Now that we’re one-third of the way through the season, it’s time to ask: Is this the worst Mariners team?
A friend on Facebook suggested it might be after a recent 18-4 loss to Minnesota. That capped a three-week stretch in which the M’s also lost by scores of 15-1, 14-1, 11-0, 14-1 and 11-2.
At first, I shook off the idea quicker than Felix Hernandez stubbornly does when the catcher calls for something other than his 87 mph fastball.
But this friend is an old-school journalist – and a former M’s beat writer – who isn’t prone to hyperbole.
Since their improbable 13-2 start, which is now a distant memory, the M’s have dropped 29 of their past 39 games. That’s a .256 winning percentage over that stretch (or shall we say a .744 losing percentage?).
If the Mariners stay on that pace, they’ll win 27 games over the final two-thirds of the season. That would leave them with a 50-112 record, six games worse than the 1978 team that set a franchise record for futility. Of course, the 1978 M’s were only in their second season, so they get a pass.
General manager Jerry Dipoto didn’t mention his “step-back” plan was going to put the M’s in contention for the No. 1 overall draft pick next year, but the chances are increasing daily.
And if Dipoto deals away sluggers like Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce before the July 31 trade deadline, there’s no guarantee this club continues to play .256 ball.
That’s right, it could get worse.
But is it the worst? We’ll know by the end of September.
Here’s a look at the five Mariners clubs to lose 100 games in a season and some of their lowlights:
Record: 56-104 (.350 winning percentage, 35 games back of division winner)
Opening Day lineup: 2B Jose Baez, LF Bruce Bochte, 1B Dan Meyer, DH Lee Stanton, CF Ruppert Jones, 3B Bill Stein, RF John Hale, C Bob Stinson, SS Craig Reynolds, RHP Glenn Abbott.
Lowlights: DH Leroy Stanton, who hit a team-high 27 homers and drove in 90 runs in the M’s expansion season of 1977, batted .182 with three HRs and 24 RBIs. … Opening Day starter Glenn Abbott went 7-15 with a 5.27 ERA. He was one of five pitchers to lose 10 or more games, joining Paul Mitchell (8-14), Rick Honeycutt (5-11), Dick Pole (4-11) and Jim Colborn (3-10). … RHP Byron McLaughlin led the team with 87 strikeouts. The only other season the M’s didn’t have a pitcher reach triple-digits in strikeouts was the strike-shortened 1981 season. … The M’s hit 97 HRs, fewest in franchise history. … Also had team lows of 630 strikeouts and 20 saves. … LHP Shane Rawley allowed 104 hits and 43 earned runs, franchise records for a reliever that still stand. … Committed a franchise record seven errors in a game at Milwaukee. … The M’s lost 10 in a row from June 7-17.
Record: 59-103 (.364, 38 GB)
Opening Day lineup: 2B Julio Cruz, CF Rod Craig, LF Dan Meyer, 1B Bruce Bochte, DH Willie Horton, RF Joe Simpson, 3B Ted Cox, C Bob Stinson, SS Mario Mendoza, RHP Mike Parrott.
Lowlights: The M’s lost a team-record 58 road games. … RHP Mike Parrott got the victory on Opening Day, then lost his next 16 decisions. … Six pitchers lost 10 or more games. … LHP Rick Honeycutt, who was 10-17, was suspended by MLB for 10 days and fined $500 for taping a thumb tack to a finger on his glove hand to scuff the ball. … C Jerry Narron set a franchise single-game record with three passed balls, which has been tied twice since. … The M’s lost 12 in a row from July 26-Aug. 6. … Manager Darrell Johnson was fired with the team 39-65 and replaced by Maury Wills, whose lasting legacy with the M’s came early the next season when he was suspended after forcing the Kingdome groundkeepers to alter the length of the batter’s box.
Record: 60-102 (.370, 39 GB)
Opening Day lineup: LF Steve Henderson, 3B Manny Castillo, RF Al Cowens, DH Richie Zisk, CF Dave Henderson, 1B Pat Putnam, SS Todd Cruz, C Bud Bulling, 2B Julio Cruz, RHP Gaylord Perry.
Lowlights: RHP Gaylord Perry, who gave the M’s a dose of respectability when he won his 300th career game the previous season, was released in late June with a 3-10 record and 4.94 ERA in 16 starts. … Manager Rene Lachemann was fired with the team at 26-47 and was replaced by Del Crandall. … DH Richie Zisk ended his career by batting .242 with 12 HRs and 36 RBIs in 90 games. Zisk, acquired two years earlier in a 10-player trade with Texas, made headlines in his first spring training with Seattle when he was arrested for soliciting a prostitute. … Rookie LHP Matt Young lost 15 games despite setting a team record with 74 ER allowed (minimum of 200 innings pitched). … The M’s were shut out a franchise-record 15 times.
Record: 61-101 (.377, 39 GB)
Opening Day lineup: CF Ichiro Suzuki, 2B Jose Lopez, LF Raul Ibanez, 1B Richie Sexson, 3B Adrian Beltre, RF Brad Wilkerson, DH Jose Vidro, C Kenji Johjima, SS Yuniesky Betancourt, LHP Erik Bedard.
Lowlights: After coming off their first winning season since 2003, this team was expected to contend for a playoff spot. Instead, it flopped. That cost general manager Bill Bavasi his job in mid-June. … Bedard (6-4) was the only M’s starter with a winning record. He was placed on the injured list July 10 with stiffness in his left shoulder and missed the rest of the season. … Manager John McLaren was fired with the team 25-47 and was replaced by Jim Riggleman. … The M’s went 0-11 on a September trip, matching a team record for worst road swing. … Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey set a franchise record with four wild pitches in a game.
Record: 61-101 (.377, 29 GB)
Opening Day lineup: RF Ichiro Suzuki, 2B Chone Figgins, 1B Casey Kotchman, LF Milton Bradley, DH Ken Griffey Jr., 3B Jose Lopez, CF Franklin Gutierrez, C Rob Johnson, SS Jack Wilson, RHP Felix Hernandez.
Lowlights: C Kenji Johjima exercised an opt-out clause in his contract and decided to return to play in his native Japan. … The M’s made perhaps their worst free-agent signing, inking Figgins to a four-year deal worth $36 million before the season. … This team had the worst offense in franchise history, setting lows in runs (513), slugging percentage (.339), total bases (1,836), extra-base hits (344) and RBIs (485). … Griffey announced his retirement in early June, shortly after reportedly missing a pinch-hitting appearance because he was asleep in the clubhouse. … Prized offseason acquisition LHP Cliff Lee, who was 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts, was traded to Texas in early July in a six-player swap. Unbeknownst to the M’s front office, one of the pitchers Seattle got in return, Josh Lueke, had been arrested for rape the previous year in the minors. … Manager Don Wakamutsu was fired with the team 42-70 and was replaced by Daren Brown.