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Way back in June 2006, I got interested in all-time franchise records. As I wrote at the time:'s a review of all-time franchise records, and if they're currently above .500, I want to find the moment when they climbed that mountain for keeps. And vice versa. There is the problem of franchises that have moved - I'm going to saddle them with their entire history.

I did a bit of research, had a lot of fun, and posted what I learned for the National League and the American League. And I provided an update after the 2006 season. And because there are a few teams hovering near the .500 mark even as we speak, I thought it was time to do it all again. Maybe it'll become an annual thing!

I should warn veteran readers that much of this is straight copy-and-paste from the 2006 version. I've pruned the entries of some of the less interesting team histories, and added some additional items that caught my attention.

I might mention that it's deeply reassuring to add up all the numbers and discover that other sources confirm your work. (I do my own data entry, people!) The team totals match those you will find in with the exception of the four National League franchises who began their lives as part of the old American Association: the Dodgers, the Pirates, the Reds, and the Cardinals. In each case, my totals begin with the team's National League history, and do not count AA totals. I'm actually not sure that the 1891 St Louis Browns (AA) and the 1892 St Louis Cardinals (NL) really have anything to do with each other anyway, although obviously the 1887 Pittsburgh and the 1890 Brooklyn and Cincinnati teams truly are AA teams changing leagues.

Along the same lines, it was enormous fun to look at game logs, and figure this should have been the Phillies 10.000th loss or the Giants 10,000th win - and then look up at ESPN's game story and find confirmation. Eureka! It all works! The internet, man - takes a load off a fellow's mind!

The following teams have had, if not actual developments, at least something to report on since the original exercise: Phillies, Braves, Astros, Cubs, Cardinals, Diamondbacks

Florida Marlins
(1112-1251) - Losers since April 7, 1993
Charlie Hough won the Marlins' very first game, but they lost their next three and have been below .500 ever since. By 19 September 2002, they had fallen 144 games below .500. They whittled away at that over the next few years, before sliding back the last couple of years. Last September 23, they had fallen back to 143 games under. They won five or their last six to stave off exploring new depths of Loserdom. For the moment. They should add something to this story in 2008.

Washington Nationals (2980-3204) - Losers since April 10, 1969
Most of the Nats' history actually took place in Montreal, of course. Being an expansion team, the Expos started out as Big Losers, and they spent their first ten years losing and losing and losing. The franchise hit its lowest mark during its Montreal years on August 31, 1978 - on that day they were 204 games under .500 (690-894). They spent most of the next two decades chipping that mountain down to about 50 games, when the roof fell in. Last September 22, Washington saw the franchise hits lowest mark ever: 227 games under .500 (2975-3202). They'll probably need an update after this year as well.

New York Mets (3496-3816) - Losers forever (since April 11, 1962)
They lost their first nine games and never looked back. By the end of 1968, after just seven seasons, they were a whopping 343 games below .500. The Gil Hodges-Yogi Berra teams whittled away at the enormous hole Casey's original band of clowns had landed them, and got that overall deficit down to 284 games below... but that is actually the team's high-water mark. For it was followed by the disaster of the Joe Torre-George Bamberger years. On 23 September 1983, the Mets (1492-1595) were 503 games below .500 - and while the Mets have had a few memorable teams, and a couple of very memorable championships, the only time they've truly had a sustained run of success was during the Davey Johnson years. And Davey's run of seven straight seasons with 87+ wins only got them back close to 300 games below .500, which is roughly where they remain.

Philadelphia Phillies (8853-10,028) - Losers since May 15, 1922
The Phillies had a pretty good team in the 1890s, and a very good team in the mid 1910s. By 1917, the franchise record was 138 games above .500 - and that is the best it would ever be. That December, they dumped Pete Alexander for a couple of nondescript players and a big whack of cash. Punishment was swift and brutal, and in less than five years they slipped under .500, where they've been for the past 85 years. The farthest they've fallen was just a few years ago, on 1 October 2000 - after their loss in the final game of the season, the franchise had lost 1242 games more than they had won. So they fired Terry Francona, and have begun the log slow crawl upwards. Few of us now living are likely to see them even the slate. The most interesting development in recent times came last July 15, when a 10-2 St. Louis victory made the Phillies became the first franchise to lose 10,000 games.

