The Baltimore Orioles are going boldly where not many have gone before.
And it’s not a good bold.
On Tuesday, the O’s lost their 108th game, falling to 43-108, their worst season ever, eclipsing the previous worst mark of 54-107 posted 30 years ago.
In addition, they are a full 60 games back of MLB and AL East leading Boston. At no time since the advent of divisional play (1969) has a team finished 60 or more games back and it hasn’t taken place in either league since the New York Mets ended the 1962 season 60.5 games back of first in the National League.
This horrid Orioles team has 11 games to go and will be in tough not to finish 60-plus back, given that their final three series are against Boston, the New York Yankees and defending champion Houston Astros.
The 2018 season, it seems, can’t end soon enough for Baltimore.
They do have company, though, in a 20-year historical context. Other than the historically lousy season the Orioles are putting in, here are the worst seasons put in by major league clubs since 1998, in chronological order.
Florida Marlins – 54-108 (1998)
There haven’t been many greater post-championship about-faces turned in than that of the 1998 Florida Marlins. In 1997, their fifth in baseball, the Marlins went all the way to the World Series, beating Cleveland in a thrilling seven-game series. But, after winning it all, the Marlins embarked on a great fire sale and the team ended up becoming the first team ever to finish last after a championship. That Marlins club lost 108 games and ended up a whopping 52 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. In just about every statistical category the team took a dip from 1997, including runs (740 to 667), homers (136 to 114) and on base percentage (.346 to .317) to name a few. Worse still, the pitching staff’s ERA ballooned from a respectable 3.83 in 1997 to 5.18 in ’98. The 1998 Marlins won their first game, then proceeded to drop 11 straight and they never recovered. One telling statistic was the number of games they won by 5 or more runs (considered a blowout) versus those they lost. That mark was a despicable 8-29.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays – 55-106 (2002)
Typically, expansion franchises get better as they go along. But not the 2002 Devil Rays, who finished with the worst record in franchise history at 55-106. This edition of the Devil Rays actually started out on a fair note, going 9-10 to open the season, but proceeded to drop 15 in a row to effectively put an end to any hope of contending. The Devil Rays just didn’t lose games that year either, they got blown out regularly, 33 times by five or more runs. On an individual basis, some of the team’s regulars had seasons they would soon forget. Starter Tanyon Sturtze, who was 11-12 with a 4.42 ERA in 2001, sunk to 4-18 (most losses in baseball) and a 5.18 ERA. He allowed the most hits (271) and walks (89), too. He was the pitcher of record, too, in Tampa’s worst loss of the season, a 22-4 clunker to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 23. The Red Sox sent Sturtze (1-10 at that time) to the showers with a 10-run third, pounding out 19 hits and drawing seven walks in the laugher.
Milwaukee Brewers – 56-106 (2002)
As bad as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were in 2002, the Milwaukee Brewers were equally repugnant. The Brew Crew’s 56-106 mark was the worst in team history and came near the end of a 26-year stretch where Milwaukee missed the post-season. Milwaukee went 8-18 in April that season and a sign of things to come was a 15-2 loss to Houston in the second game of the season, the first of 28 blowout losses. The Astros, fronted by the Killer B’s (Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio) rapped out 15 hits and drew six walks, getting all the runs they would need (8) in the fourth off doomed starter Ruben Quevedo. Thirteen games and 11 losses later, manager Davy Lopes was fired. Offensively, the Brewers were impotent, scoring just 3.87 runs per game (worst in the NL) and were outscored by a differential of 194 runs. The pitching staff, too, had trouble stanching the bleeding once it started too, fashioning a second worst team ERA of 4.73.
Detroit Tigers – 43-119 (2003)
The Baltimore Orioles, at least, shouldn’t match the awful 2003 Detroit Tigers for futility. In the history of the modern era of baseball (1900 on), the mark the Tigers established in 2003 is sixth worst all-time. It was Hall of Fame infielder Alan Trammell’s first year at the helm as manager and second as GM for Dave Dombrowski, who would build this team into a contender in short order. For the ’03 season, though, these Tigers were a miserable lot. Pitcher Mike Maroth would finish with a 9-21 record (the first pitcher to lose 20 games in 23 years) and 5.73 ERA on a staff that had a collectively bad 5.30 ERA. Two other pitchers also flirted with 20-loss seasons, they being Nate Cornejo (6-17, 4.67) and rookie Jeremy Bonderman (6-19, 5.56). Future All-Star reliever Fernando Rodney, who was playing just his second in the bigs, suffered through a season that saw him post a career worst 6.07 ERA. Detroit had an eye-popping 40 blowout losses in 2003 and were 3-21 a the end of the first month.
