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Last night I was listening to the Braves broadcast and heard Jeff Francoeur (who is now calling Braves games) say that there are four teams that are on pace to lose 100 games or are very close to losing 100 games. After thinking about what he said, I had to look at the four teams and see if it would actually be a record to possibly see four teams losing 100 games in the same season. Believe it or not, it has happened. In 2002, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and the Milwaukee Brewers all hit the century mark in losses. It also would end the run of years MLB hasn’t seen a team hit 100 losses since 2013 when the Houston Astros and the Miami Marlins both did it.
So today we will look at the 4 teams who could match the Devil Rays, Tigers, Royals, and Brewers in 2002 in great futility and see how they ended up being in baseball’s basement, and what the prognosis looks like for this season and down the road.
MIAMI MARLINS: Of the four teams, the Marlins are not technically on pace to lose 100 and have the best shot at avoiding it. However, we haven’t hit the trade deadline and key pieces like JT Realmuto, Starlin Castro, and maybe Justin Bour could have change of address when August rolls around. However, fans in Miami and really the Majors were up in arms when the Marlins shifted over half of their offense in 2017 (Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, and Dee Gordon) elsewhere for prospects when Derek Jeter took over. Of course, Jeter was heavily scrutinized (and rightfully so) for making moves that once again looked like the typical Marlins fire sale we’ve come to known since 1998. However, attendance is worse than when before the Marlins moved to Marlins Park because of it. Now arguments have been “well, their run ended when Jose Fernandez tragically passed near the end of the 2016 season.” Maybe so, but they were still competitive and had exciting players to watch like Stanton and Ozuna and I feel like this rebuild was more self-inflicted than anything. Instead of getting starters who could contribute, they opted to clean the slate which I think is dumb especially in a town that gives up on the sniff of a rebuild. Jeter, under fire and probably irked at being accused of tanking early came out and said they were trying to win. But let’s face it: no team really wins when you lose a massive chunk of your offensive output from the year before. It doesn’t work like that. However, Miami has been okay since June 1st, being 19-19, which is 4.5 games better than their NL East rival Nationals in that stretch (13-22) and better than the Cardinals & Angels while holding the same record with another rival in the Braves. And it always feels like they are playing their divisional foes tough (though the results don’t show it). But Miami has been playing better. However, with the trade deadline coming, you can expect some of the veterans to be on the move. Worse, the Marlins, assuming they do end up making trades, don’t have a nice schedule in the 2nd half of seeing a heavy dose of the Braves, Phillies, and Nationals while they have two games each against the Yankees and Red Sox not to mention starting the 2nd half against the red hot Rays.
CHANCES OF LOSING 100 GAMES: SKETCHY. Hard to say with the Marlins and who will be on the team after the deadline. But you do have to applaud Don Mattingly for getting his players to compete on a daily basis.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES: Currently, the Orioles are 26-67. They are currently slated to be about 48-114 in 2018. Ouch. While the Marlins may have jumped the trigger on the fire sale, Baltimore did something incredibly dumb last year: they bought while they probably should have sold. Instead of moving out pieces that could have netted them prospects if they’d traded Adam Jones and others, they opted to trade for Tim Beckham and Jeremy Hellickson. I mean, why? Baltimore’s issue is that the front office hates the word “rebuild.” And that’s always been the case in the Peter Angelos regime when he bought the team. It has been why the Orioles went through a massive winning drought from 1998-2011 and quite possibly another drought is headed on the way. At least in the Marlins case, there are a lot of young players, but in Baltimore’s case, they have veterans pretty much all around such as Jones, Beckham, Chris Davis (who is having the worst year in modern history), Mark Trumbo, Danny Valencia, Andrew Cashner, Alex Cobb, Chris Tillman, Brad Brach etc (though to be fair, a few of them haven’t been bad like Trumbo or Jones, but the rest haven’t lived up to what they are supposed to do). And the young players not named Machado have not panned out such as Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini, etc. The Orioles front office may scream “it’s a perfect storm this year and it won’t happen again,” thus not wiping the slate clean. But this team isn’t very good with the veterans they have and the youngsters they have. And it doesn’t figure to get better once Machado gets traded. But a massive change needs to happen as Baltimore feels it HAS to be a contender on a yearly basis with the Yankees and Red Sox. Baltimore adding veterans on a yearly basis doesn’t make them a contender if the veterans are the likes of Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner. Fans in Baltimore also know that this team isn’t very good and they haven’t shown up at the gates this year. Only the Rays, White Sox, and Athletics have drawn less than the Orioles in the AL. That has to account for something that Angelos has to figure out. This team if not careful, can challenge the 2003 Tigers record of 119 losses really easy and the 2nd half is also pretty unforgiving. In addition to seeing the Red Sox & Yankees 18 more times, they see the Rays 10 more times, and have road trips to Cleveland and Seattle while ending the season with 4 at home to Houston (which caps off a 10 game stretch of seeing the Red Sox and Yankees-both series of being on the road).
