Since the MLB postseason expanded to welcome four (and now, five) teams in each league into its cold, forbidding arms, there have been a decent number of teams who have made it fewer times than the Reds now have (4). Please ignore quality for quantity:
- Baltimore Orioles (2 LCS losses, 1 LDS loss)
- Chicago White Sox (1 WS win, two LDS losses)
- Colorado Rockies (1 WS loss, 2 LDS losses)
- Kansas City Royals (No playoff berths)
- Miami Marlins (2 World Series wins)**
- Milwaukee Brewers (1 LCS loss, 1 LDS loss)
- New York Mets (3 LCS losses, One WS loss)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (1 playoff berth)
- Toronto Blue Jays (No playoff berths)
- Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos(1 LDS loss)
** Does this count? I think it might not count. For a number of reasons.
Over that same stretch, another 5 teams have matched the Reds, making it four times: the Rays, Tigers, Mariners, Cubs, Padres. This should really cements the fact that the Reds are no longer a sob-story franchise. They're a bridesmaid, sure, but one that's caught the eye of a few strapping groomsmen.
So that's 15 teams with 4 playoff appearances or less, putting the Reds squarely in the middle of the league since 1995.
Of course, you'd like your team to be among the elites. And you'd probably like the success, all things being equal, to be a little better distributed over the years. But thanks to the recent revival and some simple bean-level accounting, the Reds have been "OK" over the last 15+ years. One more win in 1999 would have bumped them into "pretty good" territory.
Maybe the post-season performance is a chance to complain, though? While the Reds have failed to advance their last three trips to the playoffs, they're not the only team that's been jerked-around by the Law of Small Numbers:
After a 10 year playoff drought, the Twins thawed out in 2002 and went on to make the playoffs in 6 of 9 seasons. But in five of those six appearances, the Twins were bounced in the divisional series. They've been swept their last three times out.
Oakland Athletics (2000-present)
The A's have had far more regular season success than the Reds this Century, but they've been similarly stymied in the post-season. Beane's musings about the playoffs being a "crapshoot" have spited him with trick dice. In six playoff appearances since 2000 (not including this season), the A's have advanced past the divisional series just once.
Chicago Cubs (1998-2008)
The Cubs have reached the playoffs four times in the Wild Card Era, but have only gotten past the divisional series once.
Los Angeles Dodgers (1995-2006)
(Written before the outcome of last night's game)
The Dodgers lost to the Reds in the 1995 divisional series. And then again the next year. And then again in '04 and '06. It took them 13 years of divisional play to notch a series win - something the Reds secured right out of the bag, at their expense.
So the Reds are unlucky, but not really cursed. It doesn't really get macabre until they flunked out two or three more times in the first round. For the time being, the Reds should consider this proven maxim: "the playoffs are stupid, arbitrary and inherently unfair, until you win."