The 6 Longest Active MLB Playoff Droughts

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2022

The 6 Longest Active MLB Playoff Droughts

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    There's nothing like October baseball. The sights, the sounds, the drama—all the components that make the playoffs so captivating culminate in the crowning of a World Series champion.

    But some Major League Baseball fans aren't even worried about a title. Supporters of struggling franchises—everyone from diehards to fair-weather fans—are just hoping their favorite team will finally return to the postseason.

    Like, even the Wild Card Game. Play any meaningful game, please.

    The expanded playoff field for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season aided the conclusion of two long streaks. The Miami Marlins (16 seasons) and San Diego Padres (13) snapped their skids, although San Diego may have made it in a regular campaign anyway.

    As we approach Opening Day, these six clubs will aim to halt a playoff drought of six-plus years.

T-5. Kansas City Royals: 6 Seasons

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    The Kansas City Royals are guaranteed to receive the least remorse among the six franchises included on this list.

    Winning a World Series within the last decade sort of removes that pity, after all.

    Kansas City celebrated its championship in 2015, defeating the New York Mets in a five-game series. Plus, the Royals lost a thrilling seven-game set to the San Francisco Giants the year prior, so they've recently played under the brightest lights twice.

    Still, since then, the closest the Royals have come to the playoffs came in 2017 when they missed out on the wild-card spot by five games.

T-5. Pittsburgh Pirates: 6 Seasons

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    As the Royals embarked on their title-winning season, the Pittsburgh Pirates were the victim of some extremely bad luck.

    Despite a 98-64 record in 2015—the second-best mark in the entire MLB—they headed to the NL Wild Card Game because the division-rival St. Louis Cardinals won 100 games. In that winner-take-all matchup, the Pirates took on the 97-win Chicago Cubs.

    Quite the season for the NL Central, huh?

    Pittsburgh lost 4-0 to the Cubs in that tilt, falling in the Wild Card Game for the second consecutive year.

    During their playoff drought, the Pirates have finished at least eight games out of the playoffs each season.

T-3. Detroit Tigers: 7 Seasons

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    Though optimism is slowly returning to The D, that hopefulness certainly had vanished for several years.

    After making the playoffs from 2011-14, the Detroit Tigers recovered from a subpar 2015 with a competitive, 86-win 2016 and narrowly missed the postseason. But from 2017-20, the Tigers mustered a 198-345 record while maxing out at 64 wins.

    Detroit jumped to 77-85 last season, and a promising farm system plus free-agent signings Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez have reignited some excitement for the immediate future.

    But the Tigers need to make the final leap before earning any postseason glory.

T-3. Los Angeles Angels: 7 Seasons

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    It's a downright shame that Mike Trout, who debuted with the Los Angeles Angels in 2011, has only appeared in one postseason. Kansas City swept Los Angeles in the 2014 AL Division Series.

    The most frustrating part, perhaps, is the Angels have routinely straddled the line of competent and uncompetitive.

    In 2015, they finished 85-77 and merely a game shy of the Houston Astros for the second wild-card spot. Otherwise, though, Los Angeles has ended with a record in the range of 72-90 and 80-82 each season, along with posting a 26-34 mark in 2020.

    Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon are the core pieces of a 2022 roster aiming to halt the skid.

2. Philadelphia Phillies: 10 Seasons

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Considering the team's year-to-year payroll, it's remarkable the Philadelphia Phillies haven't made the playoffs in a decade.

    Philadelphia won five straight NL East titles in 2007-11, reaching the World Series twice and winning a title in 2008. However, the Phillies tumbled from 102 wins in 2011 to 81 the following seasonand that would be their strongest record until 82-80 in 2021.

    During the 10-year drought, Philly has registered a top-nine payroll in the majors seven times. Heading into 2022, the Phillies are fully expected to continue that trend.

    This time around, will it result in a postseason payout?

1. Seattle Mariners: 20 Seasons

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    So close, yet so far away.

    Although the Seattle Mariners entered 2021 with low outside expectations, they had a chance to pull off a shocker. On the final day of the regular season, the Mariners needed a victory over the Angels and a little help elsewherebut they lost anyway.

    The disappointing end prolonged Seattle's skid to 20 years, a streak that began immediately after the franchise set a 162-game record of 116 wins in 2001.

    Most frustratingly, the Mariners have put together decent seasons along the way. After winning 93 games in both 2002 and 2003, they've totaled 85-plus victories six more times.

    Since the playoffs expanded to eight teams in 1995, only four franchises have a longer drought than Seattle's 20 seasons.