Last night, the 2013 Houston Astros became the 20th team of the 2000s to lose 100 games. This is an impressive achievement. Lots of baseball teams are bad, but to reach that 100-loss plateau, particularly with a week-and-a-half left in the season, is noteworthy, if not necessarily commendable. (The Marlins, at 55-96 right now, will likely join the Astros in a few days.)
It's easier to lose 100 games than it is to win that many. Only 14 teams since 2000 have won 100 games, with only three (the 2008 Angels, the 2009 Yankees and the 2011 Phillies) since 2005. The Astros lost 100 games last season, 107 to be exact, and they need to go at least 4-7 in their last 11 games to avoid being even worse this year. As it is, they've become only the second team this century to lose 100 games three consecutive seasons; the 2004-06 Kansas City Royals pulled off that gruesome feat.
I'm not sure the Astros are going to have much historical significance, though. They're bad, but they're not tragically, all-time bad, and there's at least a point to all this losing: There are smart people in charge of the Astros, people who recognize that losing like this is in fact part of the plan. In a few years, it'll seem bizarre that the Astros were once this bad. This is their rock bottom, but it is not the rock bottom. Though this is close:
The rock bottom happened a decade ago. I'm not sure enough has been made of the fact that the 2003 Detroit Tigers -- the worst baseball team of my lifetime -- are celebrating their 10-year anniversary this year. Those Tigers went 43-119, the second-most losses in baseball history. The site Motor City Bengals has been reminiscing about the 2003 Tigers all season, but otherwise, there hasn't been much love given to that awful, awful team. With the Tigers just a few days away from clinching the American League Central -- and with one of their best chances in 20 years to win the World Series this year -- it seemed worthwhile to take a look back at that team. You can't realize how good you have it until you remember how far you've come. And, boy howdy, have the Tigers come a long way.
So, some fun facts.
- The 2003 Tigers were considerate enough not to get anybody's hopes up: They lost their first nine games, and 17 of their first 18.
- Opening Day at Comerica Park that year: A sellout!
- One of the main reasons for the sellout was the excitement of hiring Tigers legend Alan Trammell as manager. When the Tigers lost their first game 3-1 to the Twins, Trammell said he wouldn't keep the lineup card commemorating his first game "I'm going to keep it when we win," Trammell said. "I hope I forget about this one real quick." It would take a week.
- The Tigers only had a winning record against one team: The San Diego Padres, whom they took two out of three from during a June series.
- The team they played worst against? Take your pick. They were 4-15 against Minnesota, 1-8 against Boston, 1-8 against Seattle and 1-6 against Anaheim.
- To lose 119 games, you not only have to be bad, you have to be unlucky. The Tigers were certainly that: They were 3-13 in extra inning games.
- Alternately, they were 19-18 in one-run games, which, compared to the overall record, is "lucky." Had they been even slightly less lucky in one-run games, they'd be the all-time loss record holder.
- Highlight loss: June 1, 2003, against the Yankees at home. This was in the middle of Roger Clemens' quixotic fortnight of attempts to win his 300th game, and the Tigers fell behind 7-1 before scoring five runs off Clemens in the fifth and tying it again in the seventh. And then the game froze: Nobody scored until the 17th inning, when Alfonso Soriano and Jorge Posada homered. The Tigers lost in 17 innings, and David Wells got the win in his first relief appearance in 10 years. The game, because of the Yankees and Clemens, marked the biggest attendance at Comerica Park since it opened. It lasted five hours and 10 minutes.
- The Tigers lost 40 games by five runs or more.
- The start of the season was the most memorable slide, but it wasn't the longest one. The Tigers lost 11 in a row between August 13-23.
- Only one pitcher lost 20 games that season: Mike Maroth, who notched 21. Jeremy Bonderman lost 19, though, and Nate Cornejo helpfully added 17.
- The team leaders in saves: Franklyn German and Chris Mears, with five.
- Only one pitcher on the Tigers had an ERA under 3.00: Eric Eckenstahler, a LOOGY who put up a 2.87 mark in 15.2 innings. He would never pitch in the majors again after that season.
The Tigers' six primary starters? Cornejo (194.2 innings of a 4.67 ERA), Maroth (193.1, 5.73), Bonderman (162, 5.56), Adam Bernero (100.2, 6.08), Matt Roney (100.2, 6.08) and Gary Knotts (95, 6.04). Roney actually started 11 games for the Tigers and finished 12 (but none of the latter were his own starts).
- How much of an offensive season was 2003? The Tigers, a team that lost 119 games, had seven players reach double figures in homers: Dmitri Young, Craig Monroe, Carlos Pena, Eric Munson, Bobby Higginson, Shane Halter and Kevin Witt. The 2013 St. Louis Cardinals, who lead the National League in runs, have six.
- The Tigers scored 591 runs on the year. There are still 11 games to go in 2013, mind you, but that's still more than the breakthrough Pirates have scored this year.
- Players on that 2003 team still in the majors: Bonderman, Omar Infante, Cody Ross, Ramon Santiago, Andres Torres, Carlos Pena and Fernando Rodney.
- Of those seven players, three of them play for this year's Tigers: Bonderman, Infante and Santiago.
- The Tigers came into the last series of the season, a four-game stretch against the first-place Twins, at 40-118. All the Twins had to do was split to give the Tigers the modern-day record for losses, tying the 1962 Mets. And somehow, the Tigers rallied to win three out of four, avoiding history, somehow.
- The Tigers finished 47 games out of first place.
- The Tigers finished 52 games out of the wild card.
- The Tigers finished 20 games behind the Rays, the team with the second-worst record in baseball.
- Alan Trammell, sort of amazingly, lasted two more seasons as Tigers manager, losing 90 games in 2004 and 91 in 2005. He told reporters, "Really, I'm OK. I'm a big boy. I've been through enough that I understand how things are." He has not managed since and currently works as the bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He got in a fight with Don Mattingly earlier this year.
- He was replaced by Jim Leyland, who has managed the Tigers since then, reaching the World Series twice.
- Because of their awful season, the Tigers had the second overall pick in the 2004 MLB Draft. (Major League Baseball used to alternate the top pick between leagues.)
- With that pick, they selected Justin Verlander.
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