Saturday, September 21, 2013

Disappointing October Part 1: The Top 25 Post Season Disappointments Part 1

Any time your team reaches the post season there is reason to celebrate.  Take this year's Wild Card crop in the American League.  With just about a week left in the season there are still six teams in the playoff race:  The Rangers, who would make the playoffs despite the loss of C.J. Wilson, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Nelson Cruz over the last few years.  The Rays, who constantly seem to surprise people despite the loss of stars in the off season.  The Indians, who have not made the playoffs since their 2007 collapse against the Red Sox.  The Yankees who have stayed in contention without Mark Texeira, Derek Jeter, long stretches without Granderson, an ineffective and distracting A-Rod, a struggling Sabathia since July and a mortal Mariano Rivera.  The Orioles, who, identical to last year, seem to have a 15 man rotation.  The Royals, who have not reached the playoffs since 1985.

Fan bases for any of these teams would be satisfied with their teams making the post season knowing what they went through to get there.  There are, however, some teams that reach the post season with higher expectations and fail to finish strong for any number of reasons.  This week you will see numbers 25-13 of the Top 25 most disappointing post season results.

25. 1994 Montreal Expos:
It might seem odd to put a team that didn't even reach October on a list of teams that disappointed in the month but the Expos were undone by the strike of 1994. This team was loaded with talent that would go on to create October magic for other organizations:  Marquis Grissom, Kirk Reuter, Cliff Floyd, Moises Alou, Larry Walker, John Wetteland, Ken Hill and Pedro Martinez.  The team even featured some great talent that never had a chance at October: Randy Milligan and Jeff Fassero.  When the strike ended the season early the Expos were 74-40, best in the National League, and six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves.  This team is not on  the list because of what they didn't do in October but because of what they didn't have a chance to do in October.

24. 1933 Washington Senators (aka "The Wrecking Crew")
The Senators had experienced the highest of highs when they rode the Big Train's arm to a World Series victory over the Giants in 1924.  Since then they had struggled through some tough decisions.  Walter Johnson had taken over as manager and was originally thought to be too soft on the players, but when he toughened up it got under the skin of several players, including their star Goose Goslin.  Goslin was shipped to the Browns and the Senators fell farther away in 1932.  Johnson was fired after 1932 and was replaced by Joe Cronin, considered by many to be too young to manage.  With the return of Goslin for 1933, a strong pitching staff and a lineup filled with future Hall of Famers, the Senators surprised everyone by overtaking the powerful, Ruth and Gehrig led Yankees in the American League.  So when they lost to the Giants in the World Series, four games to one, Washington fans felt short changed.  No one knew it yet but they would not see playoffs in Washington again until 2012.

23. 1948 Boston Braves
The Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers, Cubs and even the Reds had dominated the National League since the Braves had won their last NL pennant in 1914.  When the Braves surprised everyone by winning the NL and faced an even more surprising Cleveland Indians team, the Braves fans expected nothing less than a World Series Championship.  With veterans like Bob Elliot and Mike McCormick coupled with the young arms of Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain, the Braves looked like sure bets, especially when they beat Bob Feller 1-0 in game one.  Boston fans felt cheated when they lost 4-1, 2-0 and 2-1, all winnable games, in the next three.  They came back to win 11-5 in Game 5 but Cleveland won Game 6 to close out the series.  National League Boston fans would not see another postseason game.  The Braves moved to Milwaukee a few years later where they won the 1957 World Series.

22. 1981 Montreal Expos
What is it with Montreal and strike seasons?  The 1980 Expos battled the eventual World Series Champion Phillies right down to the last weekend of the season.  That led to big expectations for next year.  1981 was truly a bizarre year.  Midway through the season the league shut down for a strike.  Luckily the strike was settled in time to complete the year, but the break in between led to a first half and second half winner from each division meeting in the first ever Divisional Playoffs.  The Expos had some great stars who, like 1994, would go on to October glory with other teams:  Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Larry Parrish and Tim Raines, as well as some highly respected players in the league: Steve Rogers, Charlie Lea, Bill Gullickson, Scott Sanderson, Chris Speier and Tim Wallach.  It was the first time a team north of the border reached the post season so when they took out the defending champion Phillies in the NL East division series, it was assumed they would make it to the World Series as the Dodgers were not expected to put up much of a fight.  Instead, the Dodgers were led by Fernandomania to a 3-2 series victory, ending the only playoff run for the Expos.

