Here's a tricky question for you on a Monday morning: What do the Dodgers, the Royals, and the Tigers have in common?
Yes, all three were major-league teams with winning records in 2013. But aside from that, what did they have in common?
Answer: All three broke 22-year losing streaks against the New York Yankees this year.
For roughly 45 years -- basically, from 1920 through 1964 -- if you wanted to win the World Series, you had to beat the Yankees. Whether during the championship season, or in the Serious itself. There was an interregnum of sorts, beginning in 1965 and ending in 1976 when the Yankees, by then owned by a hard-charging owner, moved into a rebuilt Yankee Stadium and returned to the postseason for the first time since '64.
The Yankees missed the playoffs for most of the '80s, then became sort of a joke in the early '90s before Buck Showalter and Derek Jeter and all the rest of them arrived and the Yankees became, once more, the Yankees.
Leaving aside those relatively brief periods, though, the Yankees have been the dominant force in American baseball for nearly a century. For nearly a century, if you were beating the Yankees, you were probably doing something right.
This year wasn't a terrible one for the Yankees. After all, they did win 85 games. But a dozen teams won more, including three -- yes: the Dodgers, the Tigers, and even the Royals -- who hadn't won more than the Yankees in a long, long time. It's been exactly 22 years for all three teams. In 1991, the Yankees went 71-91, and that season the Dodgers and the Tigers and the Royals all did better. Until this season, they were stuck with the longest streak of finishing worse than the Yankees.
In 1992, the Yankees improved to 76 wins, which was good enough to finish ahead of the Royals and the Tigers and the Dodgers. But the Yankees finished behind the Padres and the Twins and the Astros ... and that's the last time any of those teams did better than the Yankees.
In 1998, the Astros won 102 games and the Padres won 98 ... and the Yankees won 114.
In 2006, the Twins won 96 games ... and the Yankees won 97.
Meanwhile, the Marlins and the Rockies both joined the majors in 1993 ... and neither franchise has ever won more games than the Yankees in a season.
Anyway, I spent an hour putting together an Excel file figuring the last team each club won more games. It's possible that I missed a Yankees-beating season or two, but here's what I've got:
Never: Rockies, Marlins
1992: Brewers, Padres, Twins, Astros
1993: Blue Jays
2000: Giants, Mets
2006: White Sox
2008: Angels, Cubs, Brewers
2013: Everybody Else
But congratulations especially to the Dodgers and the Tigers and the Royals.
Especially the Royals.
Addendum: First time around, I missed the Mets. But in 2008, they won 89 games ... and so did the Yankees. In 2006, they won 97 games ... and so did the Yankees. In 2000, the Mets won 94 games, while the Yankees won only 87 ... but then the Yankees beat the Mets in the World Series. Does that even count? For the last time the Mets beat the Yankees in the standings and in the postseason, you have to go all the way back to 1991, when the Mets won 91 games (but missed the playoffs) and the Yankees finished in last place with a 67-95 record.