We’ve seen a couple of long droughts end in the last decade, but there are still plenty of suffering franchises around.
The Boston Red Sox have long exercised their old demons, winning their first World Series in 86 years back in 2004 and have added two since then. The Chicago White Sox powerhouse team of 2005 swept the Astros to erase an 86-year drought themselves. The San Francisco Giants won in 2010 and 2012, after claiming a championship since 1954, when the New York Giants (baseball’s version) took home the Fall Classic. The Phillies erased a 28-year drought when they took it home in 2008, but that feels like a fortnight compared to some droughts still going across the major leagues.
Here are the 10 longest current World Series dry spells in Major League Baseball. Asterisks will indicate that it is not the year the team won the World Series, but rather the year they were founded, implying they’ve never won one.
10) Baltimore Orioles (1983)
The high octane Orioles attack of the ’80s produced a World Series in 1983, with a convincing five-game series win over the Phillies.
Cal Ripken was leading the way, averaging .318, with 27 home runs and 102 RBIs. Eddie Murray was the biggest slugger of all that year, with 33 home runs and 111 RBIs. On the pitching staff, Scott McGregor, Storm David, Mike Boddicker, Dennis Martinez, Tippy Martinez and who could forget, Jim Palmer.
Since then, the Orioles have struggled to be contenders. The closest they’ve come since then was back-to-back trips to the ALCS in 1996 and 1997, losing to the Yankees and Indians respectively.
The Orioles got on the right track in 2010, hiring Buck Showalter to turn their franchise around and Showalter has done just that. With the big market teams like Boston and New York struggling this year, the Orioles have dominated the AL East, and should have a chance to contend for the World Series this October.
9) Pittsburgh Pirates (1979)
Nevermind a World Series drought, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a 21-year playoff drought, before finally making it to the postseason last year.
The 1979 Pirates were scary good, full of great hitters like Willie Stargell, Bill Madlock, Dave Parker, Bill Robinson and Omar Moreno. The pitching staff included Bert Blyleven, John Candelaria, Bruce Kison, Jim Bibby and Kent Tekulve.
Since their seven-game World Series victory in ’79, the Pirates have made it to the playoffs just four times. Three of those years were 1990, 1991 and 1992, but they lost in the NLCS each of those years, the franchise back breaker coming in their dramatic seven-game loss to Atlanta in 1992. After several of their young stars left the team, the Pirates went into an abyss, going 21 years without a winning season.
Things are now looking up for the Pirates, as they’re a young, talented team, but they have a tough NL Central to compete with.
8) Seattle Mariners (1977*)
Seattle’s second franchise was born in 1977, after the Seattle Pilots lasted just one year in Seattle back in 1969. The Mariners have had a largely futile existence, save for some bright spots. They had their first winning season in 1991, and under the guidance of manager Lou Piniella, the franchise began to flourish in the mid ’90s, making it to the playoffs for the first time in 1995.
They had plenty of firepower, with Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Tino Martinez, Mike Blowers and a blossoming young gun by the name of Ken Griffey Jr. leading the way. Randy Johnson was the staff ace.
After defeating the Yankees in the divisional series, the Mariners fell to the Indians in the ALCS.
After a step back in 1996, the Mariners came roaring back in 1997, but fell in the ALDS, this time against the Orioles.
That core would soon be broken up, but Seattle did rebound in 2000, making the playoffs as a Wild Card, with Edgar Martinez, a great outfield of Rickey Henderson, Mike Cameron and Jay Buhner. They also had a young kid at shortstop named Alex Rodriguez. They would fall short, losing in the ALCS to the Yankees.
The next year, Seattle made history, winning an incredible 116 games. It featured Ichiro’s debut season in the majors, and he ran away with the MVP award, leading the majors in batting average.
They still had Martinez, Cameron, Bret Boone, David Bell and John Olerud. Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer and Aaron Sele led an impressive pitching staff.
Again though, the Mariners’ dream was crushed by the Yankees, losing in five games to New York and missing out on the pennant again.
The Mariners went downhill from there, not making the playoffs since. They’re now in contention for a playoff spot, but the franchise has largely been a futile one in its history.
7) Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos (*1969)
Well, let’s call it like it is; the Nationals fan base aren’t the ones that have suffered with this franchise. It’s the Montreal Expos chapter of its history that saw pain and agony. Narrowly missing out on so many playoff appearances, the Expos’ lone playoff season was in 1981, infamous now for Blue Monday, as the Expos lost to the Dodgers in the deciding fifth game of the NLCS.
The 1994 strike wiped out the Expos’ 74-40 start, the best record in baseball that year. The franchise relocated to Washington D.C. in 2005 and after some lean years, ownership began spending big on free agents, and franchise players like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper have joined the fray.
The Nationals were three outs away from a playoff series win in 2012, but could not hold off the Cardinals. They seem poised to make it back to October this year, with a dwindling NL East doing little to contest them.
6) San Diego Padres (1969*)
The San Diego Padres don’t have much to show for in their history. Five division titles and two NL Pennants. However the World Series has avoided them in their 45-year history.
After just one winning season in 15 years, the Padres improbably made a run to the World Series in 1984, but lost out to the Tigers.
Even through Tony Gwynn’s magnificent career, the Padres didn’t make it back to the playoffs until 1996, and were quickly swept by the Cardinals in the NLDS. The Padres would make another run to the World Series in 1998, but were swept by the Yankees in the Fall Classic, with New York beginning a run of three straight titles.
Back-to-back NL West titles yielded nothing for San Diego in 2005 and 2006, losing to the Cardinals in the NLDS both years. A one-game playoff eliminated them in 2007, after a controversial sac-fly against the Rockies ended their season. The Padres have yet to make it back and now have the Dodgers and Giants as huge hurdles if they’re to ever be contenders again.
5) Milwaukee Brewers (1961*)
The Milwaukee Brewers were the Seattle Pilots for one season in 1969. Milwaukee is still waiting for their first championship, with a history of almost, not quite.
The closest the Brewers came was pushing the St. Louis Cardinals to seven games in the 1982 World Series, but lost 6-3 in Game 7.
Milwaukee moved to the National League in 1998. The Brewers wouldn’t make it to the playoffs until 2008, as a Wild Card. They quickly bowed out to the Phillies, the eventual World Champions.
In 2011, with Ryan Braun enjoying a tainted MVP season and Prince Fielder crushing everything that came his way, the Brewers won their first NL Central title. However, after squeaking out a five-game series win over Arizona, the Cardinals shut down their attack, winning the NLCS in six games.
The Brewers have climbed back up the ladder in the NL Central for now, but history is not on their side in their push for October.
4) Houston Astros (1962*)
It’s hard to imagine the Houston Astros even being respectable now, much less win a World Series.
They have a total of nine playoff appearances in their 52-year history. They had a couple of close calls in the ’80s losing in the NLCS to the Phillies in 1980, then to the Mets in 1986.
Four NL Central titles in five seasons from 1997 to 2001 translated to zero playoff series wins.
In 2004, the Astros did win a playoff series knocking out the Braves in five games. However their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, got the better of them, winning a dramatic seven-game series.
Houston would get their revenge a year later, defeating St. Louis in six games, earning themselves a date with the Chicago White Sox in the World Series, a chance to end what was then a 43-year drought. It was the White Sox though, who would end their longer drought of 86 years.
In what was the closest sweep you could think of, the Astros were heartbroken, losing Game 2 on a Scott Podsednick walk-off home run in the ninth, Game 3 in 14 innings and Game 4 by a score of 1-0.
Since then, the Astros haven’t sniffed the postseason and have been relegated to bottom feeders, moving to the American League last season.
3) Texas Rangers (1961*)
The Texas Rangers will forever remain haunted by the image of Nelson Cruz missing a fly ball in right field and David Freese circling the bases.
The Rangers have had a frustrating history, but it seemed like it was all coming together five years ago. They got a great owner in Nolan Ryan, and their product on the field was reaching its peak. Led by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, C.J. Wilson, Neftali Feliz and others, the Rangers won back-to-back AL Pennants in 2010 and 2011.
The 2010 World Series saw the Giants solve the Rangers pitching staff, while Texas couldn’t say the same with the Giants’ young guns.
