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Who Deserves to Win?

April 14, 2020
                                               Who Deserves to Win?


            If I said that the Cleveland Indians deserved to win a World Series, I think you would all know what I meant by that.   If I said that the 2016 season was memorable, was "special" on some level, because the Chicago Cubs won the World Series that year for the first time in 108 years, you would all know what I meant by that. 

            This is a piece of lightweight research about a very serious topic.  The concept of a franchise "deserving" to win a championship is not an obscure or marginal concept.  It is a central part of how most of us think about sports on a day to day basis.   You’re watching a game on TV, not your team, who do you root for?   You root for the underdog, right?  The underdog is the team that has a win coming to them. 

            "Deserving to win" is one of the major biases by which we interpret sports history.  The 1955 Dodgers’ championship was the stuff of legend, for a generation, because the Dodgers deserved to win.  They played the Yankees in the World Series year after year, and the Yankees always won, so the Dodgers deserved to win.   The 2017 Houston win was a big deal at the time because the Astros had been around for a half-century and had never won, so they deserved to win, and then it became this terrible, awful thing that the Astros had won because they cheated, so they didn’t deserve to win, after all.  A lot of people were happy about the Red Sox win in 2013 because, while the Red Sox had just won a couple recently (2004 and 2007), still a lot of people felt that in 2013 we deserved to win because of the Marathon Bombing.   The PLAYERS felt that the people of Boston deserved to win because of the Marathon Bombing.  That was a lot of what happened that year; after the Bombing, the players just thought "this city didn’t deserve that," and they went out and busted their butts all year to give the city a championship because they thought we deserved it. 

            The concept of deserving to win is always there, always hiding just below the surface, and yet we very rarely talk about it directly because there is no way to pin it down.  How do you know exactly who deserves to win?  How do you pin it down? 

            I have done this research before, I believe in 2016 after the Cubs’ victory, but I thought I would repeat it and update it.  I created a very simple formula for who deserves to win; basically it is just "How long has it been since you won?"   Basically it is just how long has it been since you won, but there is also an element in there of "you deserve to win if you consistently put out a competitive team which has a chance to win."  To think of it in terms of NCAA basketball. . . nobody thinks that the Kansas Jayhawks deserve to win, right?   The Jayhawks play anybody except Duke or maybe Carolina, the nation roots for the other team.   Jayhawk fans expect that, and we don’t resent it.   The Red Sox, after four World Championships, nobody except the Red Sox fans is pulling for us to get another one soon, and we expect that, and we don’t resent it.   It’s the way it is. 

            Kansas against Gonzaga, everybody who isn’t a Jayhawk is rooting for Gonzaga.   But at the same time, Gonzaga against DePaul, a lot of people—most people, I think, are going to be rooting for Gonzaga because Gonzaga has put out great teams for decades now and has never won, where DePaul has not put out a lot of good teams, so if they have ONE good team, it’s not really their turn yet. 

            That’s the theory.  When I did this before I created a more complicated process in which I counted getting INTO the World Series as a partial victory, and I included 19th century baseball in the mix, although I don’t know why because there wasn’t any World Series in the 19th century unless you count those rinky-dink things, so it’s not realistic to think of teams waiting their turn to win a championship that didn’t exist yet.   So the formula for this time was really simple: 

            A new team starts out at zero,

            And adds one point for each season in which they don’t win the World Series,

            Or two points, if they finish at least 9 games over .500,

            Or three points, if they win 95 games,

            The totals building up until they win the World Series,

            At which point their score returns to zero. 


            Also, I added a rule in which, if a team wins TWO world championships within a five-year period, then their score goes to -10.   They’ve had theirs; they can wait a few years.   When I did this before I did more complicated stuff like that, but this time I decided it didn’t help the system.   I think this simpler process works better.   (Nine games over .500, because teams don’t normally finish 9 games over .500.  It is usually 8 (85-77) or 10 (86-76).   That just means that if you have a good, competitive team that is in the pennant race, then it’s a little bit more your turn to win now than if you don’t have a competitive team.) 

            So anyway, who deserves to win, right now?    There is one team that MOST deserves to win—Cleveland—but there are about 15 teams about which you could also say that they have been waiting a long time, and they deserve to win.  

1.      The Cleveland Indians.   The Indians current deserve-to-win score is 103.

One hundred is the "historic need" level.   Only a few teams have ever reached that level.   The only teams which have ever reached that level are the Cubs (who reached that level in 1972), the Phillies (1977), the Red Sox (1986), the White Sox (1988) and now the Indians. 

2.     The Texas Rangers, current deserve-to-win score of 95.  This one is kind of

arbitrary.  It is clear that the next team on the list has to be either the Rangers or the Milwaukee Brewers, but actually it is not at all clear which one it is, or why the Rangers should be ahead of the Brewers.

