Thanks to the MLB’s seemingly-unanimous decision to hibernate this off-season, I’ve had a lot more free time and nothing to write about. But rather than use this free time to do volunteer work or find a solution to climate change, I’ve just been delving into baseball history like the nerd I am. I realized that most of the winners of the World Series in the 1980s haven’t won a championship since that decade. Often, we see the same few teams in the postseason year after year. Excluding the Indians (who haven’t won since 1948) and expansion teams who’ve never won a World Series (all of the original teams have won at least once), most of the now-longest droughts in MLB history are clustered in this era.
Take a look back at the decade that seems to have doomed a few Major League teams…
1980 Philadelphia Phillies
Tug McGraw and Mike Schmidt celebrate
A fun little piece of trivia: the Philadelphia Phillies are the oldest continuous franchise in MLB history. They’ve been the Philadelphia Phillies since 1883. But in all that time, they’ve only won two World Series: 1980 and 2008.
This season, the Phillies are one of many teams across the league to hire younger leadership in hopes of turning their team around. Enter: Gabe Kapler, former Red Sox, coconut oil-as-masturbatory-aid advocate, and new manager of the ‘oldest established.’
DROUGHT*: 1981 – Los Angeles Dodgers
Steve Howe, Steve, Steve Garvey, Derrell Thomas
The Dodgers beat the Yankees in the 1981 World Series and went on to win again in 1988, their most recent championship.
1982: St. Louis Cardinals
Cards fans rush the field to celebrate
The Cardinals have been to the World Series 9 times since their last win. They’ve won 3 those Fall Classics, but more importantly, they lost to the Red Sox in the 2004 and 2013 World Series.
DROUGHT: 1983 – Baltimore Orioles
Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken celebrate
Despite usually having a solid team, the Orioles are one of those franchises who inexplicably can’t seem to seal the deal. From 1966-1983, the Orioles won 3 of the 6 World Series in which they appeared: 1966, 1970, and 1983. Since then, they’ve had a bit of a comedown, and haven’t even won a pennant since 1983.
DROUGHT: 1984 – Detroit Tigers
Kirk Gibson celebrates after homering off Goose Gossage
In a 5-game series against the San Diego Padres, the Tigers hit a combined 7 home runs, including two by Kirk Gibson in Game 5. The Tigers are set to retire the numbers of 1984 teammates Jack Morris and Alan Trammell this season, and that’s about the only exciting thing happening for the Detroit team in 2018.
2017 was rough for the Michigan team: they said goodbye to star pitcher Justin Verlander, who went on to help the Houston Astros win the World Series only a few weeks later. Detroit finished tied for last with Pablo Sandoval’s San Francisco Giants and then fired Brad Ausmus and replaced him with Ron Gardenhire, a man who’s seemingly been in the MLB since the early 1900s. I don’t expect to see them in the postseason anytime soon.
1985 Kansas City Royals
The 1985 World Series was a Missouri affair, pitting the Cardinals against the Royals in a state showdown. It was also the first World Series in which all games were played at night.
Between 1976-1985, the Royals won their division six times and the pennant twice, but they were only a .500 team in July of 1985. They went on to win 12/13 games in September and only beat the Angels by one game to win the division. In Game 7, Bret Saberhagen pitched a five-hitter, and the Royals beat the Cardinals, 11-0. In their first World Series win ever, the Royals also robbed the Cards of what would have been their 10th title. The Royals would still be one of the drought teams, but they won their second championship in 2015.
DROUGHT: 1986 New York Mets
In 1986, the New York Mets finished the regular season with a franchise-record 108 wins. Despite only posting a 95-66 record, the Red Sox team made it all the way to the final bracket with a stacked team that included Wade Boggs, Jim Rice, and Dwight Evans, and powerful pitching from Oil Can Boyd and a young Roger Clemens. The Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the series, but Lenny Dykstra’s homers in Games 3 and 4 helped tie the series. The Red Sox would win Game 5, but the final two games would go to New York.
The 7-game battle between the Mets and the Red Sox became yet another postseason in the Curse of the Bambino files. After being one strike away from victory in Game 6, Boston’s Bill Buckner blew the game with a massive error, famously called by a usually-calm Vin Scully. Ray Knight scored. The Mets went on to win Game 7, but haven’t won the World Series since. The Red Sox have won three.
1987: Minnesota Twins
The Cardinals were back in the World Series in 1987, this time, facing off against the Minnesota Twins. The most interesting part of this series was that it was the first to feature indoor games, and the first time the home team won every game. It was the Twins first franchise win since moving to Minnesota in 1961. Their last World Series championship was in 1924, when they were still the Washington Senators. They won again in 1991, and haven’t won since, barely escaping this 80s drought list.
DROUGHT: 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers’ last World Series win is probably best remembered for being a West vs. West series between the Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics and for an injured Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit walk-off homer against Hall of Famer and David Price’s mortal enemy Dennis Eckersley. Oakland was heavily favored to win, but the series is even more impressive in retrospect; Oakland’s Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco have both publicly admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during their professional careers.
The poor Dodgers came so close to finally winning it all last season, making it all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. Facing off against the Houston Astros, it was truly a magnificent match-up: the two best teams the MLB has seen in a few years. Unfortunately, the Astros took home the ultimate prize, but the Dodgers look to be strong heading into 2018, so you can expect to see them vying for a spot in the postseason again.
DROUGHT: 1989 Oakland Athletics
A year after losing to the Dodgers, the Oakland A’s were back in the World Series, but this time, with a happier ending. In the second straight year of California baseball, Oakland swept San Francisco, the first World Series sweep since 1976. The Giants and Athletics had faced off in the World Series three times before, with the Giants winning in 1905, and the A’s winning in 1911 and 1913.
But the 1989 World Series is best remembered for the magnitude 6.9 earthquake that struck the Bay Area minutes before Game 3 was due to begin on October 17. The series was postponed for over a week due to damage to Candlestick Park, power outages, and safety concerns.
The A’s won the pennant for the third straight season in 1990, and have won numerous division titles since then, including in 2012, when the movie Moneyball came out. Unfortunately, the movie about the small-budget team didn’t win any of its 6 Oscar nominations, either.