The Stink of Losing – Five Star Stink

The end of the season throws the Reds into the 6th straight year of losing and the Pirates and Brewers are adding their 14th straight year of losing. Fourteen years is impressive, it’s basically a run of bad decisions and bad luck that compounds into a situation that generally becomes baseball quicksand and once you are caught in baseball quicksand you join the list of stinkers that have plagued the game since the early part of the 20th century

***** FIVE STAR STINK

Philadelphia Phillies
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YEAR  PLACE   W    L   PCT   GB    TITLE
1918  6th     55   68  .447   26
1919  8th     47   90  .343   47.5
1920  8th     62   91  .405   30.5
1921  8th     51  103  .331   43.5
1922  7th     57   96  .373   35.5
1923  8th     50  104  .325   45.5
1924  7th     55   96  .364   37
1925  T6th    68   85  .444   27
1926  8th     58   93  .384   29.5
1927  8th     51  103  .331   43
1928  8th     43  109  .283   51
1929  5th     71   82  .464   27.5
1930  8th     52  102  .338   40
1931  6th     66   88  .429   35

1932  4th     78   76  .506   12

A true five star stink, back to back, creating a legacy of apathy.

The early definition of stink in the NL can be directly traced back to the trade that sent Grover Cleveland Alexander to the Cubs from the Phillies on 12/11/1917. Therefore they bleed a bit in our time frame, but with purpose, they were bad and they were bad for a long, long time.

How bad was it?

Worst season in runs allowed in modern NL history.

RUNS                     YEAR      R        L
Phillies                 1930     1199      102
Phillies                 1929     1036       82
Rockies                  1999     1028       90
Braves                   1911     1021      107
Phillies                 1923     1008      104
Rockies                  1993      967       95
Rockies                  1996      964       79
Phillies                 1928      948      109
Mets                     1962      948      120
Astros                   2000      944       90

Three of the worst seasons are the 1928-1930 seasons for the Phillies, check out the difference between the 1929 losses and the 1930 losses, then take a look at the starting staff vs. the league and compare it to the 1930 Phillies Staff vs. the league.

1929

ERA                      YEAR     DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE    RSAA
Claude Willoughby        1929     -.29     5.00     4.71       11
Leo Sweetland            1929     -.41     5.12     4.71        7
Phil Collins             1929    -1.06     5.76     4.71       -6
Hal Elliott              1929    -1.37     6.08     4.71       -8
Ray Benge                1929    -1.58     6.29     4.71      -19

1930

ERA                      YEAR     DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE    RSAA
Phil Collins             1930     0.19     4.78     4.97       21
Ray Benge                1930     -.73     5.69     4.97       -3
Hap Collard              1930    -1.84     6.80     4.97      -17
Claude Willoughby        1930    -2.62     7.59     4.97      -34
Hal Elliott              1930    -2.72     7.69     4.97      -28
Leo Sweetland            1930    -2.74     7.71     4.97      -40

In 1932 the Phillies finally climbed above .500, however the following season the team began a run of futility that was mammoth in scale, a sixteen year run of under .500 was broken in 1949 as the Phillies finished 8 games above .500

YEAR  PLACE   W    L   PCT   GB    TITLE
1933  7th     60   92  .395   31
1934  7th     56   93  .376   37
1935  7th     64   89  .418   35.5
1936  8th     54  100  .351   38
1937  7th     61   92  .399   34.5
1938  8th     45  105  .300   43
1939  8th     45  106  .298   50.5
1940  8th     50  103  .327   50
1941  8th     43  111  .279   57
1942  8th     42  109  .278   62.5
1943  7th     64   90  .416   41
1944  8th     61   92  .399   43.5
1945  8th     46  108  .299   52
1946  5th     69   85  .448   28
1947  T7th    62   92  .403   32
1948  6th     66   88  .429   25.5

1949  3rd     81   73  .526   16

The Phillies placement in 4th in 1932 was the ONLY time between 1918-1949 that Phillies finished above 5th place. The run was marked by fire sales, collapsing stands and an owner being banned from the game. It’s a wonder that the A’s didn’t run the Phillies out of town instead of the other way around. It took the money from Dow Chemical and the patience to build a farm system to pull them out of it slightly, but the Phillies would never be seen as a powerhouse, even experiencing their biggest years when the Reds and Dodgers were peaking as well.