The Rangers are ahead of the Brewers because, when a franchise moves, what do you do with their points?  You kind of have to do something, because when a franchise moves, some of their fans follow them.   Matthew Namee grew up a Dodger fan because his grandfather rooted for the Dodgers—when they were in Brooklyn.   Loyalty to a team is not necessarily tied to locale, although it is often or generally tied to a locale.  I know SEVERAL people who still root for the Washington Nationals because they grew up as Expos fans, and they transferred their loyalty with the team. 

My rule was that when a team moves, they lose HALF of their deserve-to-win points, but keep the other half.   This rule works perfectly in some cases, and in other cases it doesn’t seem to make sense.  This would be the other case.  The Rangers "inherited points" are more troublesome than for any other team, but this is the way I scored it.   The original Washington Senators, at the time they moved to Minnesota, had 48 Deserve-to-Win points.  I divided those in half, giving half of them to the Twins and the other half to the new Washington Senators team.  It’s a historically unique situation; that’s never happened at any other time.  

But then THAT Washington team left and moved to Texas.  By that time the New Washington Senators had built their Deserve-to-Win account back up to 36 points.  When they moved to Texas, the Rangers kept 18 of them.  Of course, the Brewers also are a "moved" franchise, having moved from Seattle, but since the Pilots were only in Seattle for one season, they only carry one point with them.   The Rangers start out with 18 points, the Brewers with 1, and their histories since then are similar, so the Rangers are still ahead.  Which, I acknowledge, is not AT ALL convincing logic.  The Rangers would be ahead anyway, because they have had more pretty-decent and truly outstanding teams that didn’t win.

3.      Milwaukee Brewers, 69 points.

4.     San Diego Padres, 60 points.   As old as the Brewers, but very few

competitive teams over the years.  

5.     Seattle Mariners, 55 points.

6-7.  Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A’s, 53 points each.  Have not won

since ’88 and ’89.

8-9. Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates, 51 points each. 

10. New York Mets, 50 points.


            So the ten organizations which MOST deserve a win right now are the Indians, Rangers, Brewers, Padres, Mariners, Dodgers, A’s, Braves, Pirates and the Mets.    In addition to those there are six other organizations that I think you could say deserve to win, although maybe they don’t deserve it quite as much, but still, they’ve been waiting a while, so it would be nice if they got one.  Those six are the Detroit Tigers (49), the Orioles (46), the Reds (38), the Rays (33) the Rockies (32) and the Angels (30). 

            My standard is that a team may be said to "deserve" a championship if their deserve-to-win points are 30 or more, or if they are in the top one-third of all teams.   Basically, the "switch" is the first one, 30 points or more.   Basically, what that means is that your fans have been waiting 20 to 25 years for a championship.   That’s a generation.  If your fans have been waiting a generation for a championship, then you deserve to win.   The other rule, about the top one-third of teams, is necessary or there would have been many years, pre-1950, when you couldn’t really say that ANY team deserved to win. 

            I did not consider any team to be especially "deserving" of a win before 1920.  The point totals go back to 1900, but the recognition starts in 1920.  Here is a history of the deserve-to-win status of all 30 franchises.  It runs almost 20 pages; you might want to scan it and look for the teams you are interested in. 

            The Braves.  The Braves, usually a tail end franchise, had a score of just 15 in 1914, when the Miracle Braves won the World Series.  That reset them to zero.  They reached the status of a deserving team in 1936, with a score of 25 points, which was 5th on the list at that time. 

            However, despite never winning another World Series in Boston, they also never moved up on the list.   By the time they left Boston after the 1952 season they had 45 points, but they were still 5th on the list.    They never moved up because (a) three of the four teams that were on the list ahead of them never won, either, and (b) they put out mostly bad teams.  They weren’t very far ahead of the teams behind them, whose fans had been waiting almost as long.  When those teams put out competitive teams, they passed the Braves, the Braves dropping at one point to 7th place on the deserve-to-win list. 

            When they moved to Milwaukee the Braves deserve-to-win score dropped from 45 to 23, but by 1957 they had worked their way back onto the list, with 31 points.   They were in 8th place, but still, it could be said that they deserved to win—and they did, beating the Yankees in the 1957 World Series.

            That dropped their score to zero, of course, but then the franchise moved again, which cut them backward from 15 to 8.   They Braves made it back on the deserve-to-win list in 1984, but they were in 9th place then.  By 1995 they had moved up only to 8th place, and their 1995 World Series win cut them back to zero. 

            Putting out consistently good teams, they were back on the deserve-to-win list by 2008.  Since 2008 they have moved up from 13th to 9th place, as four teams ahead of them have had their moment.

            St. Louis Cardinals.   The Cardinals, a weak franchise until they hired Branch Rickey to run the show, moved onto the deserve-to-win list in 1922, with only 22 points.   They won the World Series in 1926, which was a very big deal at the time for the exact reason that we’re talking about here; they were one of the franchises that most deserved a win at that time. 

            Winning regular championships, they never appeared on the deserve-to-win list again for 81 years.  They popped back onto the list, in 12th place, in 2003, then dropped back off of it with their Championship in 2006.   They haven’t been back on the list since, and are still about 8-10 years away from getting back to the status of a needy team.   This isn’t a list that a franchise WANTS to be on.