21. 1982 California Angels:
Despite the current talent on the Angels' roster, the 1982 team is considered by some the most talented team in franchise history.  Don Baylor, Brian Downing, Reggie Jackson, Rod Carew, Bob Boone and Fred Lynn were everyday players and once they picked up Tommy John from the Yankees in August, the Angels punched their ticket to the playoffs.  Led by Fred Lynn, Reggie Jackson and Tommy John the Angels jumped out to a two games to none lead and were a confident group heading into Game 3 in Milwaukee.  The Angels ran into another team on this list (check back next week to see where they ranked).  Led by Paul Molitor, Mark Brouhard and a surprising Charlie Moore,  the Brewers took the next three in Milwaukee and the Angels blew a 2 games to none lead.

20. 1950 Philadelphia Phillies (aka "The Whiz Kids"):
The Phillies had not been in the post season since 1915 and that appearance had been over almost before it began.  Since that appearance the Phillies hadn't finished a season near the top of the league. Phillies fans fully expected all year that this team would collapse and they were nearly right when the Phils dropped five of their last six.  They won the pennant on the last day of the season on a sensational play by Richie Ashburn and a three run, extra inning home run by Dick Sisler.  Phillies fans finally bought into the team but they were swept out by the Yankees in four close games, three of them decided by one run.  Philadelphia would have to wait 26 years before they got another shot at the post season and 30 years before they finally won a World Series.

19. 2012 Washington Nationals:
Washington baseball fans had suffered a lot since their last postseason appearance in 1933 (see #24 above).  They watched the Senators move to Minnesota where they reached three World Series (winning two).  They were given an expansion franchise that moved to Texas and reached two straight World Series.  Finally, they were stuck with the pathetic vagabond Expos.  When the Nationals finally reached the playoffs in 2012 they were short their top pitcher, Steven Strasburg, who was shut down after reaching his season's innings limit.  Regardless, they were able to take the defending World Champion Cardinals to a deciding fifth game thanks to Jayson Werth's walk off Home Run (on the 13th pitch of the at bat) in Game 4.  They even took a 2 run lead into the top of the 9th of Game 5.  Everything fell apart quicker than you can change the channel.  The Nats gave up four 9th inning runs to end the unexpected playoff run.  There was a strong feeling in the nation's capital that things would have been drastically different if Strasburg were available.

18. 2011 Milwaukee Brewers
Heading into the 2011 season the Brewers added Zack Greinke to an already strong pitching staff.  Knowing that Prince Fielder was a free agent at the end of the year and that the money he would demand would be past what Milwaukee could afford, there was a sense of now or never for this group.  The Phillies were the clear favorites heading into the playoffs with what some considered one of the greatest pitching rotations in history, so when the Cardinals knocked the Phillies out in the NLDS the Brewers appeared to have a clear shot at the World Series.  With the series tied at two, thanks to a surprise performance by Randy Wolf, the Cardinals took the next two games with little fight.  The bad news is we never got to see a Fielder-Braun tandem in the World Series.  The good news is we got one of the greatest World Series ever..

17. 1944 St. Louis Browns
The Browns do not have the best historical reputation as an organization.  Playing in a beat up old stadium, often the neglected stepbrother of the Cardinals, they are best known for a few things: 1.  They were terrible. 2.  They once helped Napoleon Lajoie win a batting title over Ty Cobb by purposely allowing Lajoie to get 6 bunt base hits. 3. They once sent a midget, Eddie Gaedel, to the plate.  When the leagues' stars (most of them anyways) like DiMaggio, Williams, Greenberg and Feller went off to war, the Browns did something they had never really come close to doing before:  they won the American League. Fortunately for the Browns every World Series game was technically a home game because their opponent was the crosstown rival Cardinals.  The Browns, surprisingly, took two of the first three games against a Cardinals team that was in their third straight World Series.  From there it went down hill and the Browns lost their only ever appearance in the fall classic.  Ten years later the team would move to Baltimore and become the Orioles where they had much more success.  While it was no doubt satisfying to finally see the Browns in the post season, there was disappointment over the fact that the team could have actually won the Series and that, historically, they are portrayed as winning only because everyone else was out of the country.

