By Jim Caple
There are two types of misery.
One is being so close to a championship you can read the vintage on the label of the champagne bottle … only to watch everything roll away between the first baseman's legs. The other is losing so many games for so many years that there are cases of bubbly in the clubhouse that have been gathering dust since Don Zimmer had hair.
Which type of misery is worse for fans, to root for teams that lose painfully in the end or teams that lose at the beginning, the middle and the end? Look at it this way. Would you want to be rejected so often that a member of the opposite sex hasn't appeared with you in public for 15 years without a restraining order? Or would you rather have a long relationship with a supermodel who lets you get as far as third base, then suddenly leaves you at the altar while she runs off with your worst enemy, leaving you feeling rotten and on the hook for the priest, the band, the florist, the caterer and the final 20 payments left on the engagement ring?
Which one is worse, to root for a team that always loses or to root for a team that falls painfully short of winning it all? That's easy. Whichever situation your favorite team is currently in. But we're weighing both types of misery equally in Page 2's updated Misery Index of baseball fans (the original Index ran at the start of the 2004 season, and as you may have heard, a few long-suffering teams from Boston and Chicago have won the World Series since then).
The Misery Index is a 60-point system that measures two types of fan misery -- despair (produced by losing seasons) and pain (brought on by agonizing ends to winning seasons). There are six 10-point categories in the Misery Index.
1. Chicago Cubs
They haven't begun a pennant-winning season since Franklin Roosevelt was in office. They haven't finished a World Series-winning season since Theodore Roosevelt was president. The images of a pop-up dropping off of Steve Bartman's hands and a grounder rolling between Leon Durham's legs are as horrific to their fans as Oprah on the cover of the swimsuit issue. They've had consecutive winning seasons once in 33 years. And despite playoff appearances in 1984, 1989, 1998 and 2003, they have more losses than any National League over the past quarter-century. The only thing keeping them out of the top spot in our first ranking was a lot of beer -- the losses never seemed to bother Cubs fans the way they do others. But based on the way they treated Sammy, that's changing.
Apparently, the Red Sox and White Sox world championships have made the Cubs a little impatient for their own.
2. Cleveland Indians
Red Sox fans lived charmed lives compared to Cleveland fans. They haven't seen their team win the World Series since 1948. They had the best record in league history in 1954 and got swept in the World Series. They had a player killed by a pitch in 1920. They have their own curse -- the trade of Rocky Colavito that turned them into a national punch line for the better part of four decades. And then, when they were within three outs of winning it all in 1997, Jose Mesa blew the lead and the World Series.
3. Milwaukee Brewers
In their lone World Series appearance, the Brewers blew a two-run lead in Game 7 with four innings to go. They haven't been to the postseason in Miguel Cabrera's lifetime. They haven't had a winning season since 1992. They were run into the ground by incompetent ownership. And their roof leaked.
4. Philadelphia Phillies
More than a century in the majors and exactly one world championship. No wonder Philly fans often feel like they just went the distance with Apollo Creed. But at least Veterans Stadium and Larry Bowa are gone.
5. (tie) San Francisco Giants
They've had perhaps the two greatest players of the past seven decades: Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. They had Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal. They play in a wonderful ballpark paid (gasp!) by the team itself. And yet nearly 50 years in the Bay Area still have brought zero world championships and no small amount of anguish -- what other team has a World Series delayed by an earthquake? Oh, why couldn't McCovey have hit his line drive a couple feet higher? Why couldn't Scott Spiezio have hit that ball a couple feet lower?
5. (tie) Texas Rangers
They began life as the Washington Senators, then moved to Texas. And got worse. They have never won a postseason series. They finished in last place four consecutive seasons, and responded to that by trading their best player. Shoot, they'd rank at the top if their fans didn't care more about a Cowboys exhibition loss than a Rangers last-place season.
7. Houston Astros
What a deal. After 43 years and several horrible, flat-lining postseason losses, the Astros finally reached the World Series last year … and got swept. The only things worse than that 15-inning Game 3 loss and that Game 4 shutout were those rainbow uniforms. Now, that was misery.
8. (tie) Pittsburgh Pirates
Blame it all on Francisco Cabrera. After enduring the embarrassment of the Pittsburgh drug trials, the Pirates won the NL East three consecutive years -- and missed the World Series each time. Then they decided to keep Andy Van Slyke instead of Barry Bonds (big mistake) and they haven't had a winning season since. Not even baseball's best stadium, lingering memories of Roberto Clemente and a Sister Sledge Greatest Hit collection can comfort fans. Sigh. Maybe it would all have been different had Sid Bream been just a little slower.
8. (tie) Seattle Mariners
Their original owner was Danny Kaye, the goofy guy from "White Christmas." And he was the best owner they had until Nintendo bought the Mariners in 1992 and turned the franchise into a regional treasure. A game in Seattle was a civic party for about a decade, but even when the Mariners set the league record for wins they still didn't reach the World Series. And as good as Edgar was and Ichiro and Jamie have been, fans also had to watch three certain Hall of Famers -- the Big Unit, Junior and A-Rod -- leave without a World Series to show for their talents.
10. (tie) San Diego Padres
Their owner once grabbed the microphone and apologized for his team's play. They've finished in last place nine times. They've never won the World Series. And don't bring up those brown uniforms.