            The Cubs.   After their 1908 World Championship, the Cubs appeared on the Deserve-to-Win list for the first time in 1924.   By 1933—get that, NINETEEN THIRTY THREE—the Cubs were most deserving franchise in baseball.   They lost that status, as the franchise most deserving of a win, for a few years in the 1950s.   The Dodgers had been waiting even longer than the Cubs had—the Dodgers had never won a World Series—but at one point they were as much as 14 points behind the Cubs because, while the Cubs had put up many good teams in the 1920s and 1930s, the Dodgers were Da Bums, a team that very rarely competed. 

            In the 1940s that changed, however; the Cubs became non-competitive, the Dodgers won the league but lost the World Series repeatedly, and by 1952 the Dodgers deserve-to-win score was higher than the Cubs. 

            The Dodgers DID finally win in 1955, however, so that put the Cubs back in first place.   They remained in control of the list, then, until they finally won the World Championship in 2016.   Their score at that time was 154 points, the highest of all time for any franchise.

            Dodgers.  I just talked about them, of course.   The Dodgers were in 5th place on the list when the list starts in 1920, but had only moved up to 4th place by the mid-1930s, with 42 points at the start of the 1935 season.  The Tigers’ win in 1935 allowed the Dodgers to move up to 3rd; the Cincinnati Reds’ win over the Tigers in 1940 moved the Dodgers into second place, behind the Cubs.   Putting out better teams than the Cubs, they passed the Cubs as the team most deserving in 1952, and were the most-deserving team until they did win in 1955.   There are only four times in history that the Most Deserving Franchise has won the World Series.  That is one of the four. 

            After that, the Dodgers never appeared on the most-deserving list again until 2009, when their score reached 30 points, built up since the Kirk Gibson/Orel Hershiser championship of 1988.   Having put out great teams since that, and with four teams ahead of them having had their moment, they are now in 6th place, with 53 points.

            The Giants.   When the list starts in 1920, the Giants were the number one team.  They had won a previous World Series, 1905, but they had also lost four World Series (1911, 1912, 1913 and 1917) and had had several outstanding teams that just missed the pennant.  By 1920 they were the most deserving team—and they won from that position in 1921, one of four times that the Most Deserving Team has won. 

            After that, they never appeared on the list again until 1953, when they were on the bottom of the list but at least could be considered deserving, then they won in 1954 and dropped off the list again.   They had only 3 points by 1957, and cut that in half (cut it to 2 points) when they moved to San Francisco.

            But, putting out very, very good teams, they were on the bottom of the deserve-to-win list again, in 9th place, by 1972.  They moved into the Top Five in deserve-to-win status in 1988, after the Twins won in 1987, and, after the wins by the Sox teams in 2004 and 2005, slid into second place.   By 2010 they were the MOST deserving franchise in baseball, other than the Cubs.  They had 88 points.  

            Having won that year and also in 2012, 2014, they are still scored at -4 points.  They’re a long way from being a franchise that you can say deserves to win. 

            The Phillies.   Having had some good teams in the Pete Alexander era but without a World Championship, the Phillies were in third place on the list when the list starts in 1920.   Having put out truly terrible teams through the 1920s, 1930s and the first half of the 1940s, however, they remained stuck in third place, their score advancing only one point a year, until the Dodgers’ win in 1955 moved them into second place.  At that time their score was 70.  By 1977, as I mentioned before, it was 100—a truly historic World Series drought.  By the time they won in 1980, their score was 103. 

            I met Roger Angell for the first time in 1980, when he came to Kansas City for the 1980 World Series, and I was fortunate enough to have dinner with him and two or three other guys at Arthur Bryant’s in KC.  Knowing he was a Mets’ fan, I probed him about who he was rooting for in the Series.  I may have been a little rude about it; I may have been a little over the line, but anyway at length he acknowledged that he would like to see the Phillies win because "their fans had been waiting a long time"—exactly on the point of this article, and again demonstrating that this is not an unusual way of thinking; it is merely unusual to talk about it directly. 

            "What do you mean?" I responded.  "We’ve never won.  How much longer can you wait?"   But I see his point, at least now.  Anyway, the Phillies’ score dropped to zero after 1980.   They re-appeared on the list in 2004, but were still near the bottom of the list when they won again in 2009.  They have not gotten back onto the list since then.

            The Pirates.   The Pirates won the World Series in 1909 and 1925, and thus did not appear on the list until 1943.   They were 9th on the list in 1943, 8th in 1950, and by 1960, after wins by the Giants, Dodgers and Braves, had edged up to 5th place.    By 1960 their score was 48, which is fairly high.

            That helped to set up the story line for the 1960 World Series, which was one of the greatest and most exciting World Series of all time.   Winning championships in 1960, 1971 and 1979, they Pirates did not appear on the list again until 2003, when they were on the bottom of the list, in 13th place.  They’re now up to tied for eighth, as mentioned before. 

