Perhaps the Yankees should tear a page out of the NFL playbook and hire themselves a pitching "coordinator." The traditional set-up involving the manager and pitching coach just isn’t working in the Bronx. The starting pitching has been awful, the bullpen has been only slightly less grotesque, and the problems have been exacerbated by Joe Torre and Ron Guidry’s restrictive pitch counts and Torre’s obsession with using at least five pitchers per game. In years past, Torre has usually overworked only one or two relievers; this spring, he’s put Scott Proctor, Brian Bruney, and Luis Vizcaino on pace to needing appointments with Dr. Jobe by June.
In Torre’s defense, the pitching has been so brutal that not even expert bullpen management could be expected to keep this team competitive. Yet, the constant reflex action toward the bullpen has reached ridiculous extremes, culminating in a remarkable development over the two weeks: the Yankees have used at least five pitchers in each of their last ten games. That, folks, is a major league first. Staff ace Chien-Ming Wang has been pulled from two games in which he had pitched decently (at least compared to the rest of the staff) and in which his pitch count hadn’t even reached 90. Given that Wang wasn’t coming back from an arm injury (it was a hamstring), that strategy seems overly cautious to the point of foolishness, especially given how horrid the relievers have been over the past ten days. There have been other examples, too, games in which Darrell Rasner and Andy Pettitte have been pulled with low pitching counts, again while they’ve pitched creditably. While most teams seem to have set 100 pitches as their limit—and even that is artificially low in my opinion—the Yankees seem ready to reach for the bullpen phone once 85 or 90 tosses have been hit. That’s no way to operate a pitching staff, not even in the age of the seven-man bullpen. Torre and Guidry have so babied their starters that they have dangerously overexposed the bullpen. One would think that it’s obvious that you can’t expect relievers to pitch every single day out of the pen, but the Yankees’ on-field braintrust seems ****-bent on testing the validity of that adage. So while Torre and Guidry treat the starters with kid gloves, they continue to tax the bullpen excessively, with the end result being more blown leads and the team one step closer to having a bullpen completely ravaged by the Fourth of July…
It’s either an indication that he is making strides toward the Comeback Player of the Year Award or an indictment of the hitters batting behind him, but it is notable that Sammy Sosa drew three intentional walks over the weekend. He now has seven home runs and a .532 slugging percentage, which must have the Rangers’ front office doing cartwheels. But the Rangers are still concerned about the hitters who bat behind Sosa, most notably the enigmatic Hank Blalock and the slumping Frank Catalanotto. Sosa may have a chance to fatten his statistics further this week, what with the pitching-poor Yankees coming to town for a midweek set…
Although it’s a questionable move for the Braves to basically hand Ryan Langerhans to the A’s for future considerations, it may be for the best. With the departure of Langerhans, an excellent defender who will never hit enough to be an everyday corner outfielder, the Braves might just do the smart thing and give Matt Diaz an opportunity to play regularly in left field. A Gary Roenicke play-a-like, Diaz crushes left-handed pitching with such efficiency that he deserves an opportunity to show what he might do against right-handed pitching on a regular basis. Perhaps the Braves would find that they have a player who’s not just the new Roenicke, but might have the impact of a latter-day Lonnie Smith.
In a story that is just now starting to gain some traction, the Twins’ Torii Hunter faces the possibility of a three-year suspension after sending three bottles of Dom Perignon to the clubhouse of the Kansas City Royals. Hunter made the gesture as a token of appreciation for the Royals’ sweeping of the Tigers at the tail end of the 2006 season, which enabled the Twins to clinch the American League Central. Hunter’s gift appears to be a violation of Rule 21 (b):
21 (b) GIFT FOR DEFEATING COMPETING CLUB. Any player or person connected with a club who shall offer or give any gift or reward to a player or person connected with another club for services rendered or supposed to be or to have been rendered in defeating or attempting to defeat a competing club… shall be declared ineligible for not less than three (3) years.