16. 1962 San Francisco Giants
The move from New York to San Francisco was not the smoothest of transitions.  The climate, the fan support, the stadium, the travel.  Everything seemed to cause problems.  Even worse, the Dodgers had already adjusted perfectly and won the 1959 World Series.  The Giants trailed the Dodgers well into the 1962 season but thanks to a Giants' late charge the National League saw a classic Dodgers-Giants battle for the first time on the West Coast. The Giants and Dodgers were tied on the last day of the season and needed a three game playoff to determine the NL Pennant.  After getting past the hated ones in a vicious three game series the Giants faced the Yankees of Mantle, Maris, Berra and Ford.  Amazingly they drove the Yankees to a seventh game.  The Yankees had a one run lead in the bottom of  the 9th when Willie Mays doubled with two out sending Matty Alou to third base.  The press was critical of Alou being held at third but a perfect relay throw from Roger Maris to Bobby Richardson to Elston Howard shows that Alou made the right choice.  Juan Marichal has said repeatedly that Alou would have been out.  Now Alou was on third and Mays on second.  A single would win it.  An out and the series was over.  Willie McCovey (the one forever memorialized by the Giants with McCovey Cove) stepped in and the Giants thought McCovey, with a right handed pitcher on the mound and Orlando Cepeda on deck, would be walked.  This is where the poor weather of the bay area destroyed the Giants.  When Alou was at the plate he had tried to bunt.  Alou has said that the wind was so strong that it blew his bunt attempt foul.  Now McCovey drove a ball with Home Run distance toward the right field line.  It looked like it was gone and the Giants fans stood in anticipation until, wind effected or not, it curved foul.  Back at the plate McCovey lined a ball as hard as anyone can hit a ball that looked like it would get through for a single.  Instead, Bobby Richardson, the Yankees' second baseman, reached just far enough to snag the third out of the inning and the last out of the Series. What looked like a team of destiny turned out to be the last team to lose to the Yankees in a World Series until 1977.

15. 1979 California Angels
The Royals and A's had dominated the AL West division since the start of the decade and few felt that California had a chance to dethrone the Royals.  The Angels rode the Nolan Ryan Express to their first ever playoff appearance in 1979 knowing that Ryan was a free agent at the end of the year.  Powering the lineup down the tracks was Don Baylor, the unquestioned MVP of the AL, Rod Carew, Bert Campaneris and Carney Lansford.  Ryan left with a tie game in the 8th but the bullpen let Game 1 get away.  Game 2 was a slugfest with the Angels 9th inning rally coming up short in a 9-8 loss.  The Angels won Game 3, the first ever playoff game at the Big A, with a bottom of the 9th rally.  Game 4 was the biggest disappointment as the Orioles crushed the halos 8-0 and moved on.  The Angels had finally made the playoffs but two close losses and a blow out were not the way Angels fans imagined this ending.