Boston Red Sox
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YEAR  PLACE   W    L   PCT   GB    TITLE
1919  6th     66   71  .482   20.5
1920  5th     72   81  .471   25.5
1921  5th     75   79  .487   23.5
1922  8th     61   93  .396   33
1923  8th     61   91  .401   37
1924  7th     67   87  .435   25
1925  8th     47  105  .309   49.5
1926  8th     46  107  .301   44.5
1927  8th     51  103  .331   59
1928  8th     57   96  .373   43.5
1929  8th     58   96  .377   48
1930  8th     52  102  .338   50
1931  6th     62   90  .408   45
1932  8th     43  111  .279   64
1933  7th     63   86  .423   34.5
1934  4th     76   76  .500   24

1935  4th     78   75  .510   16

Frazee, Ruth, the trades, player sales, No-No Nannette, the floating lease, most of it ha all been written leading up to the stink, but go peruse a book stores shelves and note the many about the Red Sox, note the subject matter often avoids this time span, it’s like a bad dream… or girlfriend.

Who really wants to go there?

It’s a wonder that baseball fans didn’t kill themselves in Boston in the 1920’s, both teams sucked air and both teams sucked air real hard. Between 1925 and 1930 the Red Sox lost 609 games, that’s an average of 101.5 per season. In 1931 they broke that by dropping only 90, the next season they lost a franchise record 111 games. It took the Michigan bred Yawkey and all his dollars to save this franchise from going the route of the cross town Braves.

Everyone knows the Sox as a hitting team; well in the 1920’s it was a different story.

1920-1930
EXTRA BASE HITS             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE
Yankees                     486     5157     4671
Indians                       9     4702     4693
Tigers                     -101     4641     4742
A's                        -118     4572     4690
Browns                     -124     4596     4720
Senators                   -564     4156     4720
White Sox                  -671     4096     4767
Red Sox                    -848     3915     4763

Fenway was still the smaller park at that time, the White Sox and Senators pitched in pastures in comparison.

Chicago Cubs
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YEAR  PLACE   W    L   PCT   GB    TITLE
1947  6th     69   85  .448   25
1948  8th     64   90  .416   27.5
1949  8th     61   93  .396   36
1950  7th     64   89  .418   26.5
1951  8th     62   92  .403   34.5
1952  5th     77   77  .500   19.5
1953  7th     65   89  .422   40
1954  7th     64   90  .416   33
1955  6th     72   81  .471   26
1956  8th     60   94  .390   33
1957  T7th    62   92  .403   33
1958  T5th    72   82  .468   20
1959  T5th    74   80  .481   13
1960  7th     60   94  .390   35
1961  7th     64   90  .416   29
1962  9th     59  103  .364   42.5

1963  7th     82   80  .506   17
1961
Vedie Himsl       0-21
Harry Craft        7-9
El Tappe           42-54
Lou Klein          5-6

1962
El Tappe           4-16
Lou Klein          12-18
Charlie Metro    48-58

The core of their stink

1950-1959

RUNS                        DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE
Dodgers                     597     7850     7253
Braves                     -168     7108     7276
Giants                     -180     7055     7235
Reds                       -218     7013     7231
Cardinals                  -279     6949     7228
Phillies                   -593     6631     7224
Cubs                       -840     6450     7290
Pirates                   -1172     6111     7283
==========================================================
ERA                        ERA      PCT
Braves                     3.53     .554
Giants                     3.71     .533
Phillies                   3.83     .498
Dodgers                    3.90     .592
Cardinals                  4.10     .505
Reds                       4.16     .481
Cubs                       4.20     .437
Pirates                    4.40     .400

In the fifties the Cubs lagged behind the league in both scoring runs and preventing them, this streak began a sustained mediocrity that would envelope the franchise until the early 1980’s, a run so enriched in stink that the phrase “Lovable Losers” followed the franchise around from the era of one Elvis to the era of another Elvis.