            Cincinnati Reds.   Having won the World Series in 1919 and 1940, the Reds never appeared on the Deserve-to-win list until 1961.   They lost the World Series in 1961.  They were in 6th place in 1961, and had only moved up to 5th place by 1975, when The Big Red Machine won the first of their two championships.  They didn’t get back on the list then until 2013.  At 38 points, they are a Deserving Franchise, but they are still in 14th place.

            The A’s.  The A’s never appeared on the list until 1972.  They never appeared on the list because (a) the Philadelphia A’s won World Series several times up to 1930, (b) their other teams were almost all terrible, so that created little upward push, and (c) the franchise moved twice, which cut their relatively low point totals in half and cut them in half again. 

            With all of that going on, the A’s didn’t make the list until 1972, when their score reached 30, the bottom of the list.  They won the World Series that year, which put them at zero, and again in 1973, which put them at -10, and again in 1974, which left them at minus ten.

            Starting at -10, the A’s didn’t get on the list of teams deserving a championship until 2006, when their total got back to 30.  Billy Beane, of course, has had a lot of very good teams that didn’t win, so they are now up to 53 points, tied with the Dodgers for 6th place.  They’ve had a lot of good teams, they’ve waited a long time; the A’s deserve a win.

            St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles.  The Browns first appeared on the list, at the bottom of the list of deserving teams, in 1927.   With consistently bad teams and the Yankees and Cardinals winning most of the championships so that other teams didn’t move up, the Browns had only moved up to 4th place by 1953, when they moved to Baltimore for the 1954 season.   That cut their score from 61 to 31, still on the list but barely.  By 1966 they were up to 53 points, making them the fifth most-deserving franchise, behind the Cubs, Phillies, Red and White Sox. 

            Winning three World Championships (1966, 1970 and 1983), the Orioles never appeared on the Deserve-to-Win list again until 2008, when they were in 13th place—and that’s where they still are, in 13th place.  They have been passed by several other teams in that range because they just have not been putting out good teams, thus not really earning Deserve-to-Win points beyond one a year.

            The Indians.   The Indians were in 4th place on the list in 1920, when the list starts.   They won the World Series that year, thus did not appear on the list again until 1939.   With the Cardinals and Yankees winning the World Series almost every year no one moved up, so the Indians were still 5th on the list in 1948, when they won their second—and last—World Series. 

            They were back on the list by 1968—more than a half-century ago—with 30 points at that time, in 9th place on the deserve-to-win list.  Though not putting out good teams, they were in 6th place by 1981.   At some point they were passed by the Giants; the Indians last won in 1948 and the Giants in 1954, but the Giants put out more good teams, so for several years the Giants and Indians would be tied on the list or one would be a point or two ahead.   By 2004 the Indians had only advanced to 5th place, with the Cubs, the Giants and the two Sox teams ahead of them.  Those teams having now had their turns to hoist the trophy, and the Indians’ total having reached the historic marker of 100+, the Indians are now the team most deserving of a World Championship, with a current score of 103. 

            Boston Red Sox.   Having won five World Championships by 1918, the Red Sox were in a deep hole at the start of the list, and, since their teams were not competitive in the pre-Tom Yawkey era, they did not move up quickly.  Still, time passes; eventually you should have your chance.  In 1946 they appeared on the list for the first time, but in 10th place.  They were in the series that year but didn’t win, on Enos Slaughter’s famous first-to-home scamper.  They had good teams most years and moved up as some of the teams ahead of them moved to different cities, thus cut their scores in half.   By 1954—fifty years before we won-- the Red Sox were the fourth most-deserving franchise, with a score of 47. 

            By 1979 they were still in fourth place, stuck in fourth behind the Cubs, Phillies, and, at that time, the White Sox.  The Red Sox last won in 1918, the White Sox in 1917; over time their scores moved up along very similar tracks.  The Phillies’ winning and the Red Sox putting out the better teams, the Red Sox moved up to second place in 1981.

            Their score reached the historic plateau—100 points—when they lost the 1986 World Series.    By 2003 their score had reached 125 points—the highest score than any team has ever had, other than the Cubs.  Obviously, they have not been back on the list since 2004. 

            The Senators/Twins.   The Senators never appeared on the Deserve-to-Win list until 1943, the same year that the Pirates first appeared on the list.   They had mostly not good teams in the Deadball era, and, when they put together a good team, they won the World Series quickly (1924), just before they WOULD have appeared on the list, had they not won.   That cut their score to zero, and they got back to 30 points about 20 years later—about the normal and intended time.  You haven’t won in 20 years, your fans deserve a championship, although maybe not the way the Indians’ fans deserve a championship.

            With losing seasons almost every year, except for the year that Joe Hardy appeared out of nowhere. . . .with losing seasons almost every year, the Senators’ score advanced slowly.  By 1960 they were only at 48 points, which was cut in half when they magically became the Minnesota Twins.  