Atlanta Braves (9696-9717) - Losers since June 4, 1923.
Obviously it seems odd to pronounce Atlanta a loser since 1923, but this is a saga of three cities, several nicknames, and a great many ups and downs. It all began in the Centennial year of 1876. The Boston Beaneaters, starring the fabulous Kid Nichols, may have been the greatest team of 19th century baseball. By 1902 Boston had won 502 games more than they had lost. It's been all downhill from there. In 1912, they changed their name to Braves. It didn't help. They crossed over into Permanent Loserdom on June 4, 1923 when the Phillies beat them 9-7 and dropped their all-time record to 3084-3085. They've been below .500 ever since. They have never reached the dizzying depths of the Phillies, of course - who could, after all - but they did their worst. They slipped 500 games below during World War II, but they hit their absolute bottom fairly recently, after fielding a succession of dismal teams through the 1980s. On 11 April 1991 the Braves fell to 0-2 in the young season, and their all-time mark fell to 8102-8627 - a full 525 games below break-even.

Since then, the mighty efforts of Cox and Schuerholz have erased almost all of it, a truly remarkable achievement. They entered 2006 needing only to post their usual 93-69 record to finally draw even again... and then they went and posted their first losing record since 1990. But they enter 2008 still just 21 games under .500 - a 92 win season is all they need (or just going 21 games over .500 at some point during the year.)

The franchise is still recovering from its 40 bad years in Boston, which left them 480 games under (5118-5598). They had a great little run in Milwaukee, erasing half of that disadvantage in barely over a decade (1146-890, which is 256 games over.) The Atlanta years started out OK, before plunging into an abyss for some 15 years. As noted, it all turned around in 1991. Their overall record in Georgia is 203 games over (3432-3229).

Milwaukee Brewers (2919-3266) - Losers since April 16, 1969
The Seattle Pilots got off to a 3-2 start, before that team's unique quality truly blossomed. They ended up losing 98 games, fleeing to Milwaukee, and being immortalized by Jim Bouton. In that order. In Wisconsin they continued losing, sinking to 222 games under .500 by the end of 1978 before suddenly emerging as a 90 win team in the late 1970s. Six straight winning seasons from 1978 through 1983 got them just a shade more than 100 games below break-even... but then they started sinking, slowly, slowly into the ooze. They've had just five winning seasons since the Gorman Thomas era, and after the turn of the milennium they began losing big time. By the end of the 2004 campaign, they were 339 games below .500.They reached the deepest pit in franchise history on June 21 2005 when a loss to the Cubs dropped them to 347 games below. They bounced back from that, only to find a deeper pit the very next year, falling to 354 games under .500 on September 13. They haven't made a whole lot of progress the other way since.

Houston Astros
(3652-3672) - Losers since May 15, 2006
The Houston Colt 45s swept their first series, which is a much better start than most expansion teams enjoy. Unfortunately, they were then forced to play teams who were not the Cubs, and the inevitable destiny of all expansion teams quickly asserted itself. They were below .500 before the month was out, and they settled in for the next forty years. The Astros had just two winning seasons before 1979, and those were modest 84 and 82 win seasons. They hit the lowest mark in franchise history on September 24 1978, when they lost both ends of a double-header to the Giants. That dropped them to 227 games below .500 - at which point, they began the long, slow trek back up the hill. They had just six losing seasons over the next two decades, and finally made a little Houston history on 22 April 2006 when they defeated the Pirates for the team win 3509 against 3508 losses. By May 4, they were four games above .500 all-time - their best mark ever. Alas, their golden moment lasted just a few days. They lost 11 of their next 15, and slipped back beneath the waters again for the first time on May 9 2006, and for good (so far) on May 15.

