In the last 13 seasons, the Cubs, Red Sox, White Sox, and Giants have won the World Series. Those four teams combined for 334 collective years of championship drought, and all four title-less stretches were among the 10 longest in baseball history. It’s been a good millennium for traditionally cursed teams.
Now you feel bad for the Indians again. That’s OK. Run with that feeling. We already knew that Game 7 was going to be one of the cruelest Game 7s in sports history. And, well, shoot, look at that. It sure was. The Indians are clearly alone at the top of the list of tortured fan bases.
Or are they? The Indians have gone 68 years without a championship ... but they have a championship. Right now, there’s a person who remembers going to a Indians World Series game in 1948. There’s also a person who remembers going to the Astros’ home opener in 1962. Both people are probably thinking the same thing right now.
Dang, my back hurts.
Because they’re old, see? The difference between 1948 and 1962 is significant, sure, but it was still a long, long, long time ago. There are more than a few Astros fans who’ve been waiting 55 years for a championship. Or a single World Series win, for that matter. They don’t want to listen to Indians fans complain right now.
Now that the Cubs are gone, then, it’s time to figure out which teams have the most championship-drought street cred. We’ll need to sort these teams in tiers, because not all championship droughts are created equal.
Tier 1: The Indians
Still the champs at not being the champs. They have the longest drought still, technically, at 68 years and counting. That they won a World Series nearly seven decades ago doesn’t allow other teams to zoom past them. I root for a terrible sports team that’s won a championship since I could drive (49ers, 1994), and it feels like it was seven decades ago. Another 50 years of disappointment would make me dizzy.
It’s the Indians. Accept no substitutes and argue about the teams below them.
Tier 2: The single-city team that has never won a pennant
The Astros were around for 15 seasons before the Mariners showed up. Their championship drought was a surly teenager by the time the Mariners had their very first moment of existential dread. Thus, it could be said that the Astros should have the bigger gripe against the universe.
Except this happened:
The Astros didn’t win another game that season, but that’s not the point. For a night, for a couple nights, there was the kind of hope that a baseball town can’t buy. After watching a team more than 100-plus games, all they needed was for them to win four more, and it felt so very possible. There’s nothing like the way a city buzzes right before the World Series.
The Mariners have won three postseason series in their existence, and they’ve won a total of five American League Championship Series games in three tries. It would have been cooler to win four of those games in the same season.
Tier 3: The single-city team that has never won a World Series
We’re talking microscopic differences in overall pain, though. Serious nitpicking. The Astros have still dealt with a lot of disappointment, and they get to complain about it. Winning a single pennant in 2005 doesn’t change that.
The Padres have been around since 1969, playing in the same city, continually sinking into the same soggy marsh of sadness and nihilism. Consider their all-time team of greats compared to their all-time team of wish-we-kept-’em players:
Roberto Alomar still leads the Padres in WAR for second basemen. He was traded when he was 22.
While the Padres have two pennants, the Cubs’ win puts the Padres in the conversation of the hardest of the hard-luck baseball teams. Do they care that the Padres have been around for seven more years? Do they care that the Mariners haven’t even won a pennant at all? They do not. They’re not even going to feel sorry for the Indians.
Tier 3 ... and-a-half: The teams with multiple cities, zero championships ... but they’ve been in the same city for a long time
Just because the Rangers moved from Washington in 1972, they’re somehow less frustrated than the Padres? And the Brewers played only one season in Seattle. They should be in the tier just above this. Those first-city histories are like a first marriage when you’re 18. They totally don’t count. This logic makes no sense.
Except these teams are docked some pain points because they made another city horrifically sad. Seattle didn’t know if they would ever have a baseball team again. Washington waited 33 years to get another one. These teams have championship droughts, but their cities should be somewhat grateful they’ve had a team for the last few decades.
Don’t mean to franchise-shame, here. It just feels a little odd to put the Rangers on the same tier as the Astros and Padres, counting their time in Washington. It’s odd, but it’s a virtual tie. And it certainly isn’t as odd as ...
