This week has been all about how tortured the fan bases of the Cubs and Indians have been. We all know the numbers by now. The Cubs haven't won since 1908 and the Indians since 1948. However, there are eight MLB franchises that have never won a World Series. A couple have never even been. That doesn't mean they're any more tortured than Chicago and Cleveland, though. In fact they're definitely less tortured - at least most of them. It obviously won't happen this year, but let's take a look at which organization is best positioned to capture their first World Series.
The Padres are a mess. Two years ago they went all in and acquired Matt Kemp, James Shields, Justin upton, Will Myers and Craig Kimbrel. Then they back tracked and traded them all for prospects. Then everyone found out they lied about the medical histories of same of the players they traded. Now teams are going to have to think twice about trading with them again. Throw in an unimpressive big league roster combined with zero top prospects and that's not a recipe for success.
So where does that leave San Diego? During that crazy 2015 offseason they shipped off seven of their top 11 prospects according to Baseball America. Myers has turned into their lone bright spot as he hit 28 homers this past season. However, they finished 68-94 and tied with the Reds for the worst record in the National League.
2011 feels like a very, very long time ago. That year the Brewers rode Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in their primes to the NLCS against the Cardinals. Unfortunately for them they ran into a buzz saw named David Freese and just like that their window had closed. Few teams in baseball are positioned worse moving forward than Milwaukee. Braun is still good. He hit .305 with 30 homers in only 135 games in 2016. With the way baseball contracts have been going lately he's probably actually worth the four years and $70 million remaining on his deal. However, Milwaukee will have to eat a good portion of that money to receive desirable prospects in return.
Making matters worse is the fact that they have to play in the same division as the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates. Those teams are set up so well in the coming years that Milwaukee's best move will be completely hit the reset button the way the Cubs and Astros have done recently. Collect some high draft choices, trade for prospects, and see what happens. They'll also have to take what they can get for Braun since by the time they are ready to compete he will be past his prime.
I get that Coors Field is one of the most unique home fields in all of sports. I get that balls fly out of there more than any other ballpark. But my goodness you would think a franchise that has been around since 1993 would figure out how to develop pitchers there. Can't they target ground ball pitchers in free agency or allocate all their draft capital to selecting arms? I'm sure they've tried but it's hard for me to believe they haven't been able to figure it out.
The Rockies made the World Series in 2007 but have done little since with just one playoff berth in that time. They have one of the best players in baseball in Nolan Arenado but are currently not set up well to surround him with a strong supporting cast. In 2016 their offense ranked second in MLB in runs per game but their team ERA ranked 28th. Until they figure out how to improve the pitching we won't see them in October or beyond.
Once upon a time there was a Cinderella story called the Tampa Bay Rays. They were the first small market team since the earl 2000s Oakland A's to crack the code of winning the unfair game of baseball. It all began in 2008 when they were the first team to truly emphasize defense and they defeated the reigning champion Boston Red Sox in the ALCS to win the pennant. Unfortunately they lost the World Series in five games to the Phillies and have yet to get past the first round of the playoffs since.
In the six year stretch from 2008-2013 Tampa Bay made the playoffs four times. Their win totals by year went 97, 84, 96, 91, 90, and 92. During this time the franchise had an uncanny act for replacing star veterans with undervalued contributors. But a team can only lose so much before the run is over. In the last few years they have lost manager Joe Maddon, GM Andrew Freidman, ace David Price, James Shields, and many more. They have been under .500 each of the past three seasons and are in the middle of a rebuilding process. It will be at least a few years before we see them playing in October again.
The Mariners have underrated been one of the worst franchises in sports over the past fifty years. They have never been to the World Series and have not even made the playoffs since 2001. Sure, they won an insane 116 games that year but as we learned recently from the Warriors it don't mean a thing without the ring. One of the most frustrating aspects of being a Mariners fan the past decade has to be how they have wasted Felix Hernandez's prime. Since 2009 he has finished in the top eight in Cy Young voting six times but has yet to make a postseason start. He is signed through 2019 but in 2016 had his worst ERA since 2007.
It feels like every year Seattle is a trendy pick to win the World Series. In recent seasons they have added star free agents like Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz. They have young pitching with Taijuan Walker and James Paxton. But for some reason they just haven't been able to put it all together. They have some holes to fill this offseason but it shouldn't be a huge surprise to see them capture one of the American League's two wild card spots in 2017.
The Texas Rangers entered the 2016 playoffs as the number one seed in the American League. Many thought this team was a fluke, due to a miniscule run differential, and they got exposed in a three game sweep at the hands of Toronto. The loss hurt because of how hard the team tried to make a deep playoff run at the trade deadline. Over the past two summer they have acquired Cole Hamels, Jonathan Lucroy, and Carlos Beltran. They have two first round exits to show for it.
Moving forward the club will build around co-aces Hamels and Yu Darvish, rookie sensation Nomar Mazara, and veterans Lucroy and Adrian Beltre. Re-signing shortstop turned outfielder Ian Desmond should be the team's top priority, in addition to getting back end of the bullpen help.
Everyone and their mother was picking Houston to make it to the World Series back in Spring Training. The thought process made sense. The team had tanked for a few years, collected a group of good, young players, and broke through last year with 86 wins and a playoff appearance. That wins total dropped just two in 2016 to 84 but wasn't enough to make the playoffs. A lot of positives happened this year, though. Jose Altuve became a MVP candidate, Carlos Correa had a good sophomore season, and George Springer continued to hit.
The problem for the Astros was the pitching. Reigning Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel regressed badly. His ERA rose form 2.48 in 2015 to 4.55 in 2016. The team's ERA also rose from 3.59 in 2015 to 4.07 in 2016. A part of that was Keuchel but they need to improve in this area to truly contend. While this roster may not be complete yet, it is young and talented enough to a bright future. Houston fans should be excited.
The Nationals are not only positioned well of the teams that have never won, they are one of the most well put together teams in all of baseball. In a weak division with the Mets, Braves, Marlins, and Phillies they figure to be the odds on favorite to repeat as NL East champs. They have an ace in Max Scherzer. Trea Turner looks like the real deal. But the championship hopes of Washington rest on their two former number one picks.
Let's start with Bryce Harper. First of all, what the fuck happened? As a 22-year-old in 2015 Harper became the youngest unanimous MVP of all time. Let that sink in for a minute. He belted 42 homers with a .330/.460/.649 triple slash line. This year those numbers fell to 24 homers and a .243/.373/.441 triple slash. Harper was due for regression in the batting average department due to an unsustainable BABIP, but what happened to the power? There were rumors all season of Bryce playing through a shoulder injury. It makes sense since his stats dropped off after a white hot April when he supposedly suffered the injury. We may find out more this offseason but regardless it would be foolish not to expect a bounce back from Harper.
Now there's the case of Stephen Strasburg. It's tough to think Washington wouldn't have won their Division Series against the Dodgers if they had him. Since Strasburg made his debut in 2010 the Nationals have made three postseason appearances but Strasburg has just one playoff start on his resume. Whether it's an innings limit a six man rotation the Nationals need to find a way to keep this guy healthy for October. A Scherzer-Strasburg led playoff rotation could be deadly. Hopefully we get the chance to see it come 2017.