Pittsburgh Pirates (9388-9089) - Winners since July 31, 1902
Pittsburgh moved to the NL in 1887, and they weren't particularly good. And then the 1890 team put them in an enormous hole - they lost 113 games and won just 23. That's right - they played .169 ball. A 55-80 campaign the next year dropped them to 141 games below .500 after just five years in the league. They whittled away at that deficit over the next few years... and then, in 1897, they unleashed Honus Wagner on the National League. That pretty much did the trick, as you might imagine. The Pirates made it above .500 to stay in mid-1902, in the midst of a 103-36 season, and they haven't looked back. Their absolute high-water mark was reached on 27 September 1945, when they stood 641 games above break-even. The 1950s (the Branch Rickey years) were a disaster, as they lost 300 games more than they won, but they had more than enough cushion to withstand it. They had a long run of mostly quality teams from the late 1950s into the mid 1990s, which got them more than 500 games above .500 - by the end of 1980, they were 591 games up, and by the end up of 1992 they had still won 582 games more than they had lost. Since then of course, they've been slipping into the quicksand with sixteen straight losing seasons, but the legacy of Wagner, Waner, Stargell, and Bonds has given them a pretty substantial cushion.

Chicago Cubs (9,985-9459) - Winners Forever (since April 25, 1876)
Winners forever? The Cubs? You bet. They were one of the original National League teams back in 1876, and they won their first four games. The Cubs were a good team for most of the 19th century - they were almost 400 games over .500 when it ended. And then, as I have discussed before, they put together one of the greatest teams in the history of baseball. By 1914, they were a whopping 824 games over .500. They didn't stop there - they continued to field contenders into the 1920s and 1930.They lost the 1945 World Series, but by then they had won 1160 games more than they had lost. They buiilt on that a little more the following season, and on June 14 1947 they reached the giddiest height in franchise history - 1179 games above .500. The team then collapsed, going 40-64 over the rest of the 1947 season. They would have just one winning season over the next 20 years, as they devolved into the Cubs we have all grown familiar with. By then, the cushion was down to 729 games. The Leo Durocher years briefly reversed this trend, but the modern Cubs outlasted Leo. The Cubs won 90 games or more nine years in a row from 1904 through 1912. They have had just four such seasons since World War II ended. They went into this season 526 games above .500, which is roughly where they were in 1906. Sometime in April or May or this season, they will become the second team in history to win 10,000 games. The Cubs! (In the original version of this, I erroneously included the totals for Chicago's National Association teams of 1871-75; the error has been fixed.)

Cincinnati Reds (9123-8980) - Winners Since May 29, 1974
The Reds joined the National League for the 1890 season, which is where I begin counting. It wasn't a particularly good franchise for much of its history. They went into the 1910s slightly above .500 and had a terrible decade before wining an unexpected, albeit tainted, World Series in 1919. The franchise fell below .500 in 1913, but climbed back onto the sunny side in 1923. In 1929, however, the stock market crashed and so did the Reds, as they began a run of nine straight losing seasons. They came up with a good team just in team for the second world war, but resumed their losing ways in 1945. This time they put together 11 straight losing seasons. On September 8, 1955 they had an all-time record of 4793-5056 - 263 games below .500. That was the all-time low. And then, in 1956, they came up with a 20 year old named Frank Robinson, and eventually they got him some help. The Reds were contenders through most of the 1960s, and in the 1970s assembled one of the game's best and memorable teams. It was the Big Red machine that did the trick. By the time the 1974 season started, the Reds were just 6 games below .500. Sparky's crew got off to a bit of a slow start that season, but they heated up in May and a seven game winning streak got them over the hump to stay. The Reds haven't won anything since 1990, but they've had decent teams most of the time anyway, and on May 15 2001 they hit what so far is their greatest distance above .500, when their NL record stood at 8624-8370, 254 games above .500. They've given away some 110 games since then, but they've still got some margin to work with.

