Saturday, October 19, 2013

Satisfying October Part 1: The Top 20 Most Fulfilling Post Season Appearances

Certain teams go into the season with large expectations and lofty goals.  Others head to spring training with the bitter sting of the way the previous season (or previous several seasons) ended.  Still others go into Spring Training, having theoretically addressed the major issues that caused them to underachieve the year before.

Every team hits Spring Training with the idea that this should be the year they finally win it all, although some teams have more pressure applied from the expectations placed on them from outside the organization.  The satisfaction for these teams to reach the post season and, most of the time, win it all is greater when they look back and see what they have accomplished.

Starting this week we will look at #20-11 of the teams that should have felt most satisfied with having reached the post season and what they were able to accomplish in their season:

20. 2007 Colorado Rockies
Placing teams on this list who didn't win the World Series, especially one that got swept in the World Series, may seem a bit odd but looking at what the team overcame is a big reason the Rockies are on this list.  Looking at the team now we can see the talent that it had (Helton, Tulowitski, Holliday) but with the Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and even the Padres in their division, Colorado looked like they would have no shot to come out of the cellar.  On June 5 the Rockies were in 5th place in the NL West, seven and a half games out of first and eight games out of the Wild Card.  By a small miracle they climbed to fourth on June 6.  Fortunately the Giants were also struggling this year so they were able to remain in fourth place but still more than five games behind the third place Dodgers.  Despite an eight game losing streak to end June the Rockies stayed only eight games out of first and eight and a half off the Wild Card pace.  As late as September 15 the Rockies were in fourth place, seven and a half back, and fourth in the Wild Card (also seven and a half back).  In order to make the playoffs, over the next two weeks they would need to climb over the Phillies, Dodgers and Padres as well as fight off the Brewers and Braves who were close behind.  The Rockies went 14-1 over the final two weeks.  Only the Padres (9-7) and Phillies (10-4) put up a fight.  The Phillies had their division and the collapsing Mets in mind but the Padres and Rockies tied for the Wild Card spot, requiring a one game playoff to decide the winner.  The controversial ending to the 9-8, 13 inning game meant the Rockies now had to fly to Philadelphia overnight to play the Phillies less than 24 hours later.  Despite the exhaustion and the chance for a let down the Rockies rolled through the Phils and swept through the Diamondbacks in the NLCS.  Only the Red Sox were able to conquer the Rockies.  Although they lost in the World Series, The Rockies could be satisfied that their organization had made it's first appearance in the Fall Classic.

19. 1996 Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers could always boast some great star players.  Nolan Ryan. Ruben Sierra.  Juan Gonzalez.  Ivan Rodriguez.  Julio Franco.  What they could never boast was a playoff appearance.  The joke around the league was that Texas was a great place to play until the summer got hot and then the Rangers would melt away from the heat.  The team did very little to improve over the off season, mostly resigning their own free agents (Mike Pagliarulo, Mickey Tettleton) or signing middle infielders considered past their prime (Kevin Elster, Kurt Stillwell).  In fact, they lost Kenny Rogers, considered their best pitcher, to the Yankees.  Although the 1997 Orioles were the first team to spend every day in first without a World Series Championship, the Rangers nearly matched them.  They spent all but 3 days in first place and those 3 days were only one half game behind the leader.  The expected Texas wilting came as predicted, almost.  Up 9 games on September 10, the Rangers lost 9 of the next 10 allowing a late charging Seattle to close within one game.  The Rangers held on to win 6 of their final 8 and reach their first ever post season.  The Rangers' first ride into the playoffs did not end the way they wanted it and Will Clark blamed himself for the loss (though a team batting average of .218 was not all his doing).  Like the 2007 Rockies it may seem like an odd thing to have a team not winning it all on this list but this postseason appearance set the stage for the Rangers as legitimate contenders and helped lay the ground work for what is now a perennial World Series

18. 1984 San Diego Padres
For the third straight spot on the list we see a team that did not win it all but should have felt satisfied with their October showing.  The Padres had seen their division dominated by the Dodgers and Reds since they came into existence but the Giants, Braves and even the Astros had spent time in the playoffs ahead of the Padres.  Their association with McDonald's and their ugly uniforms led to year after year of jokes about the team.  The 1984 group hung in with the big boys for March and April but they still weren't taken entirely seriously.  The team ran away with the division by 12 games.  It was the first time the organization even came close to post season.  They fell behind two games to none to the Cubs in the best of five NLCS but fought back to reach the World Series.  Although the Padres faced one of the great teams of all time, the 1984 Tigers, they managed to win one game and proved that the Padres were no longer a joke.  They were a real organization capable of impacting the league.

17. 1992 Toronto Blue Jays
In the arms race in Canada the Expos struck first with a 1981 playoff appearance.  The Blue Jays reached their first playoff in 1985 and blew a 3 games to 1 ALCS lead to the Royals (it was the first year the LCS went to a best of seven format).  In 1987 they looked like they would get a second chance but blew a division lead to the Tigers in the final days of the season.  1988 saw a close five team race where the Blue Jays finished tied for third with Milwaukee, just 2 games out of first. 1989 was their second post season chance but they were steam rolled by the # 6 team on this list.  1990 was another tight race and another second place finish just two games behind Boston.  1991 again saw them lose the ALCS to the eventual World Champion Twins.  By the time 1992 rolled around Jays fans learned to be cautiously optimistic.  Led by a pitching staff of Jack Morris, Jimmy Key, Todd Stottlemeyer and Juan Guzman and everyday players Joe Carter, John Olerud, Roberto Alomar, Devon White and Dave Winfield the Blue Jays were clearly the most talented team.  At the trade deadline they became a great team, picking up David Cone from the Mets.  Everyone contributed in the postseason.  The Braves were probably tired of Jack Morris from their 1991 World Series against the Twins.  This year they had to face Morris and Cone and it was more than they could handle.  The Blue Jays became the first non-US team to win a World Series erasing all the "could have beens" over the previous six seasons.

16 .1995 Atlanta Braves
For decades the Cowboys have billed themselves as America's Team.  In the 1990's the Braves became America's Team.  Known more for losing up until 1990 when they finished last, the Braves became the dominant NL team at the same time that TBS began reaching a national audience.  The station was built around the Braves' schedule, even regularly starting programs five minutes after the hour since games usually started at 7:05 EST.  The Braves built a playoff team around a young, exciting group of players and one of the greatest pitching staffs of all time.  Shocking the baseball world in 1991 the Braves came as close as possible without actually winning the World Series.  In 1992 they fell to the #17 team on this list.  Adding to an already unbeatable rotation for 1993, they signed free agent Greg Maddux but the result was the same, a loss to the Phillies in the 1993 NLCS.  1994 could have been their year but no one will ever know because the season was ended by the player's strike.  1995 added one more obstacle in the extra round of the playoffs.  Despite the presence of superstars Fred McGriff, David Justice and Marquis Grissom it was Mike Devereaux who earned the NLCS MVP.  Flying high off the excitement of beating Cincinnati, the Braves took on an Indians team that was loaded with talent and experience.  The Braves finally won the crown to cement their dynasty.

15. 1907 Chicago Cubs
After suffering the number one disappointing October, the Cubs won 107 regular season games.  They didn't face the "Hitless Wonders" this time.  Instead they faced Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford and the Detroit Tigers in their first ever World Series appearance.  The Cubs were led by Johnny Evers and Harry Steinfeldt in mauling the Tigers to satisfy the hunger that had been left from the 1906 loss.

14. 1970 Baltimore Orioles
Upset and shocked by the Miracle Mets in 1969, the O's returned an almost identical team.  The biggest addition to the team following the 1969 World Series was the chip on their shoulder.  Riding strong years from Frank Robinson, Boog Powell and Brooks Robinson and the arms of Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally they outpaced the second place Yankees by 15 games, rolled over the AL West Champion Twins and lost only one game to the NL Champion Reds.  Don't feel too badly for the Reds.  The loss helped lead to the #9 team on this list (check back next week).  The star of the 1970 World Series was Brooks Robinson's glove.  The amazing defensive play of the Baltimore legend led Pete Rose to nickname Robinson "Hoover" because he was sucking up everything off the AstroTurf carpet at Riverfront Stadium.  Sparky Anderson said Robinson belonged in a higher league.  The Orioles 1970 win took away some of the sting of the 1969 loss and satisfying their feeling of disappointment.

13. 1920 Cleveland Indians
For years the Indians seemed to be just on the brink of making the World Series.  First they tried building a team around Addie Joss, Nap LaJoie and Terry Turner.  When that didn't work they rebuilt around Tris Speaker, Joe Jackson and Ray Chapman.  Joe Jackson was traded away to the White Sox and the Indians never seemed to be able to track down the A's,Red Sox or White Sox.  Entering the 1920 season Chapman was thinking retirement.  He was newly married, expecting his first child and his father-in-law was promising him a nice paying city job.  The Indians hung with the White Sox and surprising Yankees into early August when tragedy struck.  Chapman was killed by a pitched ball in a game devastating the Tribe.  His replacement, Harry Lunte, started off playing well (or at least not terrible) but pulled a hamstring and had to be replaced himself.  The Indians reached out to a Shortstop right off the campus of the University of Alabama.  He ended up having a great season and one day Joe Sewell even made the Hall of Fame.  The Indians faced the Brooklyn Robins in the World Series amid the growing Black Sox scandal.  Despite the distraction of the scandal the World Series gave countless headlines including the first ever World Series Grand Slam, the first World Series Home Run by a pitcher and the only unassisted triple play in World Series history.  The Indians won the World Series and dedicated the win to Chapman.

