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David Brown

Five reasons '76 Reds were last NL team to repeat as champs

David Brown
Big League Stew

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The Phillies reaching the second round of the playoffs has prompted some National League historians to wonder: Can The Fightins' become the first National League team since the Cincinnati Reds of 1975-76 to repeat as World Series champions?

And all of that wondering gets me to wondering something else: Why in the name of Cesar Geronimo, has no NL team has gone back-to-back since the Big Red Machine? Why has no Senior Circuit done what the Yankees (1998-2000) and Blue Jays ('92-93) have done since?

The answer could be, "Because they don't make 'em like Sparky Anderson anymore," but the truth is that there's more than one answer. Here's five of them:

5. National mourning The AL dominates the NL in interleague play, in the All-Star Game and probably even in spring training. The National League as a whole, really, just needs to win two straight World Series before we can start picking on individual teams for not repeating. Four NL different teams — the Pirates, Phillies, Dodgers and Cardinals — won the World Series from 1979 to 1982, but the National League hasn't gone back-to-back since. The closest an NL team came to repeating was the '96 Braves, who jumped to a 2-0 lead in the World Series before the Yankees stormed back to win the next four games. Which leads me to reason No. 4 ...

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4. The Braves Atlanta won 14 straight division titles and were often the best team in the National League, yet it managed only one Commissioner's Trophy. The Braves of that period are one of the greatest franchises in major league history, but their nagging reluctance to get things done in October has hurt the NL's recent World Series haul.

3. $hifting loyaltie$ It's probably not a coincidence that free agency, and all it entails, goes back to 1976, the same year an NL team previously repeated. It shuffles the deck. Today's team looks nothing like yesterday's. If not for free agency, or at least the anticipation of it, neither the Marlins of 1997 or 2003 win the World Series. Conversely, neither of those Fish teams got a real chance to repeat after being quickly dissolved for reciprocal reasons.

2. Damn Yankees When functioning at peak efficiency, the Bronx produces dynasties against which no one else in either league can compete. George Steinbrenner (right, in the dickey) is still king of the world. Even if a dynastic National League counterpart comes along again someday, the Yankees will be standing by to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. They stopped the Braves in '96 and they could have a chance to stop the Phillies, too.

1. Flip ya' for it Success is fleeting. Windows open and they close. Seasons are like snowflakes; no two are the same. The addition of more playoff rounds has increased the odds teams won't make it to the World Series. Until 1969, you had to be the best team over 162 (or 154 or whatever) regular-season games to make the Series. Now, you have to do that, plus navigate all these playoff shenanigans against teams that wouldn't have even earned a ticket in the past. There's a lot of skill involved in getting into position for the postseason, but actually winning it always takes a great deal of luck.

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