Wow, three years. This is an old rule that has been on the books for about 80 years and grew out of an era in which players made substantially less money and might have been tempted to accept "payoffs" in exchange for playing better, or in theory, playing worse against competing third-party teams. That’s the real crux of the matter here. If you can reward opposing players for beating your rivals (and that might include an incentive to injure an opponent), then it’s a small step to offering them rewards for throwing games. For his part, Hunter says he knew nothing of the rule, which is posted on clubhouse walls throughout the major leagues. Others say the rule is archaic and that the punishment is extreme. I would argue against the former—again, you can’t allow payoffs of any kind, especially if they lead to the possibility of throwing games—but agree with the latter contention. Hunter should be punished, but three years is excessive for what was a medium-sized transgression.
As part of this week’s "Fan Forum" question, we ask you what Major League Baseball should do? What is the appropriate punishment for Hunter’s violation of Rule 21 (b):
*No suspension; a slap on the wrist
*A lesser suspension, perhaps 10 days to a month, accompanied by an alteration to the rule regarding the length of suspension
*A minimum three-year suspension, as stipulated by the rules
I’m tempted to go with the second solution. The rule is legitimate (though the length of suspension is an outdated punishment), Hunter clearly broke the rule, and he should be suspended. (The fact that he didn’t know about the rule is practically a groundless defense, especially since the rule is posted on the wall. By the way, do players ever take the time to read any of the rules?) It doesn’t help Hunter’s case that he promised the Royals the champagne ahead of time—promising delivery if they swept the Twins. If he had simply given the Royals the champagne after the fact, without having said anything in September, I’d be inclined to let him off the hook with a fine and a warning. But there was some ill-advised intent here—along with some bad judgment—and MLB needs to deal with it to deter future offenders.
David Halberstam wasn’t really a baseball writer. He was an accomplished author who happened to like sports, baseball in particular. And when he wrote about the national pastime, he did so in such a way that it made you wish he had concentrated on baseball fulltime. Sadly, we will not have the opportunity to hear his voice on the game anymore. Halberstam, who was in the midst of working on a book about the 1958 NFL championship game, died on Monday in a car accident at the age of 73.
While growing up, I had always assumed that Halberstam was just a sportswriter, largely because of two classic books he penned, Breaks of the Game (a chronicle of the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers in 1979) and Summer of ’49 (which tracked the memorable pennant race between the Yankees and Red Sox). Then I learned that he was a wide-ranging author who just happened to dabble in writing about sports, which he obviously considered worthwhile fodder for his talents as an author. I think that’s a good indication that sports represents more than just the "toy department" of newspapers, as some news people have claimed over the years.
If you happen to work in the sports department of a newspaper or radio station and you ever hear such elitist talk from someone in the news department, just remind them about the work of David Halberstam. If sports, specifically baseball, were worthwhile enough for a Pulitzer Prize winning writer, then there must be some value in it for everybody else.
