With the end of another baseball season and a sad, cold winter staring us in the face, the hour has come: It's time for our tri-annual Tortured Fan Base Rankings. I do this every year for the NBA, the NFL and, now, Major League Baseball. This is the third annual MLB rankings. Here are the rankings from 2013 , 2014 and 2015. A recap of the process, if you're not familiar with it already:

It's a ranking of every team's fan base, from most to least spoiled. The goal is to figure which one deserves winning a championship the most: who you, as a disinterested party, should be cheering for next year. Lots of factors are involved: fan loyalty, historical success, particularly painful eras, near-miss title chances, current roster, any ineffable notion that just occurs to me while I'm putting this list together.

I've done my best to take into account reader comments, changes in circumstances over the past year, specious assessments from the past and everything else in this year's rankings, but this is an ongoing process, a march toward perfect. If there's any major change I've made from last year's rankings, it's not to overrate a recent-ish title. A lot can go wrong between now and then. Anything you don't like or believe I have wrong, email me at leitch@sportsonearth.com.

So here we go:

30. Chicago Cubs

Last title: 2016
World Series: 11
Titles: 3
Last year's ranking: 1

Well, how about that. The Cubs went from the most tortured fan base in baseball -- and all of sports, really -- to World Champions. Fun year! Sure, crank Cardinals fans like me will grouse about all the bandwagon fans and warn everyone that you're going to feel about the Cubs in five years the way you feel about the Red Sox now … but man, who the hell cares what we have to say? The Cubs have won the World Series. The biggest story in sports has happened. When I conceived of these rankings five years ago, the teams I most had in mind were the Buffalo Bills, the Cleveland Browns, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Cubs. Half of those teams have now won titles. None will ever feel more transformative than this one did.

29. San Francisco Giants

Last title: 2014
World Series appearances: 20
Championships: 8
Last year's ranking: 29

Well, the every-other-year business is finally over. Giants fans will have to take solace with those three championships in the past seven years. And you know what? There's a little part of me that thinks that if they had snuck out that National League Division Series against the Cubs -- and they had a real chance -- they would have won another one.

28. New York Yankees

Last title: 2009
World Series appearances: 40
Championships: 27
Last year's ranking: 27

The Yankees missed the playoffs, but they:

A) Kept their streak of winning seasons intact;
B) Traded away two relief pitchers -- who ended up being the most important players in the World Series -- and received a treasure trove of prospects in return;

C) Watched as Gary Sanchez became the most exciting young player in baseball;
D) Cleared nearly $30 million off their payroll with the Bryce Harper/Manny Machado sweepstakes just a few years away.

The Yankees are setting themselves up to be the old dominant Yankees in a few years. And even this "down" period has them winning all the time. It's sort of unreal.

27. Boston Red Sox 

Last title: 2013
World Series appearances: 12
Championships: 8
Last year's ranking: 26

They said goodbye to David Ortiz this year, but they're also replacing him with the most impressive collection of young talent this side of Chicago. We're going to get a Cubs-Red Sox or Cubs-Yankees World Series in the next five years.

26. St. Louis Cardinals

Last title: 2011
World Series appearances: 19
Championships: 11
Last year's ranking: 28

Everything that could have gone wrong for the Cardinals over the past 12 months -- from losing to the Cubs in the NLDS to watching cross-state rivals Kansas City win the World Series to missing the playoffs to seeing (gasp!) the Cubs win the World Series -- did go wrong, and they capped it off by extending embattled manager Mike Matheny's contract through 2020. But the Cardinals fans have a long way to go, maybe decades, until anyone sheds much of a tear for them.

25. Kansas City Royals

Last title: 2015
World Series appearances: 4
Titles: 2
Last year's ranking: 30

It was a year-long celebration after that 2015 title: Kauffman Stadium was in party mode all year, even though the team disappointed. They're gonna make one last run with this core, but either way, no one can ever take 2015 away from them.

24. Philadelphia Phillies

Last title: 2008
World Series appearances: 7
Championships: 2
Last year's ranking: 24

They're finally moving in the right direction, and this could be a legitimate NL East contender in the next couple of years. The clock is ticking on the Nationals and Mets: You guys better win while you can.

