The Chicago Cubs look like serious contenders for the World Series yet again. Could they be in line for a repeat? Hard to say, and even more difficult to imagine it happening, considering the last time we’ve seen a back-to-back champion was almost 17 years ago.
The New York Yankees completed a back-to-back-to-back sequence in 2000 by beating the Mets in the Subway series, capping off an incredible five years in which they won four World Series. The previous repeat was in 1992-1993, just before the strike season, with the Toronto Blue Jays winning back to back. In general, we don’t see too many teams repeating over the years besides the Yankees, especially not since the 70’s, when the A’s won 3, the Reds won 2 and the Yankees won 2 from 1972 through 1978.
Because Baseball offers so few postseason spots, it’s not very rare to see teams miss the playoffs in the season after winning the World Series. The 2003 Angels, the 2004 Marlins, the 2006 White Sox (Despite winning 90 games), the 2007 Cardinals, the Giants in 2011, 2013 and 2015, the Red Sox in 2014 and the Royals in 2016 all missed the playoffs. That’s 9 out of 16 seasons without the defending World Series champions making the playoffs.
Only two teams made it far enough to try and defend their crown. The 2001 Yankees made it back to the World Series, hoping to make it four in a row, something that hasn’t happened since the 1947-1953 Yankees. But they lost to the Diamondbacks in 7 games, as Mariano Rivera let a lead slip away from him in the bottom of the ninth. The 2009 Phillies made it back to the World Series as well, facing the Yankees. The Phillies, with Pedro Martinez on the mound, fell behind the Yankees early in game 6 of that series, and couldn’t catch up, losing in six games.
So in terms of recent trends, the last four World Series champions leading up to the Cubs have failed to get back to the postseason the next October. The Cubs weren’t built to be a one or two seasons thing. The foundation laid before big money was spent on the right free agents was used to ensure multiyear contention and prolonged success. But as the last 17 years have shown, being the best in Major League Baseball one year, more of then than not means nothing about how the team will perform in the next one.
In comparison to the NBA and NFL: No NBA championship team since 2000 has missed the playoffs. We’ve had champions getting knocked out in the first round (2007 Heat, 2012 Mavs, 2015 Spurs). In the NFL missing the playoff after a Super Bowl is more common. Since 2000, the 2002 Patriots, 2003 Buccaneers, 2006 Steelers, 2009 Steelers, 2012 Giants, 2013 Ravens and 2016 Broncos have all missed the playoffs: 7 out of 16 champions. When you don’t have 16 teams making the postseason each year, it’s a bit more difficult making it back in.