            The Twins were always a better operation.  They were back on the list by 1965, lost the World Series that year, and moved along steadily until they finally won in 1987.  By 1987 they had 60 points, 4th on the list behind the Cubs and the two Sox teams.  They won, then won again in 1991, which put them at -10, because you drop to -10 if you win twice in a short period of time.  They have not yet gotten back on the deserve-to-win list; if you’re at -10 it takes 25-30 years, rather than about 20.   They are at 29 points, and will be back on the bottom of the deserve-to-win list after this season unless (1) we don’t have a season, or (2) they win the World Series.  Which is not TOO unlikely; they do have a good team.

            The Tigers.   When the list of deserving teams starts in 1920, the Tigers were the #2 team, behind the Giants.  The Ty Cobb teams were good teams, but never won; by 1920 they kind of deserved to win, as much as anybody did.  The Giants’ victory in 1921 put the Tigers at the top of the list, the team most deserving of a win.

            They held that position until 1933, when the Cubs caught them by virtue of putting out better teams in the 1928-1932 era than the Tigers did.  Entering 1935, the Cubs and the Tigers were tied for the #1 spot on the list, the team MOST deserving a championship.  The Tigers DID win the World Series, so we have now accounted for the four times that the team most deserving of a World Series win has won it—1921, 1935, 1955, and 2016. 

            Winning another World Series by beating the Cubs in 1945, the Tigers didn’t make it back on the list until 1966.  They were near the bottom of the list in 1968, when their Lolich-led team beat the Cardinals, moving their score to zero.   Winning another World title in 1984, they didn’t make it back on the list until 2008.   They are now in 11th place on the deserve-a-title list, at 49 points. 

            The White Sox.  The Chicago White Sox can be used to discuss the issue of other contributions to the "deserve to win" measurement.  I mentioned before that the 2017 Astros didn’t really deserve to win, since they were cheating, and that many people felt that the 2013 Red Sox DID deserve to win to a certain extent, since the city had been attacked. 

            Using that definition of "deserving", obviously the White Sox would have some sort of negative score, as a starting point, after they sold the 1919 World Series.  If you give one away, you don’t deserve another one for several years—and, in fact, they did not win one for many years after that.

            But is that enduringly relevant, or only passingly relevant?  My friend John Dewan, born in the 1950s, is a lifelong White Sox fan.   How is it relevant to him that a team more than 30 years before he was born threw the World Series?  For that matter, how is it relevant whether they last won the World Series in 1917, or 1953?  It’s the same to him.

            It isn’t relevant to him, but it is relevant to other White Sox fans.   To a White Sox fan born in 1940, it’s relevant whether it was 1917 or 1953.  Since that fan is also a part of the White Sox community, it remains relevant. 

            I know; it’s an arbitrary concept.   I am trying to take an elusive concept and make it fixed, finite, and real.  It’s not always convincing.

            Anyway, the White Sox were a strong team during the Dead Ball era, winning at least a couple of championships, and thus first appeared on the deserve-to-win list in 1938, when they were tied for fifth place.   As late as 1952, although up to 43 points, they were still in 6th place.  Finishing more than nine games over .500 every year from 1953 to 1965—that was a good team that would have deserved to win—but playing very good ball every single season from 1953 to 1965, they were able to pass the Red Sox, and they moved up a notch when the Browns moved to Baltimore and moved up another notch when the Dodgers won in 1955, so by 1957 they had moved from 6th to 3rd, the third most-deserving team, behind the Cubs and the Phillies. 

            They jockeyed for position vs. the Red Sox for most of a half-century, 1953 to 2003, but by 2004 they were still in third place.   The Red Sox win in 2004 put the White Sox into second place, with a historic score of 124.

            I know that some White Sox fans felt a little cheated that perhaps not as much was made nationally of the White Sox winning after 88 years in 2005 as had been made of the Red Sox winning after 86 years in 2004.   They’re justified to feel that way, but it’s just a "been there, done that" thing.   The second time something happens, it doesn’t have quite the same impact as it did the first time, even if it is equally or more remarkable. 

            Anyway, the Sox reset their score to zero in 2005, and have not yet made it back onto the list.  They’re still several years away from being a team that is due for a winner.

            The Yankees.  The only time the Yankees have ever been on the list of teams deserving a championship was in the 1921-1923 era, before they had won their first World title.  Since they won in 1923, they have never been on the list.   Their score at this moment, 22 points, is the highest that it has been in the last 96 years.   From 1927 to 1965, their score never got as high as zero. 

            The Angels.  The California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels were one of the first two expansion teams, created in 1961.  They made the list of teams deserving a championship in 1986, the year that the Red Sox beat them in a very memorable playoff series.   By 2002 they were in 8th place, with a score of 50, and won the series in 2002.  They have just now made it back to 30, the bottom of the list.  I think they would be in 17th place. 

            The Senators/Rangers.   The other 1961 expansion team, the "new" Washington Senators, are now the 48-year-old Texas Rangers.   We have them as the second most-deserving team in baseball, with a score of 95 points, as was discussed before. 

