Astros were 23rd straight team unable to repeat as champs

October 26th, 2023

For a long time, the days of the Yankees (or anyone else) winning back-to-back World Series titles have been over. The 2023 Astros became the 23rd consecutive MLB team to fall short in its attempt to win a repeat championship -- not only the longest streak in MLB history, but also the longest in any of the four major sports. MLB has not seen a repeat winner since the Yankees took three straight from 1998 to 2000.

Will 2024 be the year the streak gets broken? That's impossible to say for now. But in the meantime, we rank the teams that have come closest to winning back-to-back titles since the Yankees’ most recent three-peat. While the rankings are somewhat subjective, they are based on a mixture of regular season record, postseason performance and general roster composition.

1. 2021 Dodgers
Season result: 106-56, lost in NLCS to Braves

If there was ever a team that seemed destined to end MLB’s repeat winner drought, it was these Dodgers. Not only did they largely bring back the core from their dominant 2020 champion team (Mookie Betts, Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, Will Smith, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urías), but they also signed reigning NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer in the offseason, and then they traded for Trea Turner and Max Scherzer from Washington just before the Deadline. What was the fate of this super-team? After finishing one game back of the Giants in the NL West (the only time in MLB history that a division has had two 105-win teams), the Dodgers got their revenge over San Francisco in a thrilling five-game NLDS, but then were stunned in six games by an 88-win Braves team playing without an injured Ronald Acuña Jr., who went on to win it all.

2. 2001 Yankees
Season result: 95-65-1, lost in World Series to D-backs

Attempting to become the first team to four-peat since the 1949-53 Yankees, the 2001 squad got just about as close as possible. While the regular season was probably a bit disappointing, given their standards, everyone knew not to doubt this core laden with playoff experience including Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera … you get the gist. New York dispatched the 102-win A’s and 116-win Mariners in the playoffs, and it was an inning away from doing the same to Arizona in the World Series. But in a classic Game 7, Luis Gonzalez hit a walk-off single off Rivera to stun the heavily favored Yankees on the biggest stage.

3. 2018 Astros
Season result: 103-59, lost in ALCS to Red Sox

After winning their first championship together in 2017 (albeit under controversial circumstances), the talented offensive core of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer was back for more. But this time, they were joined by some major reinforcements -- in addition to returning starters Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers Jr., Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel, Houston also managed to add Gerrit Cole during the offseason. The regular season was as dominant as expected, as was a 3-0 sweep over Cleveland in the ALDS. But in the ALCS against a 108-win Boston squad, something had to give in a battle of two titans, and the Red Sox ended up winning the “Alex Cora series” in five games before also winning the World Series (Cora had been the Astros’ bench coach before becoming Boston’s manager in 2018).

4. 2009 Phillies
Season result: 93-69, lost in World Series to Yankees

These Phillies weren’t quite as dominant of a regular season team as the aforementioned 2021 Dodgers or 2018 Astros, but what they do have over those teams is the status of being one of two teams this century to make the World Series the year after winning it (also the 2001 Yankees). Philadelphia actually finished one game better in the regular season than it did in 2008, and its extremely talented core of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge was back for another run -- not to mention the Trade Deadline addition of reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee. After the Phillies beat the Dodgers in the NLCS for the second straight year, it looked like Philadelphia was in good shape for the repeat, but it fell in six games to a dominant Yankees squad.

5. 2022 Braves
Season result: 101-61, lost in NLDS to Phillies

Even though the Braves lost Freddie Freeman in the offseason -- to the Dodgers, nonetheless, despite Atlanta eliminating Los Angeles in the 2021 NLCS -- the 2022 Braves were loaded. Returning stars like Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley, Max Fried and Charlie Morton were joined by trade acquisition Matt Olson and rookie sensations Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider, not to mention that, for good measure, Acuña was back on the field healthy. The Braves’ season went very similarly to the Dodgers’ one year before them. After a strong regular season headlined by a very competitive division race (which the Braves surged late to win via head-to-head record over the 101-61 Mets), Atlanta was stunned by an upstart playoff team that failed to win 90 games -- this time being the 87-75 Phillies, who went on to lose to the Astros in the World Series.

6. 2008 Red Sox
Season result: 95-67, lost in ALCS to Rays

After Boston won its second World Series in four years in 2007, its veteran core was back for another shot. Each of the 2007 team’s top 10 hitters in plate appearances returned in 2008, a list including franchise legends such as Jason Varitek, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. Curt Schilling retired after the 2007 season, but the rest of Boston’s rotation remained intact as well. A solid regular season saw the team finish two games behind a young Rays squad led by Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria and Scott Kazmir. Boston got its chance at revenge in the ALCS, where it fell behind 3-1 to the Rays. And while the Red Sox overcame 3-1 deficits in both the 2004 (Yankees) and 2007 (Cleveland) ALCS, they couldn’t quite replicate the magic again, falling in a thrilling seven-game set to Tampa Bay.

