List of worst Major League Baseball season records
Listed below are the Major League Baseball teams with the worst season won-lost records, as determined by winning percentage (.300 or less), minimum 140 games played.
The following teams finished the season with a 0.300 record or worse.
|1962||New York Mets||National||40||120||.250||60½|
|1898||St. Louis Browns||National||39||111||.260||63½|
|1932||Boston Red Sox||American||43||111||.279||64|
|1911||St. Louis Browns||American||45||107||.296||56½|
|1937||St. Louis Browns||American||46||108||.299||56|
1898 St. Louis Browns and 1899 Cleveland Spiders
The 1899 Cleveland Spiders own the worst single-season record of all time (minimum 120 games) and for all eras (with one exception), finishing at 20–134 (.130 percentage) in the final year of the National League's 12–team era in the 1890s; for comparison, this would project to 21-141 under the current schedule, and Pythagorean expectation based on the Spiders' results and the current 162 game schedule would translate to a record of 25-137. The only major league team to do worse, the 1884 Wilmington Quicksteps of the Union Association, played only 18 games, compiling a 2–16 record and a .111 winning percentage, before the team dropped out of the Association and folded; for comparison, this would project to 18-144 under the current schedule, and Pythagorean expectation based on the Quicksteps' results and the current 162 game schedule would translate to a record of 17-145.
With shorter schedules during much of the 19th century, it was much more common for teams to finish with sub-.300 winning percentages. For example, the 1876 Cincinnati Reds (not the same franchise as the modern-day Reds) went 9–56 for a .138 percentage, which would project to 22-140 under the current schedule, and Pythagorean expectation based on the Reds results and the current 162 game schedule would translate to a record of 23-139. The National League was playing a standard 154-game schedule by 1899.
The Cleveland Spiders had had a fair amount of success in the 1890s, with seven straight winning seasons from 1892 to 1898 and a Temple Cup victory in 1895. Meanwhile, the once four-time American Association champion St. Louis Browns had fallen to a then-all-time low of 39–111 in 1898. But the Spiders ownership, the Robison brothers, bought the Browns in time for the 1899 season, creating a conflict-of-interest situation which was later outlawed. On the eve of the season, they traded almost all of Cleveland's good players to St. Louis for very little in return, with respectable results for St. Louis and disastrous results for Cleveland.
The 1899 Spiders set the major league record for most consecutive losses in a season (24, from July 26 to September 16), and had six losing streaks of 10 games or more. The Spiders lost 40 of their last 41 games, finishing 84 games behind the 1899 National League champion Brooklyn Dodgers and 35 games behind the second-last place Washington Senators. They lost 27 games in September, a record for the most games lost in a month until the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics went 2–28 in August. Due to paltry attendances, the Spiders played 112 games on the road, and lost 101 of them, a record, which is unbreakable under the current MLB scheduling rules (which allow a maximum of 81 road games).
The 1899 Browns, renamed the "Perfectos" and staffed with all the best players from the 1898 Spiders (six of the Spiders' eight starting position players and four starting pitchers, including the great Cy Young) would improve by a whopping 44½ games, from 39–111 to 84–67. However, all St. Louis did ultimately was to trade places with Cleveland in the standings. The Browns/Perfectos would be renamed the St. Louis Cardinals in 1900, and are unrelated to the American League St. Louis Browns that adopted the discarded nickname and also appear on this list.
After the 1899 season, the National League contracted from twelve to eight clubs, and the Spiders were one of four teams to fold, along with Baltimore, Louisville and Washington. Baltimore had also been stripped of its best players by Brooklyn in 1899, to somewhat less dramatic effect, but still enough to speed their demise. The American League soon arose to fill the void.
