Dan Marino. Karl Malone. Ted Williams.
These three players are legends in their respective sports. But their names will forever have the distinction of being some of the all-time greats to never win a championship.
Some players hunger for glory their entire career, but fall short. The following list holds the top five players who deserve to take a(nother) ring home. The players on this list look to avoid becoming permanent mainstays on the list of Greatest Ever Not To Win, or to cap off miraculous seasons, or to overcome personal anguish for a bittersweet victory.
The third time is the charm, right? The 2010 AL MVP is leading the Texas Rangers into the playoffs for the third consecutive season. In 2010, the Rangers lost the World Series in six games to the San Francisco Giants. In 2011, they lost the World Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Everybody knows about the rise of Josh Hamilton: his battle with alcohol and drug addiction that ultimately derailed his baseball career with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Cincinnati Reds before reinventing himself in Arlington. A long-awaited title in Texas, which hasn’t won a championship in the 40 years of the franchise, would solidify Hamilton’s legacy before he could potentially leave via free agency this offseason.
Everybody knows about Pat Neshek’s unique pitching delivery.
After being hit in the arm with a pitch in high school, he began to throw sidearm as a way to deal with pain in his arm. When his arm healed, he wasn’t able to throw the ball overhand, thus his unique style.
The violent motion of his delivery could be the explanation for the torn UCL in his pitching arm that forced him to have season-ending Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the entire 2009 season. Neshek was one of the better relievers for the Minnesota Twins before the injury, finding himself on the Fan All-Star Game ballot in 2007.
Neshek was claimed off waivers by the San Diego Padres in August 2011 before signing a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles the following January but was optioned to AAA Norfolk. He was traded to Oakland on August 3 just in time for their playoff push, and posted a 1.37 ERA in 24 appearances for the A’s.
Amidst all the excitement of playing in the majors again, Pat’s wife, Stephanee, was nearing her due date with the couple’s first child. Pat was with Stephanee in Florida welcoming their son, Gehrig John Neshek, into the world while his teammates celebrated an AL West Championship in Oakland.
But celebration turned into tragedy 23 hours later when Gehrig suddenly passed away in his mother’s arms.
I got to interview Pat while he was with the Twins in 2008. There are only two things that matter to him: family and baseball. You can see which one comes first when you find out where he was while Oakland completed a 13-game comeback for the division title. Besides playing the game, Neshek is an avid collector of game memorabilia and honored one of the game’s greatest players, Lou Gehrig, by naming his son after him.
While adding an authentic and well-deserved World Series ring to his collection in no way accounts for the loss of a child, I can only imagine the ovation that Pat receives when he enters a game against Detroit this week will be comparable to the greeting Gehrig received from the angels as he approached the gates of Heaven.
MLB post-season success is the only thing the Japanese phenom hasn't achieved in his remarkable career lately.
Ichiro, who hasn't tasted the post-season in 11 seasons, was almost guaranteed it after a trade sent him from the Seattle Mariners to the New York Yankees last July.
The former Rookie of the Year, AL MVP, two-time batting champion, and ten-time All Star has set numerous hitting records and set a new standard for players making the trek over the Pacific Ocean to make the leap from Nippon Baseball to the major leagues.
The last time Ichiro was in the playoffs, he helped the Mariners win an MLB-record 116 games in 2001 before losing to the Yankees in five games. After winning the batting title with a .350 average, Ichiro hit .222 (4-18) against the Yankees in the playoffs that season.
After Hideki Matsui won the World Series MVP in 2009 when the Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, the first Japanese player to play in the major leagues, Masanori Murakami, stated:
Ichiro has had many accomplishments, but they've all been in the regular season. As the first Japanese to win an MVP in the World Series, this is a great accomplishment for Matsui and will have a huge impact.
This is Ichiro's chance to one-up Matsui.
Since being traded to the Yankees, Ichiro is batting .322 (73-227) with five home runs, 27 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Ichiro also won a Japan Series in 1996 with the Orix Blue Wave.
There would be no better ending to the Chipper Jones farewell tour than having him leave on top of the game he has played professionally since 1993.
Jones, who has played his entire 19-year career with the Atlanta Braves, was part of 14 consecutive NL East titles, won a World Series in 1995, was named the 1999 NL MVP and won his first batting title at age 36 in 2008.
Now, 40 years old and a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer, Jones is looking to ride off into the sunset with his second World Series championship.
On September 12, he became the first switch hitter in MLB history to record at least 2,500 hits, 1,500 RBI, 1,500 runs and 1,500 walks.
Jones also joined Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Lou Gehrig as the only players in major league history to record at least 2,500 hits, 1,500 walks, 1,500 runs, 500 doubles, 450 home runs and 1,500 RBI while hitting .300 with a .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage.
Jones ended his career hitting over .300 from each side of home plate. Jones also has the most RBI of any player who was primarily a third baseman.
Nobody has chased a championship ring around more than Jim Thome, nor has it been more elusive for anybody.
Thome, who returns to the playoffs after being acquired by the Baltimore Orioles last June, played in two previous Fall Classics for the Cleveland Indians, one a loss to Chipper Jones' Braves in 1995, the other a heartbreaker to the 1997 Florida Marlins.
Thome signed with the Philadelphia Phillies after becoming a free agent in 2002.
Thome failed to reach the playoffs with the Phillies.
The Phillies traded Thome to the reigning World Champion Chicago White Sox for Aaron Rowand in 2006.
The Phillies won the World Series two years later.
The White Sox added Thome's big bat as they looked to repeat as World Champions. Thome would return to the playoffs in 2008 thanks to a solo home run in an AL Central tie-breaker in which the White Sox won 1-0. The White Sox would lose in the ALDS to the Tampa Bay Rays, three games to one.
Thome again returned to the playoffs, this time with Minnesota, in 2010. Minnesota was swept by the New York Yankees in the 2010 ALDS.
Now, in the inaugural Wild Card round against the Texas Rangers, Thome looks to capture a ring one final time.
Thome currently ranks seventh on the all-time home run list with 612 home runs.