In their 44th season of franchise history, the Washington Nationals, who began as the expansion Montreal Expos in 1969, have advanced to the postseason for the second time in their existence, and are hopeful of advancing to the World Series, and winning it, for the first time ever.
The Nationals and the Seattle Mariners, the latter born of expansion in 1977, are the only Major League teams to have never played in a World Series. The Nationals and Mariners do have company, with the Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays, when it comes to teams that have never won a World Series.
In Montreal at the time, the Expos made their postseason debut in 1981. They finished first in the National League East in the second half of that strike-split season, and after going the distance in a best-of-five Division Series against Philadelphia, they were a five-game victim of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Championship Series.
There is something out of whack with baseball's four-team expansion in 1969. The Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 1985. None of the other three -- the Expos/Nationals, Padres and Seattle Pilots/Brewers -- have won any. The Royals were in the postseason seven times in the 10-year stretch from 1976-85, but they have finished as high as second place only three times since, none in the past 17 seasons, and have had a winning record only once in 18 years.
San Diego has been to the World Series twice, losing to the New York Yankees in 1998 and Detroit in 1984. Milwaukee lost to St. Louis in 1982 in its only World Series appearance.
The 44-year championship droughts of those expansion teams are tied for the fifth-longest active stretch of time a team has gone without winning a World Series. The Chicago Cubs have gone 104 years since claiming back-to-back World Series in 1907-08. Cleveland has suffered a 64-year drought, followed by the Rangers at 52 years and the Astros at 51.
The Mariners rank eighth at 36 years, followed by Pittsburgh at 33, Baltimore at 29 and the Royals at 27.
At the other extreme, the Yankees, who won the American League East, have a record 27 World Series championships, followed by the NL Wild Card Cardinals (11) and AL West champion A's (nine).
With Washington advancing to the postseason, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Kansas City are the only teams that have not been to the playoffs since the advent of the Wild Card in 1995. The Yankees, however, have advanced 17 times in the 18 years of the Wild Card, 13 times as the AL East champion and four times as a Wild Card.
Concerns that the Wild Card would weaken the postseason can be put to rest. NL second Wild Card St. Louis won 88 games, the only one of the 10 postseason qualifiers with fewer than 90 wins.
In the 17 previous seasons, when there was one Wild Card in each league, a second one wouldn't have drastically impacted the quality of postseason competition. The 2000 Dodgers (86 wins) and 2006 Phillies (85 wins) would have been the lowest victory totals among NL clubs. The 1997 Angels (84 wins) and 2001 Twins (85 wins) were the only AL teams that would have qualified with fewer than 87 victories.
The Pirates' second consecutive second-half fade resulted in extending their Major League record for consecutive losing seasons to 20. Kansas City, with nine, has the second-most non-winning seasons. Cleveland has gone five, and the Mets and Houston have both gone four years.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have put together 20 consecutive winning seasons, easily the longest current streak. St. Louis and Tampa Bay are second with five, and Detroit, Atlanta and San Francisco have had four apiece.
Washington's Nationals Park becomes the 66th venue to host a postseason game since 1903, according to stats guru Bill Arnold. Old Yankee Stadium, replaced in 2009, has the record with 161 postseason games, including 100 World Series games. Most games in a current stadium are 68 at Fenway Park followed by 55 at Dodger Stadium and 51 games going into Friday at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
A real hit
Pittsburgh had gone 6,541 games without being no-hit before Homer Bailey of Cincinnati did the trick Sept. 28, ending the third-longest active streak. The Cubs have gone 7,501 games, the longest active streak, followed by Cincinnati with 6,608 games, Philadelphia with 5,544 games and Oakland with 3,411 games.
Nationals manager Davey Johnson has joined Billy Martin as the only managers to take four different teams to the postseason. Martin took the Twins (1969), Tigers (1972), A's (1981) and Yankees (1976-77) to the postseason. Johnson has managed the Nationals, Mets (1986, 1988), Reds (1994, 1995), and Orioles (1997) to the postseason.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.