erik lundegaard

Monday May 16, 2016

The Team with the Longest Postseason Drought

St. Louis Browns 1944 pennant

Apparently it doesn't pay to name your team the Browns. (Cf., football, Super Bowl)

It began with a simple thought: The baseball team with the longest, current postseason drought is my Seattle Mariners, who haven't been since 2001, when they won 116 games but got killed in the ALCS by the New York Yankees, 4 games to 1, including a 12-3 drubbing in the final game in the Bronx. Manager Lou Piniella had promised a Game 6 back in Seattle, and, as the outs dwindled down, the Yankee faithful taunted him, their former beloved skipper/right fielder, with “No Game 6! No Game 6!” Salt in the wound: Joe Torre used Mariano Rivera in the 9th inning with a 9-run lead—even though Mo had pitched an inning the day before and hardly needed the workout. Torre and Mo would get theirs a few weeks later in Arizona.

Anyway, the thought was this: What other teams have held this ignominious title: Team with Longest Postseason Drought (LPD)? 

Last year, I knew it was the Blue Jays, the other '77 expansion team, which hadn't been to the post since 1993, when they won their second World Series in a row. Of course they then went in '15 (bat flip, etc.) but lost to the eventual World Champion Kansas City Royals ... which had been the team with the longest postseason drought before them. 

But what about earlier? And which of the original 16 teams was the last to get to the postseason?

So I crunched the numbers.

Interesting tidbit: the 15th of the 16 teams to make it to the World Series was the St. Louis Cardinals, which didn't go until 1926, and which now has more championships than any NL team.

As for last? That was the other St. Louis team, the Browns, which didn't make it until 1944, then lost (to the crosstown Cards), and never went again until they moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. By the time '44 rolled around, it had been 41 years of famine for the Browns, and 18 years (since the start of the '27 season) with the LPD title. 

Who took over the mantle in '45? The Boston Braves, which had been only once, back in '14. They held the title for four years until they made the Series in '48, when it passed onto the Phillies, pennantless since '15, who went two years later. So the ChiSox/BlackSox got it. 

Here's a chart. Search for your favorite team:

St. Louis Browns 1903-1944 41 18
Boston Braves 1914-1948 34 4
Philadelphia Phillies 1915-1950 35 2
Chicago White Sox 1919-1959 40 9
Pittsburgh Pirates 1928-1960 32 1
Phil/ KC/ Oakland Athletics 1931-1971 40 11
Chicago Cubs 1945-1984 39 13
Cleveland Indians 1954-1995 41 11
Texas Rangers 1961-1996 35 1
Mon. Expos/Wash. Nationals 1981-2012 31 16
Kansas City Royals 1985-2014 29 2
Toronto Blue Jays 1993-2015 22 1
Seattle Mariners 2001-? 15* 1*

* and counting

Trivia learned along the way:

  • The last of the original 16 teams to make the postseason in the new, post-1969 playoff format? Cleveland Indians. In 1995. Ouch. 
  • The last team, original or expansion, to make the post-season? The Rays in 2008. The second-to-last was the D-backs in '99.
  • Which team has made it to the post-season the fewest times? The Marlins. Just twice: 1997 and 2003. But they won the World Series both years. So: compensation. 
  • The original 16 team that's been to the postseason the fewest times? Not the Cubs. It's their crosstown rivals, the White Sox, which—even in the era of expanded playoffs—have only made the postseason nine times. Two expansion teams, the Astros and Angels, have been more often (10). Hell, the Cubs, pennant-less since 1945, still have more pennants (10) than the ChiSox have postseason appearances (9).
  • Only one franchise from each expansion year has won a World Series title. Isn't that odd? In '61, we got the Senators/Rangers (visited Series twice, lost twice) and Angels (title: 2002). In '62, the Astros (went once, lost) and Mets ('69, '86). Among the four teams of '69, the Royals are far and away the most successful: four Series and two championships ('85, '15). No championships for the Padres (been twice), Brewers (once), Expos/Nationals (nonce). And so on. '77, it's Blue Jays (two titles) over Mariners (never been); in '93, Marlins over Rockies; '97, D-backs over Rays. Odd little phenomenon. Will end soon but it's interesting it's worked out this way so far.

This dive into the stats, by the way, did nothing to curb my hatred for the Yankees. The opposite. More on that later. 

Posted at 06:06 AM on Monday May 16, 2016 in category Baseball  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard