The Rays wrap up a three-game series today against the last-place Orioles. The O's are the worst team in baseball, a team on pace to lose more than 100 games. It's sad what has become of this once-mighty franchise. This was one of the dominant teams of the 1970s. Interestingly, most of the teams that dominated baseball in the 1970s have fallen on hard times. A look back at those powerhouse teams of the 1970s and their rough times these days:
Led by fiery manager Earl Weaver, the Orioles had a winning record every year from 1968 to 1982. That's remarkable. They appeared in three consecutive World Series in 1969, 1970 and 1971, winning it all in 1970. They returned to the World Series in 1979 then won the 1983 World Series behind Cal Ripken Jr., who was in his second full season, and manager Joe Altobelli. That was the last time the Orioles were world champions. Since 1983, the O's have made the postseason only twice, haven't had a winning record since 1997 and are going to lose at least 92 games for the fifth consecutive season.
The Lumber Company and We Are Family Pirates celebrated the finest decade in the organization's long history during the 1970s. They won six division titles from 1970 to 1979 and finished second three times. Behind Roberto Clemente, they won the 1971 World Series, then Willie Stargell led them to the world title in 1979 — the last World Series in which the Pirates have appeared. They did have a nice run under Jim Leyland, winning three straight division titles from 1990 to 1992, but haven't had a winning record since — the longest losing streak in the history of the four major North American sports leagues. Check this out: From 1970 to 1980, the Pirates were 225 games over .500. From 2000 through Monday night, the Pirates were 283 games under .500.
Kansas City Royals
If it hadn't been for the Yankees, the Royals of the 1970s might have risen to become one of the more memorable teams in baseball history. Led by Hall of Famer George Brett, the Royals lost three straight American League Championship Series to the Yankees in 1976, 1977 and 1978. They finally broke through, advancing to the World Series in 1980, then they won the only World Series in team history in 1985. Since then, the Royals not only haven't been back to the postseason, but they have never finished higher than third in 21 of 24 seasons. They have had one winning record in the past 15 years.
The Big Red Machine of the mid 1970s is considered by some to be the greatest team ever. A lineup loaded with stars (including Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez) won the National League pennant in 1970, 1972, 1975 and 1976, winning back-to-back World Series in '75 and '76. They won another division title in 1979 before, essentially, the band broke up. The Reds did win it all again in 1990 under manager Lou Piniella and the Nasty Boys bullpen. They haven't been awful like the Royals or Pirates since then, but, this year, they are seeking just their second postseason appearance since 1991 (lost NLCS, 1995).
Los Angeles Dodgers
We always think of the Dodgers as being one of baseball's better teams, but do you realize they have won just two World Series in the past 45 years? Their heyday was the 1970s when Tommy Lasorda managed a team full of stars such as Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Dusty Baker and Reggie Smith. During a 10-year span from 1974 to 1983, the Dodgers won their division or finished second nine times. Problem was, they always ran into juggernauts. They were stuck in the same division as the Big Red Machine, lost the 1974 World Series to the three-time champion A's and lost the 1977 and 1978 World Series to a star-studded Yankees team. The Dodgers did win world titles in 1981 and 1988 and have reached the playoffs in four of the past six seasons. But it has been 21 years since the Dodgers have made the Fall Classic.
The A's were baseball's best team during the first half of the 1970s. They reached the postseason every year from 1971 to 1975 and won three straight World Series from 1972 to 1974. Free agency eventually wrecked owner Charlie Finley's team, and it wasn't until the late 1980s that the A's claimed another world title. Led by Bash Brothers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, the A's reached the World Series in 1988, 1989 and 1990 but only won once — the 1989 Earthquake Series. Since then, the A's have managed to field competitive teams despite low payrolls but have had a losing record in the past three seasons and are hovering around .500 this year.
From 1970 to 1980, these six teams combined for 29 division titles and 23 second-place finishes. They accounted for 16 of a possible 22 World Series spots and eight of the 11 champions. From 2000 until now, these same six teams have combined for seven division titles and seven second-place finishes, mostly because of the Dodgers and A's. If you threw out those two, the other four teams (Reds, Pirates, Royals and Orioles) have combined for one second-place finish and nothing else. The last time any of these six teams advanced the World Series was 1990.