These are the All-Time Ringless Teams

November 9th, 2022

Several baseball luminaries in recent years -- including Clayton Kershaw, Freddie Freeman and manager Dusty Baker -- have managed to grasp what was once an elusive World Series crown for them. Yet the list of MLB greats to have never won it all remains a long one.

Let’s put together two teams not of ringers, but the ringless -- both all-time and active. To be as objective as possible, we’ll let Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Replacement be our guide.

And to modernize these teams as much as possible, the "all-time” team will only include those whose careers predominantly took place after the installation of the League Championship Series round in 1969. After all, prior to that, it was easier for a great player to come up empty, because the only path to the postseason was via the league pennant. From 1903, the year of the first World Series, to 1968, the Giants, Dodgers and Cardinals won 62% of NL pennants, and the Yankees won 44% of AL pennants, so a lot of great players from other clubs fell short of a ring in that era.

(In instances in which the player at a below position is not the all-time ringless WAR leader, we’ll make note that the player is the “LCS era” leader.)

All-time: Carlton Fisk (68.4)
Active: J.T. Realmuto (29.7)

Fisk’s game-winning home run in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series is as iconic as they come. But he could only wave his arms so much. In Game 7, after Fisk’s Red Sox took a 3-0 lead, the Big Red Machine waved home two runs in the sixth, one in the seventh and one in the ninth to capture arguably the greatest Fall Classic of the LCS era, and as it turns out, Fisk’s only World Series in a career that spanned 24 seasons.

Beyond Fisk, the next-best ringless backstop, in terms of WAR, is Mike Piazza (59.6 WAR), whose two homers were not enough to swing the Subway Series in 2000 -- his only World Series opportunity. Realmuto finally got to appear in the postseason for the first time in 2022, but his Phillies came up short in the World Series.

All-time: Jeff Bagwell (79.9)
Active: Joey Votto (64.3)

Between 1994, when Bagwell was the NL MVP in the strike-shortened season, and 2005, when Houston lost the World Series to the White Sox, the Astros’ .545 winning percentage was second only to the Braves. But the biggest win of all evaded them, and Bagwell’s six straight seasons of 30 homers, 100 runs and 100 RBIs were for naught. He and former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer Craig Biggio were awarded rings after the 2017 World Series in recognition of their role as special assistants to the organization.

Votto might have a Hall argument, but his four playoff teams in Cincinnati all suffered ignominy -- no-hit by Roy Halladay in a 2010 NLDS sweep, bounced by the Giants in the 2012 NLDS after taking a 2-0 lead, eliminated by the division-rival Pirates in the 2013 NL Wild Card Game and knocked out in 2020’s NL Wild Card Series without scoring a run. At least Votto has company in the likes of Bagwell, Jim Thome (72.9 WAR) and fellow All-Star of his era, Paul Goldschmidt (58.5).

LCS era: Rod Carew (81.3)
Active: DJ LeMahieu (30.4)

Were we including early-era candidates, this spot would go to Nap Lajoie (107.3 WAR). But having an entire team named after you (Cleveland’s club was the Naps from 1903-14) is arguably an even greater honor than winning it all. Carew has his own legacy in that the AL batting title, which he won seven times, is named after him. But none of his four postseason teams (the 1969 and 1970 Twins, and the '79 and 1982 Angels) reached the World Series, and Carew was an uncharacteristic 11-for-50 in his October career.

As for LeMahieu, he has appeared in four postseasons but never played past the ALCS round.

Another modern-day legend worth noting here is Ryne Sandberg (68.0), who, of course, played for the wrong team (the Cubs) at the wrong time (anytime from 1909 to 2015).

LCS era: Robin Yount (77.3)
Active: Andrelton Simmons (37.3)

The all-time ringless WAR leader here is Arky Vaughan (78.0), an underrated Hall of Famer (yes, there is such a thing) who played in the 1930s and 1940s for Pittsburgh teams that never finished higher than second. But the two more commonly cited ringless shortstops are Yount and Ernie Banks (67.8), the latter of whom played the vast majority of his career prior to the installation of the LCS round, and despite always being up for playing two, he never played a single game in the postseason.

Yount went 12-for-29 with a homer and three doubles in the 1982 World Series against the Cardinals on the heels of an AL MVP season, but the Brew Crew came up short in Game 7.

Simmons, meanwhile, hasn’t reached the playoffs since 2013 with the Braves.

All-time: Adrián Beltré (93.6)
Active: Evan Longoria (58.1)

It was Beltré’s seventh-inning solo homer off Lance Lynn that gave the Rangers the lead on the Cardinals -- seemingly for good -- in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. But, well, some things happened in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings of that game, and St. Louis triumphed in Beltré’s only trip to the Fall Classic. His great career, in which he had 477 homers and 3,166 hits while playing dazzling defense, will earn him induction in Cooperstown as early as 2024. But 2011 was the only year he was on a team that advanced past the Division Series.

Longoria’s rousing rookie season was a big reason why the 2008 Rays reached the World Series, but he hasn’t been back since. Nolan Arenado (52.2), Manny Machado (52) and Josh Donaldson (46.7) are other hot corner heroes still searching for a ring.

All-time: Barry Bonds (162.8)
Active: Christian Yelich (36.1)

Bonds is not just the best left fielder to never win the World Series according to WAR. He’s the best player, period. Of course, his legacy is a complicated one, to put it lightly. But regardless of how you feel about the way Bonds got to his numbers … sweet fancy Moses, those numbers! It’s bonkers that the Giants couldn’t win one with a guy who averaged 39 homers, 96 RBIs and a 1.143 OPS from 1993-2007. Bonds went 8-for-17 with four homers and two doubles in a seven-game loss to the Angels in the 2002 Fall Classic.