            The Astros.   Born in 1962 as the Houston Colt .45s, the Astros made it onto the list of deserving teams in 1986, the same year as the Angels.  By the time they won in 2017, they were the third most-deserving franchise in baseball, with a score of 73, at that time behind the Indians and the Rangers.  

            The Mets.   The Mets won their first two World Championships, in 1969 and 1986, long before they would have made the long-suffering teams list.   Not winning since then, they finally made it onto the list in 2004, and are now in 10th place, with a score of 50.  They are deserving of a championship, after 34 years, but other teams have been waiting longer. 

            The Expos/Nationals.   Created in 1969, the Expos made it onto the waited- long-enough, deserve-our-turn-now list in 1993, 24 years, which is about the normal amount of time.   Never winning, they were up to 46 points by 2004, eighth place, at which point the team moved to Washington, cutting their score in half, and taking them off the list.   They made it back onto the list in 2012, and were back up to 46 points, 12th place, at the start of the 2019 season.  Obviously, having just won, their score goes back to zero. 

            The Padres.   The San Diego Padres were the Expos’ expansion twins in 1969.  Having few good seasons along the way, it took them until 1996—27 years—to crack the threshold where one might say they marginally deserved a World Championship.   They are now the 4th most-deserving franchise, with 60 points, earned almost entirely by patience. 

            The Royals.   The expansion Royals, successful from their third season (1971) into the late 1980s, won a World Series (1985) before they made the deserve-to-win list, thus never made the list until 2014, when they had 31 points.   They won it all in 2015, thus went back to zero, so they only have that one two-season span (2014-2015) of appearing at the bottom of the deserve-to-win list. 

            The Brewers.  The Brewers started as the Seattle Pilots, but moved to Milwaukee after one year because Jim Bouton had made fun of them.  Moving to M’waukee in 1970, the Brewers had some good teams beginning in the late 1970s, and made the Deserve-2-Win list in 1990.   Advancing steadily over the years, they are now the third-most deserving franchise, with a score of 69 points. 

            The Blue Jays.   The Blue Jays won the World Series in their 16th season, 1992, and again in their 17th, 1993, and thus had their "deserve to win" score pushed down into negative territory, at -10.   Thus, they have never been on the list of teams deserving another trophy.  Right now they are 5-6 years away from being on the bottom of the list.  And there is a good chance they will win before then. 

            Seattle Mariners.  The expansion partner of the Blue Jays, the Mariners made the deserve-to-win list in 2002, after their remarkable 116-win season in 2001.   They are now in fifth place, with a score of 55. 

            The Marlins.  The Marlins, for reasons well known to almost all of you, have never been on the Deserve-to-Win list, and will not be for another ten years or so. 

            The Rockies.   The Rockies, carved from the Rocks in 1993, made the Deserve-to-Win list for the first time a year ago.  They’ve been around long enough now that one could reasonably say that they deserve their moment in the sun. 

            The Rays.   Created five years later than the Rockies, the Rays also made the list for the first time in 2019.   The Rockies have had only four seasons in which they finished at least 9 games over .500—2007, 2009, 2017 and 2018.   The Rays have had eight—thus, the Rays deserve a championship as much as the Rockies do, although the Rockies have been waiting a little bit longer.

            Diamondbacks.  Having won a World Series in their infancy, the Diamondbacks have never been on the deserve-to-win, waiting-our-chance list. 


            One final note.  We have just had two very good decades in terms of deserving teams finally getting their Ring.   

            You can evaluate a decade, in this sense, by summing up the scores of the winning teams from the decade.   The World Series winning teams of the 1920s had a total of 158 points, with several teams winning which had never won before, including the Yankees (1923) and the Cardinals (1926).  Then the Yankees and Cardinals started hogging the bronze, and,  because the Yankees and Cardinals and Dodgers won so often, the next five decades all had lower scores than 158—32, 54, 97, 126 and 124. 

            In the 1980s, because of the Phillies and the Minnesota Twins, mostly, the decade total went up to 311.  In the 1990s it was down again to 116.

            In the first decade of this century, however, due to the long-overdue wins of the Red Sox, the White Sox and the Angels, the curse-busting scores totaled up to 393, a record for a decade.   And our last decade, with the wins by Giants, Cubs and Astros, we went up to 415—the best decade ever for breaking long streaks without a championship.

            Of course, you COULD argue that the numbers would always go up over time, as the streaks get longer over time, and that COULD be true, or it might not; after all, the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s all failed to break the first effort of the 1920s.  If the Indians win in 2020, followed by the Brewers and Rangers, we will be on our way to another new record.  If, on the other hand, we have repeat wins from the Cubs, Astros, Red Sox and Nationals, then we will be in an entirely different place. 

            Thanks for reading.  If you still are.  


