There’s always next year: MLB’s longest postseason droughts

MLB’s longest postseason droughts can become folk tales.

Fans will tell stories of heroes and villains, miracles and curses, hope and heartbreak.

And no two teams embody that history like the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.

Boston’s 86-year World Series drought has been filled with all the lore of a heartbreaking fable, from the Bambino’s curse to Bill Buckner’s mistake in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. 1986 through Aaron Boone’s home run in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. In 2004, the Red Sox broke the curse, coming back from a 3-0 deficit against their hated rivals – the Yankees of New York – in the ALCS before sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Perhaps even more infamous was the Cubs’ drought, known as the Curse of the Billy Goat. While the Red Sox have often come close to playoff glory, the North Siders have often fallen well short, earning the affectionate but unfortunate nickname of “lovable losers.” Before breaking their own curse in 2016, the Cubs hadn’t reached the World Series since 1945.

Now, the newly named Cleveland Guardians have the longest World Series title drought. But where do baseball’s other tortured franchises fall?

We scoured Major League Baseball history to find the longest playoff droughts.

Longest active post-season drought

T-1. Detroit Tigers, 8 seasons (2015-present)

With stars like Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder, Max Scherzer, Kenny Rogers, Curtis Granderson, Ivan Rodriguez and Justin Verlander, the Tigers made five playoff appearances and two World Series between 2006-14. They gave up the 2006 Fall Classic to the Cardinals in five games and were swept by the San Francisco Giants in 2012. They’ve struggled since with the second-worst winning percentage in baseball since 2016.

T-1. Los Angeles Angels, 8 seasons (2015–present)

Oh yes. It has often been said that it was a shame not to see Mike Trout in the playoffs. After a fine streak of six playoff appearances (including a World Series title) between 2002 and 2009, the Angels only reached the playoffs once. This happened in Trout’s fourth season in 2014 when the Angels were swept by the Kansas City Royals in the AL Division Series.

Longest active division title drought

T-1. Colorado Rockies, 29 seasons (since 1993)

Fun fact: In their 28-year history, the Rockies have never won the NL West. Colorado has clinched a wildcard spot five times, including one that resulted in a 2007 World Series appearance. The Rockies came one step closer to victory in the West in 2018, when they forced a playoff game with the Dodgers of Los Angeles after a late-season surge that included an eight-game winning streak. But the Dodgers beat the Rockies 5-2 in the tiebreaker and clinched their sixth straight division title.

T-1. Miami Marlins, 29 seasons (1993-present)

Fun Fact #2: In their 28-year history, the Marlins have never won the NL East. Miami clinched a wildcard spot in three seasons: 1997, 2003 and 2020. But the main difference between the Marlins and the Rockies is that Miami, known then as the Florida Marlins, won the World Series in 1997 and 2003. Prior to the 2020 season, the Marlins were the only franchise in MLB history to win the championship every year they reached the playoffs.

T-1. Pittsburgh Pirates, 29 seasons (since 1993)

Longest Active Playoff Wins Drought

1. Cincinnati Reds, 27 seasons (1996-present)

It has been a brutal two and a half decades for Reds fans. After exiting the NLCS in 1995 against the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati didn’t see a playoff game until 2010, when they were swept by the Phillies, a series that included Roy Halladay throwing the second no-hitter in playoff history. In 2012, the Reds took a 2-0 NLDS lead against the San Francisco Giants before losing three straight games and the series. The next year saw the infamous ‘Cueto’ game at PNC Park, when Pirates fans shook Reds starter Johnny Cueto so badly that at one point he dropped the ball as he was on the mound. In 2020, the Reds lost in the NLWC series to the Braves 2-0.

2. Minnesota Twins, 20 seasons (since 2003)

After defeating the Oakland Athletics in the 2002 ALDS in five games, the Twins lost to the Los Angeles Angels in five games in the ALCS. Since then, the Twins have lost eight straight playoff series, including six to the New York Yankees. In fact, in playoff games against the Yankees from 2003-21, Minnesota is just 2-16. In the other two series against the Athletics in 2006 and the Houston Astros in 2020, the Twins were swept both times.

