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Minors abound with championship droughts

Dry spells prevalent in 10 full-season leagues, but not as long as Cubs'
October 21, 2015

The Chicago Cubs' haven't won a World Series since 1908, an epic drought that now extends into the 2016 season. No comparable championship absence exists in the Minor Leagues, for a variety of factors. Less teams in each league means more chances to win, and the endlessly in-flux nature of the Minors means that virtually every season could be "the year."

Nonetheless, there are teams throughout the Minors that are long overdue for a championship. Here, we highlight the team in each of the 10 full-season Minor Leagues that has gone the longest without winning it all, with the caveat that the team must have stayed in the same market and at the same level of play for the duration of the championship drought in question.

INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE: Syracuse Chiefs, 1976

Wouldn't you know it? This is the longest championship drought in Minor League Baseball. The Chiefs won it all in 1976 as a Bobby Cox-led Yankees affiliate, but only made it to the playoffs four times during a 31-season run with the Blue Jays (1978-2008). Things haven't been much better with the Nationals (2009-present), as a 2014 division title has marked the team's only trip to the postseason.

Notable alumni from '76 team: Dave Bergman, Ron Guidry, Scott McGregor, Bobby Cox (manager)

IL teams still waiting to win it all: Lehigh Valley IronPigs (established 2007), Gwinnett Braves (established 2009)

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE: Las Vegas 51s, 1988 (as the Las Vegas Stars)

Championships in Las Vegas have been as hard to come by as reliable information regarding the mysterious Area 51 that inspired the team's current name. The city first fielded a PCL franchise in 1983, and in that time, the only teams to win it all was the San Diego Padres-affiliated Las Vegas Stars in 1986 and again in '88.

Subsequent affiliates (Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, and currently, the New York Mets) couldn't get lucky in Vegas.

Notable alumni from '88 team: Roberto and Sandy Alomar, Bruce Bochy, Bip Roberts.

PCL teams still waiting to win it all: Salt Lake Bees (established 1994), Albuquerque Isotopes (established 2003), El Paso Chihuahuas (established 2014), Iowa Cubs (last championship was in 1993 as member of now-defunct American Association), Oklahoma City Dodgers (last crown was in 1996 in the American Association), Round Rock Express (no championships since switching to Pacific Coast League from Double-A Texas League in 2005).

EASTERN LEAGUE: Erie SeaWolves (established as an Eastern League franchise in 1999, no championships)

Since the Erie SeaWolves played their inaugural Double-A season in 1999, 12 different Eastern League cities have won a championship (or in 2001, co-championship). But the SeaWolves have come up blank in 16 seasons at the Double-A level, a period of time that includes two years as an Anaheim affiliate and 14 with Detroit. They've appeared in the playoffs five times, most recently in 2013, losing in the first round all five times.

EL teams still waiting to win it all: Richmond Flying Squirrels (established 2010)

SOUTHERN LEAGUE: Jackson Generals, 2000 (as the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx)

Like the Eastern League, the Southern League has seen a diverse slate of teams win championships in recent years. Since 2001, nine teams have won it all (or at least been declared co-champions). The Jackson Generals have not been one of those teams, as their last title was notched in 2000, in just their third year of existence. They were a Chicago Cubs affiliate in 2000; since linking up with the Mariners (2007) and then changing their name to the Generals (2011), they've been unable to rise to the top.

Notable alumni from 2000 team: Corey Patterson, Carlos Zambrano, current Iowa Cubs assistant general manager Nate Teut.

SL teams still waiting to win it all: Pensacola Blue Wahoos (established 2012), Biloxi Shuckers (established 2015)

TEXAS LEAGUE: Tulsa Drillers, 1998

There are only eight teams in the Texas League, and seven of them have won a championship since 2006. The outlier is the Tulsa Drillers, who have gone 16 seasons since winning it all as a Rangers affiliate in 1998. They've been no strangers to the playoffs during that time, having made nine appearances (including four consecutive first-round defeats from 2004-2007).

Notable alumni from '98 team: Scott Podsednik, Junior Spivey, Tanyon Sturtze

TL teams still waiting to win it all: None

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE: Visalia Rawhide, 1978 (as Visalia Oaks)

For a 10-team league with a stable membership, the California League has several franchises who have been championship adverse over the past several decades.

Bakersfield's last title was in 1989, while High Desert's was in 1997. Rancho Cucamonga won it all this season to end a 21-year drought. But the granddaddy drought of them all, in a state known for them, belongs to the Visalia Rawhide. Visalia last won a title in 1978, when it was a Minnesota affiliate known as the Oaks, and since then apparently has been the victims of a curse laid upon them by Joe Charboneau's dead pet alligator. Yes, really.

Notable alumni from '78 team: Charboneau, and that's about it. The only other players from this squad to make it to the Major Leagues were lesser-knowns Scott Ullger, Tack Wilson and Bob Veselic.

Cal League teams still waiting to win it all: None

CAROLINA LEAGUE: Wilmington Blue Rocks, 1999 (declared co-champs with Myrtle Beach Pelicans)

The Blue Rocks, affiliated with Kansas City for all but two of their 23 seasons, were a veritable dynasty in mid- to late '90s. They won championships outright in 1994, '96 and '98, and in '99, they were declared co-champions with Myrtle Beach after Hurricane Ivan made it impossible to complete the series. But … that's it. They've gone 0-for-their-last-16 seasons, the longest drought in the Carolina League.

Notable alumni from '99 team: Not too many notable players on this team, as regards substantial Major League careers. Remember Dee Brown?

Carolina League teams still waiting to win it all: The Carolina Mudcats switched from the Southern League to the Carolina League in 2012. They've never won a title on this circuit.

FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE: Dunedin Blue Jays (established in 1987, no championships)

Dunedin has been a model of consistency, keeping the same name and affiliate since their 1987 inception. But they've consistently not been able to score the FSL crown as well. The Blue Jays have won a quartet of division championships, most recently in 2006, but never have they flown to the promised land.

FSL teams still waiting to win it all: Bradenton Marauders, established 2010

MIDWEST LEAGUE: Clinton LumberKings, 1991 (as Clinton Giants)

Clinton has hosted a Midwest League team in every season since 1954, and in all that time, it only has two championships to show for it. The first was won by the Clinton Pirates in 1963, the second by the Clinton Giants in 1991. Since then Padres, Reds, Expos and Rangers affiliations have come and gone; the team is entering its seventh season as a Mariners affiliate. But the LumberKings have got to win again one of these years, right? This country is on the verge of a Clinton dynasty.

Notable alumni from '91 team: Mike Myers, Adam Hyzdu and Amsterdam native Rikkert Faneyte.

Midwest League teams still waiting to win it all: Dayton Dragons (established 2000), Great Lakes Loons (established 2007), Bowling Green Hot Rods (established 2010).

SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE: Charleston RiverDogs (established in 1980, no championships)

Bill Murray just can't get a break; not only is he a long-suffering Cubs fan, he's a co-owner of the Charleston RiverDogs. Charleston was a charter member of the South Atlantic League, but be it the Royals ('80-'84), Rainbows ('85-'93) or RiverDogs ('94-present), championships have been elusive.

South Atlantic League teams still waiting to win it all: Greenville Drive (established 2005)


The short list of short-season title droughts:
New York-Penn League: Lowell Spinners (established in 1996, no championships)
Northwest League: Eugene Emeralds (co-champions in 1980, last outright championship was 1975)
Appalachian League: Burlington Royals (1993, as Burlington Indians)
Pioneer: Ogden Raptors (established in 1994, no championships)

Benjamin Hill is a reporter for and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.