While other teams run a pennant chase, O’s trying to run away from history

June 21, 2010 | Ryan Chell

2010 Orioles-the worst ever?
Most of the time when you’re trying to make history, it’s a good thing. Unless you’re on the path to being historically bad.

With the Orioles 9-4 loss to the Padres on Sunday, the Orioles are now 19-50, the worst record in the major leagues, and they are on the same pace as some of the worst teams in baseball history record-wise.

And the bad stats just keep piling on. They are last in the American League in runs scored with 223, doubles with 100, and on-base percentage (.300). They have the worst ERA in the AL, and have only converted half of their saves this year with the platoon of closers they have thrown out the mound this year. Only the Diamondbacks in the NL have given up more home runs than the Orioles.

These are all stats that the Orioles and their fans do not want to see.

They also don’t want to eye their record in the standings, because while all these stats may be little things, but at the end of the season, they could be remembered for being bad for a long time.

The worst record in one baseball season in the modern era belongs to a team the Orioles played in the last two weeks, the NY Mets. In 1962, the Mets finished with a 40-120-1 record, the worst at that time in almost 60 years.

1962 Mets

Before 1962, the worst team ever to play baseball was the Cleveland Spiders of the National League in 1899, when the sport was growing. The Spiders finished 20-134, and were a whopping 84 games back in the division.

There is a Baltimore connection to those Spiders. Bear with me. The owner of the Spiders, Frank Robison, felt like his other team he owned, the St. Louis Browns, would be a more profitable team, so he sent all the Spiders’ All-Stars, including some guy named Cy Young, to the Browns.

The St. Louis Browns eventually got to taste their own medicine, as the team also had less than 45 wins twice after that season. And what team came to Baltimore in 1954? The Browns.

It would be another 41 years till there was a team that would challenge the Mets’ 1962 mediocrity, when in 2003, the Detroit Tigers finished with a record of 43-119, playing one more game than the Mets. They were poised to break the record during the last stretch of the season, but winning five out of their last six saved them from going in the history books, but in a bad way.

The Orioles though, might not be as lucky to save themselves. Through 69 games, the Orioles (19-50) are on the same pace as the ’69 Mets, and that is not a comparison the Orioles will like to be associated with right now. The Mets also got off to a bad start like this year’s 2-16 Orioles, but  a 17-game losing streak from the end of May into June put the Mets in a bad spot.

The Orioles’ had the liberty of at least splitting their big losing streaks into two parts, including a nine-game losing streak (4/9 against Blue Jays-4/27 against Boston) and a ten game losing streak from May 25 against the A’s to the 5th of June against Boston.

In another comparison, the 2003 Tigers started out 3-25, but an 11-18 May helped “even” their season out.

Now with about forty percent of the season in the books, the Orioles would like to put themselves on a better pace to finish out the year, so that they are not forever known for being historically bad.

The Orioles are most likely going to have to endure their 13th straight losing season, second most in the majors to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The hope is that they get 41 or more wins, so that teams from this point on don’t say “Well, at least we’re not as bad as the 2010 Orioles.”

If one to were diagnose the troubles with the Orioles’ bad start, or to make excuses for it, the list is probably twice as big as the number of wins Baltimore might expect this year. The team has had no offense what so ever, no legitimate ace of the pitching staff, injuries to its lead off hitter and closer, regression on the part of some of its young players, and some poor free agent signings (Garrett Atkins, Mike Gonzalez).

The Orioles have also had a brutal schedule to play. All but five of the teams the Orioles have played this year have winning records (Royals, Indians, Mariners, Oakland, Washington), and minus the Indians and the Royals, the other three teams had winning records when they went up against the Orioles.

The O’s have also played more games in their division than any other AL East team this year, and with every other team in the division having not only a winning record but huge payrolls, the Orioles just have not been able to compete. They are 2-10 against the New York Yankees, 1-5 against Tampa Bay, 0-6 against the Blue Jays, and are 5-4 against the Red Sox this year due to a three-game sweep against Boston back in May.

It seems like the “Bizzaro World” for the Orioles, who before this long stretch of losing seasons, the Orioles were not only the best franchise in baseball statistically, they were the most successful team in professional sports.

There is another reason why the Orioles would like to follow the 2003 Tigers, who were able to escape history. It may be hard to say, “lets be like that team that won only 43 games, had the first 20-game loser in 60 years, and was outscored by 337 runs.”

The next season in 2004, the Tigers went on a 33-game improvement, finishing 72-90, the best improvement over the one season since the 1989 Orioles (54-107), who had the worst start ever going 0-21. But then it was two years after that the Tigers brought home a World Championship AL Pennant with 11 of the 25-man roster from 2003 still on the 2006 World Series team. This included three members of the pitching staff, two of which had the 19+ losses in the rotation in Mike Maroth and Jeremy Bonderman. Future All-Stars in Carlos Pena and Brandon Inge were also members of that team.

Carlos Pena

And with a lot of young talent on the 2010 Orioles, guys like Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta, Nick Markakis, and Adam Jones, this team could very well be like that young Tigers team that turned it around in two years. But the O’s have a bigger hill to climb facing the Yankees and the Red Sox for 50 games a year as opposed to the Indians and the Royals as of late.

But this year, it might be the only reason to watch the Orioles-to see if they do, or do not, make history.

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