COMMENTS (32 Comments, most recent shown first)

Not sure I understand Bill's statement "What do you mean? We’ve [the Royals] never won." Because at that point (1980) the Phillies had ALSO never won, and their never was about 65 years longer than the Royals'.
5:49 PM Sep 9th
Wonderful article, Bill, one of my all-time favorites already. As a Giants fan since 1965, I can assure you all this train of thought was never far from my mind during those 45 seasons of frustration. And then "My Team" winning it all at the close of an especially turbulent year in my life-- I actually did say to my son, as was expressed in a Red Sox comment, "I never thought I'd live to see it; I can die happy now." Hyperbolic, yes; but not completely so. Thanks again-- this type of discourse is what baseball fandom is all about.
8:25 AM Apr 17th
2004. After suffering through 1967 (I was only 8 and cried when thy lost game 7), 1975, 1978, 1986, and 2003, I was convinced I would die before the Red Sox ever win the World Series. Even when they were two outs in the ninth and Renteria hit a ground ball to Keith Foulke, I was convinced Foulke would throw the ball away leading to a catastrophic chain of events causing the Red Sox to lose the World Series yet again.
7:41 PM Apr 15th
In my own head, I sometimes anoint an epic team as being extra deserving. I'm not a particular Mariners fan, but their 116 win team in 2001 was 'deserving' of a World Series win.

I sometimes root for teams based on individual players. For years I rooted for the Astros because I thought Biggio & Bagwell were extra 'deserving'.

1:33 PM Apr 15th
The Rockies also finished nine games over .500 in 1995. You might have missed it since the season was strike-shortened and they only won 77 games - but they lost just 67.
12:45 PM Apr 15th
Re my post below about everyone rooting for the other team: I meant 2016 Indians, not 2016 Cubs. Everyone was rooting for the Cubs.
10:01 AM Apr 15th
Re my post below about everyone rooting for the other team: I meant 2016 Indians, not 2016 Cubs. Everyone was rooting for the Cubs.
10:01 AM Apr 15th
Re my post below about everyone rooting for the other team: I meant 2016 Indians, not 2016 Cubs. Everyone was rooting for the Cubs.
10:00 AM Apr 15th
Re my post below about everyone rooting for the other team: I meant 2016 Indians, not 2016 Cubs. Everyone was rooting for the Cubs.
10:00 AM Apr 15th
Re my post below about everyone rooting for the other team: I meant 2016 Indians, not 2016 Cubs. Everyone was rooting for the Cubs.
10:00 AM Apr 15th
Re my post below about everyone rooting for the other team: I meant 2016 Indians, not 2016 Cubs. Everyone was rooting for the Cubs.
10:00 AM Apr 15th
More kinds of agony:

If your team loses to the team that has captured the country's imagination such that everyone is rooting for them. Best recent example is the 2016 Cubs. The 2004 Cardinals would also qualify. The 1983 and 1985 U. of Houston and Georgetown basketball teams (lost to NC State and Villanova) are other examples.

If your city has not had a championship in any sport in a long time. This was talked about a whole bunch when the Cavaliers won in 2016. The current leader among four sport cities is Minneapolis-St. Paul. None of their teams have won since the Twins in 1991. To put an exclamation point on it, the other teams in that city (Wild, Grizzlies, and most famously, the Vikings) have never won. Atlanta's world series in 1995 is that city's only championship in any of its three major sports, and the Falcons earned extra agony points by blowing the Super Bowl in 2018.

And then there's the case of Baltimore in 1969. In January, the 15-1 (including playoffs) Colts lost to Joe Willie and the Jets in the Biggest Upset in Sports History. In October, the 112-53 (including playoffs) Orioles lost the World Series in The New Biggest Upset in Sports History. No one was rooting for the Orioles except for their own fans. It must have been a lonely feeling in Baltimore, watching the entire country celebrating the defeat of their great teams.

9:36 AM Apr 15th
Who is it that's deserving, the franchise or its fans? In your conversation with the great Roger Angell, he at least seemed to be talking about the fans. In which case a franchise in a new city should start with zero.
9:36 AM Apr 15th
Fun article. I don't know how you would add it to the baseball deserve-to-win but a component to the fans in geographic areas is the inability of any of the local pro franchises of the 4 major sports to win a championship. Prior to 1987, Minnesota fans felt very down with the Twins not winning a championship but fielding good teams and the Vikings losing 4 Superbowls and never winning one. Basically MN fans felt like they were losers in everything. And thus the '87 World Series win was such a huge boost to MN fans ..... maybe a simple score of 'years' without a champion. No major sports team has won championship in MN since '91. So, MN has 4 teams x 27 years for a score of 108 'seasons' without a championship ....
9:20 AM Apr 15th
As pointed out below, that sort of misery doesn't just exist in Baseball. Also, the 1918 chants came long after Rangers fans heard '1940' regularly.
8:33 AM Apr 15th
Yankee fans used to routinely chant "1918" prior to 2004 to taunt the Red Sox & their fans. I don't think there's ever been an an equivalent indignity for any other franchise.
7:42 AM Apr 15th
The discussion of agony points below provides a reason for why the Red Sox win in 2004 was more celebrated than the White Sox win in 2005. The Red Sox were on the brink of winning so many times, and lost in tragic ways.
6:05 AM Apr 15th
This is a fun stat that could translate to other sports as well. My NY Rangers had about 75 points when they finally won the Stanley Cup.
1:41 AM Apr 15th
Does any team really deserve anything, especially these teams that haven't done a good job of putting winning teams on field?

