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In honor of the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks’ ascension to the playoffs in the “competitively balanced” NFL, listed below are the worst teams to make Major League Baseball’s postseason. Although the enormous difference between both sports’ schedules makes any meaningful comparison difficult, baseball would be wise to consider the potential implications of expanding its playoff system to the same extent as the NFL.

Ten “Worst” MLB Playoff Teams, Ranked by Winning Percentage

Year Team W L W% Finish Outcome
2005 Padres 82 80 0.506 NL West Champ Lost NLDS.
1973 Mets 82 79 0.509 NL East Champ Lost World Series.
2006 Cardinals 83 78 0.516 NL Central Champ Won World Series.
2008 Dodgers 84 78 0.519 NL West Champ Lost NLCS.
1984 Royals 84 78 0.519 AL West Champ Lost ALCS.
1997 Astros 84 78 0.519 NL Central Champ Lost NLDS.
1987 Twins 85 77 0.525 NL West Champ Won World Series.
2007 Cubs 85 77 0.525 NL Central Champ Lost NLDS.
1997 Indians 86 75 0.534 AL Central Champ Lost World Series.
2009 Twins 87 76 0.534 AL Central Champ Lost ALDS.

Note: Excluding the strike-shortened 1981 season in which the schedule was broken down into two separate halves. That year, the Kansas City Royals won the second half AL West title with a 30-23 record, despite going 50-53 overall.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

As evidenced by the chart above, the “worst” playoff teams have not been wild cards, but division leaders. However, seven of these division winners played in the wild card era.  The same scenario also often exists in the NFL, where this year the below-.500 Seahawks advanced to the playoffs ahead of two 10-win teams (New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

In any potential plan to expand its playoffs, baseball would be better off resisting the urge to add more divisions. Although it may seem counter intuitive, a system with more wild cards, not division leaders, would help ensure that the best teams make the playoffs. Unlike the NFL, which has the point spread to help cover up any blemishes in its postseason matchups, baseball relies on the integrity of its playoff system. A couple of teams have already come close to testing the .500 barrier, so when Bud Selig and his committee get around to discussing postseason expansion, their mission should be to ensure that baseball doesn’t wind up with a team like the Seahawks still playing in October.

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