CHANCES OF LOSING 100 GAMES: NEAR-CERTAIN. Baltimore is in that mix of chasing the 62 Mets and the 03 Tigers for having one of the worst records ever.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX: Chicago was cleaning the slate when the 2017 season started by trading Chris Sale away and got a decent package headed by Yoan Moncada. The other trades of Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, etc. also netted Chicago with top prospects to the point of having one of the best farm systems around. Some of the prospects have already come up such as Moncada, Lucas Giolito, and Carson Fulmer, but so far, they have not panned out early on in their MLB careers and Moncada is on pace to have 230 strikeouts in this season. Giolito has been a disaster while Carson Fulmer has been a hot mess. The lone bright spots to the young Sox have been Carlos Rodon and Reynaldo Lopez. I honestly thought given how the White Sox rebuild was going decent and seeing some of the young talent up and how the Tigers and Royals were in rebuilds, Chicago would have been slightly better. However, the guys they have up aren’t the prospects Chicago were banking on as the future and have fallen flat. So really it was to be expected, though I don’t think it was going to be this rough with their prospects that have already gotten up. We may have to wait & see how the likes of Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech fare to see if the White Sox rebuild is going well. But they could get other prospects if Chicago trades other pieces like Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, and Joakim Soria as Rick Hahn has done a good job of making the trades. The good news for Chicago is that they are in the AL Central and see a good chunk of their division like the Tigers, Twins, and Royals the rest of the way. However, Chicago is only 1-8 vs. Detroit this year and 5-7 against Minnesota. They have thumped Kansas City a good bit. But the White Sox have yet to see the Yankees and still have trips to Seattle and Tampa Bay while seeing Boston for four in Chicago. So avoiding 100 losses won’t be easy as right now and look like they are on pace for a 56-106 season.
CHANCES OF LOSING 100 GAMES: DECENT. It will be hard for Chicago to fare well with the schedule coming up and if they continue losing to the likes of the Indians and Tigers (combined 3-16 against those teams this year), they have a chance of putting up 110 losses on top of it.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS: If you want to know the payment of winning a World Series and being a small-market team, you are seeing it in Kansas City. 3 years removed of their 2nd world championship, the Royals were unable to afford the pieces that netted them that ring (Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer) while trading the last few strong prospects for Johnny Cueto and having an unfortunate tragic incident of Yordano Ventura, you get a franchise snowballing. When the Royals stars were no longer considered prospects, Kansas City’s farm system dried up fast. And the system has been dried up for a while. The trades hurt them and the prospects Kansas City had hoped to replace those guys (Raul Mondesi, Bubba Starling) haven’t worked at all. So the rebuilding process is a slow one. However, Kansas City has pieces and Jorge Soler was a start. But they have a good piece for a trade chip in Mike Moustakas, that if teams don’t win the Manny Machado sweepstakes, they will be knocking on the door of the Royals. Obviously, getting the top prospect for Moustakas won’t happen, but they can get some pieces that will contribute for the Royals down the road. Unfortunately, that is it as Kansas City’s pitching is a complete disaster with even the veterans of Danny Duffy and Jason Hammel. So don’t expect anything, whether a trade or performance to change for the Royals in that aspect and Kansas City already traded Kelvin Herrera to Washington for a package of decent prospects (though many believed Dayton Moore could have waited and gotten a better deal elsewhere) so it doesn’t look like Kansas City will far much better as the season continues. Since the start of June, Kansas City has gone 6-29 and with the trades being made and injuries mounting, the Royals don’t seem like they will turn the ship anytime soon and could also be in contention for the 62 Mets and 03 Tigers for having one of the worst records in baseball history.
