October firsts: Postseason droughts could end soon

October firsts: Postseason droughts could end soon

The date happens to be the start of the postseason this year, and there's really only one such date on the calendar every year. But there is the potential for a lot of October firsts this year.

As of Oct. 1, when the 2013 postseason begins, several teams and players could be ending long postseason droughts, reaching October for the first time in a long time, or ever.

Especially in the Wild Card II era, opportunity beckons for teams that haven't experienced the thrill of the postseason for a long time, and for players who have yet to set foot in the playoffs to earn a first taste of celebratory champagne. In 2013, that opportunity abounds as the races head down the stretch run.

Here's a look at the longest current stretches without reaching the postseason, many of which are in play heading down the stretch in 2013, represented in seasons for teams and games for players:

1. Royals, 27 seasons
2. Pirates, 20
3. Blue Jays, 19
4. Mariners, 11
5. Marlins, 9

Just last year, the longest team drought came to an end, with the Nationals reaching the postseason after 30 years (dating back to when they were the Expos) and bringing playoff baseball to the nation's capital for the first time since 1933.

Before the 2013 season began, there were thoughts in Kansas City and in Pittsburgh that this would be the year their decades of waiting might end, too. And it still very well could be, with the Pirates well on their way and the Royals fighting for a spot deep into the season.

The Bucs, who last played in the postseason when their bid to reach the World Series ended when the Braves' Sid Bream beat Barry Bonds' throw home in Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series, lead the NL Central and have built an 8 1/2-game cushion on a postseason spot as they head down the stretch. They're hoping to end their two decades of missing out on October with a strong finish, something that was missing from their last two bids.

The Royals, meanwhile, had their struggles in May but were one of the game's hottest teams out of the All-Star break. Now they've got their hands full with a 6 1/2-game deficit for the second Wild Card spot and a bit of a cold streak going. But with their rotation staying on pace for the stated goal of 1,000 innings and their offense finding some life in the summer, Kansas City is still in it.

"They've got a lot of intangibles, these guys have a heart to play this game," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said of the club recently. "Every single player on this team has a heart to play. So they come out and give a great effort and pull for one another and play all nine innings."

The Blue Jays had similar high hopes heading into 2013, but injuries and other struggles have mounted in the tough AL East. The Mariners also hoped for a more powerful presence in the AL West, and while they still have a chance to improve on last year's showing with a strong finish, it's apparent their postseason drought will continue into a second decade.

The top 10 active players as of 2013 in number of games played without appearing in a postseason game through Wednesday, according to baseball-reference.com:
1. Adam Dunn, CWS, 1,840 games
2. Vernon Wells, NYY, 1,708
3. Alex Rios, TEX, 1,419
4. Ty Wigginton, FA, 1,362
5. Brian Roberts, BAL, 1,293
6. David DeJesus, WAS, 1,241
7. Corey Patterson, NYY, (MiLB) 1,230
8. Marlon Byrd, NYM, 1,216
9. Reed Johnson, ATL, 1,182
10. Nick Markakis, BAL, 1,174

One of the rationales as to why the White Sox might trade Dunn this summer -- and why he might want to move on -- was his place in the top spot on that chart. For the moment, Dunn appears to be staying put on both fronts.

But you don't have to look much deeper down the list to see there are plenty more possibilities for players to break a career-long streak of missing out on the postseason.

Assuming Dunn stays in Chicago, Wells of the Yankees and Rios of the Rangers are in position, to different degrees, to end their October-less runs. Wells was acquired by the Yanks from the Angels just prior to the season, and helped keep the Bronx Bombers afloat. Rios was with the last-place White Sox like Dunn until the waiver deal for him earlier this month, and he steps right into the spot vacated by Nelson Cruz's suspension.

Rios said as soon as he put on his Rangers uniform for the first time that a chance to play in October was foremost in his mind as he joined a team that has three straight trips to the postseason, the first two to the World Series.

"Obviously, we didn't have a contending team in Chicago. Now I am on one, so hopefully we can achieve what we want to do," Rios said. "That's something I'm looking forward to, getting deep into the playoffs and winning the ring. I believe we have that chance."

Two of the more ironic examples on the current list are Roberts and Markakis, who had been stalwarts of the Orioles for years before both missed out on last year's run into the postseason because of injuries. They're both healthy and hoping to help get the O's back to the postseason a second straight year.

Wigginton was released after spending half the season with the contending Cardinals, but DeJesus and Johnson -- who was with the Braves last October but didn't play in the Wild Card Game -- remain hopeful of a postseason appearance this year.

Only then will a bit of trivia they'd rather not lug around the rest of their career become history.

"It's something you don't want to be proud of," Rios said. "You want to be a player in the playoffs and win in the playoffs."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.