Longest active LCS drought

1. Pittsburgh Pirates, 29 seasons (since 1993)

From 1990 to 1992, the Pirates made three consecutive appearances in the NLCS (this was still before the wildcard era). They lost all three, then went 20 years before reaching the playoffs again. From 2013 to 2015, the Pirates clinched three wild-card spots, but only won the Wild-Card Game once (the “Cueto” game). Pittsburgh even had a 2-1 NLDS lead over the St. Louis Cardinals that year, but lost the final two games of the series and failed to reach the NLCS once again. From 2013 to 2015, the Pirates had the second-best record in baseball. They have never won NL Central and have only been out of the Wild-Card Game once.

2. Cincinnati Reds, 27 seasons (1996-present)

Longest active global series drought

1. Seattle Mariners, 45 seasons (1977-present)

The Mariners are the only team in MLB history to never make it to the World Series. The Washington Nationals were the last team to leave this unfortunate club in 2019. It will happen someday, Mariners fans. We promise.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates, 42 seasons (since 1980)

The Pirates were a mainstay in the National League, winning three World Series titles in 20 years and appearing in four other NLCS on top of that. And as they closed in on 1990-91, Pittsburgh failed to build a consistent winner capable of shattering that glass ceiling that closed over 40 years ago.

3. Milwaukee Brewers, 39 seasons (since 1983)

Longest active World Series win drought

1. Cleveland Guardians, 73 seasons (1949-present)

Forgotten are the Guardians, who were also battling a decades-long championship drought in the 2016 World Series. Despite a 3-1 series lead, Cleveland couldn’t win that fateful fourth game and lost the series in 7. They’ve already gotten closer. In 1995, they lost in six games to the “Team of the ’90s” Braves. In 1997, they lost heartbreakingly in Game 7 to the Florida Marlins. Their last World Series championship in 1948 was against the Braves – while they were still in Boston.

2. Texas Rangers, 61 seasons (1961-present)

The Rangers are one of six MLB franchises to never win a World Series, although their short history dates back to the longest – 1961, to be exact – when they were the Washington Senators for 11 seasons. They hadn’t even appeared in the Fall Classic until 2010, when they lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants. The following year was a return trip to the World Series that was far more eviscerating. Going into Game 6, Texas had a 3-2 series lead. Twice the Rangers had the Cardinals until their last strike. Twice Rangers blew the lead. Texas lost the game and, the next day, the series.

T-3. Milwaukee Brewers, 53 seasons (1969–present)
T-3. San Diego Padres, 53 seasons (1969-present)

Longest Playoff Droughts – All Time

1. St. Louis Browns, 40 seasons (1903-43)

In the era of the World Series, no team has missed the playoffs more times in a row than the St. Louis Browns, who we now know as the Baltimore Orioles. In that streak, the Browns have only finished second in the American League once, in 1922, when they missed a game to reach the World Series. In 1944, the Browns lost to rivals Crosstown Cardinals in the World Series and did not return to the playoffs before moving to Baltimore before the 1954 season.

2. Cleveland Goalies, 39 seasons (1955-93)

We return once again to the Guardians, who, after being swept by the New York Giants in the 1954 World Series, would not return to postseason baseball until 1995. In fact, they didn’t even not finished in second place in their own division. until MLB divided each league into three divisions prior to the 1994 season – and that season was halted mid-year due to a strike by the MLB Players Association.

T-3. Oakland Athletics, 39 seasons (1932-70)
T-3. Chicago White Sox, 39 seasons (1920-58)

Longest playoff win droughts – All time

1. Chicago Cubs, 93 seasons (1909-2002)

For obvious reasons, it couldn’t be another franchise. The Cubs went the longest without a World Series appearance (see below) or a World Series victory (see above), so they could not have won a series between those years. Even after MLB introduced the wild card in 1995, the Cubs were still swept away by the Braves in 1998. Finally, in 2003, the Cubs beat the Braves in five games in the NLDS, winning their first series of post-season since winning the World Series in 1908. .

2. Chicago White Sox, 86 seasons (1918-2004)

You could say that baseball was torture for Windy City fans. The White Sox also ended a decades-long drought with their World Series victory in 2005. It was the same postseason in which they won a playoff series for the first time since winning the World Series. in 1917. However, the South Siders have not won a playoff series since.

3. Philadelphia Phillies, 76 seasons (1903-79)

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