Detailed Findings & Methodology
In addition to getting the chance to play for the championship in their respective sport, the playoffs provide teams with the opportunity to earn additional revenue in television and gate receipts. A postseason appearance also allows teams to boost advertising rates.
Playoff appearances can help teams build fan loyalty and sell merchandise. Teams typically see a surge in attendance the year after they appear in the postseason. After appearing in the World Series in 2014, attendance at Kansas City Royals’ games swelled the following year by more than 700,000. The Royals won the world championship in 2015.
It is in the postseason that legends are made, and teams use playoff players heroics to build on their legacy and enhance their brand. Players, too, in addition to enjoying postseason glory, are paid extra for playoff games.
There are many reasons why a playoff drought persists, such as ongoing efforts to rebuild the team. Attempts at reconstructing a team’s roster often involve getting young, fresh, and inexpensive players. The last three baseball world champions — the Royals, the Cubs, and the Astros — drastically slashed payroll and suffered through several losing seasons to get high draft picks and talented, younger, and less expensive players who helped them win. The Phillies, who have not been to the postseason since 2011, are trying the same approach, but the results have been disappointing so far.
Sometimes, the longer-term strategy of accumulating high draft picks at the expense of losing routinely leads to cynicism. The NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, who have not reached the postseason in five years, have been accused of intentionally losing games to get higher draft picks — what team’s fans call “the process” and what cynics call “tanking.” The 76ers have been at times historically bad during their drought, recording 47 total wins combined over three seasons. That is a number several NBA teams have already surpassed at the midpoint of this season.
New owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter are not helping to improve this pattern. The Players Association is contemplating whether to report the Marlins payroll slashing — that is, not redirecting some of the revenue toward payroll — to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and his staff. The Marlins have also changed managers frequently, leading to instability in the direction of the team. The team has had 10 different managers since the Marlins were world champions in 2003 World Series.
The Miami Marlins are a prime example of a team that has not been able to return to the playoffs for 14 years. The Marlins are notorious for payroll slashing, particularly after they won their two world championships in 1997 and 2003.
Similar to the Marlins, the Sacramento Kings have had a total of nine different coaches since their last appearance in the playoffs in 2006. It seems as though the team’s desperation to find a sound rhythm between its players and coaches is prolonging the drought and hindering the chance of earning a spot in the playoffs. The Kings have not topped the .500 mark since they made they made playoffs.
Finally, playoff droughts can last for extensive periods of time based on the structure of a league’s playoff system. For example, the Seattle Seahawks won their division with a 7-9 record in 2010, while five other NFL teams with better records but not division winners, failed to even make the playoffs. It may just be the luck of the draw in cases such as these.
To identify the 19 teams with the longest playoff drought, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the baseball, basketball, football, and hockey reference sites to determine which professional teams have been absent from the playoff games for at least five seasons.