St. Louis Cardinals (9062-8763) - Winners since May 17, 1967
They have such a long and proud history that it is hard to comprehend how very bad the Cardinals were for a long, long time. They joined the National League in 1892 and started losing immediately. They had just five winning seasons in their first 28 - and when 19th century teams were bad, they were scary, stinky bad. The Cardinals' best team in the four year period from 1895-98 played .308 ball (40-90). By the time 1921 rolled around, the franchise had already lost 797 games more than they had won. They then got off to a terrible (5-15) start to sink to more than 800 games below .500 - the deepest part of the abyss being 807 games under on May 13, 1921. And then - a miracle happened, as the Cardinals turned around both their season (they went 83-51 the rest of the way) and their franchise. This was where Branch Rickey built his original legend, inventing the Farm System and destroying the independent Minor Leagues. The Cardinals were in a huge hole, and it took a long, long time indeed to extricate themselves. Stan Musial's entire career came and went. But they had just three losing seasons over the 33 years from 1921 through 1953, which took care of most of the heavy lifting. They stumbled a bit in the late 1950s, but righted the ship quickly enough. By the end of 1966, they were almost even, just five games under .500. They charged out of the gate in 1967, winning their first six games to get above .500 for the first time since ... well, ever. They treaded water for a bit, falling back, going ahead, falling back - but a five game winning streak in May got them over .500 to stay. They celebrated by going on to win the World Series that year, and haven't really looked back. By the end of 2005, they were exactly 300 games over .500 for the first time in their history, and on 18 June 2006 achieved their highest margin ever above .500, 316 games (8943-8627).

Arizona Diamondbacks
(818-802) - Winners since May 20, 2007
They played like an expansion team in Year One (65-97), and an 0-4 start the next year put them 36 games below .500 at 65-101 - and that's the worst their record has ever been. By 24 September 1999, they'd crawled above .500 (158-157) in just their second year of operations. They would stay above break-even for the next few years, reaching their high water mark of 81 games over .500 on 13 August 2003. The disaster of 2004 wiped out almost all of that fine work, and it was followed by losing seasons in 2005 and 2006. The D'Backs began an extended dance with the .500 mark. In 2005, the overall record fell to exactly .500 three times, without once slipping below. A fine start in 2006 restored a bit of cushion, but hard times followed. They fell below .500 on 4 September 2006, and spent the rest of the season falling behind, pulling ahead, and falling behind again. They were two games under when 2007 began, and picked up where they left off - climbing above .500 on April 8, falling below on April 21, above on April 28, below on May 4, above on May 8, below on May 13. Finally, they more or less made up their mind. They cleared .500 again on May 20, and while they flirted with danger along the way (falling back to even .500 on July 20) they never again slipped below the surface.

Colorado Rockies (1115-1253) - Losers since April 11, 1993
The Rockies lost their first two games but a pair of victories got them back to .500 for the one and only time in team history. A three game losing streak sealed their fate, for now. Before 2007, the Rockies had never won more than 83 games, and they have had just four winning seasons. While they've never had a real calamitous campaign (most losses ever is 95, twice) they're in a hole and it's going to take some time to get back to square one.

San Diego Padres (2870-3322) - Losers since April 15, 1969
The Padres were one of the worst expansion teams ever (52-110), and they stayed awful for most of the 1970s. In their first eight seasons, their best record was 73-89, and they lost 100 games or more four times. This put them in a big hole from the start, and all they've really done since then... is make it worse. This team has a largely dismal history, punctuated by a couple of out-of-the-blue 90 win seasons that took them all the way to the World Series. Where they got crushed, as was only appropriate. The lowest they have sunk to is 496 games below .500 - they were there repeatedly in the early days of the 2004 season, most recently on April 19 2004. From that nadir, they won 10 of their next 12 and have been winning more than they've lost ever since. But they're 452 games to the bad as this season opens, and I don't expect to live long enough to see them on the other side of the ledger.

