Top Nine Improbable MLB playoff runs
By Lou DiPietro
The 2012 MLB regular season is down to its final two weeks, and thanks to the addition of the second wild card, there are still more than 20 teams mathematically in contention for a playoff spot, with nine of the current chasers within a half-dozen games of a postseason berth.
Since the first expanded playoffs in 1995, a wild card team has reached the World Series 10 times (including both wild cards making it in 2002) and won it all on five occasions. Should another team join either group this year (or anytime in the near future), then the necessity of playing an extra "play-in" game will likely cause that title chase to be labeled an "improbable" one…but could that story be any more improbable than the dozen playoff runs, most of which culminated in at least a trip to the World Series, we have listed below?
2003 FLORIDA MARLINS
It's very rare to see a team fire its manager mid-season and go on to make the playoffs, let alone win it all. But the 2003 Marlins did it, rebounding from a 16-22 start under Jeff Torborg to finish 91-71 under Jack McKeon and go on to make Josh Beckett the most hated athlete in New York since Reggie Miller.
1991 ATLANTA BRAVES/MINNESOTA TWINS
Sure, each year is a new one, but before the wild card was instituted, it was a tough task to go from the outhouse to the penthouse in one fell swoop like the 1991 "worst-to-first" Twins and Braves did -- and they get bonus points for playing one of the most memorable World Series in history.
1969 & 1973 NEW YORK METS
Since a dozen or so of the same players were on both squads, we've combined the 1969 "Amazins," who came back from a double-digit August deficit to eventually win it all, with the 1973 "Ya Gotta Believe!" Mets, who climbed out of their own late-summer hole to reach the World Series a second time…
2007 PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
…but of course, we must also mention the 2007 Mets, who blew a seven-game lead with 17 to go and allowed the Phightin' Phils to claim the first of five straight NL East crowns and reach the playoffs for the first time since Joe Carter ousted Santa Claus as Philly Public Enemy No. 1 in 1993…
1964 ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
…correcting karma for the "Phold of 1964," when the Phillies -- who had two future team managers and the father of their current GM on the roster -- couldn't manage to hold a 6 ˝ game lead with 12 to play, allowing the Cards to win the NL pennant and eventually the World Series.
2007 COLORADO ROCKIES
With 14 games left, the 2007 Rockies were 76-72 and dead in the water. But they went 13-1 down the stretch, and after Matt Holliday's controversial slide let them celebrate a victory over the Padres in a wild-card playoff, they swept in both the NLDS and NLCS to reach their first World Series.
2011 ST. LOUIS CARDINALS/TAMPA BAY RAYS
Surely, we don't have to pile on to the story of the Red Sox and Braves' collapses that you've heard ad nauseam over the last year. We're not going to make a fried chicken and beer joke, either, so if you're not 100 percent satisfied with this blurb, send back the unused portion for a full refund.
1951 NEW YORK GIANTS
Hitting the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" may be the greatest moment of Bobby Thomson's career, but that was just the ending of an epic that saw baseball's "G-Men" go 50-12 in their final 62 games and erase a Dodgers lead that was as high as 13 games in late August.
1978 NEW YORK YANKEES
Now really, if you didn't look at the URL of this website and the title of this Niner and think that Bucky "Bleeping" Dent and the Yankees' 15-game turnaround had at least a shot of being No. 1, then we're just going to have to revoke your pinstripes.