If you think you’re just imagining that there are more injuries this April than ever before, you’re actually not. As Joel Sherman of the New York Post pointed out in his enlightening Sunday column, a record number of 107 players began this season on the disabled list, a stunning 42 per cent increase from day one of the 2006 season. Those numbers have only grown since Opening Day, with the headlining likes of Chris Carpenter, Jason Schmidt, Howie Kendrick, Hideki Matsui, Mike Mussina, Rich Harden, and Felix Hernandez being added to the disabled list during the first three weeks of the season. What are the reasons for the increasing numbers of idle and injured? The cold weather might be a factor, but there have been too many injuries in neutral conditions to blame the rain and cold entirely for the injury wave. I think two larger factors are at work here. First, teams have become increasingly conservative when it comes to any kind of injury to high-priced players. If a marquee player suffers a twinge, ranging from soreness to a spasm, the immediate (over) reaction involves placing him on the disabled list. Second, we are continuing to see certain types of injuries to specific groups of players that we never used to see at the major league level. Twenty five to 30 years, it was almost unheard of for a pitcher to go on the DL with a hamstring injury, or for a position player to suffer a rib cage pull. Now those injuries have become so commonplace that they’re near epidemics, calling into question whether pitchers and position players are doing the right kinds of exercises and warm-ups as part of their pre-game routines. No group of players has come under more question than the Yankee pitchers, who did less running this spring as part of a revised regimen prescribed by a new strength and conditioning staff. With Mussina and Chien-Ming Wang already on the DL because of leg injuries, that new conditioning staff could be out of work by mid-season…
Kudos to first-year Nationals manager Manny Acta, for having the fortitude to pull Ryan Church from Sunday’s game after he decided not to run out a routine ground ball. There are simply too many managers who tolerate such baserunning nonsense from players, especially those in the midst of hot streaks like Church. To Church’s credit, he didn’t offer up one of those convoluted defenses that are sometimes put forth by the enablers who claim that hustling doesn’t matter (as if there were somehow a legitimate defense for not running hard four to five times a game). Church admitted he was wrong—and said he won’t do it again. This won’t end up being a signature moment for the Nationals like it was for Gil Hodges, Cleon Jones, and the Miracle Mets of 1969, but it represents a small step in the right direction for a talent-deprived team that needs every bit of effort it can muster…
A worthwhile event is coming up next week in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. On Thursday, May 3, the Delaware County Baseball League (known as the Delco League) will be celebrating its 100th anniversary with a banquet featuring several former major league standouts and a full docket of guest speakers. Hall of Fame right-handers Bob Feller and Robin Roberts headline the event, which will also feature appearances by former stars **** Allen and Mickey Vernon and journeyman pitcher Lew Krausse. Allen, Vernon, and Krausse are all from Pennsylvania, while Roberts spent the prime seasons of his major league career (1948 to 1961) with the Phillies. When I’m not interviewing some of the aforementioned celebrities, I’ll be speaking at the event, with my talk focused on some of the Delco League alumni who have gone on to stardom at the major league level. The Delco League is believed to be the oldest semi-pro league in the United States.
Last fall, the Delco League did a wonderful job in commemorating the 35th anniversary of the all-black lineup debuted by former Pirates manager Danny Murtaugh, who used to play in the league and was a native of nearby Chester, Pennsylvania. This May’s 100th anniversary celebration will take place at the Drexelbrook Ballroom in Drexel Hill, PA. Those interested in attending should contact the event’s enthusiastic and well-organized coordinator, Jim Vankoski, at email@example.com.
Jose Capellan might be able to topple the 100 mile-per-hour limit on occasion, but his trade value has gone from slim to none with the Brewers’ decision to place him on the restricted list. Capellan’s refusal to report to Triple-A left the Brewers with virtually no choice, but the move has put the straps on any real effort to make a trade. There are more than a few teams that would like to add Capellan’s live fastball—the Rockies, Marlins, and Giants head up the list—but they’re not willing to give up anything of substance for a suspended player. The Brewers also have unrealistic demands for Capellan—they want "something big" in return. Geez, the Brewers are acting as if he were Rollie Fingers when he’s not even Bill Castro…
Another unhappy minor leaguer could be returning to the big leagues sooner than anticipated. Jorge Cantu, despite a slow start at Triple-A Durham, has been scouted heavily by the Rockies, who are looking for second base help after Kaz Matsui’s latest injury. Cantu could put up some monstrous numbers in Colorado, and that might be enough to counteract his robotic defensive play at the keystone. As with almost any trade proposal, the D-Rays are searching for pitching, particularly bullpen help, in return…
Once Alfonso Soriano returns to action, the Cubs will have a steady overflow of outfielders and could be forced to make a decision on the trade front. Felix Pie looks like he may be ready to hit in the major leagues; if that’s the case, the Cubs would be foolish not to move Soriano back to left field. That would leave the Cubs with three players for right field—Cliff Floyd, Jacque Jones, and Matt "Big Red" Murton. Assuming that the Cubs keep Murton as the right-handed part of a platoon, that leaves Jones and Floyd as the most logical trade candidates. Jones has more trade value—largely because of Floyd’s injury history. Teams that might have interest include the White Sox (because of injuries) and the Marlins (who need a center fielder so badly that they might audition Jones)…
They might start calling him Stand Pat Gillick in Philadelphia if he doesn’t make a substantial move to improve the Phillies’ bullpen situation from outside of the organization. When are the Phillies going to stop these ill-conceived moves of starters to the bullpen? First, they toyed with Jon Lieber in relief, now they’re willing to turn over the entire bullpen store to Brett Myers, their No. 1 starter. It just makes no sense. When you have a glut of starters, you trade from that depth because just about every team needs starting pitching. That’s a smarter strategy than trying to pigeonhole pitchers into unfamiliar roles, especially in this age of specialization when pitchers have become less versatile and so rigid in usage patterns.