7. 2010 Yankees
Season result: 95-67, lost in ALCS to Rangers

Nearly all the big names from the dominant 2009 Yankees championship team were back. Jeter. A-Rod. Posada. Pettitte. Sabathia. Rivera. Tex. Canó. Swisher. Even the losses of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui were offset by the emergence of Brett Gardner and the blockbuster trade for Curtis Granderson. There was no question that the Yankees had the talent to go all the way. Very similarly to the 2008 Red Sox, the Yankees finished one game back of the up-and-coming Rays in the division race. As the AL’s Wild Card team, the Yankees swept the Twins, but then they fell in six games to the Rangers. The Yankees still have not won a World Series since 2009.

8. 2002 Diamondbacks
Season result: 98-64, lost in NLDS to Cardinals

Fresh off their magical 2001 run when they won a World Series in only the franchise’s fourth season of existence, the D-backs were back again, with a cast led by slugger Luis Gonzalez and returning veteran aces Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. Despite losing outfielder Reggie Sanders to the Giants in free agency, the regular season went even better than the prior year, with Arizona winning six more games than it did in 2001. But the playoff magic would not return, as Albert Pujols’ Cardinals swept the D-backs despite a seven-inning, one-run gem from Schilling in Game 2.

9. 2023 Astros
Season result: 90-72, lost in ALCS to Rangers

The personnel wasn't vastly different between the 2022 and 2023 Astros, as Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier were among the most notable players on both teams. But the results on the field were night and day. The 2022 squad won an AL-high 106 games before a dominant 11-2 run in the postseason, but the next year's squad sputtered to a 17-17 start. Houston somewhat figured it out later in the regular season -- buoyed by trading back for Justin Verlander, who had helped the team to the prior year's Fall Classic title -- en route to a 90-win season and AL West title. But despite reaching the ALCS for the seventh straight season (one shy of the 1990s Braves for the all-time record), the Astros fell to the division rival Rangers in a seven-game series.

10. 2005 Red Sox
Season result: 95-67, lost in ALDS to White Sox

One year after its iconic title run while breaking the “Curse of the Bambino,” Boston couldn’t quite fully maintain its roster of “Idiots,” as the departures included Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez, Dave Roberts and Orlando Cabrera. But a dominant offense was largely still intact, led by David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, both of whom had at least 45 homers in 2005. When the Red Sox and Yankees both finished with 95 wins, the baseball world was expecting them to meet in the ALCS for the third consecutive season, but those wishes were quickly put to bed by the White Sox, who swept Boston in the ALDS. The White Sox went on to break their own title curse, winning the Fall Classic for the first time since 1917.

11. 2017 Cubs
Season result: 92-70, lost in NLCS to Dodgers

After making history by snapping their 108-season World Series drought in 2016, the Cubs largely kept their core intact to try to run it back. Though there were a couple of outfield losses (Jorge Soler to the Royals, Dexter Fowler to the Cardinals), key returners on both sides of the ball included Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks. But while the roster was largely the same as 2016, the magic simply wasn’t. After a solid, though underwhelming, regular season, Chicago won the NL Central but was dominated by the Dodgers in a five-game NLCS (being outscored 28-8 in the series).

12. 2012 Cardinals
Season result: 88-74, lost in NLCS to Giants

One year after edging the Rangers in a classic seven-game World Series, the Cardinals almost pulled it off again despite losing Albert Pujols to the Angels that offseason. Other key figures from the championship team like Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter and World Series hero David Freese were back, and Adam Wainwright’s return to the rotation after missing the entire 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery was a welcome addition. After sneaking into the playoffs and winning the first-ever NL Wild Card Game in Atlanta, the Cardinals led 3-1 in the NLCS, but the Giants stunned them by winning three straight games en route to their second championship of the decade.

13. 2006 White Sox
Season result: 90-72, missed playoffs

Not only did the White Sox largely bring the band back from their first World Series-winning team in 88 years -- a band including the likes of A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye and Mark Buehrle -- but they loaded up even further, making a blockbuster deal to get Jim Thome from the Phillies. Dye and Thome each had more than 40 homers in 2006, and Chicago was certainly a strong team again. But 90 wins ended up only being good enough for third place in the AL Central, with both Minnesota and Detroit making the playoffs over the White Sox.

