With the Tampa Bay Rays being eliminated by the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS, I couldn’t help but think of teams that were loaded but failed to advance to the World Series. The Rays were clear AL frontrunners to make it to the October Classic, but ran into a Boston team that was clicking on all cylinders offensively.
With that said, here are my top three teams over the last decade that somehow didn’t make it into the championship round…
2011 Philadelphia Phillies
Following two World Series appearances in both 2008 and 2009, the 2011 Phillies were even more loaded. Despite Jayson Werth signing elsewhere, the Phillies were able to re-acquire Cliff Lee, adding the ace to an already loaded rotation consisting of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt.
Philly finished the 2011 regular season with 102 wins, the most in baseball and a franchise record. Heading into the playoffs, Charlie Manuel’s ballclub were 3/1 favorites to win the World Series. That all came to a crashing halt when the Phillies blew a 2-1 series lead in the NLDS to the St.Louis Cardinals, which culminated in All-Star first baseman Ryan Howard tearing his achilles during the final out of Game 5.
2015 Toronto Blue Jays
The 2015 Jays were out of the playoff picture for most of the season, but GM Alex Anthpolous got bold in late July and made two blockbuster trades for starting pitcher David Price and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
The Jays were an offensive juggernaut, led by AL MVP Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion. From August onwards, Toronto went 40-18 to end the regular season, and Toronto clinched the AL East for the first time since 1993. Toronto came all the way back from a 2-0 series deficit against the Texas Rangers in the ALDS, capped off by a Bautista bat flip in Game 5 at the Rogers Centre.
Unfortunately, the magic didn’t last all the way to the World Series, as the Jays fell to the eventual champion Royals in a heartbreaking Game 6 loss in the ALCS. You play that series ten times, the Jays win seven.
2017 Washington Nationals
The 2017 Nats finished with a 97-65 record under manager Dusty Baker. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and Ryan Zimmerman were all named to the All-Star Game as starters, and Max Scherzer came away with NL Cy Young honors, with fellow teammate Stephen Strasburg coming in at third. Washington was so stacked that third baseman Anthony Rendon batted sixth, and Gio Gonzalez was their third best pitcher.
The Nats were loaded from head to toe in terms of both hitting and pitching, but came up short with a gut-wrenching 9-8 home loss to the Cubs in the NLDS. At the time, this was the classic tale of a D.C. sports team choking when it matters most, but the Nationals and Washington Capitals have both won it all since so the demons have since been exorcised.