Yelich -- the 2018 NL MVP – has been on three Milwaukee teams that reached the postseason but none that reached the World Series.

Having fallen short of Bonds’ WAR mark, two Red Sox legends didn’t qualify for our starting squad -- Ted Williams (pre-LCS era) and Carl Yastrzemski. But they both belong in any conversation about sporting legends who didn’t win one. Williams was humbly held to a 5-for-25 showing in Boston’s 1946 World Series loss to the Cardinals, and Yaz was on the losing end in the 1967 and 1975 Fall Classics.

LCS era: Ken Griffey Jr. (83.8)
Active: Mike Trout (82.4)

Long before Jim Kelly’s Buffalo Bills experienced unprecedented Super Bowl agony, Ty Cobb’s Tigers painfully lost the World Series in three straight seasons from 1907-09. But at least he got there. For Griffey, that epic Mariners win in Game 5 of the 1995 ALDS against the Yankees was as close as he ever came to the ecstasy of a title. He was on just two other postseason teams (the ’97 Mariners and, briefly, the 2008 White Sox), and both fizzled out in the ALDS.

Trout is currently in danger of going down with Griffey as the two best players to never appear in a World Series. The Angels have obviously had trouble building a World Series-caliber club around Trout, to date.

LCS era: Larry Walker (72.7)
Active: Giancarlo Stanton (44.7)

Two early-era Hall of Fame right fielders with higher WAR marks than Walker -- Sam Crawford (75.3) and Paul Waner (73.9) -- went ringless as well. But it’s worth wondering whether a World Series championship might have shortened Walker’s wait to get into the Hall (he was on the BBWAA ballot the maximum 10 years). He never reached the World Series with either of the teams he’s most associated with (the Rockies and Expos), and his two doubles and two homers in his lone Fall Classic appearance, in 2004, are a forgotten footnote in the sweep his Cardinals suffered at the hands of the history-making Red Sox.

Had we not gone with the objective WAR tallies, a subjective nod here would have to go to Padres great Tony Gwynn (69.2 WAR). His career was basically bookended by World Series losses -- in 1984 and 1998.

The wait goes on for Stanton, who, like Realmuto, came of age with a Marlins team that went nowhere. Stanton has since been traded to a Yankees team that has yet to get past the ALCS with him. Bryce Harper (42.5 WAR) is closing in on the right field spot.

All-time: Edgar Martinez (68.4)
Active: Nelson Cruz (42.6)

As with Griffey, the Game 5 win over the Yankees in an epic ALDS -- capped by his famous double -- was Edgar’s greatest October triumph. Though he did also get to play in two ALCS rounds, in 2000 and ’01 (this time, losing to the Yankees). By the way, Frank Thomas (73.8 WAR) doesn’t quite qualify here, as he did play 34 games for the World Series champion White Sox in 2005. “The Big Hurt” was hurt, and he wasn’t on the postseason roster that year, but did earn a ring for his regular-season contributions to that squad.

One of the biggest Series-swinging hits of all-time sailed over Cruz’s head in right field (we are referencing the David Freese triple in 2011, in case you are somehow not aware), so he knows too well the agony of coming up just short.

All-time: Phil Niekro (95.9)
Active: Zack Greinke (76.4)

Knuckleballers exist on an entirely different evolutionary timetable. Niekro was already 30 years old when he made his first postseason start in the inaugural NLCS in 1969 (a Braves loss to the Mets). He made his second -- and final -- postseason start … 13 years later (a Braves loss to the Cardinals). And then he pitched for another five seasons! With a broad body of work encompassing 5,404 innings and 864 appearances, Niekro accumulated 318 wins and enough WAR to earn this “start.”

You could fill out quite a ringless rotation of active arms. The group is fronted by Greinke (who of course may not have even qualified had the Nationals’ Howie Kendrick not done his thing in Game 7 in 2019), followed by Jacob deGrom (43.8) and Corey Kluber (34.6), Gerrit Cole (33.7) and Yu Darvish (30.3).

All-time: Lee Smith (28.9)
Active: Darren O'Day (17.4)

Trevor Hoffman, who accumulated 601 saves in the regular season but only four in the postseason with the Padres, might seem the obvious choice here. But his 28.0 WAR falls just shy of Smith’s mark. Smith, a 2019 Hall of Fame inductee, directly contributed to his ringless fate by taking the loss in two of the four LCS games he pitched in -- in 1984 with the Cubs against the Padres and in 1988 with the Red Sox against the A’s.

The veteran O’Day has pitched in the playoffs in six different years – 2010 with the Rangers, 2012, ’14 and ’16 with the Orioles and 2019 and ’20 with the Braves – but his only World Series opportunity came up empty with that 2010 Texas team.

LCS era and active: Buck Showalter

In absence of Wins Above Replacement for skippers, we can go with wins, period. And with Dusty Baker having won it all with the Astros in 2022, Showalter ascended to the top spot in the LCS era among skippers without a ring, with 1,652 career victories. Showalter has reached the postseason with four different franchises, most recently the Mets in 2022, but none of his teams have reached the World Series.

If you want to impress your friends with worthless trivia, the manager with the most all-time wins without a ring is Gene Mauch. But he went 1,902-2,037 from 1960-87, and he reached the playoffs only twice.