How do the Rays stack up against the all-time worst?

by Gary Shelton on July 11, 2016 · 0 comments

in general

Monday, 6 a.m.

After a while, it is like a mushroom cloud in the distance. You know you should not look at it, but somehow, you cannot turn away.

It is an avalanche, a burning zeppelin, a sinkhole that has swallowed your work office. You cannot help but marvel at the natural power and hope the damage is controlled. It is a volcanic eruption, a 17-car pileup, a flood that is beyond control. The mere power of nature may be awesome and awful to behold. You cannot believe things can be so bad.

That's what is like watching the Tampa Bay Rays attempt to play baseball.

It's like watching zombies attack, and for some reason, they're all wearing baseball gloves. Except, of course, that the zombies have more range.

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The Rays limped out of the baseball season's first half Sunday night, and they should have been wearing masks to hide their embarrassment. The Rays are 20 games under .500, and they're in the passing lane to go around Minnesota, Atlanta and Cincinnati to be baseball's worst team. It's odd to think that this team, at one point, was 31-32. How on earth did they win 31 games with the way they hit, the way they pitch, the way they field.

Look, there have been a lot of bad baseball teams through the years. Some of them were cuddly as they lost, like the old New York Mets. Some of them were funny, like the old Seattle Pilots. And some of them were just bad. Players facing the wrong direction bad. Players who cannot separate their bloopers from their highlights bad. Bad.

Take the most famous losers of all, the Can't-Anybody-Play-This-Game Mets of 1962. Those Mets were legend. Their catcher, for instance, was a guy named Choo-Choo Coleman. When asked who the toughest guy in the league for him to throw to, then Mets' pitcher Roger Craig supposedly said “Choo-Choo Coleman.”

In three years, Coleman hit .197. Rays' catcher Curt Casali this year is hitting .166.

Oops.

There is no way the Rays will catch the Mets' 120 losses. But they might match their last 100. Remember, the Rays are 3-22 over their last 25 games. By the way, from July 7-Aug. 3, those Mets were, um, 3-22.

That Mets team hit .240. The Rays are much, much better. They're at .241.

How about the Pilots, made famous by Jim Bouton's Ball Four. Admittedly, Kevin Cash doesn't swear the way Joe Schultz did. But these Rays aren't an expansion team, either, the way the Mets and Pilots were.

Seattle finished 64-98 that year. But they, too, had a devastating mid-summer in which they had a streak where they went 5-24.

It should be noted those Pilots -- with Bouton, Gene Brander and Dooley Womack -- had an era of 4.35. The Rays are at 4.57.

Note of interest. Lou Piniella played for the Pilots, and he managed the Rays. He's lucky he doesn't hear voices.

Who else? How about the 2003 Detroit Tigers, who lost 119 games. They're the worst bad team of recent vintage. They started the season 3-25, and it never got much better. The Tigers, too, hit .240.

Of course, if you're talking bad, you don't have to go anywhere. The Rays were tragic for most of their seasons until 2008. In 2002, for instance, the team went 55-106 under Hal McRae, their worst record ever. That team had Ben Grieve and Brent Abernathy.

That team had a 5-22 run. Still, its batting average was 12 points higher than this one.

How about the Cleveland Spiders, the now defunct franchise who were losing's royalty. In 1899, Cleveland went 20-134. Not even the Rays can match that, even if they don't win another game (and on certain nights, that seems possible).

As bad as the Spiders were (and they went out of business after that year), they outhit the Rays by 12 points.

Then there were the old St. Louis Browns, something that brought pointing and giggles from the turn-of-the-century crowd.The Browns finished the 1897 season at 29-102, and it won only five of its last 41. Still, the Browns hit .275, or 34 points higher than they Rays.

Over the years, there have been a lot of bad baseball teams. You're fooling yourself if you don't think this is one. It's like the Titanic with clown cars on deck.

It's horrible to watch.

But it's amazing to experience.

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