Sometimes things just don’t pan out for your favorite team. Players get hurt. Managers quit. Owners and general managers make poor roster decisions. Trades decimate team camaraderie. And sometimes, well, sometimes your favorite team just isn’t that good to begin with. One bad variable can ruin a season, but when a couple of these factors join forces you get some of the worst overall team performances ever recorded. Here are ten of the worst major league baseball team efforts ever turned in.
10. 1988 Baltimore Orioles (54-107)
Over the years there have been a lot worse teams than the 1988 Orioles, but none of them started the season 0-21 like these lads did. The team itself fielded what appeared to be an above average roster that featured Cal Ripken Jr., Fred Lynn, and Eddie Murray. A stable of young players were waiting in the wings in the minors. Truth be told, there was a lot of optimism in Baltimore – which is partly what makes this team so bad. The ’88 Orioles managed to hit a slew of home runs, but they finished last in just above every other offensive category. Their pitching was just as awful and the team was in the bottom two in almost every category worth noting. Cal Ripken Sr. was fired after only six games, though that didn’t seem to help matters. They eventually finished with a 54-107 record, which wasn’t terrible considering the 0-21 start.
9. 1919 Philadelphia Athletics (36-104)
From 1902 to 1914 the Athletics were one of the best teams in the newly formed American League. They won three World Series titles and six American League pennants. After the 1914 season, manager Connie Mack purged the roster to save money on younger players. The results were, unsurprisingly, horrific. The Athletics went on a seven year run of finishing in last place. Year after year they posted losing records. One of the worst of those teams was the 1919 edition, which managed to turn in a 36-104 (.257 winning percentage) record. The 1919 season was cut short on account of World War I – saving fans from 14 more embarrassing games.
8. 2003 Detroit Tigers (43-119)
How bad were the 2003 Tigers? They needed to win five of their last six games just avoid setting the record for the most loses by any American League team ever. The 2003 club capped a decade-plus run where the team was ineffective, to put it kindly. Ominous signs pointed to a bad year as the 2002 team finished with a 55-106 record. Fans didn’t think things could get much worse. They were in for a shock. The 2003 Tigers lost 100 games before September even began! Three pitchers lost 17-plus games, including Mike Morath who finished with a 9-21 record. They were ineffective in every aspect of the game and the “chase” to catch the 1962 Mets became a running joke. All told, the 2003 Tigers ended with a 43-119 record, good for a .265 winning percentage.
7. 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates (42-112)
The 1952 the Pirates tallied a 42-112 record and finished an amazing 54.5 games out of first place. Headed by Branch Rickey, this Pirates team was notoriously cheap. Rickey refused to pay market value for his own players. He held tryouts for his minor leaguers, allowing them to make the major league team. Thirteen rookies made the opening day roster as a result. In one of many frugal decisions, Rickey saved money by only sending a partial roster on road trips. It’s no surprise then that this team was terrible. Only Ralph Kiner played well, hitting 37 home runs, but opposing teams just refused to pitch to him. The Pirates’ pitching was equally awful as it featured three pitchers with 16+ losses on the season.
6. 1904 Washington Senators (38-133)
The Senators were one of the new American League teams ushered into the league in 1901. They struggled for the first decade of their existence, but were especially futile in 1904. They finished the season last in almost every offensive statistical category including walks, runs, hits, and strikeouts. They also led the league in errors, and finished near the bottom in almost every pitching statistic. They failed in every way imaginable. During the season the Senators even attempted to change their club name to the Nationals. They failed at that too! The Senators finished the season with a 38-133 record, one of the worst of all time.
5. 1935 Boston Braves (38-115)
The 1935 Boston Braves featured an aging slugger by the name of Babe Ruth. They still somehow managed to lose 115 games. Ruth was lured to the Braves by promises of team ownership and managerial positions that Emil Fuchs, the then owner of the team, had no intention of ever keeping. A shadow of himself, Ruth only played a portion of the season before retiring in June after posting a sub .200 batting average. Nothing else seemed to work out either. Fuchs was eventually ousted from his own team. Despite the changes, the Braves didn’t improve. They finished a staggering 61.5 games out of first place.
4. 1962 New York Mets (40-120)
Few teams epitomize losing like the 1962 Mets. In their inaugural season the Mets tried desperately to win over a fan base reeling from the loss of the Giants and the Dodgers. They might have been bad, but at least they were fun. In losing 120 games the Mets managed to assemble a roster of washed-up, no-good players who were all very colorful. They finished 40-120 and set the record for the most losses in a single season. Still, this team remains a somewhat lovable group. Manager Casey Stangel was a quote machine and the players themselves seemed to lose in unimaginable and creative ways each and every day.
3. 1916 Philadelphia Athletics (36-115)
It is somewhat amazing that two Athletics teams made this list, but that’s just how bad they were. While the 1919 team was awful, the 1916 team was easily the worst. They would set a record for losses in the American League (with 117) that would stand until 2003 when the Tigers bested their futility. Their pitchers walked an astounding 715 batters that season, including a game where they walked 18 batters and another where they combined with the opposition to walk 30. Not surprising, they finished last in almost every statistical category available. Their final tally was 36-115, a .248 winning percentage that is one of the top five worst of all time.
2. 1897 Saint Louis Browns (29-102)
The Browns posted back to back losing seasons in 1897 and 1898, but it’s not the 1898 team that lost 111 games, but the 29-102 team of 1897 which was the worse of the two. The 1898 team never won more than two games in a row throughout the entirety of the season. They lost 18 in row in September and won only 3 games after the month of August. Red Donahue, their best pitcher, lost 35 games and posted an ERA well over 6. They finished with a .221 winning percentage and somehow finished 63.5 games out of first place. The follow-up year the Browns posted a worse record, but they were actually better statistically – if such a thing is possible.
1. 1899 Cleveland Spiders (20-134)
There’s losing, there’s losing badly, then there’s the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. The Spiders were owned by the same ownership that controlled the Saint Louis Browns. In the biggest conflict of interest of all time, the Spiders roster was purged of all their good players who were sent to Saint Louis. The resulting Spiders team barely had a major league-ready player available to them. They were terrible – and everyone knew it. The Spiders only managed to win two games in a row once all season long. They were so bad opposing teams refused to travel to Cleveland to play them because they didn’t draw any fans. They gave up over 8 runs a game and hit only 12 home runs all season. They started the season 8-30 and somehow got worse, finishing on a 12-104 run. The 20-134 record and .130 winning percentage is the worst of all time. Eventually, the National League disbanded the Spiders and three other teams.