The riches of baseball still lie on the western coasts of North America. The inception of Major League Baseball came about in 1903, the same year Sir Henry Ford laid the foundations of the automobile industry during America’s surge for global power. The league, which came into existence after the National League (1876) and the American League (1901), became a crucial part of America’s cultural identity. With players like Babe Ruth, the game gained popularity, but dark days followed as the nation went through the two World Wars and The Great Depression.
The league expanded in years to follow, with new stadiums, better infrastructure, and the rise of commercial income laid the foundations for the league to build on. In 2004, Forbes released a list of franchise valuations, where franchises in Major League Baseball had an estimated value of US$295 million each. Fast forward to 2021, Forbes estimated the average valuation of MLB franchises at US$1.9 billion. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top 10 Richest Baseball Teams in the world.
#10 Washington Nationals
Valuation – US$1.925 billion
Owner – Mark Lerner
The Washington Nationals were founded in 1969 as the Montreal Expos, which was part of a four-team expansion. In 2001, the 30 teams in the league voted for two teams to be eliminated from the league, but as the contraction plan failed the Expos were purchased by the MLB, which wanted the franchise to be relocated to a new city.
Washington D.C. was chosen and subsequently, the Nationals moved to the city in 2005. While the team initially struggled after moving to the city, they enjoyed a considerable amount of success in the 2010s. The Nationals secured their first playoffs and Division title in 2012. They won the Eastern division again in 2014, 2016, and 2017, but never made it past the National League Division Series. In 2019, they made it past the NLDS for the first time in the franchise’s history before setting up the World Series finals against the Houston Astros, which they won in the seventh game claiming their maiden World Series Championship.
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#9 Los Angeles Angels
Valuation – US$2.025 billion
Owner – Arte & Carole Moreno
The LA Angels compete in the Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League (AL) West Division. They were established in 1961 as one of the first two expansion teams by Gene Autry, the team’s first owner. In the 36 years of Gene’s ownership, the Angels made it to the playoffs only three times but never won the Pennant.
When Walt Disney bought the franchise in 1997, it took on the mantle of renovating Anaheim Stadium. The team were renamed “Anaheim Angels” and became a subsidiary of Disney Sports Inc. Under Disney’s ownership and the guidance of Manager Mike Scioscia, the Angels won their first-ever pennant and World Series in 2002. In 2005, “Los Angeles” was added to the team’s name by new owner Arturo Moreno, which resulted in a four-year court case between the owner and the city council of Anaheim. But the lawsuit was dropped by the city council in 2009. Since Moreno took charge of the franchise, they have gone on to win the West Division title on five different occasions – in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2014 – but have failed to replicate their success of winning the Pennant again.
#8 Philadelphia Phillies
Valuation – US$2.05 billion
Owner – John S. Middleton
The Phillies were founded in 1883, replacing the team from Worcester, Massachusetts in the National League. After the first World Series played in 1903, the Phillies played 77 seasons in the MLB before winning their first World Series in 1980, a wait longer than any of the 16 baseball teams that made up the Major League Baseball in the first part of the 20th century.
The Phillies became one of the most successful teams since the start of the Division era in 1969. Since then, they have won 11 Division titles, which ranks them at sixth highest for all teams and fourth in the National League. Apart from that, they have also won 7 National League Pennants and won their second World Series in 2008.
#7 St. Louis Cardinals
Valuation – US$2.245 billion
Owner – Bill DeWitt Jr.
One of the nation’s oldest and most successful baseball teams, the Cardinals have won 11 World Series championships, more than any other National League franchise and second in MLB only to the New York Yankees. St. Louis had their first team in the National League as St. Louis Browns in 1892. After that, in 1900, the team was renamed the Cardinals.
In their long and rich history, apart from winning 11 World Series, the Cardinals have also won 19 National League Pennants, 11 Central Division titles, three East Division titles, and four Wild Card berths, with the latest being the 2020 Wild Card Playoffs victory. With an average attendance of 42,968, the Cardinals rack up revenue of more than US$400 million annually.
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#6 New York Mets
Valuation – US$2.45 billion
Owner – Steve Cohen
The Mets were founded in 1962 as one of baseball’s first expansion teams, replacing the departed NL teams – the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants. Playing in the MLB as a member club of the National League (NL) East Division, the Mets hold the infamous 40-120 record, which is the worst regular-season record in MLB history.
After joining the MLB in 1962, they struggled massively on the pitch where they never finished better than second-last, let alone fighting for the playoffs. In 1969, it all changed as the “Miracle Mets” beat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series championship to create one of the biggest upsets in the history of Major League Baseball. Since 1962, the Mets have qualified for the post-season playoffs on nine occasions, winning the World Series twice (1969 and 1986), and also winning the National League Pennants five times.