23. Colorado Rockies

Last title: Never
World Series appearances: 1
Last year's ranking: 19

There was finally a small step forward for the Rockies this year, and they might even be a little better next year. Plus, Bud Black is the sort of manager who augers progress. Is there light in Colorado? Is that possible?

22. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Last title: 2002
World Series appearances: 1
Titles: 1
Last year's ranking: 23

The trade for Cameron Maybin seems to point toward the Angels believing they can contend next year, which … well, hey, good luck with that, guys. Four more years of Mike Trout left. Does this look like a team that's going to be a contender in the next four years?

21. Tampa Bay Rays

Last title: Never
World Series appearances: 1
Last year's ranking: 18

The AL East is getting further away from them, and every team in the division with the possible exception of Baltimore will be better next year than they were this year. What's the strategy for the Rays now? What's the inefficiency to exploit?

20. Arizona Diamondbacks

Last title: 2001
World Series appearances: 1
Titles: 1
Last year's ranking: 22

This was a lost season for the Diamondbacks, full of misfortune, injury and dysfunction, but they've cleared house now. The Arizona front office is now in line with the rest of baseball, which is a bummer for the rest of baseball (who loved trading with the D-backs, after all) but good news for Arizona fans. Now comes the long build back.

19. Minnesota Twins

Last title: 1991
World Series appearances: 6
Titles: 3
Last year's ranking: 21

This was a major step back -- the worst record in baseball tends to be -- but all told, it was probably a year they needed to have. They can attack this year's draft, keep the young talent they have and maybe make a run at this division in … I dunno, five years? Four, maybe?

18. Chicago White Sox

Last title: 2005
World Series appearances: 5
Titles: 3
Last year's ranking: 20

The team with the most recent World Series champion left on this list, the White Sox hold this spot because not only did those darned Cubs just win the World Series, the Cubs' victory also showcased just how few people remember the White Sox's title from 2005. That team was terrific, and historic, and they have just vanished from people's memories. Also: Guaranteed Rate Field!

17. San Diego Padres

Last title: Never
World Series appearances: 2
Last year's ranking: 17

They remain right in the middle, though you can probably expect them to creep up this list in the next few years. Because it's not getting any better anytime soon.

16. Miami Marlins

Last title: 2003
World Series appearances: 2
Championships: 2
Last year's ranking: 25

The tragic death of Jose Fernandez is going to haunt this franchise for decades to come. It is so rare to have a talent like his end up on your team, and to have such an inextricable tie to your community. To lose him right in his prime is a loss that remains unfathomable.

15. Cincinnati Reds

Last title: 1990
World Series appearances: 9
Titles: 5
Last year's ranking: 11

The Reds are making baby steps toward respectability, but their division is going to remain a nightmare for the next decade, at least. Also ... Over/under on playoff games that Joey Votto plays in Cincinnati the rest of his career: .5. You have to go under, right?

14. Oakland A's

Last title: 1989
World Series appearances: 14
Titles: 9
Last year's ranking: 10

An irrelevant, lost season for the A's leaves them in the same limbo they've been in over the past few years. The postseason failures will always haunt them, but even those seem like decades ago now.

13. Atlanta Braves

Last title: 1995
World Series appearances: 9
Titles: 3
Last year's ranking: 15

They move into a new stadium next year with some real momentum and propulsion: This looks like a scary team in a few years. But all those division titles with only one World Series win will haunt this fan base until they get another one.

12. Toronto Blue Jays

Last title: 1993
World Series appearances: 2
Titles: 2
Last year's ranking: 16

This is now two consecutive seasons that you thought, "OK, this is Toronto's year." And it wasn't their year either time. Two American League Championship Series losses in a row are brutal to go through. But the worst part is that 2016's run may be the last ALCS Toronto sees for quite some time.

