In case you haven’t heard, the Kansas City Royals have reached the MLB Postseason for the first time since 1985.
And no, that’s not a typo. I didn’t type 1985 when I actually meant 1995. It really has been 29 years since the Royals last made the playoffs. There are Royals fans Royals fans who have been drinking legally for eight years, Royals fans with kids and mortgages, Royals fans who have fought in wars for their country, who have never seen their favorite baseball team play in October.
What’s happened in the world of baseball since the Royals last made the playoffs in 1985? Well, that’s the subject of today’s list and I don’t want to give it away. But here’s a hint: a lot.
Take a look. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll get a kick out of this…
That's right. Since the Royals last made the playoffs, baseball's infamous "Steroids Era" happened. As in all of it.
Rafael Palmiero's career began in 1986. Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco started sticking needles in their butts in Oakland in the late 1980s. Sammy Sosa started juicing somewhere in the mid-90s. And Barry Bonds hit all 762 of his home runs—the current MLB record—between 1986 and 2007.
After that, MLB went on a crusade to clean up its act (pretending like they had no idea what was going on with all these dudes suddenly getting huge and breaking the game's most sacred records), which culminated in huge suspensions for cheaters Ryan Braun and A-Rod last year.
And it all happened in between the Royals' last two playoff appearances.
13. The Steroids Era
Cal Ripken Jr.'s ironman streak began on May 30, 1982, three years before the Royals' last playoff appearance. However, after that appearance, Ripken went on to play 12 more full seasons without missing a game, passing Lou Gehrig for the all-time record on September 6, 1995.
Of course, back then the Royals' drought was still shorter than Ripken's streak. Who could have imagined it would end up being longer than Ripken's entire 21-year career.
12. Cal Ripken Played 12 Seasons Without Missing a Game
During the Royals' record streak of futility, baseball also saw it's longest streak of success. In 1991, the Atlanta Braves won their division for the first time since 1982, decided they liked winning their division, and just kept on doing it until 2005.
That's 14 straight division titles, and 14 straight trips to the playoffs—right in the middle of the Royals' 29-year playoff drought.
Sure, the Braves only won one World Series in the span. But I think if you asked Royals fans, they'd probably take that over not making the playoffs at all.
11. Atlanta Won 14 Straight Division Titles
The Boston Red Sox ended the famous "Curse of the Bambino" in 2004, winning their first World Series since 1918. It was something many Red Sox fans thought they'd never like to see. And indeed, many didn't.
Royals fans were probably thinking the same thing after a while. Their "Curse of Denkinger" (more on that in a bit) was 19 years old when the Red Sox ended theirs.
It only felt like a lifetime.
10. The Red Sox Finally Won the World Series…Three Times
That's right. Since the Royals last made the playoffs in 1985, every other team in Major League Baseball has made the playoffs. The Pirates, the Padres, the Nationals, the Rays—everybody. And the really sad part is, it's actually relatively easy to make the postseason these days.
Back in 1985, only four teams made the playoffs, but in 1995 MLB went from two divisions in each league to three and added the Wild Cards. That doubled the playoff teams from four to eight, and doubling the Royals' chances of making the postseason. Then, in 2012, MLB added the second Wild Card, increasing the total number of playoff teams from eight to ten.
However, the Royals are one of only two teams not to take advantage of the expanded field in the Wild Card era.
The other, of course, is the Blue Jays, who have not reached the postseason since they won the World Series in 1993. But at least they have a good excuse. The Blue Jays have had to play in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox, who have combined to win eight World Series championships since 1993. The AL Central teams have won just three World Series championships since 1985.
9. Every Other Team Has Made the Playoffs
Not only has every other team in Major League Baseball made at least one playoff appearance since the Royals last made the playoffs. A whopping 23 different teams have made it all the way to the World Series in that span.
That's 76.6%. The only teams who haven't been to the World Series at least once since the Royals' last postseason berth are the Orioles, Mariners, Nationals, Cubs, Brewers, and Pirates. That's it.
But wait, there's more...