Is it time for Charlie Manuel to receive his walking papers from the Phillies? Manuel’s misguided and unnecessary blowup with a Philadelphia talk show host on Tuesday has only intensified calls for Manuel to be fired. When a manager of a losing, underachieving team starts losing his temper with the media, he sends a subtle message to his players: It’s not your fault, it’s the media’s. And that doesn’t help the Phillies at all as they try to right themselves after another brutal start to yet another season that started with so much anticipation.
I’m not one to usually call for a managerial change only two weeks into the season, but the Phillies look like a listless, unintelligent team under Manuel. In Monday’s game, the Phillies failed to back up on an overthrow, exacerbating a physical error. On another occasion, almost the entire team lost track of how many outs there were—which is simply inexcusable for a professional ballclub. And then there are the physical shortcomings, most notably the repeated failure to drive in runners from scoring position.
That brings us to our Fan Forum question of the week. It’s actually a two-part query:
*Should the Phillies fire Manuel now?
*If so, whom should they hire as his replacement? Assuming that Lee Elia and Frank Lucchesi are not available, here are some candidates whose names I’ve heard whispered:
Davey Lopes: He’s one of two former managers on Manuel’s staff. Lopes is the opposite of Manuel in many ways—tough, fiery, and aggressive. Lopes would almost certainly improve the Phillies’ attention to detail when it comes to the fundamentals, including the art of baserunning, of which Lopes is a master. On the down side, he had almost no success during his first managerial go-round with the Brewers. He might also have problems with the notoriously nitpicky Philadelphia media.
Jimy Williams: A longtime friend of GM Pat Gillick, Williams ranks as the favorite to step in as manager. Also a member of Manuel’s staff, Williams has courted media and fan debate wherever he’s gone, be it Toronto, Boston, or Houston. Some observers hate Williams’ style of managing; others defend him to the hilt. Williams does have a tendency of making strange strategical decisions and he’s never led a team to the postseason, but his teams have won more than they’ve lost, with a .535 winning percentage. Williams’ teams usually finish second (seven times in 12 seasons), which might be good enough in this age of the wild card and a watered down National League.
John Russell: The manager of the Phillies’ top farm team, the Ottawa Lynx, Russell won the International League Manager of the Year award in 2006. He knows the organization well, has interviewed for the Phillies’ job previously, and narrowly missed out on the Rangers and Nationals jobs over the winter. So what’s the down side? Well, he’s not a big name and has never managed in the major leagues—and sometimes that matters too much to organizations that are obsessed with name recognition and repetition.
Joe Girardi: Assuming that the Phils can convince the YES Network to release Girardi from his contract, this would probably be the best managerial candidate they could muster. Girardi knows the Phillies’ talent well from his lone season as a manager in the NL East, will play young talent over complacent veterans, and has a strong sense of discipline that will make Phillies players far more accountable than they’ve been under Manuel. It’s still a disgrace that Girardi was fired by the Marlins in the first place—just weeks before he received his Manager of the Year Award.
