Worst of the worst, Part II

As all of you remember—you all are reading every column, right?—back in July I did a column on the worst games for a handful of teams: the Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers, Giants and Marlins. This week, we look at a few more of the worst games for each team.

A quick review: as I mentioned in the first column, I am interested only in the worst game for each team in its current city. I doubt very much that San Franciscans feel the pain of Merkle’s Boner, any more than Philadelphians tear their clothes at the thought of Kirk Gibson’s home run. Lastly, these are only “worst” games in the baseball sense, we’re not discussing actual tragedy.

Washington Nationals: 2012 NLDS, Game 5

Before this game, I would have argued the National fans in DC did not truly have a “worst” game to claim their own. Of course, National fans no doubt wish it stayed that way. Being recent history, you all no doubt know the story: up by six runs early, the Nats’ Win Expectancy got as high as 96 percent by the end of the third inning. The Cards closed to within one by the eighth but Washington scored a run in the bottom half of the inning and at one point in the ninth had two outs and just one runner on base.

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The Cards celebrate the worst loss in Nats’ team history (US Presswire)

It all went wrong though, and by the time the Nationals got the final out of the inning, St. Louis had a two-run lead. Despite having the top of their order coming to the plate, the Nats could mount no kind of rally and the team—and its city—were saddled with their worst loss.

San Diego Padres: 1998 World Series, Game 3

No Padres team ever won more than the 1998 squad’s 98 wins—in fact, the franchise has bettered 90 wins just three other times, with none more than 92. So it is not an unreasonable statement to say the 1998 San Diego Padres were the best team in franchise history, and not be a small measure either. Greg Vaughn set a franchise record for home runs with 50 while Kevin Brown posted the best season for a pitcher in franchise history going 18-7 with a 2.38 in 257 innings.

After defeating the Astros and Braves—winners of a combined 208 games—in the Division and Championship Series respectively, the Padres found themselves facing the 114-win Yankees. Although the team lost the first two games in New York, they headed to San Diego for Game Three. If the Friars could win the game, they would have Brown going in Game Four and a real chance to get themselves back into the Series.

Early on in Game Three, things were going to plan for the Padres. They took a 3-0 lead into the seventh inning. That was cut to just a run by the top of the eighth, when the Padres brought in Trevor Hoffman. Unfortunately for San Diego, their ace reliever was hapless in the face of the Yankees’ juggernaut and surrendered a three-run home run to Scott Brosius to give New York the lead.

This game ranks as San Diego’s—rather than any of the others in the Series—because it was the game above all others that illustrated that the Padres were simply overmatched. They had lost giving their ace a three-run lead in Game One, and now with Hoffman, who had tied the single-season NL saves record in ’98, they could still not defeat the Yankees. It was now clear that the best the Padres’ franchise could do was no match for maybe the Greatest Team Ever Assembled.

The Padres were swept next night, but Game Three remains the worst.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 1992 NLCS, Game 7

As tyme hem hurt, a tyme doth hem cure. So said Geoffrey Chaucer, better known in modern English as “time heals all wounds.” This is true for virtually all of the “worst” games: as time goes on new seasons begin, the team has some success, the distance of history makes things look better.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, the time since this game, has, if anything, only poured salt in the wound. Up two runs heading into the ninth inning, the Pirates imploded giving up a double, an error and walk to load the bases. They managed to get their act together sufficiently to record two outs, and still hold a one-run lead.

Facing Francisco Cabrera—owner of just 69 Major League hits to that point in his career, and coming off a season when he played primarily in Triple-A and batted just .272 at that level—Bucs’ reliever Stan Belinda gave up a line-drive single, scoring two runs and giving Atlanta the pennant. This was the third consecutive year the Pirates lost the NLCS, the second time they did so in Game Seven.

That would be painful enough for Pittsburgh fans, but things have only gotten worse for the franchise since then. Barry Bonds left the franchise in that off-season, and within five years Jim Leyland had left for the Florida Marlins while the Pirates descended into mediocrity and worse. The team has still not recorded a winning season since ’92, and has suffered a number of embarrassments, most recently when a top prospect was apparently injured while taking part in a Navy SEAL-inspired series of exercises.