Kansas City Royals – 58-104 (2004)
In the 30 years between World Series championships (1985 and 2015), the Royals sure had some putrid baseball clubs. In five seasons between 2002 and 2006, the Royals lost 100 or more games four times, too. The staff that year included rookie Zack Greinke, who was the best of a bad lot with a 8-11 record and 3.97 ERA. He would undergo more pain in 2005 (more on that K.C. team later) but at least he wasn’t traumatized enough to become a Cy Young winner in 2009. The hurler affected worst was Darrell May, who was good in two previous seasons, but posted a 9-19 record in 2004, with a 5.61 ERA and 1.554 WHIP. He would be out of baseball after the Royals stinker of a 2005 season. That moribund campaign would also see the departure of the only bona fide star they had, Carlos Beltran, who was traded mid-season and went on to do great things in the playoffs with the Houston Astros. This Royals team lost 37 games by five runs or more — not the worst by far, but not great.
Arizona Diamondbacks – 51-111 (2004)
Over in the National League in 2004, the D-Backs outdid the woeful Kansas City Royals over in the AL. Just three years removed from a World Series championship, this Arizona squad counts among the worst all-time. Like all teams on this list, they lost a lot of games by five or more runs (a blowout) — 37 to be exact. Only five-time Cy Young trophy winner Randy Johnson had anything approaching a good year on a pitching staff that sported a collective 4.98 ERA. The Big Unit went 16-14, accounting for nearly a third of the Diamondbacks wins, with a 2.60 ERA and 290 strikeouts. The number of losses he suffered wasn’t due to bad pitching, just a huge lack of run support. He was traded right after that horrible season to the Yankees. Of the everyday hitters, only one, Shea Hillenbrand, had more than 70 RBI (he had 80). This was truly a sad sack bunch.
Kansas City Royals – 56-106 (2005)
As if the Royals weren’t bad enough in 2004, they were even worse in 2005. And by worse we mean the all-time worst Royals club in franchise history with the 106 losses and a full 43 games back of AL Central winning Chicago. As mentioned above, future Cy Young winner and five-time All-Star Zack Greinke wasn’t safe from being battered in his second season. He went 5-17 (most losses in baseball), with an alarming ERA of 5.80 and WHIP of 1.563. The team’s offence suffered from a case of the yips, too, with only DH Mike Sweeney having anything close to a noteworthy campaign. He was the only player to hit .300 (exactly that) and over 20 homers (21). Things were so bad in 2005, that between July 29 and August 19 the Royals lost 19 straight. Seven of those decisions were blowouts and in three they were shut out.
Washington Nationals – 59-102 (2008)
Only twice in the history of the Montreal Expos did the team lose 100 or more games and the first time happened in their expansion season. However, in 2008 and 2009, long after the established club left Montreal, the team forged back-to-back cruddy seasons. In 2008, the Nats didn’t hit all that much, not even Ryan Zimmerman, with the collective lot cracking just 117 homers all year and scoring 641 runs. This distinct lack of production no doubt affected the team’s pitching, which relative to other clubs here, wasn’t all that bad with a 4.66 staff ERA. It wasn’t much of a “Welcome Home” for fans at the brand new Nationals Park that year, which used that hokey slogan to get bums in the seats — just to watch them lose. The dog days of July were the most unkind to the Nats, who went 5-19 that month, including the final nine in a row. It was so bad, that six members of the coaching staff were let go the day before the final game of the season.
Washington Nationals – 59-103 (2009)
Nationals manager Manny Acta was spared the purge of ’08 in D.C. but couldn’t dodge the axe in 2009. At the All-Star Break in 2009 the Nationals owned a major league worst 26-61 record, which precipitated the firing of Acta, to be replaced by Jim Riggleman in a temporary capacity. He fared a little better, guiding the club to a 33-42 mark the rest of the way. In ’09, the team did score more runs and were aided in that capacity by Ryan Zimmerman (33 HR, 106 RBI) and free-swinging Adam Dunn (38 HR, 105 RBI), but the pitching wasn’t up to par, registering a 5.00 ERA. In fact, much of what ailed the Nationals that season could be attributed to the number of walks issued (629) and homers (173). Garrett Mock, a starter in his second season (he’d be done part way through his third), epitomized a pitching staff with little bite. He was 3-10 in 28 games, 15 of them starts, with a 5.62 ERA and 1.730 WHIP.