8. 23 Different Teams Have Been to the World Series
Since 1985, 16 different teams have won the World Series.
On the one hand, that means there are 14 teams who have gone longer than the Royals without winning a championship. On the other hand, that means the idea that the same teams win every year is just nonsense.
The NFL is lauded for its parity, and since 1985 only 15 NFL teams have won the Super Bowl. MLB is better than the NFL when it comes to giving every team a decent shot at winning a championship, and yet the Royals haven't even made the playoffs.
7. 16 Different Teams Have Won the World Series
Since the Royals last made the postseason, MLB added the Rockies (1993), Marlins (1993), Diamondbacks (1998), and Rays (1998). And everybody knows expansion teams are supposed to suck.
However, of these four expansion teams, only the Rays took longer than five years to make the playoffs. The Marlins did it in year five, the Diamondbacks did it year four, and the Rockies did it in year three, while the Rays did it in year 10. But they all did it.
In fact, all four of these teams has played in at least one World Series, while the D-Backs and Marlins have won it—the former in 2001, the latter in 1997 and 2003.
6. MLB Added Four Teams, and They’ve All Been to the World Series
Remember when I mentioned the Curse of Denkinger? Well, that was a reference to umpire Don Denkinger. In Game 6 of the 1985 World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals were six outs away from a championship when Denkinger blew a call at first base, setting the Royals up for a rally. That deflated the Redbirds, and the Royals then won Game 7 in a blowout.
So what's happened in the 29 years since that bad call by Denkinger? Well, while the Royals have had just eight winning seasons and zero playoff appearances, the Cardinals have made 13 postseason appearances, won 11 division titles, made five trips to the World Series, and won two.
So much for the Show-Me State rivalry.
5. The Cardinals Have Reached the World Series Five More Times
Okay, now I feel like I'm really starting to rub it in, but since the Royals last made the playoffs, the Chicago Cubs have reached the postseason five times.
Don't get me wrong, any Cubs fan would gladly trade a single World Series championship for a 30-year playoff drought. Their team hasn't won a pennant since 1945 and a World Series since 1908.
But that just puts the Royals' drought into perspective: even the saddest franchise in baseball at least makes the playoffs occasionally.
4. The Cubs Have Made the Playoffs Five Times
In the introduction I that a lot of Royals fans have never watched their favorite baseball team play in October. But hell, more than half of the current Royals team was born after the Royals' last playoff appearance. A whopping 26 of the 42 players on the Royals 40-man roster and 22 of the 37 players on the Royals active roster were born after the franchise won the World Series in 1985. That's 62% and 59% respectively.
3. Over Half of the Current Royals Were Born
Some of the most famous games in baseball history have been played since the last time the Royals made the playoffs.
The Buckner game in the '86 World Series, the Kirk Gibson one-legged home run in the '88 Series, the epic duel between John Smoltz and Jack Morris in the '91 Series, Joe Carter's walk-off home run in the '93 Series, the Marlins' walk-off win in the '97 Series, the D-Backs walk-off win in the '01 Series, the Red Sox coming back from 3-0 to beat the Yankees and then end the Curse in the '04 Series, the White Sox ending their curse in the '05 Series, the epic Game 6 of the '11 Series between the Cardinals and Rangers—these all happened since the last time the Royals played baseball in October.
Crazy, isn't it?
2. Some of the Most Famous Games in Baseball History
You know what's crazier than the list of legendary games that have been played since the Royals last made the playoffs? The list of legendary careers that have been played—start to finish—since the Royals last made the playoffs.
In no particular order, we've seen Ken Griffey Jr, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, Mark McGwire, Bo Jackson, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Greg Maddux, Roberto Alomar, Todd Helton, Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter, Carlos Delgado, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Larry Walker, Rafael Palmeiro, John Olerud, and Edgar Martinez.
Oh, and that Derek Jeter guy, too.
All of these players started their careers no earlier than 1986, and all finished without watching the Royals play a single inning of postseason baseball.
Welcome back to the playoffs, Royals. A lot has happened since you've been gone.