The World Series-less team

Recently I was reading an issue of Sports Illustrated and under the scorecard section they had an all-time team comprised of players who never won a World Series in their playing career in honor of Ken Griffey Jr’s retirement. While looking at the lineup, I realized they picked Ryne Sandberg as the second baseman. I thought to myself, “that can’t be right. Nap Lajoie mos def did not play in a World Series and he is MUCH better than Ryne Sandberg”. Well, I was right- Nap Lajoie did not ever win a World Series and it’s safe to say he is better than Ryne Sandberg.

So that got me thinking about what lineup I would build. And that’s just what I did with one tweak- my lineup consists of players who never reached the World Series. Let’s get at it!

C, Joe Torre (1960-1977):

Although he is well known for winning four World Series as former manager of the New York Yankees, Joe never even played in a World Series during his stops in Milwaukee/Atlanta, St. Louis, and New York. In fact, despite winning more postseason games as a manager than anyone else in history, he never even reached the postseason as a player. As a player, Torre had a stat line (BA/OBP/SLG/wOBA/wRC+) of .297/.365/.452/.363/135+. Not too shabby. In fact, his fangraphs WAR of 70.8 (5.6 per 700 PA) suggests he is a borderline HOF’er. Obviously though, catcher is a “weak” position on this team with other all-time greats such as Mike Piazza, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, and Roy Campanella all having played in at least one World Series. No other catcher challenged Joe so this is one team he wish he hadn’t made.

Other notables: None

1b, Rod Carew (1967-1985):

First base was one of the hardest positions to select for two reasons. 1) Most of the legends who have manned this position- from Lou Gehrig to Hank Greenberg and Johnny Mize to Frank Thomas- have played in the World Series. 2) Of the three players I narrowed it down to, two of them were not first basemen throughout their careers.

The three players I had to choose from were Rod Carew, Dick Allen, and George Sisler. Sisler was the only one who was a full-time first baseman, but he was also statistically inferior to Allen and Carew. So although Sisler played nearly 800 more games at first than Carew, I gave Carew the nod. Carew had a better wRC+, a better WAR (5.3 per 700 PA compared to 4.9 per 700 PA) and had the longevity factor going.

Now, Dick Allen has better numbers than Carew. But he played just over 800 games at firstbase. I had to draw the line somewhere. Plus, the fact that Carew never got to play in a World Series is more impressive. Mainly because he played for nineteen seasons and played in 2469 career games accumulating 10550 career PA. During that timespan he collected 3000 hits and a line of .328/.393/.429/.370/136+ with a career 80.3 WAR. I mean just think about that. A player that good who played that long and he never reached a World Series playing for the Twins and Angels. The closest he got was the ALCS in 1969, 1970, 1979, and 1982. Close, but no cigar.

Others notables: Dick Allen, George Sisler

2b, Nap Lajoie (1896-1916):

Nap Lajoie is the obvious pick here. He is a Hall of Famer and consensus top five second baseman of all-time. It really is inexcusable that SI did not include him on their team. Lajoie only has a line of .338/.380/.467/.399/148+ with a career WAR of 108.2 (7.2 per 700 PA) and his total fielding according to fangraphs is +83. Yeah, I mean, that’s only okay SI. It also sucks that such a great player was stuck in Cleveland durinig the bulk of his career and jumped aboard Connie Mack’s A’s the year after they made a World Series- but just in time to come in last place twice before retiring.

Other notables: Ryne Sandberg, Bobby Grich

3b, Ron Santo (1960-1974):

Poor, poor Ron Santo. Not only is this legitimate HOF’er continually denied entry into the HOF, but he never even got to play in a World Series either. SI has George Kell as their third baseman, which is another bad pick. Honestly, while Kell was a good ballplayer, there is no comparison between him and Ron Santo. Ron Santo could rake (.277/.362/.464/.366/131+) and was one of the best defensive third baseman in the games history. All in all, he had a career WAR of 79.3 (5.9 per 700 PA) which is the eighth best total for a third baseman. Santo’s peak from 1964-1967 where he had four consecutive 9+ WAR seasons is one of the best consecutive peak seasons in baseball history. Unfortunately, Santo never even played in a playoff game, playing in Chicago his entire career.

Other notables: Dick Allen, Buddy Bell

SS, Ernie Banks (1953-1971):

Much like fellow Cub Ron Santo, Ernie Banks never got to even play in a single playoff series, let alone the World Series. Banks is the clear choice for shortstop though. As a shortstop, Banks won consecutive MVP’s in 1958 and 1959, and then went on to win the Gold Glove in 1960 before moving to firstbase later in his career. Overall, Banks hit .274/.330/.500/.358/124+ with a total WAR of 74.1 (5.0 per 700 PA) and was an outstanding defender. While his numbers don’t look all that impressive, most of it was due to a poor latter half of his career when from 1962-1971 he never posted a WAR above 4.0. But in his prime, few players during his era were as good as him.

Other notables: Luke Appling

LF, Billy Williams (1959-1976):

Surprise, surprise, another Chicago Cub is on the team. Williams, a teammate of both Santo and Banks, also never played in a World Series but did play in the 1975 NLCS. Looking back on the Cubs in the mid-sixties to the early-seventies, it’s amazing they never reached the postseason. Those teams had four* HOF’ers in Banks, Santo, Williams, and Fergie Jenkins. From 1967 to 1973 they had a winning season in all but one, yet they only won 90+ games once.