San Francisco Giants (10,184-8724 ) - Winners since May 5, 1884
They were called the New York Gothams when they began National League play in 1883, and they posted a modest 46-50 record that first season. They leaped from the gate the next season, winning their first twelve games, and haven't looked back. They had a good team for their first twenty years - they won a couple of championships and by the end of 1898 were already 268 games over .500. They scuffled for several years around the turn of the century, and gave back more than 100 games to the league, but they were still 147 games over when, in 1903, they put John McGraw in charge. The rest is history. McGraw stayed for 30 years, 10 pennants and 4 World Series titles. When he finally retired the team had won almost 1000 games more than they had lost. His successors could hardly match his achievements, but they did win a couple more world championships, and padded the team's winning margin to a high water mark of 1207 above .500 in April 1956.

Bill Veeck has theorized that it was Horace Stoneham rather than Walter O'Malley who was the driving force behind the Giants and Dogers lighting out for California after 1957. Veeck was probably joking; O'Malley is certainly the man who has borne the wrath of history (which in this case consists almost entirely of bitter and disgruntled New York baseball writers.) But consider the situation. In the mid 1950s, the New York Giants were one of the game's great and storied franchises. They were the winners of the 1954 World Series. They had one of the greatest and most exciting players ever to play the game, Willie Mays himsef, at the peak of his awesome powers. But in 1956 and 1957 they finished dead last in NL attendance, drawing fewer than 700,000 people, in New York City, no less. So, seriously - just why in hell would they stay? The Giants haven't won a World Series since going west, but they have had consistently fine teams. The San Francisco Giants were winners from the start, and have won 300 more games than they have lost. The franchise's biggest margin over .500 came on 2 May 2005, when a 14-11 start put them 1504 games above .500 ((9976-8472). On July 14 of that year, they became the first major league franchise to win 10,000 games (the big blow was a three run homer by - Omar Vizquel?). They've given back a few to .500 since then, but no National League team has as big a cushion.

Los Angeles Dodgers (9466-8618) - Winners since September 4, 1949
Like Cincinnati, Brooklyn came over to the National League from the American Association in 1890, where I begin counting. They were successful in their new league from the beginning, even if they went through half a dozen different nicknames in about twenty years - they were NL champs in 1899 and 1900. But in 1904, they went into the dumpster, and there they stayed for almost four decades (although they did surface to lose a pair of World Series in the 1910s.). They slipped below .500 early in 1908, and hit their lowest mark on April 24, 1939. On that day, they stood at 3483-3736, a full 253 games below break-even. But 1939 was when the long climb to respectability began. That was the year Leo Durocher took over as the manager, and in 1943 Branch Rickey took over the baseball operation. One of the great National League powerhouses soon emerged - it took them just ten years to undo the sorry legacy of almost half a century. On August 14 1949, they rose above .500 for the first time in more than forty years. A 1-7 skid put them back under, but by the end of August they were back to even. They went ahead, fell back again - and then ripped off six straight wins and a 10-1 run that settled the matter. By the end of 1957, the franchise was 288 games over .500, and it had all happened in a very short period of time.

This, of course, was when the Dodgers lit out for the territories. While their first year in California was a loser, they won a World Series in year two. No one wants to say this, and I liked "The Boys of Summer" - but facts are facts. The Dodgers' history in Los Angeles is far, far more distinguished than their history in Brooklyn. The latter really consists of just a single remarkable decade at the end of a long, long stretch of mediocrity. In Los Angeles, the Dodgers have been more than 500 games better than .500, stretching the overall franchise mark to more than 800 games to the good. The highest peak came on 20 April 2005 - after their 12-2 start, they were 9237-8375 overall. That's 862 games above .500. The rest of 2005 was an utter disaster, but they have a chance to establish a new all-time high again this year. And at any rate, they have some margin to work with...

