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Original Issue

A False Spring?

How much does preseason success really mean?
Author:

HEADING INTO thefinal week of spring training, Cincinnati had the NL's best record, while Texaswas the top AL team. But if the Reds and the Rangers start feeling chesty, theyshould ask the Royals how important Grapefruit and Cactus League games are.Since 1996 Kansas City has a .554 preseason winning percentage—they were theAL's best spring team twice—but they've never finished better than third in theregular season during that span. Since MLB went to three divisions in 1994, infact, the team with the best exhibition mark in each league has made theplayoffs less than half the time. Here's where the top spring teams in eachleague have finished since '94.

FIRST PLACE
(15.4%)
The '05 Angels become the fourth team to win their division after finishingwith their league's best spring record. None of the four has won the WorldSeries.

SECOND PLACE
Wild Card (23.1%)
The '97 Marlins—who go on to win the Series—put up the best spring winningpercentage (.839) since 1990.

SECOND PLACE
No Playoff (7.7%)

THIRD PLACE
(30.8%)

FOURTH PLACE
(19.2%)
The '96 Angels become the first spring pennant winner to finish last when theyfollow their 21--10 March mark with a 70--91 regular season.

FIFTH PLACE
(3.8%)
In their final, horrid season in Montreal the '04 Expos play .633 ball inFlorida, then need 58 games—until June 10—to surpass their spring total of 19wins.

PHOTO

JAN BUTCHOFSKY-HOUSER/CORBIS (CACTUS)

PHOTO

DANNY LEHMAN/CORBIS (PALM TREES)

PHOTO

HANS DERYK/AP (MARLINS PLAYER)

PHOTO

ANDRES LEIGHTON/AP (EXPOS PLAYER)

CHART