Pittsburgh Pirates – 57-105 (2010)
How bad were the 2010 Pittsburgh Pirates, really? Well, not only were they blown right out in 39 of their 105 losses, but some were in humiliating fashion. Consider the 20-0 shellacking the Bucs took from the visiting Milwaukee Brewers on April 22. The Pirates were right smack in the middle of a seven-game losing streak that would also include a 17-3 thrashing at the hands of those same Brewers to book end the terrible stretch. In the 20-0 blowout, Milwaukee cranked out an eye-popping 25 hits, including seven doubles, a triple and four homers. Even the normally reliable reliever and future two-time All-Star Joel Hanrahan (4-1, 3.62 ERA in 2010) took a beating. In his one inning of work, Hanrahan’s lousy line looked like this, en route to six earned runs: triple, double, walk, single, K, single, home run, double, fly out and fly out. Overall, Pittsburgh was awful offensively (just 587 runs for) and on the mound (5.00 ERA, 167 HR against, 1.491 WHIP). The only good thing about that team was the emergence of young guys like Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker.
Houston Astros – 56-106 (2011)
Sometimes pain has to precede pleasure. For the Houston Astros of the early part of this decade, the pain was excruciating. After losing the World Series to the Chicago White Sox in 2005, the Astros declined year-over-year, to the point they finished dead last in 2011 at 56-106. Still in the National League at that point, the old guard was gone (think Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio), replaced by young guns like rookies Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez — who could face each other in the ALCS this year. Those two, however, didn’t have that much of an impact on a punch-less club that hit just 95 homers, scored just 615 runs and gave up 796 (719 earned). By the All-Star Break on July 10 the team was 30-62 with absolutely no hope. July, too, was the ‘Stros worst month of the year as they recorded a 6-20 mark. What was also odd about that Houston team was the fact they had good young closer Mark Melancon in the bullpen. However, future Cy Young candidate and 20-game winner with the Blue Jays, J.A. Happ, had his worst season as a pro, going 6-15 with a 5.35 ERA and 1.535 WHIP.
Chicago Cubs – 61-101 (2012)
Just like the Astros, the Cubbies needed to experience the pain of one of the worst seasons in team history before finally erasing the “Curse of the Billy Goat” with a World Series triumph in 2016. The 61-101 record the Cubs tallied in 2012 was only the third 100-loss season ever and only slightly better than the 1962 and 1966 Cubs, who both had 59-103 slates. The horrible mark this Cubs team could be discounted in the fact that they had a new president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, who would build the team into a contender and champion just four short years later. The youngsters on the 2012 Cubbles included Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Welington Castillo, with a sprinkling of veterans like Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Dempster. They weren’t blown out as many times as other clubs on the list, but didn’t find a way to win, losing as many one-run games (27) as blowouts (27).
Houston Astros – 55-107 (2012)
For the second consecutive — and not the last — season, the Houston Astros were just plain awful. More awful than they were in 2011 and not quite as horrid as they were yet to be (spoiler alert). Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez were in their second seasons and that year — the team’s last in the NL — a kid named Dallas Keuchel got his first taste of big league action. As in 2011, Houston didn’t hit all that well and their pitching was overall mediocre. Keuchel was 3-8 in the first mostly forgettable 16 starts of his major league career, including a 5.27 ERA and 1.547 WHIP. Houston, considering the state of the team, weren’t all that bad through the first three months of the 2012 season, going 32-46. But, the dog days of July set in and the ‘Stros experienced a two-month horror show. In July/August, their win-loss mark was just 8-46, including a 12-game losing streak in July and a 1-13 mark to close out August.
Houston Astros – 51-111 (2013)
Not even a move to the American League could solve the Houston Astros three-year malaise early last decade. In their first year away from the senior circuit, the Astros stunk the joint out in the AL West, finishing 45 games back of first place Oakland. The numbers, collectively weren’t pretty, either, as Houston scored just 610 runs and allowed a whopping 848. They were 18-36 in one-run games and 13-34 in blowouts, too. Things were so bad in 2013 the Astros gave controversial pitcher turned outfielder and former Rookie of the Year candidate Rick Ankiel one of his last kicks at a full-time job. As it was, Ankiel lasted just 25 games with Houston, hitting .194 with five home runs and 11 RBI. Just to put the icing on a not-so-tasty cake, the Astros lost the last 15 games of the season, which included 10-0 and 12-0 smack downs from Cincinnati and state-rival Texas.
Minnesota Twins – 59-103 (2016)
Technically, we could put the 2018 Baltimore Orioles up, but they aren’t finished putting the final touches on a dismal campaign. The Twins, for the record, put in their worst season since the team moved from Washington to Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1961. It was so bad that 2009 AL MVP and six-time All-Star Joe Mauer had his worst season as a hitter, registering a career worst .261 average (he is currently .306 lifetime). The Twins biggest problem in 2016, though, wasn’t lack of production from the likes of Mauer (200 homers as a team, 722 runs) it was lack of ability to prevent runs against, like the 889 scored against them. The pitching staff, which included Ervin Santana and Brandon Kintzler, owned a particularly horrid 5.08 ERA and gave up a whopping 221 homers. This was not the Twins finest moment.