9 of baseball's biggest, and strangest, droughts

Who will hit the Marlins' first cycle?

February 4th, 2020
Tom Forget / MLB.com

We like to think that baseball makes sense, that it's a meritocracy. Thanks to a 162-game season, we assume that all the odd, unfair things will shake out like crumbs before we put the picnic blanket away.

Sure, statistically speaking, a team should win a World Series once every 30 years, and every 15 years a team should have a player win an MVP Award as well as watch a pitcher dominate his way to a Cy Young trophy. But life is weird, and baseball is even more bizarre. Sometimes -- most times, really -- things don't follow that pattern.

With all that said, here's a look at 9 droughts that teams, players and/or fans are hoping will be broken this year.

Who will win the Reds' first Cy Young Award?
Last occurred: Never

It's shocking. Baseball's oldest team -- sure, technically the original Red Stockings are now the Braves, but come on -- for all of its success, has somehow never had a player take home the award for the league's best pitcher.

Tom Seaver probably came closest when he went 14-2 with a 2.54 ERA in 1981, only to finish second to the amazing and unstoppable baseball sensation that was Fernando Valenzuela. Johnny Cueto also lost to a Dodger in 2014, coming in second to Clayton Kershaw (Kershaw also collected NL MVP honors that year).

Perhaps Luis Castillo will pull it off this year. The changeup artist had an ERA in the low-2's into the middle of July last year, but a weak finish caused his ERA to rise, and he finished without a single vote to his name.

(Bonus awards drought: The Mets, despite having seven Cy Young Award seasons in their history and six Rookies of the Year Awards, have never had an MVP winner.)

Will we ever see another 40-game hit streak?
Last occurred: 1978

At this point, Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak is less a record than a mythic tall tale. It's about as attainable in 2020 as someone discovering a blue ox named Babe. So, we ask … can anyone even reach 40?

It's been 42 years since Pete Rose reached 44 games in 1978, becoming just the sixth player to ever hit that mark -- with everyone else doing so before 1950. Will we ever see that again?

While Whit Merrifield had a 31-game hit streak snapped last season, the closest anyone has come to 40 games was Paul Molitor with 39 in 1987. Sadly, Game 40 went to extra innings and the Brewers won it with Molitor left standing on deck. Molitor even joked after the game that he asked the runner, Mike Felder, to hold at third on the winning hit, "but he completely ignored me.”

With strikeouts on the rise and more players changing their swings to aim for home runs, perhaps we'll be asking this question in a few years, but instead about 30-game hit streaks.

Will we ever see another 80-stolen base season?
Last occurred: 1988

If you love stolen bases and missed the late 1970s and '80s -- which I did -- then you missed your personal golden age of baseball. Thanks to different strategies and plenty of artificial surfaces that let speedsters just keep running, speed was king. Players like Vince Coleman, Rickey Henderson and Lou Brock ruled the day, but plenty of others like Eric Davis, Ron LeFlore, Omar Moreno and Tim Raines had carte blanche to get to second and third base any way they could.

The leaders in both the National League (Coleman, 81) and American League (Henderson, 93) topped 80 steals in 1988, but since then, the stolen base has almost disappeared, with 2019 seeing fewer than .5 steals per game.

With home runs skyrocketing, the risk of an out is too high for players to get the green light. The other issue is that many of the game’s fastest players, like Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton and Mallex Smith, simply don't get on base enough to have a chance to swipe that many.

Perhaps someone will emerge in 2020, but it's been two seasons since a player has stolen 60 bases, so the Magic 8 Ball says the future is hazy.

Will the Rockies or Marlins ever win the division?
Last occurred: Never

The Marlins have won two World Series since joining the NL with Colorado in 1993, riding their Wild Card berths to baseball glory. Meanwhile, the Rockies have won one pennant and had been to the postseason two years in a row coming into last season. Somehow, neither team has won a division title.

Meanwhile, the Rays and D-backs -- who joined the Majors in 1998 -- have combined for seven division crowns between them.

It almost boggles the mind how that's even possible. In the Marlins' two World Series years, they lost the division crown by nine and 10 games, respectively.

