If you’re a fan of the Phillies, Braves, Reds, or Twins, you brace yourself for bad news every night at the ballpark. With the exception of Minnesota, these teams were expected to be awful, and last season played out that way. There is no hope in sight, unless you are planning ahead for 2018 (possibly later).
Still, there’s a difference between a team stinking up the joint while rebuilding and posting one of the worst records in the history of the sport. The bar has been set so low by flops of baseball’s past that it will be quite an achievement if a modern club plummets to those depths. Here are the five worst MLB teams of the modern era (1900 to present), when seasons began topping 150 games.
5. 1919 Philadelphia Athletics
The Athletics franchise began in Philadelphia in 1901 and made a pit stop in Kansas City before ending up in Oakland. Between 1910 and 1930, the team won five World Series titles and was a dominant force in the league. However, the period between 1915 and 1921 was unbelievably bad.
The A’s lost more than 100 games during five out of those seven years. In 1919, the club went 36-104 for an unsightly .257 winning percentage. If you need one horrifying stat, here goes: The whole team hit just 35 home runs that season, while Babe Ruth personally hit 29 for Boston while doing double-duty as a pitcher.
4. 1904 Washington Senators
Before appearing in and winning the 1924 World Series, the Washington Senators were frequently at the bottom of the American League standings. In 1904, the club went off the rails and ended with a 33-138 record, which amounts to a .252 winning percentage.
No one on the team hit above .262 that season, while poor Happy Townsend posted a 5-26 record in 31 starts. In 1960, the franchise moved to Minnesota to become the Twins. To this day, it can only claim three World Series titles. Through 59 years as the Senators, the club won just one World Series in three tries.
3. 1962 New York Mets
All things considered, the New York Mets got off the deck quickly to win the franchise’s first World Series title in 1969. When the club entered the National League as an expansion team in 1962, things did not go well in the inaugural season. With Casey Stengel at the helm, the Amazin’s posted a 40-120 record (.250) and were outscored by 331 runs.
Frank Thomas’s 34 home runs represented one of the few bright spots here. If you believe it’s possible, the ’62 Mets actually underachieved. Baseball Reference’s Pythagorean won-loss formula had them going 50-110 based on their horrendous run differential. New York fans probably preferred the memory of the Giants and Dodgers as opposed to the reality of the first Mets teams.
2. 1935 Boston Braves
Before making its way to Atlanta, the Braves franchise had its start in Boston, where it began as the Red Stockings in 1876 before changing its name to the Beaneaters in 1883, the Doves in 1907, and the Rustlers in 1911. By 1912, this team just went by the Braves and claimed its first World Series title in 1914.
Then came the dark ages for the franchise until it hit its nadir in the 1935 season. That team went 38-115 (.248) and finished a cool 61.5 games behind the Cubs.
Wally Berger’s excellent (5.7 WAR) season was wasted, as was the presence of Babe Ruth in his final, sad season in baseball. It took until the late ’40s, when Spahn and Sain (of “pray for rain” fame) arrived for the franchise to return to respectability.
1. 1916 Philadelphia Athletics
No matter how bad it gots for the Phillies and Braves in 2016, it would have been tough to top either franchise’s worst season. To find the worst since 1900, we have to go all the way back to 1916, when Connie Mack’s Athletics sputtered to a 36-117 record. Its .235 winning percentage is almost too bad to believe.
“Led” by Amos Strunk (.316) at the plate and Bullet Joe Bush (15-24) on the mound, these swingin’ A’s were outscored by 329 runs and finished 54.5 games behind the first-place Red Sox. To get an idea how terrible this team was, it actually finished 40 games behind the seventh-place Senators that season. It will take some doing for any modern club to reach such a low point again.
Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.