The Worst MLB Division Ever?

I found an interesting baseball nugget that I had to share. You know how I roll. I’m here for you to amaze your friends.

The 2010 version of the Seattle Seahawks reached the NFL playoffs with a sub .500 record. It sent shockwaves throughout sports that a team could win a division with a 7-9 record, reach the playoffs and host a playoff game. Being a Hawks fan, I was just happy to be in the playoff mix. The team then stunned the Saints and Seattle rejoiced. They will go down as the “worst” team to ever reach the playoffs, but were somewhat vindicated with that stunning win.

HOWEVER… another Seattle franchise may have taken the “worst” title some 16 years earlier had things gone their way late into the season.

The 1994 MLB season was the first to have the three division + wild card playoff system. It was new, it was hip, it was almost a complete disaster.

On August 11th, 1994 the Seattle Mariners headed to Oakland on a 5-game winning streak and had improved their record to 48-63 (.432). That late in August, FIFTEEN games under .500, you’d think to yourself “this season is over! But maybe Kenny can hit 60!?”. Ken Griffey Jr. entered that game with a staggering 39 bombs in only 110 games. Griffey put all of major league baseball on “Roger Maris Home Run Record Alert”.

In the 2nd inning, Griffey hit a 2-out grand slam off of Ron Darling to reach the 40 home run plateau. 40 HR in 111 games. He had 50 games left to go (he played in 111 of a possible 112) and had to hit 21 to tie Roger Maris’ record. Extremely exciting stuff. (Remember: This was 4 years before the home run/steroids explosion with McGwire and Sosa). And oh by the way, Randy Johnson threw a complete game, allowed 1 run on 4 hits, walked 1 and struckout 15!

But you know what? The Mariners were not out of the playoff hunt. They were right in the thick of the A.L. West race despite their horrible record. How was this possible? Because the 4 worst teams in the American League all played in the A.L. West. At the end of the day on August 11th, the Texas Rangers were leading the division at 52-62, one game ahead of the A’s, two ahead of the Mariners and only 5.5 games ahead of the “lowly” 47-68 Angels.

Put this into perspective… The Detroit Tigers (at the time were in the A.L. East) had a record of 53-62 and were 18 full games behind the 70-43 New York Yankees. They were done. Finished. No mas, no menos. However, they had a BETTER record than the Rangers! Wow. And the Tigers had some unique company as well. The Milwaukee Brewers were still in the American League (did not bolt to the N.L. until 1998) and had an identical record to the Tigers: 53-62. They were only 15 games back of the 67-46 Chicago White Sox. The Brewers, just like the Tigers, would have been leading the A.L. West.

Click here for larger view

So you have the other two division bottom dwellers with a better record than the West’s best. How does the amazing story finish? We’ll never know.

August 11th was the end of the 1994 MLB baseball season. No World Series. No playoffs. No more boys of summer. Griffey stayed at 40 home runs and the surging Mariners forever stuck in third place. Would there have been magic in 1994 like the magic that followed the M’s the next season in ’95? It will forever be an unkwown.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that one of the A.L. West teams saved face and reached (or exceeded) a .500 record. The way it was going, with possibly the two best players in baseball at that given time in the season (Jr. and RJ), I think the Mariners would have done the improbable. After they make that incredible comeback, possibly being the hottest team in baseball, may have made a late run into October and won it all? Eh, just playing my version of Emerald City baseball simulator over here.

But then again, we’ll never ever know.

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