#5 San Francisco Giants
Valuation – US$3.175 billion
Owner – San Francisco Baseball Associates LLC
The Giants compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League West Division. They were founded in 1883 as the New York Gothams before being renamed to New York Giants three years later. Before their move to San Francisco, the Giants were the most successful franchise in MLB history with five World Series titles and 17 National League Pennants.
When the franchise relocated to San Francisco in 1958, they failed to revive their glory days despite the efforts of star players like Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, who are regarded as two of the greatest baseball players of all time. The Giants endured a championship drought of 56 years, though the team had mild success in the form of three NL Pennants, six West Division titles and a Wild Card berth in 2002. The Giants also lost three World Series Finals in that period. The drought finally ended in 2010, followed by two additional championships in 2012 and 2014. Their eight World Series title wins is the second highest in the National League, while the fifth-most of any team.
#4 Chicago Cubs
Valuation – US$3.36 billion
Owner – The Ricketts Family
The Cubs, first known as the White Stockings, were a founding member of the National League in 1876, later becoming the Chicago Cubs in 1903. The 1906 Cubs team won 116 games, posting a regular season record of 116-36, which is the modern era record for winning percentage, but lost the World Series to the Chicago White Sox 4-2. The Cubs won back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908, making them the first team to play three consecutive World Series championships.
After their success in the early 1900s, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 National League Championship Series and the 2016 World Series, which ended a 71-year-old NL Pennant drought and a 108-year-old World Series drought, both of which are record droughts in Major League Baseball history. Since the start of the Division era, the Cubs have made it into the post-season playoffs ten times through the 2020 season.
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#3 Boston Red Sox
Valuation – US$3.465 billion
Owner – Fenway Sports Group (John Henry)
The Boston Red Sox compete in Major League Baseball as a member club of the American League East Division. Founded in 1901 as one of the eight charter franchises of the American League, they won the inaugural MLB season, winning the 1903 World Series. They won the 1904 American League Pennant but were unable to defend their 1903 World Series win as the New York Giants refused to participate in the 1904 Finals. Their dominance continued as they racked up four more World Series titles by 1918.
However, the franchise went into one of the longest championship droughts in baseball history, dubbed as the “Curse of the Bambino”, when the franchise allegedly sold their star, Babe Ruth, to rivals New York Yankees, two years after their fifth World Series title in 1918. After a wait of 86 years, the Red Sox won their sixth World Series in 2004. Following their recent World Series championship in 2018, the Red Sox became the first team to win four World Series in the 21st Century.
#2 Los Angeles Dodgers
Valuation – US$3.57 billion
Owner – Guggenheim Baseball Management
The Los Angeles Dodgers compete in the MLB as a member club of the National League West Division. Established in 1883 in Brooklyn, the outfit joined National League in 1890 as the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, but after many years they finally set on the name Dodgers in 1932. From the ’40s through the mid-’50s, the Dodgers developed a fierce rivalry with the New York Yankees as the teams squared off in the World Series Finals on seven different occasions, losing the first five of the seven matchups before beating them in the 1955 Finals to win their first World Series title.
After having 68 years in Brooklyn, the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles in 1958 and immediately found success, winning the 1959 World Series. Success continued as they won two more World Series titles in 1963 and 1965 before a rebuild was needed that lasted over a decade. The Dodgers became the only franchise to win multiple World Series titles in the ’80s (1981 and 1988). A 32-year drought saw them making 12 post-season playoffs and win eight consecutive Division titles from 2013 to 2020 before they won the 2020 World Series title.
#1 New York Yankees
Valuation – US$5.25 billion
Owner – Yankee Global Enterprises
The most successful team in the history of Major League Baseball, the New York Yankees are members of the American League East Division. Founded in 1901 as the Baltimore Orioles, in 1903, Frank Farrell and Bill Devery purchased the franchise after they had ceased operations and moved the team to New York City, renaming the team as the New York Highlanders. The Highlanders were officially renamed the New York Yankees in 1913.
Apart from their initial struggles in the 1910s and their drought in the ’80s, the Yankees have won the World Series in every other decade since its inception. After winning their first-ever World Series title in 1923, the Yankees went on to win another 26 World Series championships, making them the most successful team in the history of Major League Baseball. With all those titles, they have also managed to win 19 American League East Division titles and 40 American League Pennants, making them the team with the more trophies than any other team in the four major North American sports. The Yankees also have 44 players and 11 managers who have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.