Bad teams are a fact of life, regardless of the sport you follow. There are different kinds of bad teams, of course; sometimes a team is bad for a month, a year, five years, 10, 20 or whatever the Cubs have had going on for the past century. Other teams are only bad for the moment, and some have no future at all. Right now, we don't know precisely who the bad teams of 2014 are. We might not know until the year is over. But we can look at the teams that have stumbled out of the gate and examine whether or not their currently futility is likely to continue.
The Cubs were the butt of a joke in the intro, so it's only fair that we get them out of the way first. They're precisely as bad as they've looked so far given their current roster, with the thankful caveat that said roster should improve somewhat as the season goes on. Right now the team's entire offense is running through Emilio Bonifacio, which is a state of affairs as unsustainable as it is ridiculous. Eventually the team should be able to slot Javier Baez into the lineup in place of either Darwin Barney or Luis Valbuena, but while expectations in Chicago for Baez are white-hot to the point of near-absurdity -- and fans will more likely than not end up disappointed for it -- there's no reason to think Baez can't be successful in relative terms compared to most other rookies, and that's far more successful than anyone he'd be replacing in the 2014 Cubs infield is likely to be.
While there is some hope for this team in the future on the position player side of things, there'd be a lot more if the front office would make better, smarter free agent signings regardless of the size of their payroll. More than half the league manages to compete with a payroll around or over $100 million to $110 million, and claims that a team in a major TV market with a national brand can't maintain a payroll in that range strain credulity as much coming from the Chicago Cubs as they do coming from the New York Mets. And as far as the front office is concerned, the statute of limitations has just about expired on the sins of former general manager Jim Hendry. Right now it's hard to see a window opening on the North Side before 2016 or 2017 -- and if a front office can't build a contender in Chicago in five years' time, the franchise should look elsewhere regardless of their current executives' pedigree.
The Reds are right down there with the Cubs at the bottom of the National League Central, but it's unlikely they'll remain there long, with most of the injured players in the team's bullpen slowly struggling back towards health. (Jonathan Broxton was activated on Tuesday, and Sean Marshall should join him in the next week or two.). Nothing against J.J. Hoover -- he's been a perfectly serviceable relief option for the majority of his career -- but he should not be the best arm in a contending team's pen.
The bigger concern is Mat Latos, who was scratched from a rehab start on Tuesday and might be on the shelf for awhile longer. The Reds lost Shin-Soo Choo in the offseason to the Texas Rangers and made essentially no moves to replace their second-best bat from last year, instead handing the center field job to Billy Hamilton out of camp and standing pat at basically every other position around the diamond. The upshot is that while the Reds aren't this bad, they really need their starting pitching to be great to match their efforts from last season, and there's a much bigger chance of them stumbling and giving either Pittsburgh or Milwaukee an opening to make a move in the NL Central.
After losing to San Francisco on Tuesday, the Diamondbacks have played 10 games -- more than any other team in MLB -- and have gone only 2-8 in those games despite both Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo living up to their power-hitting reputations and then some. The reason is that the team's pitching is past the far side of putrid: they're second in the league with 6.33 runs allowed per game so far in 2014, good for a team ERA+ of 61. This is the flipside to having a rotation with lot of pitching depth but not a lot of pitching upside. If everyone starts underperforming, there's no reliable stopper in the rotation that can be counted on to go eight innings, at least be serviceable and give the bullpen a breather one night to help stop the bleeding.
Bronson Arroyo never looked like a good signing, but it doesn't help that Patrick Corbin will miss the season recovering from Tommy John surgery and that the highest upside young arm in the current mix is Randall Delgado, who might still be destined for the bullpen. Top pitching prospect Archie Bradley at least gives Diamondback fans a sliver of hope, but he'll need to come up soon and have immediate major league success if the rest of the staff is going to keep trotting out performances like these. The good news is that at least two of the pitchers -- Wade Miley and Trevor Cahill -- can still be reasonably expected to grade out as slightly above league average over the course of the season, regardless of how terrible their starts to the season have been. The bad news is that if they don't bounce back, it won't matter how many home runs Trumbo hits. With the Dodgers still the Dodgers and the Giants never really as bad as their record last year indicated, the Diamondbacks are still roughly a .500 team but could find themselves fighting for third place all season.
Arizona's 6.33 runs allowed per game is only second in MLB so far this year, and the one team to "best" them -- the Twins -- is unlikely to surrender their spot at the bottom anytime soon, though it would be a true disaster of a season if they did so by continuing to allow 6.57 runs per game. That number is probably only a run too high, however, after the team committed over $80 million this offseason to Ricky Nolasco and a number of marginal (Phil Hughes) to outright replacement level (Mike Pelfrey) pitchers.
They also had a lineup that expected Pedro Florimon, Jr. to be an everyday player out of camp, recently acquired Eduardo Nunez after he couldn't beat out Yangervis Solarte -- yes, that's a real name -- in the Bronx and should probably view a 90 loss season with some decent development in the minors as a good outcome. The Twins farm is top-heavy, with a lot of value tied up in perhaps the safest elite position prospect in baseball (Byron Buxton) but also in the most risky one (Miguel Sano), the latter of whom will miss the season thanks to surgery on his throwing arm.
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There are more National League teams on this list than American League teams for the simple reason that the American League has had a bit more parity to begin the season. Following Baltimore's 14-5 stomping of New York early Tuesday afternoon, the only teams with fewer than three wins were in the NL, and most of those teams appear on this list. That said, it's still very, very early, and while outcomes in small sample sizes do sometimes represent a player or team's true talent level, the first week of the season -- comprising a grand five percent or so of the games these teams will play all year -- isn't generally representative of much of anything. Though if someone wants to argue otherwise, I'm all ears; I've wanted someone to make the case for "Miami Marlins, National League East" division champions for awhile now.