of the Yankees teams that won nine straight division titles. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada were the “core four,” but they had plenty of help: Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Roger Clemens, David Cone ... a seemingly endless list of stars. The Yankees’ 2000 World Series title was their third straight and fourth in five years, all under manager Joe Torre. They went to the playoffs for 13 straight seasons and 17 times in 18 years.
Since the turn-of-the-century Yankees, three teams have won consecutive pennants: the Phillies (2008-09), Rangers (2010-11) and Royals (2014-15).