This is a series of posts that will look at the closest Major League Baseball franchises have been to winning their last pennant and last World Series Championship. Four teams have won neither a World Series nor a pennant. Some teams have won a pennant, but no World Series. Many have won both, but its been a while since their last.
The first team in the series is the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
The Devil Rays have not won a pennant or a World Series. In fact, they have never had a season in which they have had less than 90 losses.
Tampa Bay began play in the 1998 season and 19 games into their first season, they were 11-8, just 2-1/2 games out of first place in the AL East. But, they lost ten of their next eleven games on the way to a 63-99 record, and a last place finish 51 games behind the New York Yankees.
In 1999, the Devil Rays were again 11-8 19 games into the season and they were only 1-1/2 games behind the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. After a win on May 18, the Rays were 21-19 , in third place, and still only two games behind the Boston Red Sox. Then, Tampa Bay went 3-17 over the next twenty games and on June 11, they were 11 games behind the Yankees. They would finish last in the AL East at 69-93, 29 game behind the Yankees.
In 2000, Tampa won their first game of the season for the first time and was 2-2 four games into the season. Then, they lost five in a row to go to 2-7 and that team was never close to .500 the rest of the year as they finished last again with a record of 69-92.
It got worse from there...In '01, the Rays won their first game of the season again, but lost their next seven. They would end the year in last at 62-100.
2002 was even worse for Tampa. Although it did not start out that way. The Rays won their first three games and were a 1/2 game up on the Blue Jays on April 4. But, by the end of the month, Tampa was in the midst of a 15 game losing streak. They ended the year in last at 55-106 and 48 games behind the Yankees.
2003 was the first year of Lou Pinella being in charge in Tampa. Again, Tampa won their first game. However, that was the only time they were above .500 that season. The Rays were 10-17 at the end of the month on the way to 63-99, another last place finish...This one 38 games behind the Yankees.
In 2004, Tampa started the year 5-4 to be in three-way tie with the Red Sox and Baltimore. But, they were 7-14 at the end of April and eight games behind the Red Sox. The only change in the script was that Tampa was 70-91 and finished in fourth place, still 30-1/2 games behind the Yankees.
The next season, they started 0-2, but fought to get to 3-3. They would never get over .500 in 2005 and finish back in the AL East basement with a 67-95 record, 28 games behind the Red Sox and Yankees.
In 2006, there was no Lou Pinella in Tampa. The D-Rays lost their first two games again. They got the record to 3-3, 6-6, 7-7, and 8-8. But, they never got over .500 this season and they finished in last at 61-101, 36 games behind the Yankees.
This past season, they lost the first game, but won the next two for a 2-1. But, that was the only time Tampa was above .500. They season ending record was 66-96 for last place finish, 30 games behind Boston.
Based on this cursory look back, the answer to Tampa Bay Devil Rays: How Close?
April 4, 2002. 3-0, 1/2 game lead in the AL East.