No matter what happens the rest of the way, the Rangers and Diamondbacks have already made history. This is the first time the World Series has ever included two squads who lost 100-plus games within the previous two years. It's only the fifth time a World Series has featured at least one such team. Here's the complete list of clubs to pull off the impressive turnaround:
- 1914 Boston Braves: 101 losses in 1912
- 1967 Boston Red Sox: 100 losses in 1965
- 1969 New York Mets: 101 losses in 1967
- 2008 Tampa Bay Rays: 101 losses in 2006
- 2023 Texas Rangers: 102 losses in 2021
- 2023 Arizona Diamondbacks: 110 losses in 2021
As you can see, it's not something that happens often -- certainly not often enough to think one of the league's current cellar dwellers will be enjoying a similar run come October 2024 or 2025. And yet, we here at CBS Sports wanted to take advantage of this Timely Content Opportunity by sizing up the seven clubs who have lost 100 or more games in either of the last two seasons. Is there a Rangers or Diamondbacks-like run in any of their futures?
Probably not. But below you can find those seven teams ranked in descending order of our perception of their short-term championship prospects.
How's this for starters: The A's are the only MLB team to lose 100 games in each of the last two seasons. You may think that a club almost has to try to build a team that bad. It's possible the A's are indeed failing by design. If so, they're doing a great job of it. Ownership has shown no qualms about salting the Oakland soil ahead of a prospective move to Las Vegas, but rival executives have repeatedly expressed the belief that the A's front office has finally fallen behind the curve. It shows. There's not much to dream about on the big-league roster -- Zack Gelof aside -- and the farm system is impossibly weak given how many star veterans the A's have traded away in recent years. We suppose they could sign a bunch of stars once they depart Oakland, but nothing in this ownership group's history indicates that's likely.
We've often joked that the Rockies operate in a version of reality that only they experience. Sometimes those quips border on unfair. We acknowledge that building a roster suitable for both playing home games at Coors and road games everywhere else is a tall task. There's a reason the Rockies have authored just nine winning seasons in 30 attempts. Even so, jeez this year's club was bad. They ranked dead last in the National League in ERA because of course, but they also ranked last in on-base percentage and 10th in slugging percentage. These Rockies scored the fifth-fewest runs in franchise history. They scored the third-fewest if you remove the 1994 squad that was impacted by the players' strike and the 2020 team that had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The other two teams? Those were the 2013 and, yes, the 2022 Rockies. We never thought we'd be down on Colorado's chances in part because of an untenable offense, but that's the reality of this team. It's not just figuring out the impossible to get some pitching anymore.
The White Sox already have some talented players on their big-league roster, including star outfielder Luis Robert and thrilling right-hander Dylan Cease, and they're not far removed from a three-year stretch of .500 or better finishes. In theory, they should have a leg up. In practice, not so much. Outgoing general manager Rick Hahn did well at the deadline to help restock the farm system, but the decision to replace him with Chris Getz without conducting interviews with outside candidates received a lot of criticism around the league. This seemed like a prime opportunity for the White Sox to start fresh and imbue their front office with a new perspective. Instead, they still haven't hired an external decision maker since the early '90s. Maybe Getz proves to be a brilliant hire -- we're just skeptical that the answer to all that has ailed the White Sox in recent years was there all along.
You can make the argument this is too high for the Royals. That's fair, but we'll remind you of two points: one, it doesn't matter -- we've conceded the entire premise is outlandish, so who cares if they're a spot higher than they ought to be?; and two, we're high on aspects of their roster. Bobby Witt Jr. is a star; Vinnie Pasquantino is a legit big-league hitter; and Maikel Garcia and MJ Melendez have some interesting underlying metrics that hint at brighter futures. Add in Cole Ragans' ascent -- there aren't many lefties with his kind of velocity, swing-and-miss capacity and control -- and the Royals have a little more going for them than their record indicates. Alas, Kansas City's front office has a lot of work to do to fill in the gaps around those players, to the extent that a flirtation with .500 would represent a win.
The Pirates appeared to make some progress this season, winning 14 more games than they had the previous year. They stuck around the wild-card scene just long enough that some scouts opined to CBS Sports that, if Pittsburgh had remained in the race, their front office could have fast-tracked No. 1 pick Paul Skenes to the big-league bullpen. Still, we can't say we're optimistic about the Pirates morphing into title contenders over the winter. They have some nice pieces in place. Right-hander Mitch Keller, third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes and outfielders Bryan Reynolds and Jack Suwinski all had solid years. You'd expect greener days await vaunted prospects Henry Davis and Endy Rodríguez. Skenes should make his debut in 2024. And so on. Yet we think they'll still need additional help to become a serious contender -- be it through good scouting and development, a trade or signing that works out better than expected, or some combination thereof -- and that that help is not arriving before Opening Day. Owner Bob Nutting has afforded the Pirates a payroll close to $100 million just once -- and that was in 2016, or what proved to be after the peak of the Neal Huntington era. Maybe things click next year in a way that we just didn't foresee, but if that's the case we're OK being wrong.
All we've done is offer reasons why these teams won't succeed in pulling off the quick turnaround. While that's the realistic perspective, it can make for a sad read. Let's end with a hint of unchecked optimism, offering reasons why our final two teams could become the next Rangers or Diamondbacks, however unlikely the chances of such an outcome are when considered rationally.
In 2023, the Nationals posted their best winning percentage since 2019, when they captured the franchise's only World Series title to date. They have two of the top prospects in the game in outfielders James Wood and Dylan Crews, and they should add both next season to a roster that already features promising youngsters CJ Abrams, Josiah Gray, MacKenzie Gore, Keibert Ruiz and Luis García. General manager Mike Rizzo has demonstrated his boldness time and again throughout his tenure, and ownership has shown a willingness to spend in the past. Might Rizzo seek out this winter the new version of the Jayson Werth signing? (Probably not, but play along.) With the right kind of offseason, the Nationals might be able to exceed expectations next year, even if that does not include a return trip to the Fall Classic just yet.
There's an alternate timeline out there where the Reds win a few more games and edge out either the Diamondbacks or the Marlins for a wild-card spot. Under that scenario, who knows, maybe they're the ones inspiring this column instead of Arizona. Even with how things played out, the Reds have a lot working in their favor. They've graduated a number of intriguing young players (including Elly De La Cruz, who seems certain to play better heading forward) with still more on the way; they have zero meaningful financial commitments now that the guaranteed portion of Joey Votto's deal has elapsed, allowing them to make free-agent signings or add money through trades; and they're in a division that looks worse than it did a year ago. In other words, you don't have to try too hard to see the Reds making the playoffs next season. As this October has proven, what happens after that is anyone's guess.