- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

There’s a famous, albeit cryptic sign that hangs from one of the rooftops behind Wrigley Field’s right-field fence that currently reads “AC006299.”

Chicago Cubs fans know well what it means. “AC” stands for “Anno Catuli,” which is Latin for “In the Year of the Cubs.” The numbers signify how many years it has been since the North Siders last won a division title (00), the National League pennant (62) and the World Series (99).

No one quite knows what they will do if the Cubs’ championship drought reaches triple digits this season, though perhaps the 2008 version of the world’s favorite lovable losers finally will be the one to break the Billy Goat Curse and win the franchise’s first title since 1908.

If it somehow happens, the Cubs will become the third major league club this decade to end nearly a century of futility, joining the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox.

But who does that leave on baseball’s most-tortured list? Who takes the torch as the sport’s new cursed franchise? Who might go another century without winning a championship?

Let’s look at the, uh, contenders:

Cleveland Indians

The Indians already pace the rest of the field, having gone 59 years since winning the 1948 World Series. But this actually looks like an organization on the verge of winning it all. The Indians made the playoffs last season and nearly reached the World Series. They have the nucleus of a championship-caliber club that could contend for years with young stars Grady Sizemore, Fausto Carmona, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta. So this drought may not extend much longer.

San Francisco Giants

There could be a winner, er, loser here. The Giants haven’t won a title since they called the Polo Grounds home (1954), and they have little hope of ending the streak anytime soon. A franchise that spent the last decade trying to win with veterans now is beginning the long, slow process of rebuilding. There are a few nice pieces on the pitching staff like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, but there’s no young stud position player on the roster. It could be years before they contend again.

Texas Rangers

The former expansion Washington Senators have never won a title in their 47 years of existence, nor have they even reached the World Series. They thought they had built a legitimate contender about a decade ago, with a fearsome lineup that included Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro, but they forgot that you can’t win without pitching and may never get the message. A strong candidate to keep the drought going.

Houston Astros

They have been playing baseball deep in the heart of Texas since 1962, but aside from their lone trip to the World Series in 2005 (in which they were swept by the White Sox) the Astros haven’t sniffed a title. They have, however, sustained a fair level of success, and you have to figure they’re going to get it right one of these days.

Washington Nationals

Hate to say it, but the hometown team doesn’t exactly have a storied history. The Montreal Expos (and yes, that’s what this franchise was known as from 1969 to 2004) made only one postseason appearance in 1981. If you want to count only teams that played in the District, the string of futility is even more alarming. The original Senators last won a pennant in 1933, and the city’s one and only World Series title came in 1924. That’s 84 years and counting without a title in Washington, a drought surpassed only by the Cubs.

Hmm, maybe some industrious fan should consider installing a Latin sign beyond the left-field fence at Nationals Park.

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