Dallas Green: This one will make the Sabermetric folks run for the cliffs, largely because of his disdain for pitch counts and refusal to lift starters until they’ve shouldered their load for the day. I don’t think there’s much chance that Green gets the job—he hasn’t managed since the mid 1990s—but he does have longstanding ties to the Phillies’ organization and represents the diametrical opposite to Manuel, who is simply too friendly with his players. The militaristic Green would make Phillies players long for the soft, cushy days of Larry Bowa.
It’s been relatively slow going these days with all the rainouts, snowouts, and freezeouts, so it’s probably an ideal time to continue our periodic retrospective on the 1972 season. Here are a few game results from this day in that historic regular season…
Two American League pitchers turned in excellent starts on April 17 of 1972, one at the noted pitching haven of Memorial Stadium. Dave McNally, the stylishly smooth left-hander for the Orioles, hurled a complete-game, four-hit shutout against the Yankees. Of course, that wasn’t exactly a vintage Yankee team in early ’72. The first two hitters in Ralph Houk’s lineup were Horace “Hoss” Clarke (yikes) and Rich “Orbit” McKinney (double yikes). And then after wading through a fairly tough middle of the order that included Thurman Munson, Roy White, and Bobby Murcer, McNally could take a few deep breaths against a bottom third of the order that featured Rusty Torres and Gene “Stick” Michael…
At Fenway Park, Cleveland’s Milt Wilcox tossed a two-hit shutout against the Red Sox. (My goodness, two complete games on the same day in the same league!) We tend to remember what Wilcox did as the No. 3 starter for the 1984 Tigers, but he actually cut his teeth with the Reds, Indians, and Cubs before finally establishing himself as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. From 1970 to 1977, Wilcox failed to win in double figures and never pitched more than 156 innings in a season. By 1978, his second season in Motown, Wilcox had become an integral member of Sparky Anderson’s pitching staff…
In National League play, the Dodgers’ Bill Singer (yes, he was known as the “Singer Throwing Machine”) threaded the needle against a heavy-hitting lineup of Braves, holding Atlanta to two runs over seven innings in an 8-3 win at the “Launching Pad (Fulton County Stadium). This was years before the controversy that an inebriated Singer created when he, as a newly signed scout with the Mets, publicly mocked the Asian descent of Dodgers executive Kim Ng. The Mets eventually fired Singer, making him a racial-rousing predecessor to the likes of Don Imus. (I don’t think that Singer has resurfaced in baseball since then, and that makes me wonder if there should be a time limit on such “banishments.”) I’ve heard Singer described as “old school,” and in many ways that’s a compliment, but not when it comes to outdated racial views and bigoted treatment of minority figures in baseball….
And then there was the Phillies’ game against the rival Cardinals. The Phillies did what they did so well and often that season–lose the game. With the score tied at 3-3 heading to the ninth, lefty submariner Joe Hoerner gave up two runs to his former Cardinals mates, who pieced together a three-hit rally replete with a Dal Maxvill sacrifice fly. Hoerner’s performance helped spoil a fine effort by Phillies starter Woodie Fryman, who clubbed his first and only home run of the season. With faulty performances like that, it’s not surprising that Hoerner didn’t last the season in Philadelphia. At the June 15th trading deadline, the plummeting Phils traded Hoerner and a young slugger named Andre Thornton to the Braves for two right-handers, Jim “Jumbo” Nash and Gary Neibauer. And no, the trade didn’t reverse Philly fortunes. Philadelphia ended the season at 59-97, the worst record in the National League, and some 37 and a half lengths out of first place in the NL East.
I was disappointed—but not necessarily surprised—by Sweet Lou Piniella’s tirade at a postgame press conference on Friday afternoon. I’m not sure why managers feel motivated to act like their auditioning for the part of Frank Burns, especially after fielding a relatively innocuous (though simplistic) question from a reporter as Piniella did on Friday. I would love to see a writer throw down the gauntlet at one of these temper tantrums and tell the manager something like, "Why don’t you stop acting like a child, and just try to answer the question in a civil manner." Or how nice would it be to see a reporter throw a clipboard and walk out of a press conference? Just once.