11. Houston Astros

Last title: Never
World Series appearances: 1
Last year's ranking: 13

The Astros took a step backward this year, but this team is still packed with talent. Is this your 2017 AL West favorite? Don't forget:

10. New York Mets

Last title: 1986
World Series appearances: 5
Titles: 2
Last year's ranking: 9

Always the most controversial pick on this list, if just because their fans are so vocal about their pain that you forget that the pain, when compared to the teams below them on this list, isn't all that terrible. They made the World Series last year, they made the playoffs this year, they've still got a ton of young pitching and they have a championship in the past 30 years, something only one team below them on this list can say. We'll see if they sign Yoenis Cespedes, but all told, considering the injuries the Mets had this year still didn't keep them from the NL Wild Card Game, they can't complain too much. (This will not stop them.)

9. Washington Nationals

Last title: Never
World Series appearances: None
Last year's ranking: 14

Another terrific regular season ends with another playoff loss. The Nationals/Expos still have never won a postseason series -- unless you count the strike series of 1981 -- and the clock is ticking fast on this core. They've got two more years until Bryce Harper hits free agency. They better make it happen fast.

8. Los Angeles Dodgers

Last title: 1988
World Series appearances: 18
Titles: 6
Last year's ranking: 12

The Cubs were obviously a tough assignment, but after three games of their NLCS, you couldn't be blamed for thinking the Dodgers were going to do this. But once again: More postseason pain. It was the fourth consecutive postseason that the Dodgers fell short of the World Series, and despite some heroics, Clayton Kershaw is still going to have His October Question hanging over him one more year. The Dodgers were trying to build what the Cubs just built. They started earlier. They've now been passed.

7. Detroit Tigers

Last title: 1984
World Series appearances: 11
Titles: 4
Last year's ranking: 8

The Tigers are trying to hang on and pretend they are contenders, but this is now two straight years they've missed the playoffs. The window has closed. That they can't accept it is just going to make what's coming so much worse.

6. Milwaukee Brewers

Last title: Never
World Series appearances: 1
Last year's ranking: 4

Everyone talks about the pain the Cubs championship caused Cardinals fans and White Sox fans. But what about Brewers' fans? They see the Cubs as close up as anyone.

5. Baltimore Orioles

Last title: 1983
World Series appearances: 6
Titles: 3
Last year's ranking: 6

A fun, exciting season ended with Buck's Blunder, and you can't help but wonder if this is going to be it for a while. The AL East is improving up and down, and the Orioles have a ton of free agent decisions to make this offseason, none of them ideal. The Orioles have been an inspiring story the last half-decade. But that story may be over … with one four-game ALCS sweep to show for it.

4. Texas Rangers

Last title: Never
World Series appearances: 2
Last year's ranking: 7

The Rangers had the top overall seed in the American League this season, but few considered them the best team in the AL, something the postseason bore out. It looks like the Rangers are building another solid team that will get close enough to break their fans' hearts again.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates

Last title: 1979
World Series appearances: 7
Titles: 5
Last year's ranking: 2

This was a bit of a lost year, but the Pirates are still primed to maybe be the top challenger to the Cubs in the NL Central moving forward, depending on what the Cardinals can hang on to. The Pirates were smart this year, building toward 2017 and beyond. Now they've got to take advantage of it before it gets away from them again.

2. Seattle Mariners

Last title: None
World Series appearances: None
Last year's ranking: 5

They were decent enough to hang around the playoff chase but fall just short, again. The problem is that they continue to have the longest postseason drought in baseball and the second-longest in the four major professional sports (behind the Buffalo Bills). Felix Hernandez is never going to get that postseason start, is he?

1. Cleveland Indians 

Last title: 1948
World Series appearances: 6
Titles: 2
Last year's ranking: 3

For a moment, just remember this:

One of the most jaw-dropping moments in recent postseason memory, now lost to history in the wake of the Cubs' championship. Now Cleveland just has the lingering aroma of blowing a 3-1 World Series lead. It'll be tough to shake it. LeBron has done his thing … but the Indians are back where they always felt most comfortable: Causing their fans pain.


Email me at leitch@sportsonearth.com; follow me @williamfleitch; or just shout out your window real loud, I'll hear you. Point is, let's talk.