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Back in the spring of 1962, an 11-year-old boy who was a bit of a statistical smart aleck looked at the roster of the first-year New York Mets and let himself dream. After all, Richie Ashburn, Roger Craig and Gil Hodges had each produced some impressive seasons. Why couldn't this team be a winner right out of the box?
The boy's father, looking at the same collection of players, was unimpressed. "That's a .250 team," he announced. "Nothing more, nothing less."
Troubled by his father's assessment, the boy figured out that over 162 games a team couldn't finish at .250:40 wins and 122 losses would be .247; 41 wins and 121 losses, .253. He said to his dad, "I'll bet you the Mets aren't a .250 team." His father, standing by his instinct, took the bet.
The Mets went on to win 40 and lose 120. One game was canceled by rain, one ended in a tie. Final winning percentage: .250.
Forewarned is forearmed: Expansion seasons are unpredictable. By their mere presence the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins, the two new National League teams, will change some things.
If the 1962 New York Mets, with their 40-120 record, reside in the expansionists' basement, the Los Angeles Angels live in the penthouse. The '61 Angels had the best first-year record ever, 70-91 (.435), and their 86-76 mark in '62 is still the best by any of the 10 expansion teams in any of their first four years of operation.
A look at the collective record of the 10 expansion teams suggests that fans of the Rockies or the Marlins best be prepared to wait until the next millennium for their team to win more games than it loses; the average expansion team has taken 10 years to reach the .500 mark. Even so, improvement has been steady (left). And while only the Angels and the Royals finished with a winning record in any of their first six seasons, just three of the 10 teams went a full decade without finishing above .500 once. Two of those three (the Astros and the Expos) surpassed .500 in their 11th season; the Mariners didn't make it until their 15th.
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Expansion has usually been associated with an increase in offense (chart, above). That connection began in 1961, when the New York Yankees' Roger Maris (above, left) hit 61 home runs in the first 162-game season.