I remember years ago when I had to interview Herb Brooks (a great coach, but not the nicest gentleman) after a loss and he practically broke my tape recorder with a swat of his hand. And this was after a question posed by another reporter.
Having said all of that, I’m a big fan of Piniella as a manager, and generally admire the fire and passion that he brings to the dugout. But when he acts the way that he did at that postgame press conference, he comes across as a bully and a bore. He’s better than that…
Perhaps it’s time for Carl Pavano to give the left arm a try. It’s become painfully obvious that he a) can’t keep his right arm healthy under any circumstances; b) has no threshold for pain; or c) just isn’t all that interested in pitching. Or maybe the Yankees have just become too cautious with their pitchers. Every time a pitcher complains of a "twinge," the Yankees’ first reaction is to summon the dreaded 15-day disabled list. The Yankees have been able to overcome this policy throughout the new millennium, but I wonder if this might be the year that the DL default reaction costs them a trip to the postseason…
The Hall of Fame staged a nice event over the weekend, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1967 "Impossible Dream." While the Hall couldn’t lure the sheer numbers of ’67 Red Sox that the Boston organization hosted on Opening Day, the Hall did provide a forum for some intelligent and in-depth discussion with two of the team’s most prominent players—Rico Petrocelli and Jim Lonborg. Petrocelli informed the media of a bizarre note from his career. Every major league team showed interest in signing him as an amateur, except for the Mets and the Yankees. Petrocelli found that especially strange, especially considering his status as a native of Brooklyn. While I’ve interviewed the affable Petrocelli before, this was the first time I’ve ever met Lonborg. Now I know why he’s nicknamed "Gentleman Jim." Lonborg is soft-spoken, polite, and thoughtful to the extreme. Given those qualities, it’s no surprise that Dr. Lonborg has achieved as much success as he has in the dental field.
An underrated part of the ’67 reunion was a roundtable discussion featuring a number of baseball authors who have written about the Impossible Dream. One of the authors, Saul Wisnia, provided an interesting nugget about former Sox second baseman Mike Andrews. During the ’67 season, Andrews and several other American League second basemen actually received death threats from a disturbed fan. The fan was apparently a deranged admirer of Twins second baseman Rod Carew who didn’t want any other second basemen in the league to receive similar recognition.
On the day that Alyssa Milano joins the roster of MLBloggers (welcome Alyssa!), relievers take center stage on the rumor front. There are several teams that want to trade relievers, and many teams that need them, so perhaps something will happen…
Those fans who have studied recent baseball history know that most relievers who lose their jobs as closers never regain that role with the same team. They’re inevitably traded—or released. That’s why Brad Lidge’s days in Houston are almost certainly numbered. Deposed as closer after two poor appearances—and this comes on the heels of an abysmal 2006—the Astros have seen enough to relegate Lidge to the sixth inning. Lidge isn’t happy about the demotion, but his results since giving up that legendary home run to Albert Pujols in the 2005 playoffs have really left Houston with no choice. While Lidge’s trade value might not be ideal, there seems to be little doubt about the condition of his arm and the quality of his stuff, particularly a high-octane 96 mile-per-hour fastball.