St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles
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YEAR  PLACE   W    L   PCT   GB    TITLE
1946  7th     66   88  .429   38
1947  8th     59   95  .383   38
1948  6th     59   94  .386   37
1949  7th     53  101  .344   44
1950  7th     58   96  .377   40
1951  8th     52  102  .338   46
1952  7th     64   90  .416   31
1953  8th     54  100  .351   46.5
1954  7th     54  100  .351   57
1955  7th     57   97  .370   39
1956  6th     69   85  .448   28
1957  5th     76   76  .500   21
1958  6th     74   79  .484   17.5
1959  6th     74   80  .481   20

1960  2nd     89   65  .578    8

After winning the 1944 AL title with a cast of oldsters, 4 F’s and weekend warriors the Browns still had a dwindling chance of winning the town back from the Cardinals to whom they had lost the World Series. The Browns best performance on the field since the 1920’s was during the war.

W        L       PCT
324      284     .533

In a different situation that was something that the Browns probably could have built on, however the Cardinals were a bit better during this span.

W        L       PCT
411      205     .667

The newness of the Browns popularity wore out quickly and the 1945 season was marked by some grumbling about what many players perceived as a sideshow, the signing of Pete Gray; the one armed player. It was not a long-lived success for the Browns, and the next year they were back to their pre war ways. Soon Bill Veeck arrived and his attempt to make hay in a dwindling two-team market was marked by the emergence of Eddie Gadael, and the crazy sideshow antics of a team with neither little capital nor much of a future.

It was during the early 50’s that Veeck wanted to move the Browns back to Milwaukee, a city they had represented in 1901, before heading south to take on the NL in the St. Louis market. The rest of the AL didn’t care for Veeck, and sandbagged him, hoping his lack of resources would force him to sell eventually. Meanwhile the Braves owned the rights (and a minor league team) in Milwaukee, in a sudden decision the Braves moved to Milwaukee, forcing Veeck to turn elsewhere, eventually selling out to a group that moved the team to Baltimore.

In 1953 the St. Louis Browns lost 100 games and won 54, the next season they were in Baltimore and they had the exact same record. The difference was that in 1954 297,238 people watched them do it. The next season 1,060,910 came out for the losses. The Orioles hired Paul Richards and their existence in the 1950’s mirrors the Pirates of the same era. Both had poor MLB teams and were instilling a system that would pay dividends into the 70’s, cumulating with a match up between the two teams in 1979. Oddly enough the Orioles never led the AL in attendance until 1995, and it was Camden Yards that triggered the attendance boom that the Browns had always hoped for in St. Louis.

Philadelphia/Kansas City A's
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YEAR  PLACE   W    L   PCT   GB    TITLE
1953  7th     59   95  .383   41.5
1954  8th     51  103  .331   60
1955  6th     63   91  .409   33
1956  8th     52  102  .338   45
1957  7th     59   94  .386   38.5
1958  7th     73   81  .474   19
1959  7th     66   88  .429   28
1960  8th     58   96  .377   39
1961  T9th    61  100  .379   47.5
1962  9th     72   90  .444   24
1963  8th     73   89  .451   31.5
1964  10th    57  105  .352   42
1965  10th    59  103  .364   43
1966  7th     74   86  .463   23
1967  10th    62   99  .385   29.5

1968  6th     82   80  .506

I can do this team run of stink no justice; the team left Philadelphia after roller coaster seasons and roller coaster eras. Leaving a legacy that is still tracked. The move west was like any move west back then, designed to increase revenue for a team that had never built an infrastructure. Bill James has covered the A’s stay in Kansas City eloquently on more then one occasion and finishing last in an expansion year whilst a former player hits 61 home runs for the Yankees must have been an especially hard cut to the heart for what A’s fans there were.

1955-1967
OPS                         OPS
Red Sox                    .729
Tigers                     .724
Yankees                    .724
Senators/Twins             .709
Indians                    .703
White Sox                  .695
Orioles                    .684
A's                        .680
Angels                     .670
Senators                   .653

1955-1967

ERA                        ERA
White Sox                  3.27
Yankees                    3.35
Angels                     3.48
Orioles                    3.49
Indians                    3.67
Tigers                     3.72
Senators/Twins             3.95
Senators                   3.96
Red Sox                    4.07
A's                        4.37

Horrible pitching and horrible hitting, the A’s had it all and they flaunted it along with bad deals, low attendance and eventually odd gimmicks like mechanized rabbits and Mules. The A’s were a little behind the Orioles in developing a farm system, their burst of talent arrived as owner Charlie Finely was kicking tires in hopes of moving his team out of Kansas City (even pondering Louisville)

