Every year the best teams in baseball don’t always win the World Series (most of the time they don’t).
Winning a World Series is no easy feat with clubs having to deal with injuries, player slumps, or bad calls.
The teams listed below all made the playoffs but came up short of winning a championship.
5) 1954 CLEVELAND INDIANS: 111-43, Lost in the World Series
It’s rare when a 100-win ball club is left out of the postseason, and it’s even rarer for one to finish in second place in their division by eight games. Yet, because the 1954 Cleveland Indians posted a 111-43 record, the New York Yankees, who were 103-51, were left out of the postseason completely.
However, another New York club – the Giants – put Cleveland away quickly and quietly with a four-game sweep in the World Series.
Despite the anticlimactic end to the year, the ’54 Indians were one of the most impressive regular season teams in big league history. Centerfielder Larry Doby, who was the AL MVP runner-up to Yogi Berra, hit .272/.364/.484 with a league-leading 32 home runs and 126 RBI. Third baseman Al Rosen posted a remarkable .300/.404/.506 slash, hit 24 homers and drove in 102 runs.
But the most impressive aspect of the club was the pitching staff that featured three Hall of Famers: Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, and Bob Feller. Wynn and Lemon were dual aces, and each collected 23 wins and posted near identical ERAs (2.73 of Wynn, 2.72 for Lemon). Feller was 13-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 19 starts as a 35-year old, and the Indians got a terrific season was Mike Garcia, who was 19-8 with a 2.64 ERA.
Six years after the last World Series title, it appeared that Cleveland wouldn’t have to wait too long to break that drought. Of course, it would be more than 40 years until they made it back to the Fall Classic, and they still haven’t ended the World Championship drought.
4) 1906 CHICAGO CUBS: 116-36, Lost in the World Series
The 1906 Chicago Cubs won 116 games, which set a Major League Baseball record for wins in a season that has never been broken (only tied by the 2001 Seattle Mariners). The Cubs’ .763 winning percentage in the regular season is one record that is likely to never be broken, because a modern big league club would need to go 123-39 to do it.
Chicago dominated the National League, beating the second place New York Giants by 20 games in the standings. The Cubs roster featured three eventual Hall of Famers, infielders Joe Tinker and Johnny Evers (one of the most famous double play combinations in the game, along with first baseman Frank Chance), as well as pitcher Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown.
Brown led an absolutely masterful pitching staff that recorded a team ERA of 1.75 for the season. The right-hander posted a 26-6 record with a 1.04 ERA in 277.1 innings across 36 games, including 32 starts (27 complete games). He tossed nine shutouts and struck out 144 hitters. Jack Pfiester, Ed Reulbach, Jack Taylor and Orvall Overall all posted ERAs below 2.00 in at least 14 starts, and Carl Lundgren had a 2.21 ERA in 24 starts.
In an obviously very different era, the offensive star of the club was third baseman Harry Steinfeldt, who led the club with a .327 average and 83 RBI. Frank Schulte had a team-high seven home runs, and Frank Chance added 71 RBI.
The 1906 season was the year that Chicago ruled the baseball world, and the Cubs lost to the Chicago White Sox in the World Series four games to two. The Cubs did win their first World Series in 1907, and repeated in 1908, but haven’t won since.
3) 1931 PHILADELPHIA ATHLETICS: 107-45, Lost in the World Series
The New York Yankees ruled the baseball world following the decade of the 1920s, but the Philadelphia Athletics proved to be a worthy opponent as the page turned towards the ’30s. The 1931 Philadelphia Athletics were actually the third straight AL pennant-winner for manager Connie Mack, who had led the franchise to four consecutive seasons of 98 wins or more.
Mack’s potent lineup featured three Hall of Famers in the prime of their careers: first baseman Jimmie Foxx, outfielder Al Simmons, and catcher Mickey Cochrane. Foxx was the team leader with 30 home runs in 1931 and also drove in 120 runs while hitting .291/.380/.567 in 139 games. However, it was Al Simmons that had the best overall season. Simmons won the AL batting title with a .390 batting average, posted a .444 OBP and slugged .641. He collected 200 hits, hit 22 homers and drove in 128 runs. Cochrane hit .349/.423/.553 with 17 long balls and 89 RBI.
