Cubs are not the Only Unfortunate Team in Baseball
There has not been this kind of excitement on the north side of Chicago going into a major league baseball season since the days of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Experts in all corners of the game are buying into the machinations of boy-wonder general manager Theo Epstein and predicting the Cubs to wake up from a century-long hibernation this year. Even the Sporting News, which has been doing this sort of thing since 1886, has picked the Cubbies to go from last place in 2014 to winning the World Series in 2015.
Yes, it is a great benefit to be able to slot ace Jon Lester into the number one starting spot every fifth day and the Cubs’ farm system, brimming with top prospects, is ready to start producing at the major league level on a consistent basis. So we can all feel good for Cub fans about Chicago’s prospects to win their first World Series since 1908. But even though it has been 107 years since their last championship, Cubs fans can at least read about the exploits of Tinker and Evers and Chance and the pitching wizardry of Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. But what about fans of teams that have never won even one World Series? There are more of those unfortunate souls than you may realize.
The oldest franchise still in the same city to never even take player introductions in a World Series is the Seattle Mariners. The team came into existence in 1977 and has spawned such Hall of Fame talent as Ken Griffey, Jr., Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Felix Hernandez, Ichiro Suzuki and Edgar Martinez. They even put everything together in 2001 and won an American League record 116 games but their best years were always derailed by the New York Yankees in the postseason. The Cubs may be hogging all the “Will They Finally Do It?” headlines but the Mariners, with the American League’s best 1-2 tandem at the top of the rotation in Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, are co-favorites to win that elusive pennant in 2015.
The oldest franchise never to raise a championship flag is the Texas Rangers. The team started in Washington, D.C. in 1961 as a replacement for the original Senators. Those Senators inspired the long time joke, “Washington: First in war, first in peace and last in the American League.” The nation’s capital nine may have been woeful but they won a World Series in 1924 and went to the Series as the Minnesota Twins four years after departing Washington. The expansion Senators did their best impression of their predecessors by losing 100 games in each of their first four seasons; when they moved to Texas after the 1971 season they lost 100 in their first two years in the Lone Star State. The Rangers made the World Series in both 2010 and 2011 but returned home championship-less each time.
They say the oppressive summer heat wilts the Texas teams and it may be true. The Astros have been at it for 52 years now and gone to one World Series, coming up empty against the White Sox in 2005. Like the Mariners many great players have worn the Astros uniform – Rusty Staub, Nolan Ryan, Jimmy Wynn, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio – but all for naught. After a half-century of futility in the National League the Astros switched over to the American League in 2013 and started with 203 losses in their first two years in the junior circuit.
The Brewers began their baseball life proudly as the Northwest’s first major league team in 1969. That lasted one season before the Seattle Pilots scuttled on the rocks and took off for Milwaukee. There were some great times in the 1980s as the “Wrecking Crew” and the Brewers made it to a seventh game of the World Series against the Cardinals in 1982 but that is the closest Brewer fans have ever sniffed a championship – even with their owner, Bud Selig, doing double duty as baseball commissioner.
Tampa Bay Rays and Colorado Rockies
Ok, these two are expansion teams with not even a quarter-century of suffering for their fans. But their fellow expansion teams, Arizona and Miami, both have World Championships already. At least the Rays and Rockies have made it to a World Series, something the Cubs have not managed to do in 70 years.
This is major league baseball’s 139th season. It would seem that would be long enough for each team to celebrate at least one championship. But the fact of the matter that 25% of the teams have never sprayed champagne after a World Series win. So don’t save all your pity for Chicago Cubs fans.