7 MLB Teams Who Didn’t Win a World Series

| October 25, 2021 9:15 am PDT

Throughout MLB history, we’ve seen a ton of great teams. At the end of the season, only one can lift the trophy.

Honestly, that team may not have been the best all season, but they came through when it mattered most.

This list goes out to the great regular-season teams that couldn’t win it all. Here are the best MLB teams that failed to win the World Series.

7. 1988 Oakland Athletics

The 1988 season began a dominant three-year run for the Oakland Athletics.

Oakland had an offensive that was full of stars like Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, and Dave Henderson. Canseco won AL MVP and became the first player in MLB history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season.

While their offense had the firepower, their rotation featured a ton of elite talent. Check out their starters’ ERA.

  • Dave Stewart: 3.23
  • Bob Welch: 3.64
  • Storm Davis: 3.70
  • Curt Young: 4.14
  • Tom Burns: 3.16

Closer Dennis Eckersley also led the AL with 45 saves.

The Athletics went on to finish with an AL-best 104-58 record.

In the 1988 ALCS, the Athletics swept the Boston Red Sox. Oakland only won by one run in each of the first two games. Back home, Oakland outscored Boston 14-7 across the two games.

Oakland went into the World Series as big favorites over the Los Angeles Dodgers. What ensued in the 1988 World Series will go down as one of the biggest upsets in World Series history.

Kirk Gibson’s iconic walk-off home run gave the Dodgers the Game 1 victory.

Following a 6-0 Dodgers victory in Game 2, Oakland had a walk-off home-run of their own from Mark McGwire in Game 3.

In the end, Oakland’s offense had no answer for Los Angeles. The Dodgers went on to win the series 4-1. Across the five games, Oakland scored just 11 runs.

But I wouldn’t feel so bad for Oakland. They came back the following season and defeated the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. 

While I’m sure that eased the pain for fans, it doesn’t change the fact that the great 1988 team fell short of the ultimate prize.

6. 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers

There are a few Los Angeles Dodgers teams you could pick from the 2010s. For me, the 2017 squad stood out above the rest.

Los Angeles’ offense wasn’t anything special. In fact, they had the fewest runs scored among playoff teams. However, their pitching allowed the second-fewest runs in the majors.

Their pitching staff was led by none other than Clayton Kershaw. Here are his numbers.

  • 18-4
  • 2.31 ERA
  • 0.95 WHIP
  • 202 strikeouts
  • 30 walks

The Dodgers 104-62 record marked the best in the majors. It could’ve been even better if not for a 4-15 stretch in September.

Well, the poor finish didn’t impact Los Angeles in the postseason. They swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS. Los Angeles then went on to beat the defending champion Chicago Cubs in five games.

In the World Series, the Dodgers matched up with the Houston Astros. The series turned out to be wild in itself.

Game 2 saw the Astros trail 3-1 in the eighth inning. They went on to win the game 7-6 in extras. Los Angeles scored five runs in the ninth to win Game 4.

Then, we saw one of the wildest games in World Series history.

In Game 5, seven different players hit a home run. The game went back and forth before the Astros finally won 13-12 in 10 innings.

The Dodgers won Game 6, but fell at home in Game 7.

There’s no doubt the loss was tough, but it was even worse when the world found out about the Astros sign-stealing scandal. Without it, it’s fair to say the Dodgers win the World Series.

After years of close calls, Los Angeles finally won the World Series in 2020. Albeit in a 60-game shortened season.

5. 2004 St. Louis Cardinals

Everyone remembers 2004 as the year the Boston Red Sox finally ended their 86-year World Series drought. I bet a lot of people don’t realize who the Red Sox faced off with.

The 2004 St. Louis Cardinals looked like a juggernaut. Their offense scored the fifth-most runs in the majors behind the trio of Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, and Scott Rolan.

Check out what these guys did in 2004.

Batting Average Home Runs RBIs
Albert Pujols .331 46 123
Jim Edmonds .301 42 111
Scott Rolan .314 34 124

And the pitching staff? All they did was allow the fewest runs in the majors. Surprisingly, only two of their starters had an ERA under 4.00.

