The Rockies and the Marlins are the only expansion teams, of the 14 to join Major League Baseball since 1961, that have yet to win their division. None of the others had as long a drought, in their current cities, as the Rockies' and Marlins' 27 years and counting without
The Rockies and the Marlins are the only expansion teams, of the 14 to join Major League Baseball since 1961, that have yet to win their division. None of the others had as long a drought, in their current cities, as the Rockies' and Marlins' 27 years and counting without a division title. The D-backs had the shortest sprint to a first-place finish, as they won the West in just their second year.
Here, MLB.com looks at all the expansion teams and the number of seasons they needed to achieve a first-place finish. The teams are listed from longest to shortest time to a division title. For franchises that relocated, the number used is how long it took them to finish first in their current location.
Rockies: 27 years without a division title (active streak)
First season: 1993
The Rockies have made the playoffs five times -- most recently in 2018 -- since they brought baseball to the Mile High City in 1993. They've won one National League pennant, in '07, when the "Rocktober" Rockies caught fire down the stretch. But all of Colorado's postseason appearances have been as a Wild Card team. The playoffs are the playoffs, of course, but the Padres, D-backs, Giants and Dodgers have all cycled through reigns atop the division during that time.
Marlins: 27 years (active streak)
First season: 1993
The Marlins haven't just made the playoffs -- they've won the World Series, twice, in 1997 and 2003. But like the Rockies in their postseason appearances, the Marlins were a Wild Card team both times, as the Braves had a stranglehold on the NL East in those years. (Both the '97 and '03 seasons came during Atlanta's record run of 14 consecutive division titles.) Miami is currently in a rebuilding phase, having lost 98 games in '18 and 105 in '19.
Rangers: 24 years before first title
First season in Texas: 1972 | First title: 1996
The Washington Senators moved to Texas, and became the Rangers, in 1972. From that point, it wasn't until '96 that they finally won the Americn League West and made their first postseason appearance, although they were also leading the division when the '94 strike ended the season early. (If you include the franchise's time as the Senators from 1961-71, it would add an additional 11 years of fruitlessness.) The '96 Rangers went 90-72 to end the drought behind league MVP Award winner Juan Gonzalez, who hit .314 with 47 home runs and 144 RBIs, and Ivan Rodriguez, who was an All-Star, Gold Glove Award winner and Silver Slugger at catcher.
Angels: 18 years
First season: 1961 | First title: 1979
The 1979 Angels brought Anaheim its first division title by going 88-74 to win the AL West. Don Baylor won MVP honors after crushing 36 homers and leading the Majors with 139 RBIs and 120 runs scored. Rod Carew, who had been acquired from the Twins in the offseason, hit .318 and stole 18 bases in his first season with the Halos. And Nolan Ryan led the American League with 223 strikeouts and the Majors with five shutouts. The Angels fell to the Orioles in the AL Championship Series.
Astros: 18 years
First season: 1962 | First title: 1980
The Astros just ended their World Series drought last year, when they won the franchise's first championship in 56 years. They had a long division title drought, too, before they finally won the NL West in 1980. They had to go to Game 163 to do it -- Houston and the Dodgers finished the regular season tied for first at 92-70, forcing a one-game playoff. The Astros won, 7-1, to take the division, with Joe Niekro pitching a complete-game gem for his 20th win. Houston would drop a hard-fought five-game NL Championship Series to the eventual World Series champion Phillies.
Mariners: 18 years
First season: 1977 | First title: 1995
The 1995 Mariners were star-studded. Randy Johnson went 18-2 with a league-best 2.48 ERA and 294 strikeouts to win his first Cy Young Award. Edgar Martinez had arguably the best season of his career, winning the batting title with a .356 average and leading MLB with a 1.107 OPS. Ken Griffey Jr. provided an iconic moment in the deciding Game 5 of the AL Division Series against the Yankees, scoring the winning run from first on Martinez's double in the bottom of the 11th to send the Mariners to the ALCS.