For many fans, the farther one gets from the worst game, the better things look. For the Pirates, Francisco Cabrera is still a name worth cursing.

Seattle Mariners: 2001 ALCS, Game 5

Speaking of discovering the best the franchise can offer is just not good enough, we reach the 2001 Mariners.

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At a 10-year reunion celebration, the 2001 Mariners finally make good on Piniella’s promise (US Presswire)

No Major League team has ever won more games than the Mariners’ 116 in 2001. Ichiro Suzuki won both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards, and the team seemed to be proving that losing Ken Griffey, Jr. and Alex Rodriguez in consecutive seasons was merely a setback.

Unfortunately for those in the Pacific Northwest, it all came undone in the playoffs. After barely escaping the Indians in the Division Series, the Mariners found themselves facing the Yankees in the LCS. The previous year, Seattle had taken the Yankees to six games in the Championship Series, and no doubt hoped to turn the tables.

Instead, the Yankees won the first two games of the series in Seattle. After Game Two, M’s manager Lou Piniella declared, “we’re going to be back [in Seattle] for a Game 6. Print it.” Piniella later added that the Mariners had “gone to New York and beat them five out of six times [in 2001] and we’re going to do it again.”

Though the Mariners dominated in Game Three, they lost Game Four. By the sixth inning of Game Five, they were down 8-1, ultimately losing 12-3. This loss ranks as the worst in Mariners’ history for being the final nail in the coffin of the Mariners being in the conversation for the best team ever. Going just 4-6 in the playoffs—their most important games of the season—and unable to even follow through on their manager’s promise to win two of three in New York was an inglorious end to a previous great season.

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Comments

  1. Robby Bonfire said...

    A team that wins 116 games is NOT the best team in baseball. Really?

    You can keep your gimmicky, short-term results, I will take the larger sampling of long-term results, for quality control.

  2. David said...

    John A, leaving aside the ludicrous statement that you “knew” who would win a playoff series, I’m curious as to your reasoning for stating that Oakland was the best team in the AL in 2001.

    Seattle had a team OPS+ of 117, Oakland, 107.
    Seattle had an ERA+ of 117, Oakland, 122.
    I would think the 10 points of OPS on offense would make up for the 5 points of ERA on defense.

    Oakland won 102 games, with a Pythagorean expectation of 104.  Seattle won 116 games, with a Pythagorean expectation of 109.

    Oakland had a run differential of +239 runs, which is phenomenal.  Seattle had a run differential of +300 runs, which is one of the best in the history of baseball.

    Seattle won the season series between the two teams, 10-9.

    How do you get Oakland as the better team?  I guess, head-to-head, Oakland outscored Seattle 94-93, but I don’t think that’s enough evidence in light of the rest of what’s presented above, to consider them the better team.

  3. Arne said...

    Instead of the 2001 ALCS, I think game 6 of the 2000 ALCS is the better choice for Seattle. M’s up 4-3 in the bottom of the 7th, and a win gets them to game 7, of course. And then David Justice’s three-run homer starts a six-run inning. The M’s come back against, yes, Rivera, and get tying run to the plate in 8th and 9th before losing.

    By comparison, in 2001 the M’s had barely beaten the Indians in the ALDS, and it was very hard to describe losing the ALCS as a “crushing blow” when 9/11 was a month old and the Afghanistan war had just started.

  4. John A said...

    In 2001, I wasn’t surprised that Seattle lost to the Yankees. I knew that they would win after beating Oakland, who was the best team in the AL that year in my opinion.

  5. Gerard said...

    The best team won that Yankees Mariners series.  Yanks had won the championship 4 out of the last 5 years and were still rolling.  The best team always wins because winning defines “bestness”.

