The National League West will likely have two 100-game winners in the division this season. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are both on pace to have over 100 wins apiece. This is a feat that has taken place only four times since 1969. Before 1969, there were no divisions. The best team from the National League and the American League simply played each other in the World Series. Prior to 1969, there were six 100-win teams in four MLB clubs that finished second in their league and missed out on the playoffs. Keep in mind that the Wild Card was not introduced in MLB until 1994. There were not two Wild Card spots per league until 2012.
These are the teams that won 100 games or more and still finished second in their leagues prior to 1969:
- 1909 Chicago Cubs
- 1915 Detroit Tigers
- 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers
- 1954 New York Yankees
- 1961 Detroit Tigers
- 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers
The National and American leagues each split into divisions prior to the 1969 season, which solved the problem for 18 years. In 1980, the Baltimore Orioles finished the season with a record of 100-62 and were second in the AL East to the New York Yankees. But it was not until 1993 that things changed. In 1993, the Giants finished second in the NL West to the Atlanta Braves with a record of 103-59. This was the first time the NL West saw two 100-game winners. The Giants did not make the playoffs in 1993 and prior to the 1994 season, the Wild Card was born.
Wild Card Era Sparks Exciting Playoffs
Since the Wild Card was introduced in 1994 and expanded prior to the 2012 season, the playoffs have had more games. Fewer teams are left out of the postseason due to the fact that they are in a league or division with other good teams. The 2001 Oakland Athletics made the playoffs via the Wild Card spot with a record of 102-60. They finished second in the AL West to the 116-win Seattle Mariners. In 2001 when there was one Wild Card team in each league, the Wild Card team began the playoffs in the Division Series. Oakland ultimately lost to the Yankees 3-2 in the AL Division Series that season but the Wild Card spot gave them the chance to compete in the postseason.
After the Wild Card expanded to two slots per league, the 2018 Yankees made the playoffs after finishing second in the AL East with a record of 100-62. The 108-win Boston Red Sox won the AL East in 2018 to leave the Yankees with the Wild Card spot. The Yankees beat the Athletics in the one-game Wild Card playoff by a score of 7-2. The Yankees ultimately lost the AL Division Series to the Red Sox that season 3-1. With two Wild Card slots per league, it is still possible that a good team could be left out of the playoffs, but it is highly unlikely.
Two 100-Game Winners in NL West Redux
With the Giants being the only team in the NL West to win 100 games or more and miss out on the playoffs, we are awaiting the outcome of the final standings in 2021. Will the Dodgers have to face a Wild Card team in a one-game playoff, or will it be the Giants? Will one of the two teams win over 100 games only to lose the one-game Wild Card playoff? Or will we see what every Dodger and Giants fan wants to see in an NL West-only rivalry Division Series? It is difficult to say how the standings will turn out right now. What we can say is that the NL West has been an exciting and historic division this season thus far. We have all witnessed something that has taken place very few times in the history of Major League Baseball.
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