The Philadelphia Athletics were a good team in the early 1910s, winning American League pennants in 1913 and 1914 and the World Series in 1913. However, owner-manager Connie Mack felt that he was unable to pay his star players' salaries while the Federal League was in operation, and he sold or traded most of them after the 1914 World Series ended. The Athletics then finished in last place in 1915. In 1916, they went 36–117, including 13-64 on the road, and their .235 winning percentage was the lowest of any MLB team in the 20th century.
The 1935 Boston Braves featured Hall of Famers Rabbit Maranville (age 43) and Babe Ruth (age 40). Braves owner Emil Fuchs had promised Ruth an ownership stake in the Braves and a chance to manage the club in the near future, but had little intention of delivering either. Ruth retired on June 1, 1935, having hit .181 in 72 at-bats for the Braves, with six home runs (the last three all coming on the same day, May 25, 1935, at Pittsburgh). Fuchs, who had been plagued by financial problems for a decade, was forced to give up control of the Braves before the end of the season.
The 1939 Browns drew 386 fans to the park for a 7–4 home loss to Detroit on September 27.
The 1962 New York Mets were an expansion team created to fill the void caused when the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers left New York City after the 1957 season. The Mets, filled with castoffs like "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry as well as aging Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn and low-talent rookies such as Choo Choo Coleman, finished with the third-worst winning percentage in the modern era and the modern-era (1900-present) record for most losses. The Mets went on to finish last or next-to-last for seven years in a row, before they shocked the baseball world by winning the 1969 World Series.
The 2003 Tigers seemed like a sure bet to break the 1962 Mets' record for most losses when they stood at 38–118 after 156 games, but they won five of their last six to avoid ignominy. On September 27, in their next-to-last game, the Tigers came back from an 8–0 deficit to beat the Minnesota Twins 9–8 (the Twins, having just clinched the division, were resting their starters). When the Tigers won the season finale to avoid tying the record, they received a standing ovation from the crowd. Mike Maroth, a starting pitcher for the 2003 Detroit Tigers, went 9–21 and became the first pitcher to lose 20 games in a season since Brian Kingman dropped 20 games for the 1980 Oakland Athletics. Ramón Santiago of the Tigers became only the 12th Triple Crown loser (a player who finishes last in all of the three Triple Crown categories) in modern MLB history. One baseball statistician described the Tigers as possibly "the worst team of all time without a good excuse," as nearly every other team on the list was a first-year expansion team or had been reduced to minor-league status.
Three years after losing 119 games, the Detroit Tigers went 95–67 and won their 10th American League pennant, before losing the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Players common to the 2003 and 2006 Tigers teams included Brandon Inge, Ramón Santiago (who spent 2004 and 2005 with the Seattle Mariners), Craig Monroe, Dmitri Young (released in September 2006), Omar Infante, Mike Maroth, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, Jamie Walker, Wilfredo Ledezma, and Fernando Rodney.
- 1939 Browns game log
- September 27, 2003 Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers Box Score and Play by Play - Baseball-Reference.com
- Pitchers with 20 or More Losses - Baseball-Reference.com
- The SABR Baseball List and Record Book: Baseball's Most Fascinating Records and Unusual Statistics. Society for American Baseball Research. 2007. p. 141.
- "2003 Detroit Tigers Baseball Graphs Review". BaseballGraphs.com. Retrieved September 26, 2008.
- Statistics and game logs at Baseball Reference
- "The 1899 Cleveland Spiders: Baseball's Worst Team" article by David Fleitz
- "Nothing worse than the 1899 Cleveland Spiders" ESPN article by Rob Neyer. Neyer's 10 worst teams of all time.
- Neyer, Rob, and Eddie Epstein. Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time. Norton, 2000, 384 p.
- Excerpt from Chapter 8 ("The Worst Teams of All Time") of Neyer and Epstein's Baseball Dynasties.
- On a Clear Day They Could See Seventh Place: Baseball's Worst Teams, by George Robinson. Profiles of several of the teams on this list.
- MISFITS! Baseball's Worst Ever Team, by J. Thomas Hetrick. About the 1899 Spiders.