The 8 Debate: Worst major league teams
NOTE: This story appears in the April 15, 2013 issue of Sports Illustrated.
The Astros were widely predicted to be terrible this season, and they're living down to the hype. After an 8-2 opening night win over the Rangers, Houston had lost five straight through Sunday by a combined score of 34-9. Should the 'Stros keep it up, they could make a strong argument for joining these teams as baseball's all-time worst.
8. 2003 Tigers
Detroit could have ranked much higher, but faced with the prospect of breaking the modern major league record for losses (120), the Tigers displayed the kind of grit and skill that can get teams knocked off lists such as this: They reeled off five wins in their last six games.
7. 1935 Boston Braves
Babe Ruth's return to Boston at age 40 didn't go so well. He hit just six homers (three of which came on one day) and retired on June 2, with the Braves' record at 10-27.
6. 2004 Diamondbacks
Three years removed from a World Series championship, Arizona reached its nadir. Take away Randy Johnson's 16-14 mark, and the team's winning percentage was a paltry .256.
5. 1942 Phillies
Calling this the worst Phillies team is saying something. Beginning in 1933, Philadelphia finished last or next-to-last in the NL for 13 straight seasons. At their most abject in '42, the Phils scored just 394 runs, or 2.6 per game.
4. 1988 Orioles
After dropping its last five spring training games, Baltimore lost 12-0 on Opening Day, when Mike Boddicker balked home two runs. It was a sign of things to come. The O's started the season winless in 21 games, picking up a new nickname: the Zer-O's.
3. 1916 Philadelphia Athletics
In a move Marlins fans can relate to, owner-manager Connie Mack tore down his 1914 pennant winner, letting several stars go to the Federal League and selling others. His cheaper squad was roughed up so frequently in '16 that the only other AL team with a losing record was the seventh-place Washington Senators, who were 76-77 and finished 40 games ahead of the A's.
2. 1962 Mets
What they lacked in talent (and they lacked talent), the Mets made up for in characters. Casey Stengel's bumbling losers gave Jimmy Breslin enough material for a classic book, Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?
1. 1899 Cleveland Spiders
The Spiders' owners cannibalized their roster to stock their other franchise, in St. Louis, leaving a team that drew so poorly that opponents often refused to go to Cleveland because their share of the gate wouldn't cover expenses. As a result, a record that will never be broken: The Spiders had 101 road losses.