The Houston Astros and New York Mets, who won 106 and 101 games, respectively, last season, already have had their MLB contention hopes crimped by injuries suffered during the World Baseball Classic. One happened on-field, with the Astros’ Jose Altuve suffering a broken thumb when hit by a pitch and the other occurred on the field but after the game when Mets closer Edwin Diaz was hopping around in celebration after a key victory by Puerto Rico and tore a knee ligament.
Over the years, teams have found it hard enough to repeat successes of the previous season without suffering injuries in March.
As testament, no major league has repeated a World Series championship since the New York Yankees captured three in succession from 1998-2000. That’s what 2022 champion Houston is up against.
In the National League, no team has repeated a World Series title since the Cincinnati Big Red Machine in 1975-76, or nearly 50 years ago.
Over the past 22 seasons, there have been 14 different MLB teams win the World Series with the Boston Red Sox bagging four, San Francisco Giants three and St. Louis Cardinals two as multiple winners.
Big payroll doesn’t guarantee MLB playoff success
So it isn’t necessarily the MLB teams that spend the most, when you consider that the Los Angeles Dodgers, Yankees and Mets have combined for only two championships — one each by Los Angeles and the Yankees since 2001 when Arizona rallied for its lone World Series title.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the big-money teams haven’t contended. They just haven’t finished the job. The Dodgers are riding a string of 10 consecutive playoff appearances while the Yankees and Astros are next at six.
Although there seem plenty of bad teams in the majors, each team has qualified for postseason play at least once since 2014 when Baltimore, the Los Angeles Angels and Detroit each made its most recent playoff appearance.
Just a win, baby
But the last big-league team not to win a postseason game still ranks as the Minnesota Twins, who haven’t tasted a playoff victory since 2002 when they won the division series from the Oakland Athletics. The Angels haven’t won a playoff game since 2009, which meant pre-Mike Trout, who has been in only one postseason, a three-game dusting by Kansas City, in 2014.
The last National League team not to make the playoffs was Pittsburgh in 2015 but the last league team not to win a playoff game was Cincinnati in 2012. Yet, the Pirates have the Reds — and everybody else beaten — for consistent playoff futility. Other than winning the wild-card game in 2013, the Pirates haven’t won a postseason series since 1979 when they overcame the Orioles in the World Series.
That is a dry spell of 43 years, which surely will extend another season or two. But that was nothing compared to the Chicago Cubs going 95 seasons from 1908-2003 between postseason series victories.
There still are five MLB franchises without a World Series title. They are San Diego, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Seattle and Texas. But there are just two teams without a division title and they entered the league in the same year.
Colorado and Miami, who joined the National League in 1994, both have not won a division crown although the Florida Marlins, as they were called then, parlayed two wild-card berths into World Series titles in 1997 and 2003.
We’re less than a week away from the start of the season. It will be interesting how the players who competed in the WBC until the very end re-assimilate themselves into their regular clubs and how they come off the high of a postseason atmosphere in March.
Regrettably, for Altuve and, especially Diaz, this won’t be a problem.
Rick Hummel, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame for baseball writing, is the baseball columnist for Sportsnaut.