* Santo should be a HOF’er

Williams was another player who had a fantastic prime, but a poor back portion of his career spoiled his career averages. At the end of the day Williams hit .290/.361/.492/.376/138+ and despite being a terrible defender, his career WAR was 69.7 (4.6 per 700 PA).

Left field also was a tough pick. Two other candidates were Minnie Minoso and Ralph Kiner. Ralph Kiner by far had the best numbers, but he didn’t even play ten years in the bigs, so it wouldn’t have been too impressive that he never reached a World Series. Minoso, while having a long career, played around 600 fewer games than Williams. He might have had better numbers, but Williams’ chance of not playing in a World Series was more impressive considering he played longer and had some really good players on his teams.

Other notables: Minnie Minoso, Ralph Kiner

CF, Ken Griffey Jr. (1989-2010):

Obvious pick here, so not much to discuss. While all other legendary center fielder’s played in a World Series- DiMaggio, Mantle, Mays, Snider, Cobb, Speaker- and good ones did as well- Puckett, Edmonds- Griffey was the one who never did. While he played in postseason games in Seattle in 1995 and 1997, and in 2008 with the White Sox, the big one eluded him. His Seattle teams are considered the biggest disappoint in recent baseball history with players such as Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, and Randy Johnson on the roster. As for the rest of his career, you know the story.

Other notables: None

RF, Harry Heilman (1914-1932):

Heilman is one of the more forgotten stars in baseball history. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he toiled away in Detroit for most of his career while he raked in the batters box. Even though he was a crap fielder, he amassed a career 78.1 WAR (6.1 per 700 PA) thanks to a line of .342/.410/.520/.426/152+. Yes, he played during the liveball era but that is remarkable nonetheless.

It’s worth noting that other candidates included Ichiro Suzuki and Vlad Guerrero. Despite having played only a decade in America, Ichiro posed a quasi-threat to Heilman for the right field job. The same goes for Vlad, who was one of baseballs best hitters during his prime (seven out of eight seasons with a .400+ wOBA). Had it not been for Heilman, I probably would have started both Vlad and Ichiro in right.

Other notables: Ichiro Suzuki, Vladimir Guerrero, Andre Dawson

DH, Edgar Martinez (1987-2004):

Considering the short history of the DH, Edgar is pretty much the only choice here. Not only is he the best DH in baseball history, but other good ones such as Paul Molitor and David Ortiz have played in a World Series. Edgar reached the postseason four times, including 2001 when the Mariners won 116 games. For his career Edgar hit .312/.418/.515/.405/151+ and amassed a career 71.8 WAR (5.8 per 700 PA) despite being a DH.

Other notables: None

SP, Fergie Jenkins (1965-1983):

Pitching was tough to find since most World Series caliber teams have an ace on their staff. But some legends fell through the cracks. One of them is Fergie Jenkins, making him the fourth Cub on the list. He might also be the best pitcher to never appear in a postseason series as well.

Over the course of his career Jenkins pitched for Philly, Chicago, Boston, and Texas. With those teams he compiled 4500 career innings with a 3.34 ERA, 3.28 FIP, 6.38 K/9, 1.99 BB/9, and 81.3 WAR (3.6 per 200 IP). It amazes me that despite throwing 4500 innings at such a quality level, he never made the postseason let alone the World Series. Simply amazing.

SP, Gaylord Perry (1962-1983):

Perry is another head scratcher. He played for twenty-two seasons. He threw 5350 career innings en route to a career 96.3 WAR (3.6 per 200 IP). He had a 3.11 ERA, 3.06 FIP, and won over 300 games. Yet over his playing career in San Fran, Cleveland, Texas, San Diego, Atlanta, and Seattle he could never pitch his way into a World Series. Even more amazing is that the only postseason appearance of his career was the 1971 NLCS. He played for TWENTY-TWO seasons and made the postseason once. How about that?

Phil Niekro (1964-1987):

Last on the staff is Phil Niekro. Niekro played for twenty-four seasons and compiled 5404 career innings- moreso than Perry. I didn’t think anyone could top Perry, but alas, someone has. Niekro finished with a career 3.35 ERA, 3.62 FIP, and 96.8 WAR (3.6 per 200 IP). Remarkably, all three pitchers I have choosen have a 3.6 WAR/200 IP. Niekro pitched the great majority of his career for the Braves, and then shipped among the Yankees and Indians to finish out his career. Phil pitched in the 1969 and 1982 NCLS’.

Other notables: Roy Halladay, Jim Bunning, Ted Lyons, Johan Santana

RP, Billy Wagner (1995-present):

From Mo Rivera and Trevor Hoffman to Dennis Eckersley and Hoyt Wilhelm, most of baseballs dominant relievers have made a World Series. Not Billy Wagner though, who is also the only player on the team still currently playing. Wagner pitched for Houston, Philly, the Mets, Boston, and now Atlanta. In each city, he has made an appearance in the postseason (except Atlanta obviously) but never could quite make it to World Series. The closest he got was the 2006 NLCS with the Mets, when the Mets went to a game seven against the Cards before losing in the ninth inning. Wagner has a career 2.36 ERA, 2.78 FIP, and 23.1 WAR (1.9 per 70 innings) in 859 innings. He also boasts a dazzling 11.84 K/9 rate in his career. Unfortunately, he can’t boast that he’s ever been to a World Series.

Well, there’s the team that nobody wants to be on. Yay!

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