Are the Devil Rays the worst team ever?
Worst ever isn't a tag to be applied lightly. As Bill Cosby's Leonard Part 6 (worst movie ever) shows, that dishonorific must be purchased with irredeemable badness, a quality that transcends mere ineptitude. Do the Devil Rays meet the standard?
At 42-77 through Monday, Tampa Bay was on pace for a 56-105 record. That wouldn't be the worst ever; given the Tigers' 53-109 mark in 1996, the Devil Rays wouldn't even be losingest team of the last six seasons. But that Detroit team at least had the promise of a new park to cheer it through its dark hours. The '62 expansion Mets (40-120), the models of modern baseball woefulness, were 9� games out after their first nine games. Still, they were lovable losers, with colorful characters like manager Casey Stengel and future beer pitchman Marv Throneberry. Even the Expos of recent vintage have served a noble purpose: developing players for other teams.
Tampa Bay's futility, in contrast, seems complete. Management has been clumsy, as when it committed $113.5 million to the aging quartet of Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez, Fred McGriff and Greg Vaughn. The Devil Rays play in a rotten park in an indifferent market. Fan friendly? Last year they tried to charge admission to a high school marching band that had been invited to play the national anthem.
For abject hopelessness Tampa Bay's closest match may be the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. While amassing a 20-134 record, the Spiders stopped playing home games because no one came, and their leader in wins was Jim Hughey (4-30). After replacement skipper Joe Quinn guided Cleveland to a 12-104 record down the stretch, his next managing gig was at a St. Louis funeral parlor. The Spiders' fate? They were disbanded after the season. Let that be a warning, Devil Rays.
—Daniel G. Habib
Are the Mariners the best team ever?
We like to believe we do everything better than our forebears. In certain cases it'S hard to argue the contrary, as any PlayStation owner who remembers Pong can tell you. But the proclivity for proclaiming all things of our era to be the best ever can get out of hand, as it did in 1998 when the Yankees won an American League-record 114 games and were hailed in some quarters as the greatest team in history—a claim any number of clubs, from the '27 Yanks to the Big Red Machine of the '70s, might dispute. Through Monday the 2001 Mariners were on pace to surpass those '98 Bombers by three wins. Would this make them the new greatest team ever?
Winning 117 would surely be historic, but four teams since 1900 (the 1902 Pirates, the '06 Cubs, the '09 Pirates and the '54 Indians) have had better winning percentages than Seattle's .720, and a fifth, those '27 Yankees, played .714 ball. As for Seattle's roster, never mind what those overespressoed ballot stuffers tell you—the Mariners aren't a team of All-Stars. They have the best player in the American League at exactly one position: rightfield, where Ichiro roams. Seattle may not even have the best starting staff in their division: Man for man, the A's rotation is better. The 1927 Yanks, by contrast, had six future Hall of Famers, and the '06 Cubs had a staff ERA of 1.75, not to mention their keystone combo, Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, who were immortalized in verse.
Give the Mariners their due. They are a very good team having a superb season, albeit in a league with some very bad teams. But the best ever? Not a chance. Something tells me 95 years from now there won't be a poem immortalizing Guillen-to-Boone-to-Olerud—and not only because nothing rhymes with Olerud.