If the Boston Red Sox don’t make the playoffs, which is almost a certainty, and the Cardinals don’t either, which is touch and go, it would mark only the fourth time in the last 28 years that one or other of the World Series opponents from one season either did not make the playoffs or win at least 90 games the next season.
The Cardinals also have been party to two of the previous three. In 2007, the year after the Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, the Cardinals won 78 games and the Tigers 88, both missing the playoffs.
In 1991, defending World Series champion Cincinnnati won 74 games and runner-up Oakland 84. And in 1986, the year after the Cardinals lost to the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, both teams finished under .500 ,with the Cardinals winning 79 games to the Royals’ 76. The Cardinals also badly missed the playoffs in 1988 but defending World Series champion Minnesota won 91 games that year.
There has been such an upheaval this year that the World Series champion very likely could be a team that hasn’t won in 30 years or more. Or perhaps never.
Among the National League Division leaders, the Los Angeles Dodgers haven’t won the World Series in 26 years and the Washington Nationals (Montreal Expos) and the Milwaukee Brewers (Seattle Pilots) never have won, with the Expos and Pilots both starting up in 1969.
In the American League, Baltimore hasn’t won a World Series in 31 years and Oakland in 25 years. The dry spells are similar for Central Division challengers Detroit (1984) and Kansas City (1985).
Besides the obvious offensive issues the Cardinals have had this year, one other determining factor is their modest record against teams with losing or .500 records. As they entered weekend play, they were only 30-25 against those clubs and 34-31 against winning teams.
The Cardinals demonstrated last year how titles are won, pounding .500 or sub-.500 teams as they posted a 60-31 mark to 37-34 against winning clubs.
WILL ANYONE KNOCK IN 80?
Unless Matt Holliday, the only one with a legitimate chance, steps up his pace a bit, the Cardinals could finish the season without anybody driving in 80 runs, which hasn’t happened since Tom Brunansky knocked in 79 runs for them in 1988, and he didn’t arrive in trade from Minnesota until several weeks into the season. The more appropriate reference point is the 61 RBIs, tied for the club high, by both Andy Van Slyke and Tom Herr (below) in 1986.
The Cardinals’ .251 team average also would be their lowest for a full season since the .249 in 1988. The 1986 club swatted at .236 clip.
But with the low team average also has been a dearth of home runs by the Cardinals. They should top 100 but not by much. The final total could be their lowest since the 118 in 1993 or more likely the 94 hit in 1992 at Busch II. Their previous low for a home season they played at new Busch was 125 last year.
ARE 90 WINS MORE THAN ENOUGH?
Generally, it takes 90 or more wins to make the playoffs and certainly that many to win the division. But, if trends hold in the season-long balance/parity/mediocrity of Major League Baseball, only four of the prospective 10 playoff clubs will win as many as 90 games.
Before the weekend, those included Oakland, the Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers and Baltimore.
National League division leaders Milwaukee and Washington projected to 89 wins apiece and American League division leader Kansas City projected to 88.
And both wild cards in the National League and one besides the Angels in the American League would figure at fewer wins than 88.
In the first two years of the 10-team postseason, eight out of 10 teams in 2012 (not the Cardinals) won at least 90 and all 10 won that many last year.
EXPOS TWENTY YEARS LATER
There was no postseason 20 years ago because of the players’ strike that took place in August. Fitting, perhaps the best team that season doesn’t exist anymore.
The Expos were 74-40 and six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. If the season had continued and champions had been declared, the Expos would have put a crimp in the Braves’ drive to 14 consecutive division titles. The Atlanta numbers would have been three straight crowns (1991-93) and then 11 more from 1995-2005.
Some of the stalwarts on that Expos’ team were first baseman Cliff Floyd, outfielders Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom and Larry Walker, starting pitchers Ken Hill and Pedro Martinez and relievers John Wetteland and Mel Rojas. Because of the Expos’ financial straits, which ultimately would cause them to move to Washington 10 years later, Floyd, Grissom, Walker, Hill and Wetteland were all on their way out before the next season.
The Expos finished 66-78 in a shortened 1995 schedule and their lone playoff appearance remains the previous strike season of 1981 when they lost the league championship series in five games on a ninth-inning homer by Los Angeles’ Rick Monday off Expos ace Steve Rogers, who was pitching in relief.
The Washington/Montreal franchise and the Seattle Mariners are the only current ones never to have played in a World Series. Florida/Miami is the only one to have been in a World Series (two) and never lost.
The longest drought without winning a World Series, excluding the Chicago Cubs? The Cleveland Indians haven’t won since 1948 when they beat the Boston Braves, who have relocated twice since then. That was so long ago that the Browns were still in St. Louis and the Athletics were still in Philadelphia.