CHANCES OF LOSING 100 GAMES: NEAR-CERTAIN: Right now you can see the Royals losing 115 with ease, maybe moreso than Baltimore because of the lack of a veteran presence in this group.
One concern that people are starting to get is that tanking in pro sports is starting to become the “in-thing.” We see it in the NBA as we saw the Suns, Kings, Hawks, and Mavericks all do that last year. And hearing the local sports station in Atlanta (who happen to be the same station covering the Hawks), they seemed depressed whenever the Hawks WON which meant the chances of Atlanta getting the top pick slimmed. I think that has been one gripe of the NBA among the basketball purists and also adds to the argument that there will never be any parity in the league.
MLB fans are starting to wonder if we are seeing the same thing and that teams are following the suit of the Astros, who were just godawful from 2011-2013 as they pretty much set the franchise ablaze and started over and even the Cubs in a similar stretch. It looked like the Braves were doing that after the 2014 season though the heads of the Braves were saying it wasn’t a massive rebuild and said the next few years of Braves baseball will be fun and exciting (not sure if seeing the likes of Adonis Garcia, Jace Peterson, and Gordon Beckham constitutes as exciting). But to be fair, the Braves kept Freddie Freeman around and also signed Nick Markakis to at least show it wasn’t a complete slashing a la Houston. I think the White Sox are following the Astros and Cubs lead of trying to clean the slate and “tanking” as have the Marlins, contrary to whatever Jeter says.
But I think in the Royals case, they knew they would suffer a price for making moves that guaranteed them a World Series title and they are suffering it now. It isn’t necessarily tanking on that end. So you may have to ask a Royals fan if the next few years of great futility was worth that championship in 2015 and honestly, I think they’d be okay with that.
As for the Orioles, they weren’t planning on tanking. In fact, you do have to applaud Baltimore’s office for wanting to compete, though you have to believe their heart may be in the right place, but their minds weren’t as now they have inherited a gigantic mess on the field.
With that said, I don’t think MLB will ever fall into the NBA category of teams deliberately tanking and seeing multiple teams with constant 105+ losses. First off, the teams would suffer at the gates (I’m waiting for the attendance of the Marlins home series against the Reds in the final week of the season to see if they eclipse 1,000) and kill revenue in a big way. Secondly, I think while many want to point to Houston as the way to go in terms of tanking in order to be a championship contender for a lengthy run, pretty much not having any veteran or franchise player in that “tanking time” does not help matters as they could have been on the rebuild faster as we are somewhat seeing with Atlanta now when they chose to keep Freeman (though there were some rumors of the Braves trading him during that rebuild). And I don’t see teams tanking like you see in the NBA because of the baseball fans in those towns would give so much backlash to the ownership, verbally or monetarily (i.e. showing up at the games) that those teams would be pressed to make certain moves to keep the fans off their back-and remember, it is a business first and foremost. If the team isn’t winning or not being competitive, nobody will show up to the games. You’re seeing it Miami. You’re seeing it in Baltimore. You’re seeing it on the Southside.
This year I think seeing a 100-loss team was due. I didn’t think seeing 4 teams with a shot of 100 losses would happen, but it is just how the teams are run. Yes, I believe the Marlins were put in position to tank, but that has been it. The rest were either going to pay the price for their great run in previous years or had a misdirected belief they would win. And let’s face it: not every team will be expected to win it all on a yearly basis, even if they aren’t a horrible team or if they are a good team (Pirates, Rays, Padres). It’s the nature of the beast. So I think after seeing what goes on in the NBA there is a widespread panic that MLB will follow suit but I don’t see it happening. It is just we have some very bad teams right now and four who are chasing misery.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat