2019 MLB Tortured Fanbase Rankings

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With the start of another baseball season comes an annual tradition: It’s time for my MLB Tortured Fan Base Rankings. This is, somehow, the sixth year we’ve done these: The first five ran at Sports On Earth, and now they live here. Here are the MLB rankings from 2013 , 2014, 2015 , 2016 and 2017. A recap of the process, if you’re not familiar with it already:

It’s my ranking of every team’s fan base, from most to least spoiled when it comes to winning. Lots of factors are involved: fan loyalty, historical success, particularly painful eras, near-miss title chances, current roster, any ineffable notion that just occurs to me while I’m putting this list together.

I’ve done my best to take reader comments into account, as well changes in circumstances over the past year, specious assessments from the past and everything else in this year’s rankings, but this is an ongoing process, a march toward perfect. When in doubt, though, the tiebreaker is almost always “how long it has been since a team won a World Series.” That is, after all, the goal.

30. Boston Red Sox
Last title: 2018
World Series appearances: 13

Championships: 9
Last year’s ranking: 28

Winning the World Series automatically drops you to the bottom of this list, but it is worth noting that the Red Sox have now won four World Series in 15 seasons. They’re also up 4–1 on the Yankees this century. But who’s keeping score?

29. Houston Astros
Last title: 2017
World Series appearances: 2

Championships: 1
Last year’s ranking: 30.

This is too historically exciting a collection of talent to just come away with one World Series, so keep an eye for that as their talent gets older and more expensive. But, understandably, Astros fans are still coasting on the high of 2017.

28. New York Yankees
Last title: 2009
World Series appearances: 40
Championships: 27
Last year’s ranking: 29

No one is ever, ever going to feel bad for the Yankees … but a decade without a title, particularly with all the young talent and financial advantages the franchise has, is going to start feeling like way too long pretty soon for fans in The Bronx, one suspects.

27. San Francisco Giants
Last title: 2014
World Series appearances: 20

Championships: 8
Last year’s ranking: 27

The Giants’ three-titles-in-five-years run is going to keep them near the bottom of this list for many years to come. Probably a good thing, because the memory of those titles may have to hold them off for a long time.

26. Miami Marlins
Last title: 2003
World Series appearances: 2
Championships: 2

Last year’s ranking: 24

The Marlins watched as their whole outfield left to go out and help other teams earn winning records, but with the signing of the Mesa family, Derek Jeter and company are slowly on the way to putting the bad vibes from last offseason behind them. At this point I feel obliged to remind that the Marlins have never reached the postseason without ending up winning the World Series.

25. St. Louis Cardinals
Last title: 2011
World Series appearances: 19

Championships: 11
Last year’s ranking: 26

The Cardinals missed the postseason for the third consecutive for the first time since 1997–99. A fourth consecutive miss will turn the pressure on John Mozeliak and company to a level higher than they’ve yet to experience on the job.

24. Philadelphia Phillies
Last title: 2008
World Series appearances: 7

Championships: 2
Last year’s ranking: 22

The Phillies took a step forward in 2018, though it wasn’t quite as far as they’d been hoping. If they don’t get Bryce Harper, this could get ugly soon.

23. Chicago Cubs
Last title: 2016
World Series appearances: 11

Titles: 3
Last year’s ranking: 23

This was the year that some of the giddiness from 2016 started to wear off, though not all of it. That Joe Maddon and the front office don’t appear to be on the same page augurs poorly moving forward. But still. Come on. This wasn’t even two years ago:

22. Kansas City Royals
Last title: 2015
World Series appearances: 4
Titles: 2
Last year’s ranking: 25

It is not rare that teams build their entire franchise up to have one short-lived but vital competitive window in which they try to win a championship before having to rebuild and start over. It is rare, however, that they actually win one. It’s going to be a long road back for the Royals. But 2015 was still an incredible gift.

21. Chicago White Sox
Last title: 2005
World Series appearances: 5

Titles: 3
Last year’s ranking: 19

The White Sox were just another part of the AL Central scrum this year, but they are clearly building themselves back up and look primed to take over right around the time the Indians start getting too old to dominate the division again. They should have gotten Machado, though.

20. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last title: 2001
World Series appearances: 1
Titles: 1

Last year’s ranking: 21

The Diamondbacks fell off late and just missed out on a second-consecutive postseason appearance. That they’re selling off everybody is a good long-term move, not that it’ll make the next few years feel any better.

19. Minnesota Twins
Last title: 1991
World Series appearances: 6

Titles: 3
Last year’s ranking: 18

It didn’t work out for them last year, and with the White Sox looming and the Indians hanging on, the Twins maybe should start sweating a little bit. Are we sure 2017 wasn’t the last playoff appearance for a while?

18. Colorado Rockies
Last title: Never
World Series appearances: 1

Last year’s ranking: 13

Longtime readers will know that Rockies are always darting up and down this list from year to year. Two straight playoff appearances, and a fun wild-card win over the Cubs, pushes them toward the less tortured this year. But is this the peak?

17. Los Angeles Angels
Last title: 2002
World Series appearances: 1
Titles: 1

Last year’s ranked: 20

The highest (or lowest) ranking team with a World Series title this century, the Angels are inching farther and farther down (or up) the list every season that goes by without the best player in baseball having a single postseason victory. It’s now eight years and counting, by the way.

16. San Diego Padres
Last title: Never
World Series appearances: 2

Last year’s ranking: 16

The Padres have some intriguing young talent coming up, but it has legitimately been more than a decade than the Padres have been an interesting, relevant team. The result has less “torturous” than “a long simmering boil.” But Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. are gonna change that. The stakes are higher now.

15. Tampa Bay Rays
Last title: Never
World Series appearances: 1

Last year’s ranking: 17

You ever get the sense that if the Rays were in any other division in baseball, they would have won a World Series by now?

14. Cincinnati Reds
Last title: 1990
World Series appearances: 9

Titles: 5
Last year’s ranking: 15

The Reds were a wee bit more interesting in 2018 than you might have noticed, and, for the first time it what seems like forever, Joey Votto wasn’t even their best player. But they’re in a tough division to make much movement. It’s cool that they’re trying, though.

13. Toronto Blue Jays
Last title: 1993
World Series appearances: 2

Titles: 2
Last year’s ranking: 11

The window on the Bautista/Encarnacion core generation, the one that for a while there looked like the best team in baseball, has slammed shut. It might be a while until they return. Those two titles are starting to fade a bit from memory, if you’re old enough to even remember them at all.

12. Atlanta Braves
Last title: 1995
World Series appearances: 9

Titles: 3
Last year’s ranking: 12

The Braves are generally underappreciated as a tortured fanbase — though, all told, it’s more than Atlanta is underappreciated as a tortured sports fan city — but it has been 20 years since the future looked this bright for this franchise.

11. Detroit Tigers
Last title: 1984
World Series appearances: 11

Titles: 4
Last year’s ranking: 7

This is probably too far of a fall for a team that never did get that title for their late owner, but lots of fanbases had very difficult years in 2018, and somebody has to move up. The Tigers will likely be back in the top 10 next year, if anyone is watching them.

10. Oakland A’s
Last title: 1989
World Series appearances: 14

Titles: 9
Last year’s ranking: 14

Here is your reminder that the A’s have lost five consecutive postseason series, and 11 of their last 12. The only keeping them this high on the list is that they have a championship more recent than anyone below them. But they might be No. 1 in 21st Century October pain.

9. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last title: 1988
World Series appearances: 20

Titles: 6
Last year’s ranking: 10

The Dodgers finally ended their World Series drought last year, and they made it back last year … but now they’ve lost two in a row. If the Dodgers don’t end up winning a World Series, considering the number of opportunities and talent they’ve had, it’s one of the biggest disappointments in professional sports right now. Is it better to come close and fall short, or never come close at all? You tell me, Dodgers fans.

8. New York Mets
Last title: 1986
World Series appearances: 5

Titles: 2
Last year’s ranking: 9

No team’s ranking causes more consternation every season than the Mets’, whose fans think they should probably occupy all five of the top spots on the list. But even if you’re too young to remember 1986, this is still a team that has a title more recent than anyone below them here. Mets fans don’t so much experience “torture” as “constant punches to the face.” Which might be the same thing, depending on your own personal definition.

7. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last title: 1979
World Series appearances: 7

Titles: 5
Last year’s ranking: 4

The Pirates rise in the ranking this year, less because of anything they did and more because of the pain of other teams increasing. You do wonder if they’re going to rue that “win-now” Chris Archer trade.

6. Texas Rangers
Last title: Never
World Series appearances: 2
Last year’s ranking: 3

The Rangers have regressed from the “lose two tough World Series in a row” team to just another also-ran with a long road back to contention. They only fall in the rankings this year because the Astros didn’t win another World Series to taunt them with.

5. Washington Nationals
Last year: Never
World Series appearances: None

Last year’s ranking: 6

Well last year couldn’t have possibly gone worse. The good news? No NLDS loss this time! Also, they’re about to lose their best player ever.

4. Milwaukee Brewers
Last title: Never
World Series appearances: 1
Last year’s ranking: 8

The Brewers gave their fans plenty of joy last year in finally breaking through and winning the NL Central. But that just made their inability to make it all the way to the World Series, despite being just one game way, all the more painful. This is one of the great fanbases in the game, and they found an all-together new way this year to break their hearts.

3. Baltimore Orioles
Last title: 1983
World Series appearances: 6

Titles: 3
Last year’s ranking: 5

Sure, everyone knew last year would be bad … but nobody thought it would be this bad.

2. Seattle Mariners
Last title: Never
World Series appearances: None

Last year’s ranking: 2

They continue to have the longest postseason drought in the four major North American professional sports. And do you see an end in sight? I don’t.

1. Cleveland Indians
Last title: 1948
World Series appearances: 6

Titles: 2
Last year’s ranking: 1

How many years do you think they have left with this current roster? Two years? One year? The clock is ticking, and fast. The end comes for us all, eventually. The Indians came so close. They’re running out of time to make the pain of that close call worth it.

Written by

Writer, New York, NYT, MLB, WaPo, others. Founder, Deadspin. Author of four books, with fifth, “How Lucky,” coming May 2021. https://williamfleitch.substack.com

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