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    Thursday, November 2, 2023

    2023 World Series Trivia: Best Players Without a World Series, and More!

    The 2023 World Series has ended, with the Texas Rangers defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks and winning their first championship, in what is just the third-ever all-expansion team World Series. And as is tradition here, I have published a new Sporcle quiz: Best Active Players Without a World Series, 2023 Edition. I’ll write a little more after the break, but I’ll give the spoiler-averse among us a chance to try it before hitting all of that.

    Additionally, I’ve updated my other new quiz, Stars with World Series wins on surprising teams, so if you missed that, maybe give it a look as well! I also updated my other postseason quizzes as well to reflect their win (although the WPA ones might need to wait a day or two, since pulling the data for those is a little more work). 

    Anyway, the Rangers’ win brings an end to what was the second-longest World Series drought, at 62 seasons (behind only the Guardians, who are at 75 years). The Brewers and Padres take over second place, as the two 1969 expansion teams have not won a championship in their 55 years (the other half of that expansion, the Royals and Expos/Nationals, are both covered). That also leaves those two teams with the Mariners, Rockies, and Rays as the only five teams left in MLB without a title.

    That really is a remarkable thing, too; 62 years was tied for the seventh-longest drought in history with the Senators/Twins (1924-1987). That also means that six of the fourteen longest World Series droughts in MLB history (all 50+ years) have ended since the turn of the millennium (the Cubs, White Sox, Red Sox, Rangers, Giants, Astros, and Expos/Nationals).

    Additionally, the Rangers’ turnaround from 2022 (when they went 68-94) represents the biggest single-season improvement for a World Series winner in history. And I think their win will hopefully give pause to the idea that signing free agents is a bad team-building strategy, given how many people seemed to want to point to the collapse of the Mets and historical bad luck of the Padres in the final days of the regular season (I was never sure why the Phillies were again being ignore here). Yeah, things didn’t work out in 2022, but you are actually signing the best of these players for the long-haul!

    Now for the players: two players removed their name from the 2022 version of the Best Players quiz, Marcus Semien and Jacob deGrom. Yes, deGrom was injured for the postseason, but I count everyone who played for a team during their winning season, so he’s in the clear. Most of the other big beneficiaries on this front are down-the-road names, guys like Evan Carter or Josh Jung or Adolis Garcia or Jordan Montgomery, who aren’t on the list now but could have easily gotten there with a few big years.

    But the Rangers also bring an interesting menagerie of players who have already won on different teams, foremost among them clearly being… Will Smith. Well, maybe not, but the Rangers’ mop-up man did become a historic figure in baseball history with the win, becoming just the eighteenth player to win a World Series with three different teams.* And he’s of course the first person to do all of those in back-to-back-to-back years, jumping from the Braves to the Astros to the Rangers; only nine other players have done that twice in a row.^ If you want to add in the Dodgers’ unrelated Will Smith, this also means that someone with that name has won the last four World Series, which is… probably not very meaningful, but definitely weird and unique trivia!

    *The list, in addition to Will Smith: Terrance Gore, Herb Pennock, Stuffy McInnis, Jack Morris, Wally Schang, Bullet Joe Bush, John Lackey, Lonnie Smith, Dave Stewart, George Burns, Steve Carlton, Jay Johnstone, Mike Lowell, Dolf Luque, Luis Polonia, Nick Altrock, and Lew Burdette.

    ^The rest of that list: Joc Pederson, Ben Zobrist, Jake Peavy, Ryan Theriot, Jack Morris, Don Gullett, Bill Skowron, Clem Labine, and Allie Clark.

    Meanwhile, Corey Seager became just the fourth player to win two World Series MVP awards, and just the second to win them with two different teams (after Reggie Jackson). He’s signed through 2031, and so probably won’t join the three-team club anytime soon (if at all). But Nathan Eovaldi and Max Scherzer both just picked up their second with a different team, and each have one more year under their contracts (plus a vesting option for Eovaldi), so it’s more plausible. Also, Aroldis Chapman is a free agent after this year, but I’d rather not see him win a third time.

    And of course, there’s Bruce Bochy, who became just the sixth manager to win four or more World Series, and only the fifth to win titles on multiple teams. Bochy didn’t really need more flourishes on his resume for the Hall of Fame, he was already a pretty clear shoo-in, but it’s still got to feel pretty good.

    Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks’ playoff shocking run comes to an end a little short, and the 1987 Twins will for the time being remain the only World Series winner with a negative regular season run differential. Evan Longoria, Ketel Marte, and Tommy Pham (plus Zac Gallen, who just missed this year’s list) will have to wait for next year to try again (unless Longoria retires, I guess; I’d still like to see him hang on a little longer). Still, taking home just the second pennant in franchise history is a big deal!

    And with that, 2023 is in the books, so we can shortly move on to the offseason, including free agency, awards, and (of course) Hall of Fame voting; I anticipate a busy winter on that last front at least, so stay tuned!

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