- David Schoenfield, SweetSpot blogger
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On Monday, I wrote about the 2001 Seattle Mariners, the best team never to reach the World Series. That club won an all-time record-tying 116 games, and led the AL in runs scored (927) and fewest runs allowed (627). Here are six other great teams that failed to reach the World Series:
5-6. 1993 Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants: In the last great pennant race, the Braves won their 104th game on the final day of the season while the Giants lost to finish one game behind. The Braves were the better team. Built around its pitching rotation of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery, the Braves allowed 61 fewer runs than another NL team. They had an excellent offense as well, leading the NL in home runs and finished third in the league in runs. David Justice hit 40 home runs, Ron Gant hit 36, Jeff Blauser hit .305 and Fred McGriff hit .310 with 55 RBIs in 68 games after coming over from the Padres.
The Giants featured the best player on the planet in Barry Bonds, who hit .336/.458/.677 to win NL MVP honors. Matt Williams added 38 home runs while Will Clark, Robby Thompson and Willie McGee filled out the offense. Billy Swift was the ace, going 21-8 with a 2.82 ERA while John Burkett won 22 games, but no other pitcher made 20 starts. Rod Beck saved 48 games.
In the NLCS, the Braves fell to the 97-win Phillies. The Phillies won the opener 4-3 in 10 innings, but the Braves took the next two, 14-3 and 9-4. In Game 4, Smoltz lost 2-1 to Danny Jackson as Atlanta stranded 11 baserunners. Game 5 was a classic as Curt Schilling took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but a walk and an error brought in Mitch Williams, who allowed the Braves to tie it. But Lenny Dykstra's home run off Mark Wohlers in the 10th won it and the Phillies wrapped up the series with a 6-3 victory in Game 6.
4. 1976 Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies won 101 games and the NL East title, making their first postseason since 1950. Mike Schmidt (38 home runs) and Greg Luzinski (.304, 21 home runs) powered an offense that included .300 hitters Garry Maddox (.330) and Jay Johnstone (.318). Steve Carlton won 20 games to headline a solid if unspectacular rotation that included veterans Jim Lonborg, Jim Kaat and and youngsters Larry Christensen and Tom Underwood. The bullpen was spectacular with all five relievers posting ERAs under 3.00 (the Phillies used only 11 pitchers all season, and one of those threw just three innings). Tug McGraw, Gene Garber and Ron Reed each threw more than 90 innings and saved at least 11 games. But the Phillies ran into an even bigger power, the 108-win Big Red Machine, and got swept in the NLCS -- the first of three straight NLCS defeats.
3. 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers: In the final season before players headed off en masse to World War II, the Bums won 104 games, but finished two games behind the Cardinals for the NL pennant. Center fielder Pete Reiser (.310/.375/.463) and first baseman Dolph Camilli (26 home runs) paced the offense, while the double play combo of Pee Wee Reese and Billy Herman would eventually make the Hall of Fame, as would third baseman Arky Vaughan and left Joe Medwick, although both had their years with other teams. The pitching staff posted a 2.84 ERA, with Whitlow Wyatt (19-7), Kirby Higbe (16-11) and Curt Davis (15-6, 2.36) the headliners.
2. 1998 Atlanta Braves: Maybe the best Atlanta team of the Bobby Cox era, the Braves finished 106-56, as all five starters (Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Denny Neagle, Kevin Millwood) won at least 17 games. Andres Galarraga, Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez and Andruw Jones all hit at least 31 home runs. After sweeping the Cubs in the Division Series, the Braves' bats died against the Padres in the NLCS. Sterling Hitchcock allowed one run in two starts, Galarraga hit .095, Chipper drove in one run in six games and the Braves were shut out twice.
1. 1994 Montreal Expos: The Expos were 74-40 when the strike hit, on pace for 105 wins. Every primary player except Jeff Fassero was younger than 30. The outfield trio of Larry Walker, Moises Alou and Marquis Grissom were all in their prime, Wil Cordero and Mike Lansing were a solid double-play combo and Sean Berry provided some pop at third base. The rotation included Fassero, a second-year kid named Pedro Martinez, Ken Hill, Kirk Rueter and Butch Henry. The bullpen featured the one-two punch of John Wetteland and Mel Rojas, plus Gil Heredia, Jeff Shaw and Tim Scott. The Expos ranked third in runs and second in runs allowed when play was halted and they were on a roll -- they'd gone 17-3 in their past 20 games. Sadly, of course, unlike the other teams here, they never got the chance to play for the World Series.
On Monday, I wrote about the 2001 Seattle Mariners, the best team never to reach the World Series. That club won an all-time record-tying 116 games, and led the AL in runs scored (927) and fewest runs allowed (627).