The Rockies have come close -- agonizingly so -- falling a game shy in 2007 and then losing, 5-2, to the Dodgers in a 163rd game two years ago.

With both clubs in varying states of rebuilding, we'll likely be waiting at least one more year for these streaks to end.

When will the Marlins hit for the cycle?
Last occurred: Never

The cycle is baseball's Yahtzee: Silly, relatively pointless and a lot of fun. All a hitter has to do is get four hits, with one single, double, triple and home run in a game. Sure, two doubles and two homers would be a better game, but it still wouldn't check the box for this little statistical milestone. And so, despite having four players come within a single of the cycle -- with 180(!) needing just a triple -- no Marlin has ever pulled it off.

It's even stranger when you consider that the team used to play in Pro Player Stadium, which featured a variety of unusual dimensions and notches in center field -- the perfect place for balls to roll away and allow for extra bases.

Christian Yelich had two cycles in 2018. The Marlins have zero in their history. Yeah, I don't know, either.

When will the Padres throw their first no-hitter?
Last occurred: Never

If video replay existed then, the Mets might also be on this list. Still, the record book is fact written in ink, and the fact is only the Padres have yet to toss a no-hitter. Not only has the team never thrown a no-hitter -- combined or otherwise -- but they've played more games in history without throwing one, too.

It's not for lack of trying. The Padres have tossed 30 one-hitters. Famously, the "curse" began when Clay Kirby was pulled for a pinch-hitter after tossing eight no-hit innings on July 21, 1970 (San Diego was trailing, 1-0, at the time). Reliever Jack Baldschun then gave up a leadoff single in the ninth.

However, 2020 could be their year. San Diego has a variety of impressive, promising arms led by Chris Paddack, with Dinelson Lamet, Garrett Richards and Joey Lucchesi all flashing the kind of stuff that could shut teams down for 27 outs. Plus, the defense is one of the most athletic in the game with Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Tommy Pham, so they just may be able to run down a few of those dying quails and infield dribblers.

When will the Giants have another 30-homer hitter?
Last occurred: 2004

Home runs flew out of the park like never before last year. But when it comes to the Giants, it sometimes seems like they're playing a brand of baseball from the century before. Why? Because the last time the team had a hitter top 30 home runs was when Barry Bonds hit 45 dingers at the age of 39 in 2004. Last year, Kevin Pillar -- known more for his glove than his bat -- and the surprising rookie Mike Yastrzemski led the team with 21. The year before, Evan Longoria led them with 16. Yeah, the Giants may be the only team in the Majors where the fans are starved for home runs.

There's good news for the homer-happy crowd: While there's nothing that can be done about the heavy, fly-ball-killing sea winds that whip around Oracle Park, the team is moving the fences in for 2020. Considering they hit 41 more dingers on the road last season than at home, 2020 could be the year that someone reaches the 30-homer mark again.

Who will throw the next perfect game?
Last occurred: 2012

It was the Year of the Pitcher in 2012, and batters simply could do nothing but watch as their hits landed in gloves. That year, six no-hitters were tossed and three of them were perfectos. Since then? There have been 23 no-hitters and no perfect games. It's the longest the sport has gone without a perfect game since an 11-year gap between 1969-80.

I suppose it makes sense that these two eras line up: Just as the mound was lowered after 1969, forcing pitchers to re-calibrate to the new game, batters have changed their approach and hit for more power in recent seasons. Or, like with most things in the sport, it's baseball's peculiar brand of luck.

When will the Mariners reach the postseason again?
Last occurred: 2001

While the Mariners have never reached a World Series, there's a more significant issue here: They might actually be cursed. The team won a Major League record 116 games in 2001 -- just a few years after former faces of the franchise Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez left the team -- and yet, not only did they fail to even reach the Fall Classic that year, they haven't even reached the postseason since then.

Sure, maybe that's not a curse, but they've also won 85 or more games seven times since then and haven't even lucked into a single Wild Card berth. It's the longest current drought in the Wild Card era, with only the Marlins coming close. Of course, the last time Miami went to the postseason, they won the 2003 World Series, so you won't find a lot of sympathy from Mariners fans.

Perhaps just a few dozen more Jerry Dipoto trades -- and one deal with the devil -- are all that stands between Seattle and October baseball.