The Worst: Second Round Results

The 1954 A’s were so terrible the club was sold and moved out of Philadelphia the following season. But even the sale could not be done without controversy.

The second round of the Worst of the Worst tournament brought a number of surprises and firsts for the tournament. The premise is to determine the worst team in modern baseball history by setting up a 16-team tournament which each team plays 50 seasons against their opponent. The winner that advances in the tournament is the team that loses the most of the fifty seasons.

  1. No. 1 seed 1962 New York Mets vs. No. 8 1979 Oakland A’s
  2. No. 4 1932 Boston Red Sox vs. No. 12 1954 Philadelphia Athletics
  3. No. 3 1916 Philadelphia Athletics vs. No. 11 1942 Philadelphia Phils
  4. No. 2 2003 Detroit Tigers vs. No. 7 1939 St. Louis Browns

During the first round, I provided a brief history of each of these teams so we will jump right into the results, and naturally in a loser’s tournament, upsets abound. The favorite lovable losers, the Mets, were eliminated by Oakland, 16-34. The margin was a little closer than the scoreboard shows as the Mets averaged 84 wins against 78 losses. The No. 2 seed Tigers were edged out by the slimmest of margins, 23-24-3. The Browns and Tigers were separated by a mere 86 runs (4,007 – 4,093 or 1.72 runs/season) in 50 seasons of play. Another tournament first took place in the ’32 Red Sox and ’54 A’s match-up. The Athletics lost all 50 seasons by an average of 60 games to 93 (I run a 154-game season for the pre-1961 teams; 162 games if a post-1961 team is involved). Here the margin was maybe even worse than the scoreboard as the 1954 A’s won an average of 61 games against an average of 93 losses. In short, the 1954 Philadelphia Athletics put up the worst performance to date in this tournament In the finale, I fully expected the Athletics’ franchise to place three teams in the Final Four, but their National League brethren from Philadelphia, the Phillies of 1942, beat the 1916 vintage of the Athletics by losing 35 of the 50 seasons. The Phils averaged only 74 wins vs. 80 losses.

All of the top seeds fail to advance as the 1979 Oakland A’s will face their 1954 counterparts and the 1939 Browns will face the 1942 Phils. With their most recent performance, the 1954 Athletics are the current favorites to take the title of the Worst of the Worst, but as this round showed, these clubs can’t do anything right!

Worst of the Worst tournament results

1935 Braves vs. 1942 Phils

Babe Ruth isn’t likely thrilled about being in The Worst of the Worst tournament, but he may be even more miffed at his club’s early departure.
The Worst of the Worst tournament continues with the final match-up of the first round. The sixth-seed Boston Braves of 1935 will play the 1942 Philadelphia Phillies, the 11-seed, in 50 154-game seasons; the loser to advance to face the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics. This series pairs two teams so bad their seasons resulted in name changes. After an embarrassing 38-115 campaign (the second worst won-loss percentage behind potential second-round opponent, 1916 Athletics). Owner Judge Emil Fuchs signed legend Babe Ruth as a player-assistant manager, but soon into the season, Ruth learned life as a Brave was not what he signed up for. Ruth retired on June 1, but not before one of his more memorable games in which he hit the final three home runs of his career at Forbes Field on May 25. Wally Berger was the lone highlight for the Braves’ season as he led the National League in home runs (34) and RBI’s (130). In an attempt to perhaps shed the nightmare of the 1935 season, Boston changed its’ name from Braves to Bees beginning with the new ownership in 1936. This name change lasted until 1940 when afterward the club reverted back to the Braves.

Like the ’35 Braves, the Philadelphia Phillies were in the final year of ownership. Gerald Nugent took over the club upon the death of William Baker in 1930. Under Nugent, the Phillies did finish over .500 in 1932, the only time the franchise did so in the thirty years from 1918 – 1948. But in 1942, the Phillies set a franchise worst record with a 42-109 mark. The club was in such financial straits that it had to borrow money from the National League to take part in spring training in 1943. That spring, the club was sold to William D. Cox. Allegedly, Nugent discussed selling the Phillies to Bill Veeck who intended to bring in Negro League stars to revive the Phillies. When Commissioner Kennesaw Landis learned of these plans, he pressured National League president Ford Frisk to quash the deal.

The 1942 Phils (the team wore “Phils” on their uniforms for this season only), under manager Hans Lobert, finished 18 12 games behind the seventh-place Boston Braves. Home attendance was a sad 230,183 for the season. On September 11, 1942, only 393 people showed up at Shibe Park to watch the Phillies lose to the Reds. The team featured only two capable major leaguers, first baseman Nick Etten and left fielder Danny Litwhiler. Etten and Litwhiler were the only Phillies with an OPS+ over 100. The team’s OPS+ was a league worst 85. They were last in runs, home runs, walks, stolen bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Their 395 runs in 151 games was the lowest total of any major league team since 1909, and has been by far the lowest in any non-strike-shortened season ever since. They were shut out 16 times, and scored just one run 36 times which equated to scoring no more than a single run in over one-third of their games. Remarkably, the pitching was likely even worse. 22-year-old Tommy Hughes was the only capable performance, ERA+ of 108 in 253 innings. No other pitcher with more than 20 IP reached an ERA+ over 90. They were last in complete games, shutouts, saves, walks allowed, runs allowed, and ERA. In the field, they were last in errors and fielding percentage, and next-to-last in defensive efficiency. Like Boston, the new owners in 1943 wanted the club to be called the Blue Jays rather than Phillies. However, this change did not catch on and by the end of World War II, the Philadelphia National League club was back to being the Phillies.