Tomorrow, we'll update the American League.

Franchising, 2008 Edition: Part 1 - the National League | 4 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Alex0888 - Saturday, March 15 2008 @ 03:57 PM EDT (#181072) #
Interesting how a lot of these permanent changes happen in April or May...

Just wondering also: under Arizona, one of the dates is 13 August 23?

Mike Green - Saturday, March 15 2008 @ 10:50 PM EDT (#181078) #
Nicely done, Magpie. I guess the Rays have put themselves in a 25 year hole, at least, using this way of looking at things.
ayjackson - Sunday, March 16 2008 @ 01:35 AM EDT (#181080) #
I seem to remember that les Expos came within a horrid August/September in 1989 of having the best record of any MLB team during the Eighties.  I think they still finished about fourth or fifth.  Of course, that was a long time ago and my memory isn't what it used to be.
Magpie - Sunday, March 16 2008 @ 03:12 AM EDT (#181081) #
The Expos were indeed horrid over the final two months of 1989. On July 31, they were in first place in the NL East with a 61-44 record. After two more wins, they stumbled right off the face of the earth - they lost 37 of their final 55 games. While Mark Langston took much of the heat (in May, the Expos traded three pitching prospects, one of whom was Randy Johnson,  to Seattle to obtain him), Langston wasn't the problem. The pitching did fall off a little over the last two months (they had been allowing 3.77 runs per game - it went up to 4.05 per game in August and September.) But the main problem was the offense. They had been scoring 4.21 runs per game, until the final two months, when it dropped down to 3.27 per game.

Even if they had gone undefeated over the final two months (57-0! Yes!) they wouldn't have had the best record in the majors for the 1980s. But to have the best record in the NL for the decade, they would have needed just another 15 wins. That  would have required a 35-22 finish in 1989, which was just a shade better than how they had actually played over the first four months of the season.

DATA TABLE! Team Records in the 1980s!
                                          GPL     W      L     Pct
1    New York Yankees    AL East    1562    854    708    0.547
2    Detroit Tigers     AL East    1566    839    727    0.536
3    Kansas City Royals   AL West    1560    826    734    0.529
4    St Louis Cardinals  NL East    1559    825    734    0.529
5    Los Angeles Dodgers NL West    1566    825    741    0.527
6    Boston Red Sox     AL East    1563    821    742    0.525
7    New York Mets    NL East    1559    816    743    0.523
8    Toronto Blue Jays   AL East    1563    817    746    0.523
9    Houston Astros    NL West    1569    819    750    0.522
10    Montreal Expos    NL East    1563    811    752    0.519
11    Milwaukee Brewers AL East    1564    804    760    0.514
12    Baltimore Orioles AL East    1561    800    761    0.512
13    Oakland A's     AL West    1567    803    764    0.512
14    Philadelphia Phillies   NL East    1563    783    780    0.501
15    California Angels      AL West    1566    783    783    0.500
16    Cincinnati Reds    NL West    1564    781    783    0.499
17    San Francisco Giants    NL West    1568    773    795    0.493
18    San Diego Padres     NL West    1567    762    805    0.486
19    Chicago White Sox      AL West    1560    758    802    0.486
20    Chicago Cubs    NL East    1556    735    821    0.472
21    Pittsburgh Pirates      NL East    1557    732    825    0.470
22    Minnesota Twins      AL West    1566    733    833    0.468
23    Texas Rangers      AL West    1559    720    839    0.462
24    Atlanta Braves    NL West    1557    712    845    0.457
25    Cleveland Indians     AL East    1559    710    849    0.455
26    Seattle Mariners     AL West    1566    673    893    0.430
As history records, the Yankees did not win a championship in the 1980s. Good times.
Franchising, 2008 Edition: Part 1 - the National League | 4 comments | Create New Account
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