We're wrapping up this year's SB Nation Awards with one that, both by rule and by logic, is not allowed to involve our own Red Sox. This year, we're asking the fans of all 30 teams to choose which of the other 29 they think should be the team of the year. Here are our candidates:
San Francisco Giants
Shockingly, the World Series champions make the cut! The Red Sox handed their title off to the Giants, who joined them as the only other team with three World Series wins in the "new" millennium. With all three coming in the past five seasons, you might even call this something of a dynasty.
Taken as a whole, their season was not so impressive as their other two championship campaigns. They had to get past Pittsburgh in the Wild Card game after an 88-74 season left them well short of the Dodgers, and with only the eighth best record in the game (a position they shared with the Athletics and Pirates to boot). Still, however bumpy the road may have been, it ended in a World Series victory, and only one team can say that.
Kansas City Royals
Frequent readers will know I'm not terribly fond of the people running the show in Kansas City, and we were one game away from a winter full of hackneyed articles about how Dayton Moore and Ned Yost sure showed the world how to play baseball the right way! But none of that should take away from the accomplishment of the players on the field, who took arguably as long-suffering a franchise as any in the game and, through superlative defense and strong pitching, gave the fans their first taste of postseason baseball in some thirty years.
They don't have the title to show for it, or a superlative regular-season record, but the Royals were the best story of the season. The little team that could, and very nearly did.
It had seemed like the Orioles were ready to take a step back. 2012 had come and gone, the Orioles falling one game shy of the ALCS, and if 2013 had brought with it an acceptable 85-77 record, that still left them in a distant fourth place in a resurgent AL East. If after that you had been told that Chris Davis would put up a .196 batting average and .704 OPS in 2014, what would you expect the Orioles' record to be? 64-98? Maybe they break triple-digit losses?
Or maybe they finish in a tie for the second best record in the majors at 96-66. Sure, it ended with a sweep in the ALCS to the Royals, but if the Orioles hadn't made it to the playoffs in 2012, they would be every bit the Cinderella story that Kansas City was. Who knows how different things could have been if Chris Davis had not chosen this season to revert to a pumpkin. Maybe they'd be hanging their first World Series banner since 1983.
Los Angeles Angels
If baseball was played on paper, or if we didn't decide the title with a succession of too-short series where anything can happen (and where would the fun be in that?), the Angels would be the champions of 2014. Led by Mike Trout, finally the AL MVP in title after spending three solid years as the best player in the game, the Angels ran riot over the American League, winning an MLB-high 98 games despite playing in the toughest division in the game (depending on how you measure that sort of thing).
It all came apart against the Royals in the ALDS, with the Angels' offense that scored a league-high 773 runs managing a paltry six in the three-game sweep. But even if there's no trophy for regular season accomplishments, and even if they didn't win the most important games, they're still the team with the best winning percentage at the end of the day.