Monday, October 02, 2006


The Winner ... er, Loser?

When I began this site, last July, I really didn't think it was possible that someone could outdo the Kansas City Royals in suckiness. I thought the Pirates had a shot, and as August dragged into September, and I witness the Pirates and the Cubs play each other, then I thought, hey, any of these teams could do it.

But alas, I was wrong. There is only one team who could possibly be outplayed by the Royals. That team is the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. With 101 losses and barely hitting the 60-win threshold with 61 wins, Tampa Bay wins The Race to the Bottom. Congratulations on such a fine achievement!

The Royals gave them a run for it, losing 100 games. This is their fourth season losing 100 games or more. But you weren't the worst team in baseball. And hey—Detroit nearly busted the Mets' record a few years back and look where they are? Getting swept by you and still making it into the playoffs. Keep the faith!

The Pirates managed to outplay the Cubs, finishing 67-95 to the Cubs' 66-96. Neither team lost 100 games, so I suppose that's some sort of achievement.

When I first started this blog, I made some predictions as to how the main three teams would do, not even factoring in a perennial crap machine like the Devil Rays. Let's see how I fared.

Kansas City Royals

What I Thought in July: I predicted they'd lose 100-102 games, which they did; I also predicted that they'd have a better a record than Pittsburgh. As we like to say in Chicago, there's always next year.

How about Next Year? I do think they'll do better. Historically, things aren't in their favor, but they've played much better than anyone expected in the second half and their trade-deadline fire sale got them some much-needed new blood. The new manager seems to have a vision; I hope that vision includes winning more than 62 games.

Pittsburgh Pirates

What I Thought in July: I thought they'd end up the worst out of all these teams, and they finished fourth-to-last, ahead of the Cubs, the Royals, and the Devil Rays. To which I say: Well played, Pittsburgh Pirates, well played.

How about Next Year? After a very rough July, the Pirates turned it around (well, as much as a 66-96 team can turn a season around). They got rid of some dead weight at the trade deadline and seem to be headed in a better direction. They'll still probably be in the bottom of the NL Central.

Chicago Cubs

What I Thought in July: Oh holy hell did I get this one wrong. Despite their record, I think the Cubs might actually be the worst team in this bunch. They couldn't capitilize on anything, and losing Zambrano for awhile didn't help either. This was the season to test the Wrigley faithful.

How about Next Year? Both Andy McPhail and Dusty Baker are g-o-n-e, GONE! So that's the good news. The bad? The interim president is the Tribune's marketing director; it appears that craptastic Jim Hendry is here to stay. You win some, you lose some. That's the Cubbie way.

See you in February for spring training! In the meantime, go Packers!

Thursday, September 14, 2006


The Other Race to 60: We Have a Winner!

Hearty congratulations to the Pittsburgh Pirates. In a reversal from earlier predictions, and much of the team's earlier playing, the Pirates are the first of this seasons' truly terrible teams to reach 60 wins.

Nothing could have surprised me more—this is a team that was swept by the Royals. And yet, they've taken themselves out of the bottom three. Hats off to you, gentlemen! Hats off.


Read any good blogs lately?

It's been a few weeks. Sorry. Sometimes real life (busy work schedule, deaths in the family, whatnot) gets in the way of nonprofit blogging, and everyone suffers. So anyway, we've had some changes in the lineup in the Race to the Bottom, which is heating up in a way I didn't imagine possible.

First: The Kansas City Royals have managed to hold on to the very bottom slot, with a mere 56 wins and 90 losses. The second half has been far better than the first ... but might they be out done?

In second-to-last, we have the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. You can't ever discount Tampa Bay in this situation. They are having so much trouble selling out that my parents were able to exchange the tickets I bought them for another night without any trouble. That shit never happens in baseball.

Then there's the Cubs. Good Lord, what a team. Six errors and they squeak out a win. The Pirates only have one more win than the Cubs, but they swept them at the end of August and then went 3-1 a week later at Wrigley. If any team deserves to be at the bottom, it's the Lovable Losers.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


The Biggest Loser: Your Quick Reference

We're getting close to the end of the season. October is only five weeks away, and our boys are neck-and-neck. For your up-to-the-minutedailysort-of-weeklywell-ok-whenever-I-post loser-tracking needs, please check this section.

Who the Hell's It Going to Be (in last place): Currently Kansas City, with 46 wins. To quote Yahoo! Sports, in baseball's long history, only two teams have scored ten times in one inning and lost. (We'll be getting to the other team to achieve such great heights in a moment.) So KC isn't as bad as they were, say, three weeks ago. But for every good game they have (such as their sweep over Boston) they follow it up by losing eight of the next twelve games.

The Penultimate: Oh, Pirates. You are so sad, in your beautiful stadium that depression built, with your 49 wins, and half your team traded elsewhere. You just keep trying, and while you did sweep St. Louis, things haven't been going so well for you. Will they go so badly that you "beat" Kansas City this year? Well, it's been fifteen years since you blew a game in which you scored ten runs in the first inning ... so probably not.

