Not all playoff berths are created equal. Depending on the team, reaching the post-season can mean simply living up to expectations or quelling an uprising amongst the fanbase and everything in between. As we enter the final games of the season, let's take a look at which of the still alive National League teams "need" to reach the playoffs the most.
Washington Nationals – The Nats don't need anything. They have their playoff spot, the first in their team history (second if you want to include their years as the Montreal Expos and sully the memory of Andre Dawson). This is a young team with a bright future that is headed to the post-season well ahead of schedule, so anything they do from here on out is just gravy.
Cincinnati Reds – The Reds did need to qualify for the playoffs due to the uncertainty around Dusty Baker's job security going into the season. They've more than put those concerns to rest by winning the NL Central, so consider the need now met.
San Francisco Giants – With their 2010 World Series win still fresh in their mind and a young core of players that aren't going anywhere anytime soon, the Giants need level is pretty low.
Atlanta Braves – After their epic collapse down the stretch last season, it is pretty safe to say that needed to reach the playoffs to avoid an all out mutiny. The Braves are once again sitting pretty on the verge of clinching the Wild Card, but I think we all know better than to consider them a lock until they actually clinch that spot because Barves.
St. Louis Cardinals – The only reason they need to make the playoffs is to deliver a double middle finger to Albert Pujols who abandoned them for an Angel team that may miss the post-season in their own right. Otherwise, it is just a single middle finger and that isn't nearly as satisfying.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Prior to August, the Dodgers didn't need to make the post-season since they were still basking in the honeymoon afterglow of divorcing the franchise from the reign of terror that was the McCourt ownership era. All they had to do was hang around the playoff race and give it a good go and everyone would've gone home happy and full of hope for 2013. But then the new owners had to go and make the wildly irresponsible trade with the Red Sox that landed them a fair amount of talent and a grotesque amount of future payroll obligations. With that kind of all-in move, they jacked up their expectations to "playoffs or bust" level.
Milwaukee Brewers – After losing Prince Fielder in free agency before the season and then trading away Zack Greinke at mid-season the Brewers really don't have any business still being involved in a playoff race this late in the year.
Arizona Diamondbacks – After a surprising division win last year, the D'Backs have to be disappointed to be on the verge of missing the playoffs, but did they "need" to make it? Probably not. It would have been nice, but their bigger need right now is to figure out if they want to continue trying to build the roster around Justin Upton or not.
Philadelphia Phillies – If anything, the Phillies need to make sure they miss the playoffs. One could argue that their window to win another championship is perilously close to being closed, so they need to take every last shot they can get. However, they might actually be better off missing out on the post-season just in case a playoff berth fools their front office into thinking that the roster doesn't have as many holes in it as it really has.
Pittsburgh Pirates – No team needs the playoffs more than the Pirates who haven't seen a post-season (or a winning season, for that matter) in what is about to be 20 season since they are on the verge of being eliminated from the post-season race. Making matters worse, which is shockingly possible, is that this marks the second consecutive season that the Buccos have given their fans a ray of hope only to snuff it out with extreme prejudice. Look on the bright side, at least the winning season streak still has an outside shot at being broken, right?