The last time these teams were in the playoffs …
The Cardinals are in the playoffs. Ho-hum. The Cardinals are in the playoffs every year. (Seems like that, anyway; they’ve been in the playoffs six years in a row, 12 times in the last 16 years.) The Royals are in the playoffs, just like last year; the Pirates are making their third straight appearance, same as the Dodgers. The Rangers and Yankees are back after two-year absences; for the Yankees, it’s their first such (granted, short) postseason-free drought since the early 1990s. The other four postseason teams, though? It’s been a while!
So let’s take a trip down Memory Lane (i.e. Baseball-Reference.com) for a better idea for just how long it’s been since the Cubs, the Mets, the Astros, and the Blue Jays — oh, especially the Blue Jays — graced Major League Baseball’s championship tournament…
The last time the Cubs were in the playoffs, it was 2008 and second baseman Ryan Theriot had just inspired the creation of TOOTBLAN. Young Geovany Soto hit 23 home runs and took Rookie of the Year laurels, while middle-aged Aramis Ramirez drove in 111 runs. Meanwhile, 38-year-old Jim Edmonds looked lost in center field but somehow blasted 19 home runs in only 250 at-bats. Kerry Wood, erstwhile No. 1 starter, paced the bullpen with 34 saves. The Cubs got swept by the Dodgers — the seventh- or eighth-best team in the National League — in their Division Series, outscored 20-6. The next year they fell to a distant second place, followed by five straight fifth-place finishes. And now … this!
The last time the Mets were in the playoffs, it was 2006 and Carlos Beltran wasn’t just their center fielder; he was their Gold Glove center fielder. Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel tied for the team lead with 15 wins apiece, and Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez were next with nine apiece. The Mets won 97 games, even though Oliver Perez and Victor Zambrano and Jose Lima and Geremi Gonzalez combined for 19 starts and 2 victories. The Mets swept the Dodgers in their Division Series, then fell to the Cardinals in a seven-game NLCS when Beltan could only watch Adam Wainwright’s world-class curveball carve through the heart of the strike zone. The next year they blew a seven-game lead in September, and it was straight downhill for a long while after that.
The last time the Astros were in the playoffs, it was 2005 and Morgan Ensberg — not Jeff Bagwell or Craig Biggio or Lance Berkman or Chris Burke or Eric Bruntlett — was easily their best hitter. The Astros finished 11th in the National League in scoring. Roy Oswalt won 20 games, and 42-year-old Roger Clemens posted a 1.87 ERA, the lowest in the National League and the lowest in his then-glorious career. Chad Qualls pitched for the Astros then, and Chad Qualls pitches for the Astros now. The Astros beat the Braves in their Division Series, beat the Cardinals in the NLCS, then got swept by the White Sox in a World Series that was a lot closer than you probably remember. The next year they came close to another division title despite going 82-80 — that was the year the Cardinals went 82-79 before somehow winning the World Series — but haven’t come close since.
The last time the Blue Jays were in the playoffs, it was 1993 and four Blue Jays scored more than 100 runs: John Olerud, Roberto Alomar, Devon White and Paul Molitor … or five, if you count Rickey Henderson, who scored 77 runs with the A’s, then 37 more after joining the Jays in August. Future stars Shawn Green and Carlos Delgado both made their big-league debuts late in the season, with the division title already well in hand. The Blue Jays used 11 relief pitchers in 1993; in 2015 they used 22 relief pitchers. In 1993, Jack Morris went 7-12 with a 6.19 ERA and didn’t pitch after the 9th of September. The Blue Jays first edged the White Sox in the ALCS, then the Phillies in the World Series. The very next year, they began a streak of four straight losing seasons and 21 straight non-postseason campaigns.
Who’s next? With the Pirates, then the Royals, and now the Blue Jays breaking through, the Seattle Mariners now own the longest streak of seasons without a playoff appearance: 14. In the National League it’s the Marlins, who haven’t qualified since winning the World Series in 2003.
So which of them breaks through first? You got me. All I know for sure is that the last time the M’s were in the playoffs, Ichiro was their right fielder … and now he’s a pitcher with the Marlins. The answer must be in there, somewhere.