In a year when the Chicago Cubs were the hottest sports ticket in the baseball universe, one of the team’s less-heralded accomplishments involved winning 100 regular-season games. The Cubs finished out the regular season with 103 wins under their belt and beat out their rivals in the National League Central as well. It’s been 81 years since the Northsiders won 100 games. As fate would have it, the team lost the World Series that season to the Detroit Tigers.
The 1935 Cubbies aren’t the only team to whoop the league all season only to fall short of championship status. There are many reasons why teams hit the century mark in the regular season and miss the brass ring; ill-timed injuries, peaking at the wrong time, and even bad management. To make matters worse for 100-win ball clubs, some teams didn’t even make it to the World Series during the years they amassed the biggest win totals. But the 2016 Cubs went into Game 7 and made history. Here are some notable 100-win postseason failures; luckily Chicago isn’t a part of this group in 2016.
2015 St. Louis Cardinals
In their 134th season in the majors, the St. Louis Cardinals got off to a fast start, winning 22 of their first 29 games. It was also a year in which the team added Curt Flood, Ken Forsch and Ted Simmons to the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame, signifying the team’s long, rich tradition of success. The team ended with 100 wins on the button, two games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates and three games ahead of the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals were an example of a team that was greater than the sum of its parts; one in which manager Mike Matheny pushed all the right buttons at all the right times.
Statistically, however, the team was somewhat mediocre; only one player hit more than 20 home runs (Matt Carpenter), no starter had a .300 batting average, and no pitcher had a 20-win season. The chief reason behind the Cardinals’ failure to make the World Series — losing to the Cubs in the NLDS in four games — was the September 20 thumb ligament injury to catcher Yadier Molina. As the heart and soul of the team, Molina played sparingly in the series. Without his mastery of game calling and timely hitting, the Cardinals proved to be fairly ordinary.
2001 Seattle Mariners
Celebrating their quarter-century in the American League, the Seattle Mariners set the division record for wins in a season with 116. Ironically, the Oakland A’s, who finished second to the M’s in the American League West, won 102 games and finished 14 games behind Seattle. It was a memorable year for the Mariners; it marked Ichiro Suzuki’s MLB rookie season in which he batted .350 with 242 hits and 56 stolen bases. Four players batted over .300 with four also hitting more than 20 home runs.
Aside from Ichirio, the addition of second baseman Bret Boone as an offseason free agent was a catalyst for the impressive win total. Boone batted .331 and had 37 home runs with 141 RBIs. Pitching was good, but not great. Crafty lefthander Jamie Moyer won 20 games and reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki notched 45 saves. Awards flowed onto Safeco Field for the 2001 Mariners. Ichiro won the batting title, Rookie of the Year award, and MVP award. Boone set the record for most RBIs for a second baseman in the AL. Manager of the Year award went to skipper Lou Piniella.
With all the wins and accolades, the Mariners lost to the New York Yankees in the ALCS in five games. With the heartfelt energy of a city torn by the horror of 9/11, the Yankees had fate on their side, as well as future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera in the bullpen. In a touch of irony, one of the Yankees’ leaders was Tino Martinez. The former Mariner had 34 regular-season home runs. In the end, the Yankees’ Andy Pettite (who had two of the four wins) and Bernie Williams (with three home runs) proved to be too much for Seattle. Consequently, Seattle and the Washington Nationals are the only two MLB franchises to never appear in the World Series.
2003 San Francisco Giants
Under the guidance of manager (and former Giants great) Felipe Alou, the San Francisco Giants cruised to a 100-win season, running away with the National League West title. Barry Bonds’ stretch of phenomenal seasons included the memorable one that saw the Giants lose the NLDS. Bonds batted .341 with 45 home runs and 90 RBIs, and he was named the NL MVP. He also walked 148 times versus 58 strikeouts. However, he did not carry the team alone.
Jose Cruz and Marquis Grissom contributed with 20 home runs apiece. Edgardo Alfonzo, playing third, had 81 RBIs, and Pedro Feliz, hit 16 homers in a part-time role. On the hill, the Giants were good, but not great. The team had only three hurlers with 10 or more wins, led by Jason Schmidt with 17. It was Joe Nathan’s first full season as a setup man (he originally came up with the team as a shortstop) with the former Twin and Ranger winning 12 games.
The Giants won Game 1 of the ALDS against the wild-card Marlins, but lost the next three. Led by future Hall of Famers, catcher Ivan Rodriguez and 20-year-old infielder Miguel Cabrera, the Fish went on to beat the heavily favored New York Yankees four games to two. We should note that Barry Bonds was considered the goat for the Giants in the NLDS; he went two for nine in the Marlins’ series with no home runs and two RBIs.