Even though they broke a streak of six consecutive playoff seasons, the 2023 Yankees are still playing for something.
Holding an 81-77 record after Wednesday's win over Toronto, the Yankees are one win shy of clinching their 31st consecutive winning season. That would be the second-longest streak in MLB history, eight behind a different Yankees streak for the top spot.
How far behind are the rest of MLB’s franchises? Here are the longest streaks all-time, courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau -- including one that came to an end this season.
1. 1926-64 Yankees (39 seasons)
Streak stats: 26 postseason appearances, 19 WS titles
Top player: Lou Gehrig (110.0 WAR over that span)
What’s the most ridiculous aspect of this streak? Is it that the playoffs only consisted of the World Series throughout this span, meaning that the Yankees won the AL pennant in a staggering two-thirds of those seasons? Is it that the Yankees actually lost the World Series in both 1926 and 1964, meaning that they took home a championship in more than half of the 37 seasons in the middle? Is it the plethora of MVP winners and Hall of Famers who suited up for the team over that span (Gehrig, Ruth, DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle, Maris and so on)? Is it that they finished at least 10 games above .500 in every season from 1926-58? You be the judge.
2. 1993-2022 Yankees (30 seasons; active streak)
Streak stats: 24 playoff appearances, 5 WS titles
Top player: Derek Jeter (71.3 WAR)
The heyday of this streak was certainly the five-season span from 1996-2000, when the Yankees won four World Series as their young core of Jeter, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera grew together. The Yankees only have one World Series win since then, but that doesn’t mean their impressive accomplishments have ceased. Since 1993, the Yankees have almost as many seasons winning the World Series (five) as they do missing the playoffs (six). This excludes the 1994 season, which concluded with the Yankees having a 70-43 record before the postseason was canceled due to a strike.
3. 1968-85 Orioles (18 seasons)
Streak stats: 7 playoff appearances, 2 WS titles
Top player: Jim Palmer (65.3 WAR)
We have our first non-Yankees entry here, and it may be a surprise that it comes from a franchise with an all-time record sitting more than 1,000 games under .500. But the Orioles had their best stretch ever in the mid-late 20th century, with several Hall of Famers suiting up for the team in a stretch of dominance that Baltimore hasn’t sniffed since. Two of the team’s three World Series titles came during this span, and the other one came in 1966, two years before the start of the streak.
4. 1951-67 White Sox (17 seasons)
Streak stats: 1 playoff appearance (lost to Dodgers in 1959 WS)
Top player: Nellie Fox (47.8 WAR)
If you Google the phrase “good but not great,” you might come across the White Sox of the 1950s and 1960s. Chicago managed to have a record 17 consecutive winning seasons without winning the World Series in any of them, one year longer than a championship-free Boston streak that will be mentioned below. In Chicago’s lone postseason appearance during this span, it lost in six games to the Sandy Koufax-led Dodgers in the 1959 Fall Classic.
5. 1967-82 Red Sox (16 seasons)
Streak stats: 2 playoff appearances, 0 WS titles
Top player: Carl Yastrzemski (71.7 WAR)
The “Curse of the Bambino” lasted 86 years for Boston, and this 16-year span was a microcosm of it. In between its World Series wins in 1918 and 2004, Boston reached the World Series four times, and all four resulted in seven-game losses. Two of those came during this stretch, with a 1967 loss to the Cardinals and a 1975 loss to the Reds -- the latter of which ranks as MLB.com’s best-ever seven-game Fall Classic.
6-T. 2008-2022 Cardinals (15 seasons)
Streak stats: 10 playoff appearances, 1 WS title (beat Rangers in seven games in 2011)
Top player: Adam Wainwright (38.6 WAR)
What was MLB’s second-longest active streak of winning seasons came to an end in 2023. Beyond ending the team's winning season streak, 2023 also served as the swan song for Wainwright. In addition to Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, Wainwright has been one of key faces of the Cardinals franchise throughout the 21st century, and he will become the last of that trio to retire at the end of the season.
6-T. 1939-1953 Cardinals (15 seasons)
Streak stats: 4 playoff appearances, 3 WS titles
Top player: Stan Musial (90.5 WAR)
As was the case with Albert Pujols more recently, the Cardinals’ other streak of 15 winning seasons was also highlighted by a legendary first baseman, with Stan Musial’s career overlapping with the majority of that span. Musial’s first season as a full-time starter was 1942, which coincided with the peak of the Cardinals’ run. Over the three-season span from 1942-44, St. Louis won at least 105 games and won the NL pennant in all three seasons, including two World Series wins. That is still the only instance in MLB history of a team having three straight seasons with 105-plus wins (though the Dodgers hit that mark in 2019, ‘21 and ‘22, while being on a 116-win pace in the shortened 2020 season). Even more impressive? The Cardinals did that while the MLB season was only 154 games.
6-T. 1991-2005 Braves (15 seasons)
Streak stats: 14 playoff appearances, 1 WS title (beat Cleveland in six games in 1995)
Top player: Greg Maddux (66.2 WAR)
What makes this Braves streak historic is not that they finished above .500 in 15 consecutive seasons, all of which came with Bobby Cox as manager. Rather, it’s that they also won the NL East in each of those seasons (besides 1994, when they were trailing the Expos at the time the season was canceled). That streak of 14 straight division titles is by far the longest in MLB history, with the Yankees (nine, 1998-2006) and Dodgers (eight, 2013-2020) serving as the closest challengers. Even if one totally disregarded the presence of divisions, the streak of 14 straight playoff appearances is also the all-time record, one ahead of the Yankees’ 13 from 1995-2007. Atlanta was not often successful in those postseasons, though, going 1-4 in the Fall Classic over that span.
6-T. 1899-1913 Pirates (15 seasons)
Streak stats: 2 playoff appearances, 1 WS title (beat Tigers in seven games in 1909)
Top player: Honus Wagner (108.7 WAR)
Long before he was the subject of what’s been referred to as the “Mona Lisa” of sports cards, Wagner was a Hall of Fame shortstop who won eight batting titles and helped the Pirates become one of the dominant teams while professional baseball was still in its relative infancy. Don’t let the one World Series win listed above fool you; the Pirates also took home two more NL championships in 1901 and 1902, before the World Series was established the ensuing year. In fact, the 1902 team’s win percentage of .741 is the second-best by any team in the Modern Era (since 1900), trailing only the 1906 Cubs’ .763.