St. Louis’ 105-57 record marked the best in the majors.

They took care of business in the NLDS, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games. The Cardinals had a much tougher challenge from the Houston Astros in the NLCS.

The Cardinals won the first two games before the Astros rattled off three straight wins. Edmonds hit a walk-off home-run in Game 6. St. Louis went on to win Game 7.

In the World Series, the Cardinals battled the aforementioned Red Sox. Boston was coming off an ALCS that saw them erase a 3-0 series deficit.

Following a wild Game 1 that saw the Red Sox win 11-9, the Cardinals offense didn’t show up.

They scored just three runs over the ensuing three games, as the Red Sox swept the Cardinals to capture their first title since 1918.

After recording 11 hits in Game 1, the Cardinals had a combined 13 in the final three games.

St. Louis probably had the better team, but it seemed like the Red Sox were the team of destiny. Nothing was going to stop them from winning the 2004 World Series.

4. 1931 Philadelphia Athletics

The Philadelphia Athletics came into the 1931 season looking for their third consecutive World Series. Game 4 of the 1929 World Series featured one of the greatest comebacks in World Series history.

In 1931, it looked like Philadelphia had even more firepower than previous seasons. Lefty Grove led their pitching staff with a 2.06 ERA and 175 strikeouts. His great season earned him AL MVP.

On offense, Al Simmons won the batting title with a ridiculous .390 batting average. He also produced 128 RBIs. Jimmie Foxx had a great season with 30 home runs and 120 RBIs.

Unsurprisingly, the Athletics finished with the best record in the league at 107-45.

In that time period, the best team in the AL and NL faced off in the World Series. There was no divisional or championship series. Because of that, Philadelphia went right into the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Philadelphia won games 1 and 4, while the Cardinals claimed games 2 and 3. At this point, the teams looked evenly matched. That only became more apparent when they split the next two games.

Game 7 saw the Cardinals jump out to a 4-0 lead through three innings. Philadelphia couldn’t get anything going, as they lost the game 5-2.

Check out the breakdown in runs and hits from the seven-game series.

Runs Hits
Philadelphia Athletics 22 50
St. Louis Cardinals 19 54

I wasn’t kidding when I said it was a fair fight. Unfortunately, this marked the end of the Athletics three-year dynasty.

They didn’t make it back to the World Series until 1972, when the team was in Oakland.

Every team wants to win the World Series. However, you take the loss with a grain of salt considering they won it all in 1929 and 1930.

3. 1954 Cleveland Indians

Just about every baseball fan knows about the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox long World Series droughts. But what about the Cleveland Indians?

They haven’t won a World Series since 1948. That drought could’ve been a little shorter had they finished the job in 1954.

Al Rosen and Larry Doby combined for 56 home runs and 228 RBIs. Those are impressive numbers, but the spotlight was on the Indians pitching staff. I mean, just look at their ERAs’.

  • Mike Garcia: 2.64
  • Bob Lemon: 2.72
  • Early Wynn: 2.73
  • Bob Feller: 3.09
  • Art Houtteman: 3.35

Good luck beating that.

In a 154-game season, Cleveland won a ridiculous 111 games. Their .721 winning percentage is an AL record.

Cleveland went into the World Series against a New York Giants team that finished 14 games behind them.

The Indians immediately jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 1. New York tied the game with a pair of runs in the third inning.

In the top of the 10th inning, the Indians had two runners on when Vic Wertz lifted a fly ball into deep center. Willie Mays moved back on it and made a play that is known today as “The Catch”.

New York went on to hit a walk-off home-run.

From there, New York never looked back. They went on to sweep Cleveland in a series that turned out pretty one-sided.

Runs Hits
New York Giants 21 33
Cleveland Indians 9 26

At the end of the day, it was a combination of poor offense and pitching. If I had to guess, I’d say Cleveland would trade that record-breaking season for the title.