And in third, to show: I was going to say the Devil Rays would actually outdo the Cubs, but the lovable losers have skidded, big time. Four games in a row, and Dusty Baker is still their coach. I say Cubs. I gotta be honest: I'm not totally sure they're going to make it to 60 Ws. Yes, I know they currently have 53 wins. And yes, I know that they're playing Pittsburgh twice in the next two weeks. Those kind of advantages haven't helped them before!


The Lowlights: Where's Walter Matthau When You Need Him?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Major League Baseball at its Most Triple A: A Report from Stephen Himes

Stephen Himes is Race to the Bottom's special correspondent on pain. He is an expert on this matter, given that he lives in Kansas and also attends law school. Further, he is a lifelong Kansas City Royals fan who has witnessed his team—in person—on multiple occasions this year. For this he demands your respect.

This is his first report, on a very special meeting between two basement dwellers.

Sabermetricians like to say that baseball regresses to the mean—in other words, the nature of the game gravitates teams to .500. A very good baseball team (say, 90-72) wins 55 percent of the time, whereas a very good football team (10-6 to 12-4) wins 60 to 75 percent of the time. The opposite is also true: A baseball team winning just 35 percent of its games is doing something extraordinary; a team winning only 30 percent of its games is performing at an historically bad level. That team has to be actively, aggressively inept to counteract baseball's natural tendency to regress to the mean.

That's where we stood on June 22 Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The hometown Royals, at 22-49, were threatening the 2003 Detroit Tigers, 1962 New York Mets, 1935 Boston Braves, the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics, et al. The visiting Pirates were the worst team in the National League, losers of seven straight. This was the final game of a series between the two worst teams in the majors, with the Royals poised for their second series sweep of the season. This was Major League Baseball at its most Triple A.

Sabermetricians like to say that statistical analysis helps you understand what's happening on the field beyond what your eyes can see. This game had 9 unearned runs on 4 errors, 15 runners left on base, 13 walks, 3 hit batsmen, 2 wild pitches, and 1 passed ball. That's a bad baseball game, even if its recorded in your high school JV team scorebook.

Still, there's one play that I saw with my own eyes that demonstrates beyond statistics how bad these two teams really are. In the sixth inning, with Jason Bay on second and Freddie Sanchez on first and no outs, Craig Wilson launches a major league pop-up (if you could call anything in this game "major league") to shallow right field. Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek floated back for the ball to make the routine play. Then Grudz starts waving his arms and yelling that he lost it in the afternoon sun. The umpire doesn't call the infield fly, and the ball lands behind Grudz. Bay and Sanchez, still standing on their bags, kind of half-heartedly run. Grudz picks up the ball, fires it shorstop Angel Berroa and then to third baseman Mark Teahan for the double play.

The production team at The K might as well have played the Benny Hill theme they use for the hot dog derby. The play is remarkable for a few reasons:

  1. Grudzielanek couldn't even show enough control over a routine play to trigger the infield fly rule;
  2. the fact that Grudz got an out on the play kept his errorless streak intact, eventually breaking hometown hero Frank White's Royals record;
  3. Bay and Sanchez just gave up on the play, and had no idea what to do when they could have avoided getting doubled off;
  4. It is, plain and simple, the apotheosis of two teams that play bad enough to completely reverse baseball's regression to the mean. If the box score is a quantitative sample demonstrating how bad these teams are, then this play is a literary image of Pirate impotence—poetic rendering of Royal tragedy.

The atmosphere at The K almost narrated the badness on the field. Many of the 13,153 diehard fans sat through a forty-five minute rain delay at the start of the game--many of us in the rain, because most people simply bought the $7 Hy-Vee View Level seats and just rushed down to the field box while the ushers hid in the concourse. In fact, I screwed Royals owner and former Wal-Mart CEO David Glass out of $9 by parking across I-70 in the Days Inn lot, trekking over the George Brett Bridge in a steady downpour to avoid the parking fee. This was the last mid-week afternoon game of the season, so our dampness eventually became steam in the Kansas City heat.

Royals fans were really steamed when shortstop and team goat Angel Berroa dropped a pop-up with two outs, allowing two runs to score. Only true-blue Royals fans came to this game, and this was the breaking point. Cheapseaters were behind the dugout, many of us on afternoon benders and wearing damp clothes. The boos rained down. By VORP, a sabermetrician's way of valuing a player's performance against a constant, Berroa is the worst everyday player in the American League. We didn't need to calculate Berroa's VORP, PMLVr, or MLVr to know that, with all his botched grounders, swinging strike threes in the dirt, baserunning brainfarts, and two-run dropped pop-ups, Berroa has to go.

Perhaps new General Manager Dayton Moore will get the message that Angel must go. The flurry of moves Moore made at the trading deadline indicates that, in the least, he knows a team that allows four unearned runs and throws four wild pitches can only beat one team: the Pittsburgh Pirates. And the Royals won't see them for three more years.