That Hall of Fame trio also had a strong supporting cast. Second baseman Max Bishop set the table with a league leading 128 walks, which helped him post a .426 OBP and score 115 runs.
Mack’s pitching staff was also solid. Hall of Famers Lefty Grove (31-4, 2.06) and Waite Hoyt (10-5, 4.22) were joined by Rube Walberg (20-12, 3.74) and George Earnshaw (21-7, 3.67) in one of the stronger rotations in history. Grove actually won the AL MVP by winning 31 games in 41 appearances, including 30 starts – of which he completed 27. Grove’s 175 strikeouts led the AL, giving him seven league strikeout crowns in a row.
But, as good as they were in the regular season, the ’31 A’s couldn’t beat the St. Louis Cardinals. In a back-and-fourth World Series, the Cardinals won Game 7 4-2 at Sportsman’s Park.
2) 1969 BALTIMORE ORIOLES: 109-53, Lost in the World Series
The 1969 Baltimore Orioles were one of the most dominant regular season teams in Major League Baseball history. After finishing the 162-game schedule with a record of 109-53, the O’s won the AL East by 19 games over the Detroit Tigers.
The Orioles lineup was led a pair of Hall of Famers: outfielder Frank Robinson, who hit .308/.415/.540 with 32 home runs and 100 RBI, and third baseman Brooks Robinson, known far and wide as one of the greatest fielders ever, who contributed 23 home runs and drove in 84 runs. Star first baseman Boog Powell actually led the team offensively with 37 homers and 121 RBI while hitting .304/.383/.559.
The starting rotation featured two 20-game winners in Mike Cuellar (23-11, 2.38) and Dave McNally (20-7, 3.22) and a 23-year old hot shot named Jim Palmer (16-4, 2.34), who would go on to a Hall of Fame career himself.
Baltimore swept the Minnesota Twins in three games in the American League Championship Series, and appeared destined to roll to the World Series title. Of course, the Orioles were stopped dead in their tracks in the Fall Classic by the Miracle Mets, four games to one.
Had Baltimore won in 1969, they would have gone down in history as arguably the greatest team in big league history – but instead, they settle for a spot on our list of the best MLB teams that didn’t win the World Series. However, the Orioles did make it back to Series in 1970, and won their second World Championship in the period of four years.
1) 2001 SEATTLE MARINERS: 116-46, Lost in the ALCS
Do you want to know how good the 2001 Seattle Mariners were? With a record of 116-46, which tied the Major League record for wins in a season, the Mariners beat a 102-win Oakland Athletics team by 14 games in the American League West. And the A’s were the second best team in baseball by a full seven games over the AL East champion New York Yankees.
Of course, Seattle lost to those very Yankees in the American League Championship Series, four games to one. It cost the Mariners the first trip to the World Series in franchise history, and remains the closest that the club has ever come to the Fall Classic. To date, only Seattle and the Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos have never appeared in the World Series, and the Mariners are one of eight big league clubs that have never won it all.
In 2001, the Seattle Mariners had a much different identity than they had in previous years. After the superstar trio of Ken Griffey, Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson all left town, the Mariners didn’t seem to have much in terms of star power on their roster. However, that changed quickly when the team signed Ichiro Suzuki out of Japan. Ichiro exploded onto the scene with an MVP season as a rookie in 2001. The 27-year old outfielder led Major League Baseball with 242 hits and 56 stolen bases, and won the AL batting title with a .350 average.
But one player doesn’t win 116 games. The Mariners got career performances from Bret Boone (.331/.372/.578, 37 HR, 141 RBI) and Mike Cameron (25 HR, 110 RBI), as well as a strong season from DH Edgar Martinez (.306/.423/.543, 23 HR, 116 RBI).
Unfortunately for Mariners fans, Seattle’s historic season came to an end because the team’s explosive lineup was neutralized by a New York pitching staff that held the M’s to a total of eight runs in four losses in the ALCS.