In the final tournament of the first round, the Boston Braves won 31 of the 50 seasons played against the 1942 Phils. Philadelphia won 16 seasons, and there were 3 seasons where both clubs finished 77-77. Boston’s Wally Burger (.886 OPS) and Nick Etten (.830 OPS) were the hitting stars over the 50 seasons. Babe Ruth finished with an interesting slashline of .187/.422/.489 in a pinch-hitting role, averaging 80 AB/season. Tommy Hughes was the pitching star with a 2.73 ERA and 771 wins.

The second round will feature a Philadelphia match-up of the 1916 Athletics vs. the 1942 Phils. See the link below for the remaining three second-round pairings.

Worst of the Worst Tournament results

1916 Athletics vs. 1998 Marlins

The next pairing in the Worst of the Worst tournament is an interesting match-up between teams that won world champions then plummeted to the lowest depths the following season. The 1916 Philadelphia Athletics won the world’s championship in 1913, and the American League pennant in 1914 before being upset by the “Miracle Braves” in the World’s Series. The loss prompted Connie Mack to sell off his team and embrace a youth movement, one of the first of such approaches in modern baseball. Though Mack assured the public that the team was building for the future and that any short-term pain would be to the long-term benefit of the franchise. The short term pain was severe, and the long term benefit would not appear for another decade when the club climbed out of the second division to finish second with a record of 88-64 in 1925.

The 1915 A’s lost 109 games, and in 1916, the loss total grew to 117 games which calculated to a .235 winning percentage, the lowest in modern baseball history. The Athletics finished 40 games back — of the next worst team, the Washington Senators. Many experts would place the 1916 vintage of the Athletics as perhaps the one-seed in this tournament. The club did have a Hall of Famer, Napoleon Lajoie, playing in his final season at the age of 41. The major contributors to the Mackmen’s futile efforts were outfielders Amon Strunk (5.5 WAR for 1916) and Wally Schang (3.0). The staff was fronted by Bullet Joe Bush (5.2 WAR). From there, the drop-off on the roster at the plate and on the mound was substantial. The club’s shortstop, rookie Whitey Witt, committed 79 errors! The team committed a total of 314 for an average of more than 2 errors per game! The pitching staff issued a league high 715 walks and only 575 strikeouts for an abysmal 0.805 strikeout-to-walk rate.

The 1998 Florida Marlins were also another “first-to-worst” club that followed in the footsteps of Mack’s 1914-1915 Athletics. The Marlins defeated the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 World Series to become the first wild card winner of the Fall Classic. But in the offseason, the Marlins decided not to renew the contracts of Moises Alou, Jeff Conine, an original Marlin, staff ace Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, and closer Robb Nen. The remaining players either underachieved in 1998 or demanded to be traded. Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, and Jim Eisenreich were traded to the Dodgers in exchange for Mike Piazza, who five games later, was sent to the Mets for Preston Wilson and two minor leaguers. In the end, the fire sale was too much for manager Jim Leyland who left at season’s end to manage the Colorado Rockies.

The format of this tournament is for the two teams to play 50 full seasons, in this case, of 154 games, against one another. The number-three seed Philadelphia Athletics advance in this tournament by losing 44 of the 50 seasons. The Marlins lost only three seasons to the A’s, and remarkably, three seasons were tied. I say remarkably because often the margin of victory for the A’s was finishing 30+ games behind the Marlins. Despite this futility, the Athletics’ star players performed at top level in this round. Amos Strunk led all players with a 1.019 OPS for all 50 seasons. Wally Schang posted a .995 OPS in contrast to Florida’s best player, Gary Sheffield, reached .985 OPS. Bullet Joe Bush led all pitchers with a 3.97 ERA and 861 wins. But the drop off, as in reality, was steep in this tournament. Athletics’ pitchers Jack Nabors (5.21 ERA in average of 37 GS per season), Elmer Myers (5.21 in average of 32 starts/season), and Tom Sheenan (5.88 ERA in average of 18 starts/season). The relief corps were atrocious and often the downfall of the club. Reliever Marsh Williams posted a career ERA of 8.99 in an average of 50 appearances/season! The Philadelphia staff walked a total of 10,023 Marlins and struck out 9414 for a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 0.939. I’ll have to double-check if this is the worst pitching performance in the tournament to date. The A’s will face the loser of the final first round match-up of the 1935 Boston Bees and the 1942 Philadelphia Phillies.

Worst of the Worst Tournament results

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