Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
Can't anybody here play this game?
-- Casey Stengel

Evidently not.

This is one sad-sack bunch of baseball teams...

San Diego	53	55	.491	-	30-23	23-32	475	501	
Arizona	        53	57	.482	1	26-30	27-27	478	562	
LA Dodgers	48	60	.444	5	26-27	22-33	459	517	
San Francisco	46	61	.430	6.5	23-32	23-29	462	543	
Colorado	39	68	.364	13.5	27-27	12-41	466	591	
This is pretty strange to look at, too. Everybody but the Rockies seems to be trying out designs for ski jumps. The Dodgers plummet looks especially impressive...

The Padres actually looked like a decent team, back in May when they were tearing through the competition. Since the calendar turned on the 1st of June, they've gone 20-36. They've lost 13 of their last 16. They've added Pedro Astacio and Chan Ho Park to their starting rotation, for God's sake.

They're still in first place.

How is such a thing possible? They play in the NL West, that's how.

I asked Liam, having been both amazed and exhausted by the staggering ineptitude of this group, if he had any thoughts about the NL West. He responded with my title: "Worst. Division. Ever."

So let's see. Is it true?

There has never been a division winner who finished below .500, which may be the only reason to be grateful for the 1994 strike. When it hit, in August, the Texas Rangers stood atop the AL West with a 52-62 record. The NL West was pretty grim, too, but the first-place Dodgers, at 58-56, at least had a winning record. But as a rule, I like to pretend that 1994 never happened, so let's move along.

Since the advent of divisional play in 1969, there have been any number of years when a division had just one team that finished above .500 - more often than not, however, that one team had a pretty decent record. In 1999, for instance, only one team in the AL Central had a winning record: the 75-86 White Sox finished in second place. But the Indians had a pretty impressive 97-65 mark at the top of the heap.

The least impressive World Champions were the 1987 Minnesota Twins, who finished at 85-77. Four teams in the AL East won more games. The Twins prevailed in a close race - Kansas City won 83 games, and Oakland came in at .500.

Three years earlier, in 1984, Kansas City won the AL West with just 84 wins. They were the only winning team in the division that year, although both the Angels and Twins came in at 81-81, just three games back.

Something more like what we're looking at this year in the NL West occurred eight years ago in the NL Central. Houston won the division that year, with an unimpressive 84-78 record. No one else in the division was above .500. The Astros had the good grace to get swept by Atlanta (101-61) in the post-season.

But the weakest of them all, before this year, as most of you probably know, was surely the 1973 NL East. The Mets 82-79 record remains the worst record ever by a first place team. The second place Cardinals finished at 81-81. The Mets, however, went into the post-season as the hottest team in the league. They promptly knocked off the Big Red Machine in the NLCS, and took a 3-2 lead over the world champion A's in the World Series. It was at this historic juncture that Reggie Jackson began building his October legend, powering the A's to wins in the final two games.

The NL East didn't start out as a joke in 1973. At the end of April, both the Cubs and Mets had 12-8 records - that's .600 ball. One month later, the Cubs were still humming along at 30-19 (.612). Pittsburgh was second, at 21-21. They stretched their lead to 7.5 games over the next month - by the end of June, the Cubs were 47-32 (.595), with the Cardinals now in second place with a 37-37 record. And then, being Cubs and all, they went into the tank.

By the end of July, St. Louis had inherited the lead. The Cards were 56-48, two ahead of the 55-51 Cubs. The Pirates were still hanging around at 51-51, and even the Expos, in just their fifth year, were within reach at 50-53.

In August, the Cards, Cubs, and Expos all struggled. When the month was over, the 68-66 Cards were barely hanging on to first place. Pittsburgh played .500 ball in August, and it was enough to move them to within one game of the division lead. The Cubs had fallen to third place, after losing 18 of 27 games, but were still just 3.5 games out despite their 64-69 record. The Expos went 13-17 in August, and were at 63-70, but were still just 4.5 games out. The Mets were fifth, at 62-71.

Naturally, what happened in September settled things. The top three teams continued to struggle, all playing below .500 for the month. The fourth place team, Montreal, played well: they went 16-13 which was good enough to insert them into the thick of the race. But one team, the fifth-place Mets, actually caught fire. New York went 20-8 down the stretch. And so, as St.Louis and Chicago faded, Pittsburgh and Montreal took over at the top of the divison, while The Mets came streaking up from below. On September 22, with a week remaining, the Mets both crawled above .500 at 78-77 and simultaneously slipped into first place. By Saturday the 29th, five teams were still theoretically in the running, from the 80-78 Mets to the 76-82 Cubs. On the final Sunday, a few things got settled. The Mets split a double-header with Chicago. That eliminated both the Cubs and the Expos (who were losing their game, anyway.) The Cardinals finished their season, with an 81-81 record. Pittsburgh, at 80-81 still had a game to play. The Mets, at 81-79, had two games left.

So on Monday, the Pirates made up a rained-out game with San Diego - and lost, taking themselves out of the running. The Mets needed to win one more game to elimnate the Cardinals, and they got it on their first try, beating the Cubs. It was Yogi Berra's second first-place finish as a manager, and it was not unlike his other one, when his 1964 Yankees got hot in September (24-9) and finished first by a single game.

Berra's Yankees lost a seven game World Series as well...

Worst. Division. Ever. | 3 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Gerry - Friday, August 05 2005 @ 11:26 AM EDT (#124764) #
The follow on question is what is the likelyhood that the division winner will beat the Mets record. I have to assume that one of these teams will get hot or put together some kind of winning streak and finish with say 85 wins.

What would be the over/under for the # of wins to win the division? Does anyone know if Vegas have odds on that one?

I will go with 85 wins as the number of wins the winner will have. The padres are at 53-55 so to finish at 85-77, they would need to go 32-22, a .592 pace. Maybe I am too optimistic.
Pepper Moffatt - Friday, August 05 2005 @ 12:16 PM EDT (#124774) #
From BP's Playoff Odds report:

Average wins by position in NL West: 81.8 77.6 73.8 69.2 62.0

So the over/under for # of wins for the first place team seems to be around 81.5. Ouch.
Mick Doherty - Friday, August 05 2005 @ 01:13 PM EDT (#124787) #
The Padres ... They've added Pedro Astacio and Chan Ho Park to their starting rotation, for God's sake.

Now if they'd just sign Rick Helling and Darren Oliver, and hang on to their lead, the Rangers brass can point and say "See! We DID have championship-caliber pitching here!"

Worst. Division. Ever. | 3 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.