10. (tie) Detroit Tigers
One of the league's marquee teams for many years, the Tabbies have fallen on hard times. They traded John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander to reach the 1987 playoffs, but lost to the Twins anyway and have had just two winning seasons since. They lost a league-record 119 games in 2003. And it's not like the old days were THAT great -- the Tigers have been to the World Series only twice since the end of World War II. Maybe Alan Trammell should consider himself lucky.
12. Minnesota Twins
Only one team (you know who) has won more World Series in the past quarter-century than Minnesota. The Twins won three division titles in the past four years. They have Torii Hunter in center field and Johan Santana on the mound. All of which barely makes up for owner Carl Pohlad, a banker who got his start delivering foreclosure notices to farmers during the Depression. He threatened to move the Twins to Mayberry, volunteered them for contraction and still won't guarantee their continued existence.
13. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
The Devil Rays haven't been around long but Tampa Bay fans have done a lot of catching up. The area was played for a patsy a half-dozen times ("The FILL IN THE TEAM announced they will move to Tampa Bay in order to get FILL IN THE CITY to build them a new stadium") and then when it finally did get an expansion team, the owner hinted he might move it to Orlando before even playing a game. The Rays have finished last seven times in eight seasons -- and with the Yankees and Red Sox in the same division, they have little hope of reaching the playoffs before expands the postseason to 16 teams.
14. Colorado Rockies
They set an attendance record that may never be broken and reached the postseason in just their third year. And nothing has gone right since. Are the Rockies even in the league anymore?
15. Kansas City Royals
The baseball gods haven't been too charitable since giving Kansas City fans the Don Denkinger blunder, but Royals fans did enjoy George Brett, Willie Wilson and company for a whole lot of years -- and they got to watch them in one of baseball's best stadiums. That and $10 will get you a plate of barbecue at Gates.
16. Washington Nationals
Let's hope the third time is a charm.
17. Los Angeles Angels
Sure, Angels fans still bear the scars of 1982, 1986 and 1995, but after the 2002 World Series, they display them with pride. Nah, we're not like those Diamondbacks or Marlins fans -- we earned our championship. And now they have a new owner who signed Vlad and lowered beer prices. Funny what a little Rally Monkey can do.
18. (tie) New York Mets
When you've witnessed two unqualified miracles (1969 and 1986), there should be no misery. Unless, of course, someone mentions Mo Vaughn.
18. (tie) Oakland Athletics
Reggie. Catfish. Rickey. The Bash Brothers. And four consecutive playoff appearances recently despite having less money than almost anyone else. If Billy Beane isn't a genius, we know a lot of teams that would like him running their front office anyway.
18. (tie) Cincinnati Reds
The Big Red Machine may have outsourced most of its operations, but the past few seasons aside, fans have almost always entered the season with the highest hopes. And frequently, they were fulfilled.
18. (tie) Baltimore Orioles
The past few seasons, the 0-21 start and Sir Sidney Ponson's weight aside, fans who've had the pleasure of watching Cal Ripken Jr. at shortstop every day and Brooks and Frank Robinson before him have no room to complain. The only way life could be better would be if Boog Powell was grilling up some pork sandwiches.
22. Los Angeles Dodgers
They once were the finest organization in baseball, the team of Jackie Robinson, the Boys of Summer and all those pennant-winning seasons in Brooklyn. But they've been so mediocre since the year Kirk Gibson did his Roy Hobbs impersonation (they've won one postseason game since 1988) that Giants fans are rooting for them just so the rivalry will be interesting again.
23. (tie) Florida Marlins
They've won the World Series twice without ever finishing in first place (you can hear Cubs fans gritting their teeth). So what could these fans possibly have to complain about? Well, there was that rather ugly fire sale after the 1997 championship (and again this offseason), there are all those rain delays, and the slippery Jeffrey Loria is threatening to move if the community doesn't build him a stadium to replace the one where the Marlins won the two World Series.
23. (tie) Chicago White Sox
You know what we admired about the White Sox during all those decades without a championship? Unlike Red Sox fans, they had the decency to keep their suffering to themselves.
25. (tie) St. Louis Cardinals
When the beer is flowing and the stadium is a sea of red and Albert Pujols is stepping to the plate, it's hard to remember that the Cardinals haven't won the World Series in nearly a quarter-century.
25. (tie) Toronto Blue Jays
After enduring the usual growing pains of an expansion team, the Blue Jays became baseball's best organization in the mid-'80s, becoming the first team to crack the 4 million attendance barrier while winning consecutive world championships in the early '90s. They fell far after the 1994 strike, but they're back on track.
25. (tie) Boston Red Sox
Enough already! We get it! You won. Now, can we have a moment of peace? Sheesh, you guys are practically as bad as Yankees fans now.
28. Atlanta Braves
Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's record. Fourteen consecutive postseason appearances and 14 first-place finishes in the past 15 seasons. A World Series championship. With all that, we can take Chief Nok-a-Homa and the occasional Jim Leyritz home run.
29. Arizona Diamondbacks
They've been in existence for eight years and they have a World Series trophy along with the memory of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in Game 7. Not even flashbacks of Byung-Hyun Kim can ruin that.
30. New York Yankees
You've got to be kidding, right?