The Indians have made it back to the World Series three times since, but they are still looking for their first title since 1948.

2. 2001 Seattle Mariners

What happens when you have the best offense and pitching staff in the majors? The 2001 Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners offense had four hitters hit over 20 home runs. Brett Boone led the team with 37 dingers and 141 RBIs. But what if I told you their best offensive player didn’t even hit 10 home runs?

In his first season in the majors, Ichiro Suzuki won AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP. He did so with these numbers.

  • .350 batting average
  • 242 hits
  • 8 home runs
  • 69 RBIs
  • 56 stolen bases

Seattle won 52 of their first 66 games, as they went on to tie an MLB record with 116 wins. In the ALDS, they faced off with the Cleveland Indians.

Cleveland gave Seattle a run for their money. They jumped out to a 2-1 series lead after winning Game 3 17-2.

The Mariners made a late rally to win Game 4 and took Game 5 to advance to the ALCS.

While the Mariners were the best team in the league, they didn’t have a ton of postseason experience. Their ALCS opponent, the New York Yankees, had won four of the last five World Series.

New York jumped out to a 2-0 series lead before Seattle won Game 3 by 11 runs.

Neither offense could get anything going in Game 4. Boone hit a solo home run in the top of the eighth to give Seattle a 1-0 lead. The Yankees responded with a home run by Bernie Williams.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Alfonso Soriano hit a walk-off home-run to give the Yankees the victory.

New York dominated Game 5 to win the ALCS.

Seattle’s great season didn’t even have a World Series appearance to show for it. To make matters worse, the Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since.

1. 1906 Chicago Cubs

Before the 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 games, there was the 1906 Chicago Cubs.

Now this era didn’t include a lot of home runs. Frank Schulte was the only player on the team to hit more than three. Harry Steinfeldt led the NL with a .327 batting average and 83 RBIs.

Then, you had the Cubs pitching staff. Instead of me trying to explain it to you, just check out the numbers.

Record ERA Strikeouts
Mordecai Brown 26-6 1.04 144
Jack Pfiester 20-8 1.51 153
Ed Reulbach 19-4 1.65 94
Jack Taylor 12-3 1.83 34
Orval Overall 12-3 1.88 94

Offenses weren’t as good in this era but those are still amazing numbers.

Chicago finished the season with a 116-36 record. Their .763 winning percentage still stands today as an MLB record.

In the World Series, the Cubs faced off with their crosstown rival in the Chicago White Sox. No one gave the White Sox a chance. How would an offense that hit .203 compete with the Cubs rotation?

Well, the White Sox pitching did the work in their 2-1 victory in Game 1. The Cubs won Game 2 7-1, but the ensuing two games were low-scoring.

The White Sox won Game 3 after holding the Cubs to three hits. In Game 4, the Cubs flipped the script and held the White Sox to two hits in their victory.

In Game 5, we finally saw the offense wake up. The White Sox took a 3-2 series lead with an 8-6 victory.

Game 6 saw the White Sox jump out to a 7-0 lead after two innings. The White Sox held on to pull off a shocking World Series upset.

Amazingly, the Cubs didn’t win this World Series. Even so, they went on to win the World Series in 1907 and 1908.

Other Top Teams That Failed to Win the World Series

  • 1995 Cleveland Indians
  • 1969 Baltimore Orioles

The 1995 Cleveland Indians led in just about every offensive category. They entered the playoffs with a 100-44 record. In the World Series, their offense only scored over five runs once in the six games. They lost the series 4-2 to the Atlanta Braves.

In 1969, the Baltimore Orioles had a rotation full of aces. Baltimore finished the season 109-53 and easily made the World Series. That’s where they ran into the “Miracle Mets.” Baltimore scored just nine runs in the five-game series.

No matter how great of a regular season you have, it doesn’t matter unless you can finish the job. I bet a lot of these teams would trade in the historic season for a World Series title.

For those wanting to bet on the World Series, check out the best World Series betting sites.

Nicholas Sterling
Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with GamblingSites.com since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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