14. 2011 Giants
Season result: 86-76, missed playoffs

After a core of young stars including Pablo Sandoval, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey led San Francisco to its first World Series title since 1954 in 2010, the Giants entered 2011 as the hunted rather than the hunter. The new role didn’t go quite as well. While San Francisco wasn’t a bad team by any means, with a particularly strong trio of aces (Bumgarner, Lincecum and Cain all pitched 200-plus innings and had sub-3.25 ERAs), the Giants came up four games shy of the NL Wild Card spot.

15. 2019 Red Sox
Season result: 84-78, missed playoffs

After the 2018 squad was among the most dominant in MLB history, the band was almost entirely brought back together. The whole starting rotation returned from 2018 (Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price, Rick Porcello, Nathan Eovaldi), as did 10 of the team’s top 11 hitters in plate appearances -- a list including stars such as Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers. So what went wrong? It’s still hard to say, though a pitching staff that allowed 5.11 runs per game (T-10th-most in MLB) wasn’t a great start. The fire sale began after that, as Betts, Rodriguez, Porcello and Price all either were on new rosters or opted out for the 2020 season.

16. 2015 Giants
Season result: 84-78, missed playoffs

The final one of the Giants’ three repeat attempts of the 2010s didn’t go much differently than the prior two. While Madison Bumgarner continued his ascent to stardom with his third consecutive All-Star season, not much else went right for San Francisco. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum were limited to a combined 26 starts, and no offensive player hit more than 21 home runs (a matter not helped by Pablo Sandoval signing with Boston that offseason), as the Giants finished eight games behind the Dodgers in the division race.

17. 2004 Marlins
Season result: 83-79, missed playoffs

Fun fact about the Marlins: in every season of franchise history besides 2020, they have either won the World Series or missed the playoffs. (Recall that 2020 had the expanded 16-team playoff due to the COVID-shortened regular season; the 31-29 Marlins would not have been in playoff position otherwise.) This trend continued in 2004, as the Marlins, despite a breakout season from a 21-year-old Miguel Cabrera (33 HR, 112 RBIs), lost 17 of their final 28 games to fall well short of a playoff spot.

18. 2016 Royals
Season result: 81-81, missed playoffs

The Royals brought back much of their championship roster, including Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer, but the team saw some major regression to the mean after winning AL pennants in both 2014 and 2015. Despite starts of 12-6 and 30-22, the Royals sputtered to a .500 finish, and they have still not made the playoffs since.

19. 2013 Giants
Season result: 78-84, missed playoffs

Despite having extreme roster consistency from the 2012 team that swept Detroit in the Fall Classic, the Giants had their fair share of question marks entering 2013. As it turned out, those questions were justified. Matt Cain’s performance fell off sharply from 2012, and Buster Posey went from MVP status to just “pretty good” status (which still meant hitting .294 and making the All-Star team). Add it all up, and the Giants had their first losing season since 2008, back when the likes of Omar Vizquel, J.T. Snow and Dave Roberts were on the roster.

20. 2007 Cardinals
Season result: 78-84, missed playoffs

The 2007 Cardinals only won five fewer games than the 2006 edition. But because the 2006 squad has the worst regular-season record of any team to ever win the World Series, that still resulted in a sub-.500 season for the 2007 group. While the Pujols-led offense was largely intact, the pitching staff suffered from the departures of Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis, not to mention Chris Carpenter being limited to one start due to an elbow injury. As of now, 2007 is still the Cardinals’ most recent losing season.

21. 2003 Angels
Season result: 77-85, missed playoffs

Led by manager Mike Scioscia, the 2000s were the Golden Age of Angels baseball. Out of nine seasons in franchise history where the team had at least 92 wins, six of them came from the span of 2002-09. But 2003 was an exception, to say the least. Star Troy Glaus was limited to 91 games, and a pitching rotation that returned all five starters greatly regressed, leading to a sub.-500 season. The team proceeded to sign Vladimir Guerrero that offseason and return to the playoff picture for years to come.

22. 2014 Red Sox
Season result: 71-91, missed playoffs

When Jacoby Ellsbury followed in the footsteps of Babe Ruth and Johnny Damon by joining the dark side by signing with the Yankees, it set the tone for what would end up being a disastrous season for Boston. A few more key veterans from the 2013 championship squad either left before or during the 2014 season, including Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Stephen Drew and Ryan Dempster. David Ortiz and Jon Lester had strong seasons, but not much else went right for Boston, which finished last in the AL East.

23. 2020 Nationals
Season result: 26-34, missed playoffs

While Washington did bring back some core pieces from its championship team -- Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin among them -- its shortened 2020 season never got off the ground. Stephen Strasburg was limited to two starts due to injury, while Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez greatly regressed from their 2019 form. The Nationals finished last in the NL East, and have done so every season since winning the 2019 title.