A fun debate with Yankees fans: What is your favorite World Series year? Some will say 1996. Others will say 2000. Others will say 1961. Some will mention 2009, if only because it is the most recent. Red Sox fans love 2004, of course, but the Boston Strong year of 2013 was pretty great. Cardinals fans always have a soft spot for 2011, but in 2006, wow, that title came out of nowhere.
Do you know who the previous paragraph really upset? To fans of the Rangers, Rays, Padres, Rockies, Brewers and Mariners. There are fan bases that argue about which title they like best…while the poor fans of these teams have never celebrated winning a World Series. These are the six active major league teams that have never won a ring despite a total of eight appearances. (Sorry, Seattle: You’re the only fan who hasn’t gotten to see your team at a Fall Classic.)
The funniest thing about this final week of the campaign and the upcoming playoffs is that four of these teams are in the thick of the battle for October. These are four different teams with legitimate chances to win a championship for the first time here and now, in 2023.
**What are the chances** that each of these teams will be crowned this year? And what would it mean if they did? Let’s take a look.
Record: 86-66 (1st in the NL Central)
How they got here: Even though the NL Central is supposedly easier to win than other divisions, three teams could make the playoffs, and none of them were the favorites at the start of training camp (it was the Cardinals). The Brewers struggled with all sorts of injuries early in the year, but the team they were after the All-Star break – and especially since August – seemed to be the best version of themselves. That means a strong starting rotation, a confident bullpen and timely at-bats. They will win the division with ease, making their fifth playoff appearance in the last six seasons. Pretty impressive for a franchise that only had four total trips through October prior to 2018.
The closest they came was the 1982 World Series: Not only did the Brewers lose in seven games to their future division rival, the Cardinals, but they also held a 3-2 lead after winning Game 5 in front of 56,562 fans at County Stadium in Milwaukee. That Brewers team had a whopping five Hall of Famers: Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons and Don Sutton. However, Whitey Herzog’s Redbirds defeated them in seven games and won their first World Series in 15 years. Milwaukee has won just two postseason series since then.
The meaning it would have: First of all, my God, can you imagine how good you would feel if you had Bob Uecker in your life for so long? Ueck, who turns 90 in January, is a baseball legend and continues to dictate Brewers games. A crown would make him the happiest person on the planet… which would make the rest of the planet very happy. And remember: This is one of the most loyal fans in baseball. Few are more deserving of a World Series title.
The chances of them making it: Thanks to all that pitching, the Brewers are considered a potential surprise in October. However, the lineup has been shaky of late, especially without Christian Yelich, who continues to struggle with a backlog issue. Yelich will be greatly missed. But if they can score enough runs to gain a lead, this bullpen will keep it. That makes them dangerous.
Record: 84-68 (2nd in the AL West)
They share the 3rd wild card, but the tiebreaker with Texas is not in their favor
How they got here: As of July 24, Seattle had an 11.6% chance of qualifying for the postseason. They won the next night and the next en route to an eight-fight winning streak. After a string of three defeats, they won another eight in a row and 12 of their next 13. This performance quickly put them back in contention. The recovery was due in large part to Dominican Julio Rodríguez’s impressive August, but this team was better than what it had shown up to that point. However, a September with an 8-11 record would see them eliminated from the playoffs as the Rangers have the advantage in the tiebreaker. Both clubs will play a three-game series in Arlington starting Friday and then conclude the season with four games in Seattle.
The closest they came was SCLA 2000: Mariners fans think of the 116-win 2001 season as the one that got away, but they actually came closer to the Fall Classic in 2000 (and indeed 1995) than they did in that historic year. Alex Rodríguez was the star of the 2000 ALCS, posting a 1.243 OPS, the best postseason of his career. (Rickey Henderson was also a member of this team; it was his final postseason series.)
What would it mean? They would probably put up a statue of J-Rod the morning after they won the title. Last year, the Mariners finally ended their two-decade drought without qualifying, so reaching the World Series, and especially winning it, is their next goal.
Chances of them making it: Of course, they have to qualify for the postseason first and they definitely control their own fate. Each of their final 10 games comes against two of the teams they are battling, the Astros and the Rangers. But be careful if they qualify because Seattle has a great atmosphere.
Record: 82-68 (3rd in the AL West)
They share the 3rd wild card, but have the advantage in the tiebreaker with the Mariners
How they got here: One would have thought it was because of Jacob deGrom’s dominant and omnipresent pitch. It may not have gone as planned, but an MVP-worthy campaign from Corey Seager and a strong roster led to a surprising campaign, even without deGrom making an impact. In any case, a decision still has to be made about their entry into the postseason.
The closest they came was the 2011 World Series: As many fans may remember, they were on the verge of becoming champions in 2011. Very, very close. Very close.
What would it mean? People would finally stop talking about the 2011 World Series. It would also be fun to see Seager win a Fall Classic at home in Arlington now with the Rangers after starring with the Dodgers at Globe Life Field in 2020.
Chances of them making it: It remains to be seen whether they will qualify, the bullpen is struggling and Max Scherzer definitely won’t be around. But this lineup is still a threat, and that’s enough to give them a good chance.
Record: 92-59 (2nd in the AL East)
They are already qualified for the postseason
How they got here: Remember when they were the only talking point in all of baseball? Tampa Bay’s hot start led some to believe the 2023 version would be the best in franchise history. They’re still a great team – they have a chance at 100 wins – but the Orioles have finally caught up and could even send them to a Wild Card Series game.
The closest they came – World Series 2020: Because of the pandemic, some won’t remember exactly everything that happened at this fall classic. So you can be forgiven if you don’t remember the last game the Rays won in the World Series. Remember Brett Phillips’ gold hit? How did Cuban Randy Arozarena run the bases?
Unfortunately, the Dodgers won the next two games for the Rays, and Tampa Bay hasn’t won a postseason series since.
What would it mean? The Rays have been one of the most formidable franchises in all of baseball for more than a decade, but they have failed to take the next step toward winning a title.
Chances of them making it: The rotation is missing some pieces…but the Rays always find a way to solve that question. Although this club is pretty good, it looks a lot different than it did when it wowed everyone back in May.