14. 1993 Philadelphia Phillies
Trading Lance Parrish, Shane Rawley, Kevin Gross, Phil Bradley, Milt Thompson (not to worry, he'd be back by 1993), Chris James, Steve Bedrosian and Juan Samuel the same year that Mike Schmidt retired while the Phillies were trying to rebuild were not popular decisions in Philadelphia.  The words of the fan in the movie "Major League" who asks "Who are these f***ing guys?" was likely used repeatedly in the city of brotherly love.  Most of the trades didn't work out.  They brought in players like Jeff Parrett, Dennis Cook, Floyd Youmans, Tom Herr, Curt Ford and Tom Nieto.  Not terrible players but not impact players that will turn your organization around.  Some of those unpopular trades were viewed differently a few years later as John Kruk, Terry Mulholland and Lenny Dykstra developed into Phillies stars and the realization that the Lance Parrish trade allowed Darren Daulton to take over full time at Catcher.  After years of disappointment, injuries and less than classy play, these players, along with guys named Wild Thing and Psycho helped lead the Phillies to their first playoff appearance in 10 years.  They faced off against one of the greatest collections of talent in history and shockingly came within an inning of forcing a Game 7.  Standing in the way was Joe Carter.  It didn't end well.

13. 1967 Boston Red Sox (aka "The Impossible Dream Team")
Boston fans had learned to expect disappointment by 1967, usually in the form of just missing the post season.  When the Red Sox went into the final weekend of the season with Minnesota, Detroit and even Chicago holding a chance to advance to the World Series, Red Sox nation expected Minnesota to come out ahead.  Surprisingly the "Impossible Dream" Red Sox beat out Minnesota and Detroit by 1 game and Chicago by three, mostly due to Carl Yastrzemski's triple crown and other worldly final week of the season.  Going into the World Series they faced the Cardinals and they did so without one of the biggest bats in their lineup.  Tony Conigliaro was still recovering from a vicious beaning and was not available for the World Series.  The Red Sox nearly pulled off another Impossible Dream by forcing a Game 7 in Boston after trailing 3 games to 1. Bob Gibson was too much for the Sox.  He pitched 9 innings, gave up only three hits, struck out 10 and even hit a home run to support his own effort.  The Sox came up short in a 7-2 final game.

Think a team is missing from this list?  Think someone is ranked too low or too high? Check back next week for the top 12 Disappointing Octobers and compare my list with yours. 

The 1944 Browns section in today's article mentioned that the Browns sent a midget named Eddie Gaedel to the plate in an official plate appearance.  What uniform number was issued to Gaedel?

When the peace agreement, later known as "the national agreement", was announced following the 1903 peace conference, it was clear the American League had come out ahead.  With George Davis, Ed Delahanty, Sam Crawford, Willie Keeler, Bill Donovan, Kid Elberfield and Doc White remaining in the American League as well as the recognition by the NL that they were essentially equal leagues, the press made it clear that the NL had won a pyrrhic victory.  The press came up with the saying that the NL had "won peace and Leach", referring to the Pirates' Tommy Leach.


  1. Love the article. Brings back memories of my youth.

    The injustice of the 1994 baseball strike led to the downfall of baseball in Montreal. I have 2 friends who don't follow baseball any more because of the 1994 strike.
    I forgot that Walter Johnson was a manager.
    The 1982 Angels were one of the biggest loses in the playoffs. 30 years later I still am amazed that they lost the playoffs. I would put that team up against any team of today.

    When you are in your teenage years things that happen will remain with you forever. In my mind the 1962 World Series was one of the greatest series ever. I can still see that final out. If only that line drive was 2 feet higher.

    That 1967 AL pennant race was so exciting. Going into the last Friday all 4 teams that you mentioned had a chance to win the pennant. Back then there were no divisions and no playoffs. You won the league you went directly to the World Series. I had been a Tigers fan for about 10 years. This was so exciting for me. In my lifetime the first pennant race for my favorite team. The Tigers were rained out on Saturday and had to win 2 games on the last day of the season to tie for the championship.

    I would not have put the 1950 phillies on the list. I was only 3 at the time so I don't remember it. Just my perception that the Yankees were sooo good and the Phillies 1950 season was a fluke.

    My guess for the the uniform # is 1/8.


    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed this week's article and I appreciate your perspective on the list choices. It sounds like you would have had the '82 Angels quite a bit higher and dropped the Whiz Kids off completely.

      I felt the 1950 Phils were definitely disappointing in the fact that the Phillies had gone so long in between Series and to lose all four games in such close fashion was devastating.

  2. My guess for this week's trivia is uniform number "1/8". :)


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