Quiz time, sports fans: What did the New York Yankees of the '50s and the Chicago Bulls and Dallas Cowboys of the '90s have in common? (And exactly how can this help you with your portfolio?)

It wasn't just that they had some of the best individual players of the time -- Yogi Berra, Michael Jordan, and Emmitt Smith, respectively -- although that certainly helped. And it wasn't just that they were able to bring home world championship trophies on a regular basis. It was simply that their organizations and performances were consistently excellent.

Consistent excellence is rare anywhere, but imagine seeing it in your portfolio. Impossible? No way! Because that's what carefully chosen dividend-paying stocks can offer.

Build the next investing dynasty
Finding these long-haul outperformers can help you build your fortune, as studies from investing gurus such as Jeremy Siegel have shown time and time again. Finding them for you is precisely what we do at our Motley Fool Income Investor service.

France Telecom (NYSE:FTE), for example, is up 52% since February 2006, and it is currently rewarding investors with a 4.2% yield. Then there's AllianceBernstein (NYSE:AB), which has returned 173% since September 2004 on top of a current 5.3% yield. And while these stocks happen to be Income Investor recommendations, you don't need to be a subscriber to get these great gains.

Identify new talent
With that last thought in mind, I'd like to introduce you to our new community-intelligence database, Motley Fool CAPS. There, savvy investors help one another identify stocks that can create consistent and substantial growth for any type of investor. That means whether you're a Buffett-esque value investor or a chart-watching technical trader, you're welcome to strut your stuff. And, just as in professional sports, the cream inevitably rises to (and stays at) the top.

So what are the best dividend-paying stocks around, according to CAPS? Here are a few dividend picks with five-star ratings:

Company

Yield

Canetic Resources Trust (NYSE:CNE)

15.2%

Golar LNG (NASDAQ:GLNG)

8.9%

PetroChina (NYSE:PTR)

2.7%

Penn West Energy Trust (NYSE:PWE)

13.2%

Santos (NASDAQ:STOSY)

2.7%

Source: Capital IQ.

Stake your claim
I encourage you to join CAPS to learn more about why investors are so bullish on these companies, and perhaps to add your own thoughts to the system. I'll get you started with some thoughts about one company here that may be worth checking out: Santos.

Santos who?
In an energy-heavy list like this, I singled out Santos specifically because it's not very well covered at all. When I visited Yahoo! Finance, my favorite place to get a quick glance at a company, the results I found were pretty barren. There's no profile for the company, news coverage is almost nonexistent, and though there's supposedly one analyst covering the stock, it appears he may have fallen asleep on it. And this is an $8 billion company!

Turning to its website, you can find out that Santos is involved in oil and gas exploration in Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, India, Kyrgyzstan, and Egypt. It's the largest domestic gas producer in Australia, and has the single largest Australian exploration portfolio. On the growth front, it's focusing a lot of effort on building its business in high-growth Asia.

Even on CAPS, there is currently precious little information divulged. That's not to say the stock isn't well-liked -- it has 32 outperform ratings out of 33, 18 of which are from CAPS All-Stars -- but there have been no comments at all on the stock. Whenever I see a company like this, one that has a strong market position but isn't very well-known, I always take a closer look to see if there is an opportunity hiding out.

You can check out who has been bullish on Santos, as well as chime in with your own thoughts, by heading over to CAPS. You may also want to check out a few of the other top-rated dividend payers above while you're there.

And looping back around to conclude my (very) extended sports metaphor, allow me to suggest that dividend stocks will help you turn your portfolio into the dependable New York Yankees, rather than the flash-in-the-pan Florida Marlins. And if you hate the Yankees, it's probably because they're so darn good, so darn often.

More CAPS Coverage:

Yankees fan and Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer hopes the Yanks can continue (regain?) their legendary excellence, and has his fingers crossed that the Cowboys will never get back to the top again. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy is a true investing dynasty.