With so many teams needing relief help, someone should be willing to take a chance on Lidge’s healthy right arm. The Phillies have been suggested as a logical destination, but the fervor of the Philadelphia media and fan base might not mesh well with Lidge’s fragile psyche. A better fit would be in Florida. Jorge Julio has been brutal as the Marlins’ closer since being acquired in the spring. With Lidge around, Julio could pitch set-up relief, which is what he did with some success in Baltimore. Lidge could prosper in a relatively small media market with a team that needs help throughout its pen…
The Mets might want to take a chance on Lidge, who is good friends with their current closer, Billy Wagner. Aaron Heilman’s early season struggles have only exacerbated the Mets’ need for additional bullpen. A triumvirate of Lidge, Heilman, and Wagner would rival the Braves (Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, and Bobby Wickman) as the best combination in the NL East. A package of Anderson Hernandez and a second-tier pitching prospect (Joe Smith or Ambiorix Burgos) might be enough to initiate some serious trade talks with the Astros…
Another possible destination for Lidge could be Colorado. Lidge lives in the Denver region and has already expressed interest in playing for what is essentially his hometown team…
Lidge is not the only big name reliever available on the swap market. Byung-Hyun Kim, who’s been on the rumor mill as long as anyone in either league, remains persona non grata in Colorado. Like Lidge, Kim has never seemingly recovered from postseason failures (see the 2001 World Series) but retains the deceptive motion and explosive fastball that make him a worthwhile project. The Orioles, Indians, Mariners, Rangers, Reds, Phillies, and Nationals could all take flyers on Kim as potential bullpen help. The Orioles have had serious talks with the Rockies about Kim, but turned down Colorado’s request for a package of Scott Williamson and Todd Williams…
While most of the current trade talk revolves around relievers, other moves could be in the offing. For example, the Pirates are starting to take a long look at their shortstop, Jack Wilson, who has been a one-man wrecking crew in reverse through the first ten days of the season. He hasn’t hit well, especially in the clutch, hasn’t run the bases well, and can’t even lay down sacrifice bunts. Though he’s long been a favorite of GM Dave Littlefield, Wilson has come under such fire from the Pittsburgh faithful that the Pirates have started to consider other options at shortstop. Wilson will be difficult to trade because of his contract, but there might be a team (like the Blue Jays, who are enduring life with Royce Clayton) that would consider him because of his defensive skills. Other teams (like the Brewers and A’s) have frequently injured shortstops and could be in the market later this summer. Of course, if the Pirates are able to find a taker for Wilson, they’ll then have to undergo the difficult task of finding a new shortstop. I doubt that A-Rod would fit within the budget, but is there a Tony Pena III available anywhere?
Just how awful are the Washington Nationals? Not only are the Nats a major league worst 1-7 heading into Wednesday action, but they have held a lead for exactly one inning this season (out of a possible 72). With 10 errors, they have committed the most miscues of any team. They can’t score runs either, managing to better the three-run mark only once in eight games.
None of this should come as a major surprise; most experts considered the Nationals to be the worst team in the NL East and potentially the worst team in either league. Their bad start has stirred inevitable comparisons to other dismal teams of recent vintage, such as the 2003 Tigers and the 1962 New York Mets. The Nationals’ truly atrocious play has motivated the season’s first Fan Forum question, which we’ll feature most Wednesdays throughout 2007. Which is the worst team in major league history that you’ve ever had the displeasure of watching? Assuming that few of our readers are old enough to remember the Cleveland Spiders, we present five hideous teams from 1950 to the current day. Of these five, which was the worst? Make a comment and register your vote.
*1952 Pittsburgh Pirates (42-112): Only two players, Ralph Kiner and Gus Bell, reached double figures in home runs.
*1962 New York Mets (40-120): Featuring the pride of Marv Throneberry and Choo Choo Coleman, who made life intriguing for a sleeping Casey Stengel.
*1988 Baltimore Orioles (54-107): When two of your starting outfielders are Ken Gerhart and Joe Orsulak, you won’t be printing many playoff tickets!
*2003 Detroit Tigers (43-119): The memorable Nate Cornejo led all starters with a 4.67 ERA, and no one else was even close.
*2005 Kansas City Royals (56-106): This team gave 455 at-bats to Terrence Long.
I’ll place my vote for the ’03 Tigers. Their record was slighly bettter than that of the ’62 Mets, but they did it in an expanded 30-team major league set-up, with talent and pitching thinned out far more so than it was in the early 1960s. I can’t think of a worse starting rotation in major league history, not with Nate Cornejo assuming the role of staff "ace."