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Which title-starved MLB team is closest to breaking through?

As championship droughts in the major sports continue to end practically on command these days, with the Eagles’ Super Bowl following titles by the Cubs, Cavaliers, and Astros the last couple of years, the obvious question is:

Who’s next?

There are 11 MLB teams that have gone at least 30 years without winning a World Series, starting with the Indians, whose 70-year drought is the longest in baseball, going back to their 1948 championship.

Next-longest is the Rangers, working on 58 years and counting. They’re one of five teams that have never won a championship, including the Brewers, Padres, Mariners, and Nationals.

And then there are the Mets. Has it really been 32 years? More to the point, when will they win again?

The list is intriguing, so I decided to rank the 11 teams, from most likely to least likely, with odds on which will be the next to break through.

Francisco Lindor and the Indians seem best positioned to snag a World Series championship and end their drought.

Francisco Lindor and the Indians seem best positioned to snag a World Series championship and end their drought.

(Phil Long/AP)

1. Indians (6-1)

They were everybody’s favorites going into the postseason last October, after that 22-game winning streak, and there are still whispers in Cleveland that Corey Kluber was dealing with a back injury during the Yankees series when he got roughed up in two starts.

Kluber might be the best starter in baseball when healthy, and the Indians have great pitching depth. With Cody Allen and Andrew Miller headed for free agency, likely breaking up their monster bullpen, they need to cash in now.

2. Dodgers (7-1)

They last won it all in 1988, thanks in part to Kirk Gibson’s famous Game 1 World Series home run off Dennis Eckersley, and they came oh-so close to ending the drought last October, losing Game 7 to the Astros.

You have to like their chances of getting back to October, but it won’t be easy running the playoff gauntlet again. And for all of his greatness, Clayton Kershaw still hasn’t gotten through a post-season without failing in a big spot, as he did in Game 5 last year.

3. Nationals (8-1)

Bryce Harper’s pending free agency will create all sorts of drama for this team, as there will be huge pressure to finally break through. The Nationals, formerly the Expos, have never won a championship in their 49 years of existence, but it’s recent history that will weigh heavily on a team that has yet to win a playoff series in repeated tries since Harper and Steven Strasburg arrived.

4. Mets (12-1)

I don’t think it’s out of the question that the pieces could fall into place and the Mickey Callaways could be playing in October. Obviously they need to get lucky with injuries for a change, especially on the pitching front, and at least they’re finally addressing that issue in a significant way, creating a new position to oversee the medical/strength & conditioning programs, as well as bringing in a manager who comes from an organization that was way ahead of the Mets in terms of injury-prevention study and technology.

Even after a rough 2017, Noah Syndergaard and the Mets could make an October push with some better luck on the injury front.

Even after a rough 2017, Noah Syndergaard and the Mets could make an October push with some better luck on the injury front.

(Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

As I’ve written before, even if they can’t win the division, they have a chance to take advantage of a weak NL East and pile up wins in the wild-card race. Which, again, is why even after they made a solid signing in Todd Frazier on Monday, they still need to add a starting pitcher like Lance Lynn.

5. Brewers (15-1)

Another winless franchise, 49 years and counting, the Brewers signaled they believe they’re ready to win by trading for Christian Yelich and signing free agent Lorenzo Cain on the same day a couple of weeks ago.

They’re a team on the rise, with a lot of young talent, but until they add more starting pitching it’s hard to think they’re ready to win a championship.

6. Rangers (20-1)

Second only to Indians for longest drought, going back 57 years to the birth of this franchise, it might be years before the Rangers get closer to a title than they did in 2011. If only Nelson Cruz had been playing deeper in that fateful Game 6…

7. Mariners (20-1)

Still another franchise without a championship, going back 41 years, the M’s carry another burden as the team that has gone the longest without reaching the post-season. Who knew they’d disappear after the Yankees knocked off the 2001 team that won 116 regular-season games?

8. Orioles (30-1)

Hard to believe it has been 35 years since this proud franchise won its last title, with Cal Ripken Jr. as a 22-year old MVP in 1983. The bad news is they’re probably headed for a rebuild after Manny Machado leaves as a free agent.

9. Pirates (40-1)

Have to go back to Willie Stargell’s We-Are-Fam-a-lee Bucs of 1979 for the last time they won it all. Looked like they were on the verge a few years ago but couldn’t break through, and now the recent trades of Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen signal a rebuild ahead.

10. Padres (50-1)

Winless since the team was born in 1969, Padres fans might always wonder: what if Mark Langston had gotten the call from Rich Garcia when he had Tino Martinez struck out looking in that huge Game 1 spot of the ’98 World Series…and not subsequently given up a Series-changing grand slam?

11. Tigers (50-1)

They came up small in 2009 and 2012 World Series appearances, leaving Motown to long for the Sparky Anderson-led ’84 champs, especially now that a rebuild is at hand.

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