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Friday Five: Best of the worst

Seattle's Brendan Ryan is mobbed by teammates after

Seattle's Brendan Ryan is mobbed by teammates after driving in the winning run in the ninth inning to defeat the White Soxat Safeco Field in Seattle. (May 6, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

The Yankees kick off a three-game series in Seattle tonight, and when they look around Safeco Field, they won't see any "World Series champions" banners. They won't see any banners denoting league pennants, either.

The Mariners are one of eight teams that never have won a World Series; of those eight, two have never even reached a Fall Classic, with the Expos/Nationals joining the Mariners.

To wave off this parade-less octet would be a mistake, however. All eight have made their mark in baseball history.

Which has made the biggest mark? That's what we're here to discuss. Here's my list of the best non-champions:

1. Houston. All eight of these teams have lifetime marks under .500. The Astros, however, enter today with a half-decent .497 winning percentage, having won 3,907 and lost 3,952. That's the best of our eight contenders (if you will). Of their first 49 full seasons, the Astros put up 24 winning records.

They've produced star players like Jimmy Wynn, Jose Cruz, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, and they've also employed all-timers like Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and Joe Morgan (an original Colt .45). They've contributed to baseball lore with the first domed stadium and crazy uniforms.

Perhaps most important for this conversation _ and I certainly don't have an exact calculation I'm using _ while the Astros are ring-less, they have taken part in some of the most memorable postseason moments. They went at it with the Phillies in the 1980 NLCS; they scared the heck out of the Mets in the 1986 NLCS; and they fought the Cardinals so tough in the 2004 NLCS. 

Finally, in 2005, they prevailed in some all-timers, outlasting the Braves in an 18-inning NLDS Game 4 and overcoming Albert Pujols' monstrous, ninth-inning, NLCS Game 5 homer to win Game 6

2. Seattle. We've already mentioned the fact that they've never even qualified for the World Series, let alone won it. But my goodness, have the Seattle fans enjoyed a parade of elite players since 1989, when Ken Griffey, Jr. earned a promotion from the minors and Randy Johnson came over in a trade with Montreal.

Besides Junior and the Big Unit, Mariners fans have born witness to the rise of Alex Rodriguez, the phemomenon that is Ichiro Suzuki and the brilliance of Felix Hernandez. Not bad.

Throw in the 1995 ALDS, the 116-victory regular season of 2001 and 10 years of Lou Piniella writing out the lineup cards, and Mariners fans have done all right for themselves.

3. Washington/Texas.  You know what amuses me most about the Rangers' history? Look at their list of managers: Huge names like Whitey Herzog, Gil Hodges, Bill Martin, Buck Showalter, Bobby Valentine, Ted Williams and Don Zimmer.

None of them brought the Rangers to the World Series, however; that fell to Ron Washington, last October.

The Rangers have major star power, although almost all of it is in the hitting department: Juan Gonzalez, Ruben Sierra, Ivan Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, Michael Young. Their most famous pitchers have been Kenny Rogers and Nolan Ryan, who joined the team at age 42, still had a good amount left and is now the team president.

In any case, despite taking until year 50 to reach the World Series (counting the years as Senators 2.0), the Rangers have contributed plenty to our baseball culture.

4. Seattle/Milwaukee. Yes, they began as the Seattle Pilots in 1969, then headed to The Fonz's neighborhood the subsequent season, under the leadership of a used car salesman named Bud Selig.

In the 41 years since, they've given us Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, a few years of Rollie Fingers, Bernie Brewer, awesome uniforms, a brilliant half-season by CC Sabathia and, under the stewardship of current owner Mark Attanasio, a loyal fan base. They're currently surging in the NL Central, as their offseason acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum are paying off.

Not a whole lot of postseason experience, admittedly, but the 1982 World Series was pretty darn good. 

 5. Tampa Bay. Despite being in just their 14th season, the Rays get the edge over Colorado, San Diego and Montreal/Washington because of what they've accomplished since 2008. No other team, in the history of the game, has accomplished what Tampa Bay has with such a massive payroll disparity. 

Their impact is more on the intellectual end, if you will, rather than on the visceral end like some of the teams higher on this list. We don't possess longstanding memories of the Rays, and shoot, they barely draw attention in their own market.

From a baseball operations standpoint, however, what the Rays have done is remarkable. While no one will dispute that rich teams have considerable advantages over "poor" teams in the current baseball structure, the Tampa Bay management has displayed that anything is possible with intelligent leadership.

--Contest coming later today.

--I don't have time for a separate links entry this morning, so here is my column on the Mets and David Einhorn

--I'll also check in later from Citi Field, as the Mets play the Phillies. 

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