  6. Robby Bonfire said...

    Yankee fans are insufferable and arrogant. Short-series playoffs are a made for TV joke which prove next to nothing, by comparison with the qualitative shake-down of the regular 162-game season.

    If St. Louis had prevailed in the NLCS, we would have had TWO 88-win teams in the “World Series,” a ghoulish joke on us perpetrated by baseball’s sellout to the network’s insatiable appetite for longer sports seasons.

    The real World Series this year should have been Yankees vs. Nationals, the two best teams in baseball, over the long grind. No wonder TV ratings for the Giants and Tigers phony World Series match-up were down. You can fool the public for just so long with this three-card monte playoffs in football weather charade they are hustling us with, these days. So, yes, the Yankees deserved to be there, this year, but got shafted by the money-grubbing system.

    Bud Selig is a pox on the integrity of baseball history, what with his 10 playoff teams – going on 16 playoff teams in the near future, sell-out of the last vestige of what used to be baseball’s championship integrity.

  7. Scottso said...

    I wonder how you’ll rank other Teams:

    The Mets…There are 2 choices:
    2006: NLCS Game 7 (Endy Chavez’s catch, Yadier Molina’s HR, Carlos Beltran watching strike 3)
    2000: WS Game 1 (Benetiz blows lead in Bottom of 9th)

  8. Robby Bonfire said...

    There is no such word as “bestness.”  Just last night some caller to The Fan in New York “coined” the word: “logicalness.”  Maybe you two should meet for coffee.  lol.

  9. Scottso said...

    Michael, you are right.  1988 was worse because the chance of another win was well within the grasp of that 88 team.  After that they went bellyup for years to come. 

    Let’s do the Angels:
    While they’ve been in some tough playoff loses, none can compare to the Game 5 loss to the Red Sox in the 1986 ALCS.  Angels were up 3 games to 1 and were winning 5-2 in the ninth when Don Baylor hit a 2 run HR off Mike Witt and then Dave Henderson hit a 2 run HR off Donnie Moore to put Boston ahead.  The Angels tied it in the bottom of the ninth, but Henderson’s sac fly off Moore in the top of the 11th was the game winner.  The Sox won the next two games handily to take the series.  The Angels didn’t recover for years and Moore apparently killed himself over it.

  10. Richard Barbieri said...

    I’m surprised more Met fans aren’t “speaking up” for the last game of the 2007 season. That would probably be the one I’d write about when I get around to the Mets.

  11. Scottso said...

    i don’t think the last game of 2007 was that awful for the reason that they were in a tailspin all September. 
    It was the 2006 postseason that we were hoping to avenge…but that’s ok.

  12. Robby Bonfire said...

    Toughest loss in professional sports history has to be Ralph Branca serving up the three-run homer to Bobby Thomson. It was also the greatest “upper” for fans on the right side of that epic event, as 5,000 of them were still milling around outside the ballpark at 3 a.m. the following morning, after what had been a day game.

    (Source: The book “Miracle At Coogan’s Bluff,” by Thomas Kiernan.)

  13. Michael Caragliano said...

    Those are good choices for the Mets, but Game 4 in 1988 was far worse than both of them combined. In 2006 Game 7 was a tight game with a couple of breaks here and there. Game 1 in 2000 fell more on Timo Perez forgetting how to run the bases and set the tone for the rest of the Series. Game 4 in 1988 was much, much worse; when Gooden gave up the homer to Scioscia in the ninth, it really sucked the life out of Shea and pulled the plug on the Mets dynasty-in-the-making of the mid ‘80’s.

  14. Señor Spielbergo said...

    For the Blue Jays, probably game #162 in 1987 – although watching Game 6 of the 1993 World Series is pretty damn depressing for any Jays fan old enough to remember that time. They just haven’t been the same since.

  15. Robby Bonfire said...

    Surely you jest. The Blue Jays won the 1993 WS in six games on Joe Carter’s home run off Mitch Williams. This is “depressing” for Blue Jays fans?  Get your facts straight or find a stand-up comedy venue if you are into putting people on.

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