This game seems so long ago, but the fact remains that these are the two worst teams in baseball. Both were big sellers at the deadline, and taking into account the value of talent right now in the organization and the vision of the general managers, it looks like the Pirates are going to win the race to the bottom.

Any team that gets swept at The K deserves nothing more.

Monday, August 14, 2006


The Lowlights: A Look Back to July 31 and Bold Predictions

Here's an assessment of the Race to the Bottom since the trade deadline.

None of these teams are going to make it easy for me, are they? Now, a few bold predictions:

The Cubs: Zambrano is pitching tonight, so they'll pretend to be a real baseball team whilst visiting Houston and reach 50 wins. But will they triumph over Tampa Bay in the long run?

The Royals: They're at the White Sox. This isn't going to go well. If I have one piece of advice for the boys in blue, it's to make sure their third base coach is wearing a redneck-and-beer repellent helmet.

The Pirates: Things were really ugly the last time they were in Milwaukee, and the chorizo is gone now, too. I say they hit 75 losses before Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


The Comeback

Race from the Bottom had to take a little time off, go on the DL for a week or so (or, you know, I had a major project due at work. Same difference). Despite the presence of Google AdSense, this site doesn't keep my dog in pretty hats, but my job does, so you know—priorities.

Since last we spoke, the Royals have gone on a six-game losing streak due to the unstoppableness that is the Twins, the Pirates have won twice (once against the Cubs), and the Cubs have reached 47 wins, putting their place on this site in relative danger, even though they lost to both the Pirates and the Diamondbacks in one week. So it's pretty much been business as usual.

This week, however, we hold some tickets to excitement. First, I would like to introduce Stephen Himes, RttB's special correspondent for pain. Himes knows pain intimately; for one thing, he lives in Kansas and is in law school. For another, he is a lifelong Kansas City Royals fan and has actually witnessed this season's crapitude in person. For this, he deserves a medal. Or a cold beer. We'll get to Stephen's first report in an upcoming post.

Second, I received something special in the mail today. It brings me great joy, and it is only a month away. Behold:

It. is. on.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


An Open Letter to Deadspin

Dear Deadspin,

I am sorry that my actions in your comments thread, noting that I saw a munchkin in San Diego when someone mistakenly reported that the Royals had the last one in their stadium, resulted in the passive-aggressive letter that you had to deal with today. I realize this hasn't caused you too much pain, but having been a journalist in a former life, it's a big pain in the ass to get letters like that.

So even though you referred to the commenter who mentioned the Other Munchkin and started this whole brouhaha as "he" and I'm a girl, I still forgive you. It is the least I can do to allow Munchkingate to end, and bring our nation the peace it deserves.

Your pal,



Manic Depression as a Baseball Team

Being a Cub must be the most schizophrenic, manic experience in baseball. At least with the Pirates and the Royals, you know what you're in for, but the Cubs? Make. No. Sense. Please join me on a fantastical trip through the last week in Cubdom.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 26: Mark Prior, now 0-8, is six innings into a no-hitter when Dusty Baker pulls him. Cubs lose 1-0 in ten innings to the Mets.

THURSDAY, JULY 27: The Cubs fly home, win 5-4 against far-more-talented rival, the St. Louis Cardinals.

FRIDAY, JULY 28: Chicago sends eleven batters to the plate in one inning, hitting for the cycle, to nearly lose it all. Please note, I said nearly: Cubs 6, Cardinals 5.

SATURDAY, JULY 29: Everyone except Greg Maddux forgets how to play baseball. Somehow Cubs are left standing at the end, with a score of 4-2.

SUNDAY, JULY 30: Carlos Zambrano wins his ninth straight decision as the Cubs sweep the Cardinals. If you told me a month ago that the sentence "[PITCHER] wins ninth straight decision as the [TEAM] sweep the Cardinals" would appear in this blog regarding the Cubs, I would have called you a liar.

MONDAY, JULY 31: GM Jim Hendry trades Todd Walker (no surprise) and their second-best pitcher, Greg Maddux, for a hotshot 26-year-old infielder with back problems. Team responds by losing 15-4 to the fucking Diamondbacks.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 1: Four players each hit home runs as Cubs pound Diamondbacks 9-3. Jim Hendry tells the Tribune he might try to get Maddux back in free agency next year.


Trading Down: The Pirates

The trade deadline has come and gone, and with it went the entire Pittsburgh Pirates team. The management has decided to bring in the Dunder Mifflin softball team, all the way from Scranton, to finish out the season. Chances are, they won't be any worse than the the Pirates without Kip Wells, Sean Casey, that one guy with the 6.63 ERA. Brian Cashman isn't done yet—he's trying to get waivers to rid the team of Joe Randa and Jeromy Burnitz; only then, flush with cold hard Oliver Perez cash, will he be able to lead the Pittsburgh Children's Show Choir in a rousing rendition of "Big Spender."

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