In 2011, we saw one of the greatest World Series of all time, particularly Game 6.
With the Rangers up two runs in the ninth, with two outs, David Freese’s fly ball to right field got by Nelson Cruz’s glove and the tying run scored. The next inning, Josh Hamilton regained the lead for Texas with a two-run shot. Again, the Rangers couldn’t hang on. In the 11th, Freese was the hero, leading off with a solo shot to centre, forcing a Game 7. The Rangers couldn’t recover and they missed out again. In 2012, a late season collapse saw them lose hold of the AL West to Oakland and they were promptly eliminated by Baltimore in the wild card game.
This year, the Rangers constantly losing talent to free agency has caught up to them, as they’re dead last in the American League.
2) Cleveland Indians (1948)
No team on this list has come closer on more occasions than the Cleveland Indians have in their 66-year drought. That’s not to say they haven’t had plenty of failure. From the split of the American League into two divisions in 1969, Cleveland had just four winning seasons until 1993, with just two playoff appearances.
With 1994 wiped out from a strike, the 1995 Indians were rejuvenated in a new ballpark (Jacob’s Field, now Progressive Field). They won the AL Central by a whopping 30 games and oh boy, did they have talent.
Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, Paul Sorrento, Carlos Baerga, Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Eddie Murray and Omar Vizquel were all part of a seemingly unstoppable lineup. Charles Nagy and a bounce-back year from Dennis Martinez and José Mesa’s 46 saves helped them storm through the American League, bouncing the Red Sox and Mariners, setting up a World Series meeting with Atlanta.
The Braves finally exercised their playoff demons, defeating Cleveland in six games.
After a loss in the ALDS in 1996, the 1997 Indians made it back to the Fall Classic, this time against the newbie franchise Florida Marlins.
In Game 7, the Indians carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth and their stud closer José Mesa needed three outs to give Cleveland its first championship in 49 years. It was not to be. A sac-fly tied the game, sending it to extra innings. Edgar Rentería’s line drive off Charles Nagy’s glove broke the hearts of Cleveland, as it drove in the winning run.
Since then, the Indians have made the playoffs four times, losing the ALCS in 1998 and blowing a 3-1 series lead to Boston in 2007. The city of Cleveland is still waiting for a championship from any of their teams.
1) Chicago Cubs (1908)
106 years… 106 years! No drought in professional sports comes close to the woeful Chicago Cubs, who have not won a World Series in… 106 years!
The Cubs have rarely even made it close, their last NL Pennant coming in 1945. They made it to the World Series seven times between 1908 and 1945.
They would finally win the NL East in 1984, but lost to the Padres in the NLCS in five games, blowing a 3-0 lead in the deciding Game 5. They again fell short in the 1989 NLCS, this time to San Francisco. Sammy Sosa’s 66 home runs led them to a playoff appearance in 1998, but it didn’t last long, being swept by Atlanta.
In 2003, Dusty Baker was hired as manager and everything came together for the Cubs. With talent like Sammy Sosa, Mark Grudzielanek, Moises Alou, Alex Gonzalez, Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton, not to mention a pitching staff of Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior, the Cubs entered the ’03 playoffs brimming with confidence. They knocked off the heavily favoured Atlanta Braves in five games to advance to the NLCS to face the Florida Marlins.
The Cubs appeared to be too much for Florida, building a 3-1 series lead. A masterful Game 5 shutout by Josh Beckett moved the series to Chicago for Game 6. Prior zipped through the Marlins’ lineup and through seven innings, the Cubs built a 3-0 lead. Five outs away from the World Series, the Bartman incident happened. If you want a long, detailed reminder of the incident, check out ESPN’s 30 for 30, Catching Hell.
Long story short, Steve Bartman, a longtime Cubs fan, may have prevented Alou from catching a pop up in left field. With the reprieve, the Marlins stormed back, with eight runs in the eighth inning, forcing a Game 7. The shellshocked Cubs again couldn’t stop the Marlins, losing Game 7 by a 9-6 score. They have not won a playoff game since and have been cellar dwellers the last few years. It feels like a never-ending curse and even fans of a young age wonder if they’ll ever see the Cubs win a World Series in their lifetime.