Pittsburgh Pirates
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YEAR  PLACE   W    L   PCT   GB    TITLE
1993  5th     75   87  .463   22
1994  T3rd    53   61  .465   12.5
1995  5th     58   86  .403   27
1996  5th     73   89  .451   15
1997  2nd     79   83  .488    5
1998  6th     69   93  .426   33
1999  3rd     78   83  .484   18.5
2000  5th     69   93  .426   26
2001  6th     62  100  .383   31
2002  4th     72   89  .447   24.5
2003  4th     75   87  .463   13
2004  5th     72   89  .447   32.5
2005  6th     67   95  .414   33

The Reds played the Pirates this weekend, no mention of stink from the Pirates announcers, however they focused on the one thing that didn’t stink, Freddy Sanchez and his batting title. It was the theme to the weekend like the cupid is the theme to Valentines Day, never relenting they tracked the Marlins games for Miguel Cabrera’s at bats and the fans waved placards with Freddy’s name on it.

HEY PITTSBURGH

You’re in the Five Star Stink section of this poll… that’s bad, you’re kicking with The Browns, A’s and Phillies, slumming is probably a more apt description.

Here’s a hint for the Pirates organization – walks are not bad.
1993-2005, only three teams had walked less then 900 times below the league average.

OBA                             OBA      BB
1    Royals                     .330     -908
2    Pirates                    .326     -982
3    Nationals                  .323    -1114

Since 1993 the above three teams have combined for 18 seasons with 90 losses or more.

Milwaukee Brewers
---------------------------------
YEAR  PLACE   W    L   PCT   GB    TITLE
1993  7th     69   93  .426   26
1994  5th     53   62  .461   15
1995  4th     65   79  .451   35
1996  3rd     80   82  .494   19.5
1997  3rd     78   83  .484    8
1998  5th     74   88  .457   28
1999  5th     74   87  .460   22.5
2000  3rd     73   89  .451   22
2001  4th     68   94  .420   25
2002  6th     56  106  .346   41
2003  6th     68   94  .420   20
2004  6th     67   94  .416   37.5
2005  3rd     81   81  .500   19

Another team that got a stadium in the middle of stink, once owned by the Commissioner and always to me will be the Seattle Pilots, and perhaps one the strangest stories in all of the post war expansion shuffling. It was just last year that they tracked the quest to finish off the trail of the stink and in the realm of the plus .500 record.

This team has lacked skill players with offense during this span, check out the top ten RC/27 players the Brewers had since 1993

RUNS CREATED/GAME          RC/G      AB
Richie Sexson              6.75     1987
Kevin Seitzer              6.50     1453
Jeromy Burnitz             6.48     2768
Lyle Overbay               6.35     1116
Jeff Cirillo               6.25     2996
Geoff Jenkins              6.19     3503
John Jaha                  6.10     2043
Greg Vaughn                6.08     1706
Dave Nilsson               6.01     2615
B.J. Surhoff               5.37     1101

In that time only Scott Podsednik could claim to have played up the middle for the Brewers and created more then 5 runs every 27 outs. That fact plus no long term clear superstar at the corner positions never enabled the Brewers to generate a world-class offense to make up for their pedestrian pitching. A move to the NL and a new stadium only made this run of futility even more famous in the annals of stink.

2 Responses to “The Stink of Losing – Five Star Stink”

  1. David Abell says:

    I need help and don’t know who to ask. I just recently purchased a bus that was originally purchased by Dow Chemical in 1946. The log records shows it was purchased and used to transport their baseball team around in Michigan for many years. Other than that brief statement, I can not find any information on Dow Chemical’s baseball team, their name, etc. and I am searching to find out more history on this team and my recent purchase’s past. Any information on Dow Chemical’s baseball team in the late 40’s and 1950’s would be greatly helpful or even a direction to go. Thank you.

  2. Administrator says:

    Dave, the industrial area of Midland is pretty robust, the Dow Chemical company had both womans and mens softball leagues at the time. You might want to check the archives at the Midland Daily News, they might be able to scratch deeper and maybe even have some stories that go more in depth.

    If you need an expert on Michigan baseball hit this guy with and email, he’s probably your man.

    jlannen@umich.edu – Jim Lannen

    Good Luck