Maybe it should be called the they-are-due score instead.
1:27 AM Apr 15th
I don't know how I missed this before, but I think it is almost impossible for the decade we are entering to match the last decade in terms of resolving teams' Deserve-to-Win debt. It's almost impossible, because there just aren't enough high scores left to add up to a number that high. The only way it could happen is if exactly the right combinations of teams win--the Indians, the Rangers, the Brewers, PLUS an almost perfect combination of the other higher-scoring teams.
11:36 PM Apr 14th

Responding to LesLein

With the final out I felt like a great load was lifted off of me. The only other time I felt so good about sports was the 2018 Stanley Cup.

After the 2004 series, you wouldn't believe how many people told me that Grandfather or their father or their grandmother was able to die in peace now. It seemed incredible that a sporting event to which their connection was purely in their heads could have such impact on their state of mind--but it truly does. People truly were able to die in peace because the Red Sox finally won the World Series.
11:33 PM Apr 14th
I believe that in the earlier version of this, I did have all three things that you have suggested--agony points, something in the system for losing the World Series, and a system for weighting the RECENT years more heavily than the more distant years. I don't think, though, that those things helped the system. You add those in, you have to decide what weight to give each one, and it makes the results seem arbitrary and jiggered, rather than relatively straightforward and thus credible. That's my present thought, anyway. I appreciate the suggestions.
11:30 PM Apr 14th
As a Phillies fan I can tell you that the 1970s and early 1980s were the glory days. In 1977 a friend told me the Phillies were the best team; it seemed so weird that they were thought of as a powerhouse. They earned plenty of agony points (1964, three straight playoff losses). In 1980 we had to squirm every step of the way. The NLCS was mind blowing. In the series the Royals left the bases loaded the last two innings. Tug McGraw was pitching on fumes. With the final out I felt like a great load was lifted off of me. The only other time I felt so good about sports was the 2018 Stanley Cup.
8:59 PM Apr 14th
As a Phillies fan I can tell you that the 1970s and early 1980s were the glory days. In 1977 a friend told me the Phillies were the best team; it seemed so weird that they were thought of as a powerhouse. They earned plenty of agony points (1964, three straight playoff losses). In 1980 we had to squirm every step of the way. The NLCS was mind blowing. In the series the Royals left the bases loaded the last two innings. Tug McGraw was pitching on fumes. With the final out I felt like a great load was lifted off of me. The only other time I felt so good about sports was the 2018 Stanley Cup.
8:58 PM Apr 14th
I agree with wovenstrap, that the Mariners should rate as more deserving than they do. Simple reason - they not only deserve to win, but they have NEVER won. Oughta be a special bonus for that.
8:21 PM Apr 14th
Why not add a point (or two) for losing the World Series?
5:55 PM Apr 14th
This is pretty cool. I know it is just for fun and stuff but it might be interesting to weigh seasons closer to the present heavier somehow. Like labor pains in childbirth if the team accumulates points faster lately that might build "pressure" towards the fact that they should win soon.

I'm thinking the Dodgers with seven straight division titles and two WS in the past three years (we won't get into the sign stealing thing) while their nemesis Giants have won three in the past decade. It's agony, we're so close, the contractions are just one right after each other...

Not to take away the pain of the Rangers or Cleveland or anything like that.

My Best-Carey​
4:57 PM Apr 14th
"Agony Points." That is a great concept. Those are the teams we really like to see win. The 1976-77 Royals. The 1982 and 1986 Angels. The current Dodgers. Bill's leader, Cleveland, had seventh game, last inning losses in 1997 and 2016.

What no one likes to hear is that the Yankees have lost more seventh games than any other franchise. And Jack Nicklaus has more second place finishes in major golf tournaments than any other golfer. Sometimes the most agony points go to the Least Deserving as we think of 'deserving.'
4:13 PM Apr 14th
How many points for losing a one game playoff?

3:53 PM Apr 14th
I am a lifelong Padres fan in my 50s. My baseball loving paternal grandfather was a lifelong Phillies fan. I now understand how wonderful the 70s and early 80s Phillies must have been for him. I hope I get a similar 10 years in my lifetime for my team.
2:47 PM Apr 14th
I would add agony points for near-misses. Thinking of the Red Sox here, reaching Game 7 in 1946 and 1967. Blowing a Game 7 lead in 1975 and blowing Game 6 and Game 7 leads in 1986. Aaron effing Boone. It was operatic. The Cubs, losing three potentially clinching games in the NLCS in 1984 and 2003, with the Bartman thing as an exclamation point, got agony points, but nothing like the Red Sox.
11:28 AM Apr 14th
I think subjectively I would rate the Mariners a little bit higher.
11:02 AM Apr 14th
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