Padres: 15 years
First season: 1969 | First title: 1984
The Padres cruised to their first division crown and playoff berth in 1984, finishing as the only team over .500 in the NL West at 92-70. It was the first full season for Tony Gwynn, who at age 24 set the standard for the rest of his Hall of Fame career, hitting .351 to win the batting title and leading the Majors with 213 hits. San Diego then beat the Cubs -- who were themselves in the playoffs for the first time since 1945 -- in the NLCS, but fell to the Tigers in the World Series.
Brewers: 11 years
First season in Milwaukee: 1970 | First title: 1981
After a year as the Seattle Pilots, the Brewers came to Milwaukee in 1970. From then on, it was just over a decade before they had a first-place finish. That came in the strike-shortened '81 season, when the Brewers won the second-half AL East to qualify for the postseason. (They also had the East's best record across both halves, 62-47.) Rollie Fingers won the Cy Young and MVP awards with a 1.04 ERA and an MLB-leading 28 saves in his first year with Milwaukee. The Brewers lost a tough ALDS to the Yankees, but they were back in '82 with a full-season division title thanks to the star play of Robin Yount and Paul Molitor.
Rays: 10 years
First season: 1998 | First title: 2008
After a decade of being lovable losers, the Rays vaulted into contention in 2008, making it to their first World Series. Under manager Joe Maddon, with veterans like Carlos Pena and James Shields and rookies Evan Longoria and David Price making an impact, the Rays won the East and won the AL pennant. They supplanted the Red Sox and Yankees at the top of the division -- the first time neither team had won the East since 1997. Their 97 wins remain the franchise record.
Blue Jays: 8 years
First season: 1977 | First title: 1985
The Blue Jays grew into a contender fairly quickly. Their first AL East title in 1985 came during a run of 11 straight seasons of 85-plus wins from 1983-93 that included five playoff appearances and back-to-back World Series wins in '92 and '93. The '85 Blue Jays went 99-62 in the regular season and had a 3-1 lead over the Royals in the ALCS, but Kansas City rallied to win the series in seven games.
Mets: 7 years
First season: 1962 | First title: 1969
The 1969 Miracle Mets completed the team's stunning turnaround from bottom-feeders to World Series champions. In the first season of the divisional era, the Mets, led by Cy Young Award winner Tom Seaver (25-7, 2.21 ERA, 208 strikeouts), went 100-62 to win the NL East by eight games over the Cubs. They swept the Braves in the NLCS, then upset the heavily favored Orioles in five games in the World Series. That made them the first expansion team to win the World Series.
Royals: 7 years
First season: 1969 | First title: 1976
The 1976 season was one of George Brett's finest, and he was just 23 years old. Brett won the AL batting title by hitting .333 while leading the Majors with 215 hits. Behind their star third baseman, the Royals went 90-72 to win the AL West for the first time. They pushed the Yankees to Game 5 in a back-and-forth ALCS, but Chris Chambliss' series-winning walk-off homer for New York ended the Royals' season.
Nationals: 7 years
First season in Washington: 2005 | First title: 2012
It didn't come easy for the Nationals in their early years in D.C., as they finished last in the NL East in five of their first six seasons after leaving Montreal. (As the Expos, the franchise's first first-place finish was in the second half of 1981, 12 years after its inaugural '69 season.) But the Nats' transformation into a perennial contender began in 2012. Catalyzed by a rookie Bryce Harper, they went 98-64 and beat out the Braves for the NL East crown. They pushed the Cardinals to the brink in the NLDS, but they couldn't hold on in Game 5 despite a 6-0 lead after three innings and a 7-5 lead entering the ninth. They've been snakebitten in the postseason to this day.
D-backs: 1 year
First season: 1998 | First title: 1999
The honor of quickest ascent to the top of a division goes to the D-backs. In just their second year of existence, the D-backs won the NL West with a 100-62 record. In fact, they went from worst to first from 1998 to '99. The biggest difference? Randy Johnson, who was signed in the offseason. The Big Unit went 17-9 with a league-leading 2.48 ERA and 364 strikeouts to win the first of his four straight Cy Young Awards in Arizona.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.