Tier 4: The Nationals, who are almost an expansion team, but not quite
Point: Are the Nationals going to have a ceremony to honor Tim Raines when he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame? Do they give out a bobblehead for him? Considering he probably never swung a bat in Washington in his life, isn’t that rather odd? The Nationals honored Andre Dawson, so I suppose that’s just what they’re expected to do. Still, the Expos are the Expos, and it’s far easier to imagine that they were contracted and replaced with an expansion team in the same year.
Counterpoint: Washington has a long, long history of baseball, and most of it is sad. If they can’t claim the Expos, they can claim the proto-Rangers and proto-Twins, and the last time a Washington baseball team won a postseason series, Walter Johnson got the win. There were 47 seasons between the last postseason victory and baseball leaving Washington. That’s a drought, alright.
Point: Listen, that’s great, but the Nationals don’t get to claim a sad legacy. The city, sure, but if they really wanted to fold the Expos into their history, they wouldn’t have put statues of Walter Johnson and Frank Howard (technically Twins and Rangers greats, respectively) outside of their ballpark.
Counterpoint: oh god what is that
Point: It’s from 1924, when Walter Johnson won the World Series by transforming into a giant truck and defeating Megatron on the dark side of the moon. Anyway, the point is that the Nationals don’t get to claim the Expos’ legacy of expansion- and strike-related misery, but the city still has a championship drought going, and that counts for something.
I’ll put them just below the Astros, Padres, Rangers, and Brewers, but maybe I’m undercounting the fans who lived and died with the Senators and are now doing the same with the Nationals.
Tier 5: The expansion teams
In retrospect, it’s still awfully unfair of the Marlins and Diamondbacks to win World Series before any of the expansion teams up there did. The Rockies and Rays were much more patient, and they’ve been karmically rewarded for that patience. Or, at least, they will be. Any day now. Yep. Any day now, they’ll be rewarded for their patience.
Still, they’ve each won a pennant, which means their fans can’t be as surly or dead inside as Mariners fans. They haven’t won a World Series, either, but other teams have a couple decades or more of not-winning-the-World-Series experience.
So here the Rockies and Rays are, in limbo, with a championship drought that’s both substantial and insubstantial at the same time. They deserve your support as underdogs, if you’re into that sort of thing. Just not as much as six or seven other teams.
Tier 6: The old teams in a championship-free funk
Here be Pirates. And Dodgers. And Orioles. And Tigers. Heck, throw the A’s on there. These are all original teams that haven’t won a championship in decades. There are adults with children and mortgages who haven’t been alive for a World Series win from any of those teams. That qualifies as a drought.
Video games looked like this when the Dodgers last won the World Series, for example.
So, yes, the Dodgers and their fans get to complain a bit.
Tier 7: The teams that won in the ‘90s, but haven’t won since
This would be the Twins, Braves, Reds, and Blue Jays. It’s been a while. You can cram a lot of disappointment into 20 or 25 years. But they can’t compete with the teams that have never won. They can’t even compete with the newfangled expansion teams. They have their Joe Carter and Kirby Puckett bobbleheads watching over them as they sleep. They’re doing OK.
Kind of. This is roughly where the Indians were around the time of 10 Cent Beer Night, and things got much worse for them before they got better. The rule of thumb is that if the last World Series win came before Turner Field was built, it counts as a drought.
Tier 8: The rest of them
This isn’t to suggest that the White Sox are on even footing with the Yankees when it comes to grousing about championship droughts. The Yankees and their fans don’t get to complain about anything for at least 30 years, if not much longer.
Still, the majority of baseball fans don’t want to hear about the White Sox and their 11-season championship drought. That isn’t that long ago. Baseball, basketball, football, college wrestling ... nope. Doesn’t matter. If it happened in the 21st century, it’s not a drought.
With that, it’s time to update the Tortured Fan Base Index. Remember that this is an official, inarguable ranking. It goes something like this:
- Blue Jays
- White Sox
- Red Sox
If you want to put the Cubs at No. 30, that’s fine. I’ll allow it. Just don’t expect sympathy for any of the teams currently below them any time soon. We have at least two more championships worth of getting tired of the Cubs until they turn into the Red Sox or Giants.
This is the new baseball landscape. It’s the Indians at the top, a bunch of sad expansion teams from the ‘60s and ‘70s, a couple of oddballs, some old teams on hard times, and everyone else. Just remember the Indians at the top, and you’ll do fine.