Playoff droughts are a common thing in professional sports, no matter the league. Year-after-year there are teams that can’t win a championship or even worse, make the playoffs. Droughts can either be so many years without a playoff berth or a championship. Either way, no franchise wants to endure championship and playoff droughts. In Major League Baseball there are teams that fit into both categories, but this year is a little different. Annual division basement dwellers or middle of the pack teams are now in serious contention of at least making a trip to the postseason, if not winning the World Series.
Toronto Blue Jays (65-54)
-Have not qualified for the playoffs since winning second of back-to-back World Series in 1993
Toronto has been your average run of the mill team, finishing in third place on the American League East 10 times since 1993. Their best finish in the division in that span was second place in 2006, but the team did not reach the postseason. Before this past weekend, the Jays were winners of 11 straight, making it their second 10-game win streak of the season, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in over 100 years. The weekend came and saw the Jays square off against the New York Yankees, whom the Jays are battling with atop the division. New York went up to Toronto and took two-of-three and now hold a 1/2 game lead. Toronto is full of fire power with the likes of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and the recently acquired Troy Tulowitzki. They lead the MLB in run-differential at +136. This team not only has the bats, but they have the ace in David Price, who was acquitted ahead of the trade deadline. This team is no fluke this season and can potentially make the playoffs for the first time in over two decades.
Chicago Cubs (67-49)
-Have not qualified for playoffs since 2008 – swept by Los Angeles Dodgers in NLDS
-Have not won a World Series since 1908
-Have not been to a World Series since 1945
The Cubs have been stricken by what is known as the Billy Goat Curse. It’s been over a century since the Cubs were the World Series champions. That’s a long time to not hoist the trophy. Chicago has finished 5th in the NL Central for the past five years. This year the Cubs were mentioned before the season started in the list of possible teams to vie for a playoff berth. So far, that is what is happening in the Windy City. The Cubbies currently sit 7 1/2 games behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals in the Central, but hold the second wild card spot and trail another Central foe, the Pittsburgh Pirates, by 1 1/2 games for the first spot. The Cubs have the young players to be special for years to come in Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler and Addison Russell among others. The Cubs also went out and spent some money last offseason and signed Jon Lester to be the ace of the staff. Chicago saw its 9-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the crosstown rival White Sox. The Cubs are playing good baseball right now and if they continue to do so, they will end a seven-year playoff absence.
Houston Astros (64-54)
-Have not qualified for the playoffs since getting swept by the White Sox in the 2005 World Series – that was the team’s first and only World Series appearance
The Astros have been flat out bad over the past five seasons. Houston lost over 100 games in three straight seasons. 2011: (56-106) 2012: (55-107) 2013: (51-111, franchise worst). So with losing all those games, Houston racked up top three overall picks in the MLB draft and would stockpile their assets in their farm system. Many believed it would take a couple of years for the Astros to develop that talent and be a contender. However, this season the Astros are able to use that young talent and are the current leaders in the AL West, leading the Los Angeles Angels by 3 1/2 games. Some of that young talent comes in the form of starting pitchers. Dallas Keuchel is tied for the league lead in wins with a record of 14-6 to go along with a 2.36 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 151 strikeouts. Fellow starter Colin McHugh is right behind Keuchel with a 13-6 record to go with a 4.09 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 123 punch outs. As for the hitting, Houston leads the Majors with 161 home runs. Ten different players have 10+ home runs, led by Luis Valbuena’s 21, followed by Chris Carter, Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus all with 17. Two of the brightest young, up-and-coming players in all of baseball, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa have been very impressive this season. Altuve has a slash line of .302/.346/.409 with 50 RBIs and 31 stolen bases. Correa’s slash line is .286/.352/.537 with 14 home runs. If this team can sustain this success for the rest of the season, they have a shot to contend for the World Series, but there’s a catch. Houston will need to try and get home-field advantage as they are 40-19 at home but see only 24-35 on the road. The future is bright in the Lone Star State.
New York Mets (63-55)
-Have not qualified for the playoffs since losing Game 7 of the NLCS to the eventual World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals
-Have not been to a World Series since losing to the crosstown rival Yankees in what is known as the Subway Series
-Have not won a World Series since defeating Boston in 1986
Before the season, the NL East was the Nationals to take. Nobody gave any other team a shot in the division. However, the Metropolitans care not about what people say before the season. The Mets have arguably the best pitching staff in all of baseball and currently lead the Nats, who they overcame in the standing over the past three weeks, by 4 1/2 games. After not finishing with a winning record since 2009, New York has the baseball world buzzing as they have such a dominant pitching staff, led by Matt Harvey who is 11-7 with a 2.57 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 141 strikeouts. Jacob deGrom, who is the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, is 11-6 with a 2.03 ERA, .089 WHIP and 152 strikeouts. Another guy in their rotation is Noah Synderhaard who is just 7-6, but has a 3.07 ERA, a WHIP of 1.10 and 111 Ks. The Mets acquired outfielder Yoenis Cespedes at the deadline and he has already and will continue to help this offense alongside first baseman Lucas Duda, who has been playing out of his mind over the past month or so. This Mets team is no joke led by the pitching. This team is not only going to contend for the division, but also the World Series.
Honorable mentions on this list are the Kansas City Royals, who were 90 feet away from tying Game 7 of the World Series last year and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who before the last two seasons had a losing record for 19 straight seasons. Right now the Royals have a commanding lead in the AL Central and the Pirates hold the top wild card spot and are six games behind the Cardinals.
They say patience is a virtue and for these teams, they are finding that out this season