After Joe Carter hit his historic home run to end the 1993 World Series in devastating fashion, Phillies and Blue Jays fans had no idea their fandom would be linked for the next decade. Ironically, the elation in Toronto and the deep depression in Philadelphia would give way to a long period of painful mediocrity for both teams and to a long period without post-season play.
Over the past 10 years, excluding the 1994 strike-shortened season (1995-2004), 22 different teams have played in the playoffs. The Yankees and the Braves lead the way, having made the playoffs in each of the past 10 seasons. The White Sox, Reds, and Rockies are on the opposite end of the spectrum, having seen playoff action only once. (But at least their fans have had that thrill.) Even the expansion Diamondbacks, in existence for only 7 seasons, have made the playoffs 3 times, including 1 World Series championship.
The Phillies and Blue Jays, on the other hand, have been 2 of only 8 teams in baseball to have not made the playoffs during this period. What's worse: they did so while compiling the most wins of those eight playoff-less teams. In other words, the teams performed just well enough to tempt their fans with hope but still poor enough to leave our playoff dreams unfulfilled.
Since the 1993 post-season, the Phillies and Blue Jays have kept company with 6 of the sorriest franchises in baseball that have not made the playoffs: the Expos, Pirates, Brewers, Royals, Tigers, and Devil Rays. But unlike those franchises, the Phillies and Blue Jays have actually won at close to a .500 clip over the past 10 years. (Because of the strike-shortened beginning to the 1995 season, 80.1 wins per year over the past decade is .500 baseball.)
Here's a list of the average yearly wins for the 8 non-playoff teams from 1995-2004:
Blue Jays 77.2
Devil Rays 64.4
Three things about this list that are striking:
1) Only the Phillies, Blue Jays, and Tigers play in large markets; the other teams are decidedly small-market teams. These three teams have a built-in revenue advantage by virtue of where they play. The Phillies and Blue Jays have ridden that advantage to regular season mediocrity but have squandered it when it comes to post-season play.
2) The Phillies and the Blue Jays have been consistently much better than the other teams on this list, but have nonetheless joined them in their post-season futility over the past 10 years.
3) 4 of the 8 teams, including the Phillies and the Blue Jays, play in the Eastern divisions, which not coincidentally have featured the Yankees and Braves juggernauts. However, the Phillies and Blue Jays (as well as the Devil Rays and Expos) still could have benefited from the Wild Card, as the Marlins (twice) and Red Sox (once) each won the World Series title as an Eastern Division Wild Card entrant over the past 10 years.
What conclusions can be drawn from this? The Phillies and Blue Jays have had built-in advantages that they have ridden to pure mediocrity from 1995-2004. They've both had GM changes during this time, but the new blood has yet to pay off. Neither GM has been able to do anything to get his team over the hump and into the playoffs. Both sets of fans have been left wallowing in the mediocrity of .500 baseball that ends the last weekend in September. Both sets of fans have been left with nothing more than remembering Joe Carter's home run, for better or, for us Phillies fans, for worse.
There is one bright side, however: we're not Detroit.
Postscript: Today's standings reflect the same:
Blue Jays, 42-41, 4th place
Philadelphia, 42-42, 4th place