The 2019 Major League Baseball regular season came to a close with four teams at 100-plus losses (a record) and four teams reaching the 100-win plateau (also a record). A large number of teams entered the season without any plans to win right away — call it tanking or rebuilding if you want. Coupled with the fact that baseball attendance — down for the fourth consecutive year — is being discussed relentlessly, it’s not a good look for the growth of the sport.
With the Cubs in 2016 and Astros in 2017 providing a blueprint of how being a terrible team for years can lead to success, that’s apparently the only route many of these teams are willing to take these days. It leads to some really awful baseball. That, in turn, leads to the powers racking up the wins and giving us excess.
Let’s look at the Cleveland Indians as an example. It’s easy to think that this season was unfair for them. They won over 90 games and missed the playoffs. Without any context you might think that’s a really successful season for a team that was left on the outside looking in.
Apply the full context, though. The Indians went 30-8 against the Tigers and Royals. That leaves them 63-61 when they don’t play two 100-loss teams. That’s .508 baseball, which is a full season pace of 82-80. Are they really a great team that deserves to be playing in October? Again, look at the context. They benefited from playing in a division with two historically bad teams.
The bad teams being so dreadful changes everything.
- The Royals lost 103 games this season and they’ll be picking fourth in the draft. Only three Royals teams have ever been worse.
- The Orioles lost 108 and don’t even have the top pick. They’ve lost 223 games in the last two seasons and that’s one of the worst two-year stretches in MLB history.
- The Marlins lost 105 and have to settle for the third pick. This is their second-worst team ever.
- Only five teams in history have ever lost more games than the Tigers’ 114.
The four 100-loss teams ties a record with 2002 being the only other year with four 100-loss ballclubs.
Five more teams lost at least 90!
That’s an awful lot of wins to spread around among the top teams and, sure enough,.
The Dodgers set a club record with 106 wins. The Astros set a club record with 107. The Twins won 101 games and don’t even get to host the ALDS. The Yankees won 103 and have the third-best record in baseball! The Rays won 96 and have to play the Wild Card Game on the road.
This is total madness.
Yes, powerhouse teams are good for October baseball and we’re in for a fun month, but far too many teams were playing in front of empty houses through much of the season and it got even worse in the last two months. Attendance is down for a reason. Something needs to be done to encourage teams to try and turn things around on the fly without completely gutting teams.