You think the Rays are Cinderellas? They'll have to take a number.

There have been four different occasions when baseball's world champion did not even finish first in their own division.

The 1994 advent of a three-division format plus wild-card winner mandated an earlier round of playoffs, a best-of-five Division Series, to determine League Championship Series opponents. That changed everything.

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The Marlins of 1997 and 2003 did not finish first over the 162-game regular-season schedule but reached the playoffs because they had the best record among the National League's three second-place teams. Nobody expected them to stay hot in October but they did, defeating the Indians and Yankees, respectively, to win world titles.

In 2002, the Angels won the American League wild-card race, roared through a pair of AL opponents in October, and staged a Game 7 comeback against the Giants to win a World Series.

Two years later, the Red Sox became the second AL team to advance from wild-card winner to world champion. They did it the hard way, defeating the New York Yankees in the ALCS by overcoming a 3-0 deficit with four straight wins and winning four more in succession against the Cardinals in the World Series.

Wild cards that reached the Series but lost included the Mets (2000), Giants (2002), Astros (2005), Tigers (2006) and Rockies (2007).

Since 1997, there are more than a dozen instances of teams missing the playoffs even though they had better records than teams that qualified. In 2008, for example, four non-playoff teams in the National League had better won-lost marks than the NL West champion Dodgers' 84-78.

Even before divisional play, wild-cards, extra playoffs, and unbalanced schedules increased the odds against the best team winning the World Series, picking the winners in advance was a herculean challenge.

Here are nine times when Las Vegas oddsmakers got rich:

Biggest Major League Baseball Cinderellas Slideshow


1906 White Sox

With a .230 team batting average and only six home runs in 154 games, the White Sox earned their "Hitless Wonders" nickname before surprising the crosstown Cubs in a six-game, homerless World Series.


1914 Braves

Roaring down the stretch at a .787 clip (70-19), Boston's Miracle Braves swept the Philadelphia Athletics, who had won three of the previous four World Series.


1931 Cardinals

The Gashouse Gang Cardinals stopped Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's from winning their third straight World Series, winning in seven games despite the powerful pitching tandem of Lefty Grove and George Earnshaw.


1960 Pirates

Pittsburgh was outscored, 55-27, by the Yankees but won four close games, including a 10-9 finale, to overcome 16-3, 12-0 and 10-0 losses.


1954 Giants

The unique configuation of the Polo Grounds helped Leo Durocher's Giants sweep the heavily favored Cleveland Indians, coming off a 111-43 season.


1969 Mets

After sweeping the favored Braves in the first NLCS, the pitching-powered Mets let the powerful Orioles win only the World Series opener before rolling to a highly unlikely world title in their eighth season of existence.


1988 Dodgers

After compiling a .248 team batting average, the Dodgers looked like easy prey for the powerful A’s but a pinch-homer by Kirk Gibson, in his only World Series at-bat, changed the momentum.


1990 Reds

Even with Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco at the peak of their prowess as Bash Brothers, the A's were outscored by Cincinnati, 22-8, and failed to win a game.


1996 Yankees

After winning the first two games handily at Yankee Stadium, the Braves seemed certain to defend their 1995 world championship -- until a Jim Leyritz homer changed the momentum and helped the Yanks win the last four.

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