12. 1986 New York Mets
The Mets were an improving team with a ton of young talent.  Darryl Strawberry. Doc Gooden.  Ron Darling.  Lenny Dykstra.  Kevin Mitchell.  Add to that some very smart free agent acquisitions.  Gary Carter. Keith Hernandez.  Ray Knight.  It was all brought together by the mad genius, ahead of his time, stats geek Davey Johnson at manager.  The expectations heading into the 1986 season were enormous.  The Cardinals seemed to be the only possible challengers in the NL East.  In Spring Training Johnson commented that he felt the team would dominate the competition and Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog joked that they could probably all save some time and just go home.  They might as well have followed that advice.  The Mets won the division easily and when they weren't fighting each other they were fighting the opponents.  After a classic NLCS with the Astros that could have gone either way the Mets devastated Astros fans and advanced to face the Red Sox.  In one of the great World Series of all time the Mets helped immortalize Bill Buckner and themselves as one of the great teams of all time.

11. 1977 New York Yankees
The Yankees are, without doubt, the most successful organization in sports history. There have been very few periods where the team failed to win.  Following the 1964 World Series loss to the Cardinals the Yankees fell into one of the worst periods of the team history. After being in nearly every World Series between 1947 and 1964 the Yankees missed every postseason from 1965 to 1975.  The Yankees made a huge step back to being THE YANKEES in reaching the 1976 World Series but were swept by the Cincinnati Reds "Big Red Machine".  Yankees fans were excited by the playoff berth but appalled at the poor showing in the series.  The off season saw the Yankees sign Reggie Jackson and the Bronx Zoo was immediately open for business with enormous expectations.  Between several players being suspended and fined for failing to appear at a charity event on their off day, Jackson immediately alienating all of his teammates, Billy Martin fighting everyone and Munson demanding a trade, this Yankees group was anything other than the classic corporate machine of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Ford.  The Bronx Zoo became a side show but they managed to reach the post season.  After a dramatic ALCS against the Royals they played a tough Dodgers team.  In one of the great moments of World Series history Reggie Jackson hit four Home Runs in four straight at bats (actually on four straight pitches) and the Yankees were once again THE YANKEES.

After a nearly 20 year run of consecutive success, the Yankees were sold after the 1964 season,which ended in a World Series loss to the Cardinals.  They would not return to the post season until 1976, just a few years after the sale of the team to George Steinbrenner.  Who owned the team during that time period?

Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
Francisco Rodriguez made his Major League debut with the Anaheim Angeles on September 18, 2002 against the A's.  He appeared in five total games and gave up 0 runs in 5 2/3 innings.  During his short appearance in the 2002 season he struck out 13 batters and walked only 2.  Due to that he was included on the post season roster.  In the Angels' surprise win over the Yankees in the ALDS, Rodriguez won 2 games.  In the ALCS that year he won 2 games as the Angels advanced to the World Series to face the heavily favored Giants. Rodriguez won 1 and lost 1  in the World series giving the man with only five Major League appearances a record of 5-1 for the post season.  He pitched a total of 18 2/3 innings in the 2002 post season and struck out 28 batters.  Rodriguez was immediately an Angels star and given the name of K Rod.  K-Rod would be the Angels closer for several years and in 2008 set a single season record with 62 saves.


  1. For the trivia question, which period are you refering to? It wasn't clear.

    1. Thanks for asking for clarification. The time period I was referring to was the period between 1964, then the team was purchased from Dan Topping through the purchase of the team by Steinbrenner in 1972.

    2. Thanks for clarifying. My guess is CBS?

  2. Thought Rockies went 22-1 but that probably includes the sweep of the phillies. One of the greatest streaks in baseball.
    Speaking of the Rangers, there was a rumor that baseball did not mind the strike of 94 because it was the first year of 3 divisions and the Rangers were leading the west with a losing record at the time of the strike and that would have been an embarrassment to have a team with a losing record in the playoffs.
    I am so glad the Padres beat the Cubs in the playoffs. If the Cubs had been in the WS I would have been the only person in the world outside of Detroit rooting against the Cubs.
    The 69-70-71 Orioles were one of the best teams in my life time. Right up there with the Big red Machine and the Yankees of the early 2000's.
    Nice that the Indians won the WS with what they went thru with Chapman.

    Ron Darling is one of the best announcers of today. it is a delight to listen to him.

    My guess on the trivia is CBS. Should have stuck to programming.



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