The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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This year's Oakland A's bring back memories of the 1962 New York Mets

The Oakland A’s are by far and away the worst team so far this season. Through Friday, they were 10-36, already 18 games behind the West Division-leading Texas Rangers. At the rate they are playing now, they project to win only 45 games during a full 162-game schedule. Will that qualify them as the worst team ever in the modern era? Not quite, but close. The 1962 New York Mets are remembered as one of the most futile teams in history when they finished 40-120, with one tie.

As an expansion franchise, 1962 was the Mets’ inaugural season. They had legendary Casey Stengel as their manager. From 1949 to 1960, his New York Yankees teams won 10 pennants and seven World Series. He was the genius behind the teams that were stocked with superstars.

Then 71-years-old, Stengel may have still been a genius with the Mets, but what he didn’t have was a roster of superstars. Instead, he had a bunch of “washed-up” veterans and fringe players that were acquired from other teams through an expansion draft.

Through their first 46 games of the season, the Mets were in similar shape at this year’s A’s. They were12-34, 23 games behind the National League-leading San Francisco Giants.

They finished last in the National League in batting and pitching, as measured by OPS+ and ERA+. Their run differential was a whopping negative 331. Another way of putting it, the Mets’ scored two runs less (on average) than their opponents per game for the entire season. They lost 37 games by five or more runs.

The team started the season with a few “name” players such as Richie Ashburn, Gil Hodges, Frank Thomas, Gus Bell, and Charlie Neal, all of whom had been all-stars with prior teams. (Ashburn and Hodges would ultimately be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.) But most of them were past their prime years in the Mets’ first season.

Frank Thomas was the star of the team, banging out 34 home runs and driving in 94 runs, while Richie Ashburn was the lone representative of the Mets on the National League All-Star team.

Stengel didn’t vary his starting pitching rotation much throughout the season, as Roger Craig, Al Jackson, Jay Hook, and Bob Miller made 121 of their starts. But all of them were below average from an ERA+ standpoint. Craig led the league with 24 losses.

The Mets never won more than three consecutive games, while their longest losing streak was 17 games. Almost one-fourth of their wins came against the Chicago Cubs, against whom they had a 9-9 record. (It should be noted the Cubs were a pathetic team, too, as they won only 59 games.)

As bad as the 1962 Mets were (.250 winning percentage), they actually don’t have the worst record of all time. The Philadelphia A’s won only 38 games in a 154-game schedule for a .235 winning percentage, while the 1935 Boston Braves won only 38 games in a 153-game schedule for a .248 winning percentage.

In any case, with players like “Marvelous” Marv Throneberry and Choo-Choo Coleman, the 1962 Mets will forever be associated with ineptness.

Baseball analyst and writer Joe Sheehan noted this year’s A’s were playing .500 ball (9-9) in one-run games through last Wednesday and were 3-28 in all other games. He wrote that the A’s decent performance in one-run games went against the long-held myth that good teams know how to win close games. He definitely wasn’t putting the A’s in the “good” team category though.

So, what’s the problem with the A’s? Batting-wise they are almost average in the American League, as measured by OPS+ (98). However, pitching-wise, they are the worst team, as measured by ERA+ (59). The team ERA is a whopping 7.00. First-year manager Mark Kotsay must be pulling his hair out because of an overall lack of talent.

Stay tuned to see if the A’s will wind up being worse than the Mets.

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