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Berry Tramel  


Houston Astros: The worst baseball since the 1950s

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 25, 2014 at 3:50 pm •  Published: March 25, 2014
Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa misplays a single hit by Toronto Blue Jays Ryan Langerhans during the eighth inning of a spring training baseball game in Kissimmee, Fla., Sunday, March 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa misplays a single hit by Toronto Blue Jays Ryan Langerhans during the eighth inning of a spring training baseball game in Kissimmee, Fla., Sunday, March 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The Houston Astros are the parent club of our Oklahoma City RedHawks. Have been for several years, since the Rangers took their AAA team to Round Rock, Texas.

Since the Rangers announced they were leaving town, they’ve excelled. The best years in franchise history, with back-to-back World Series trips, 2010 and 2011. Meanwhile, the Astros have sunk to historic depths.

Not that it’s hurt the RedHawks so much. The Astros have supplied OKC with just as solid of a talent base as did the Rangers. Texas constantly was calling up RedHawk players, because the Rangers were in the winning business.

The Astros are not.

The Astros have won 51, 55 and 56 games the last three seasons: 51-111 in 2011, 55-107 in 2012, 56-106 in 2013. The winning percentages are .315, .340 and .346.

That’s not just bad baseball. That’s historically bad baseball.

The Astros were born in 1962. So they’ve played 52 seasons. The only other sub-.400 winning percentage came in 1975, when Houston went 64-97 (.398).

So the worst three seasons in Astro history – by far – are the three most recent.

The Astros are on the verge of joining some of the worst sustained baseball ever.

Baseball history is not short. When the NBA was born in 1946, major league baseball was 70 years old. It’s hard to make baseball history.

But the Astros are trying.

The Angels have been in business 54 years. They’ve never had a winning percentage under .400. In their inaugural season, 1961, the Angels went 70-91.

The Indians have played 113 seasons. They’ve had one season with a winning percentage under .350. The Astros have had three in the last three years.

The Brewers have played 45 years. They’ve had two seasons under .400. One of those seasons, 1969 as the expansion Seattle Pilots, they were 64-98-1. Barely under .400.

The Yankees were established in 1901. In 113 years, they’ve had four sub.-.400 seasons. None since 1913.

The Giants’ first season was 1883. In 131 seasons, they’ve had five sub-.400 seasons. The lowest was .353 in 1902. The Astros have sunk below that each of the last three seasons.

The Cardinals haven’t been below .400 since 1919.

These Astros have 324 defeats the last three years. That’s tied for third on the all-time baseball list.

The expansion Mets lost 340 games from 1962-64 and 332 games from 1963-65. So Houston at least knows it hasn’t fallen to the level of the Marv Throneberry era.

And those Metropolitans don’t even deserve the mantle of worst team of all time, considering a three-year stretch. That would belong to Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics, who from 1915-17 also lost 324, but those A’s won just 134. At least these Astros have won 162.

Mack had some epic teams, but he also had some of the great clunkers of all time. I don’t know why they put him in the Hall of Fame. The Philly Athletics had two three-year stretches of sub-.360 winning percentages (1915-17, 1919-21), then had six straight years (1935-40) of sub-.400 baseball.

And some of those years, the Athletics weren’t even the worst team in town.

The Phillies were awful in the first half of the 20th century. They played sub-.400 baseball in seven of the eight years from 1921-28. Then went seven straight years, 1936-42, with sub-.400 records. Over a 22-year span, the Phils finished below .400 17 times. I don’t know how baseball survived in that city.

I mean, this is ridiculous. The Astros have brought about comparisons to some of the worst franchise eras in a history that dates back to when U.S. Grant was in the White House.

Like the Boston Braves, who from 1904 through 1929 had four stretches of at least three straight seasons below .400. Most of those years, the Bostons (they were called the Beaneaters, the Doves, the Bees, they went through a lot of nicknames) were below .350.

Like the St. Louis Browns, synonymous with futility. Eventually, the Browns moved to Baltimore and became respectable. But in St. Louis, the stunk. In the 20 years from 1936 through 1955, the Browns 12 times were below .400.

Even the stately franchises that have had bad stretches did so in dusty days.

The Red Sox had a stretch like this, going six straight (1925-30) years below .400.

The Reds did so 1932-34.

The Cardinals from 1895-98 and 1905-1909.

As you can see, really bad baseball is not much of a modern phenomenon.

Modern-era teams that have played as bad as these Astros are mostly expansion teams.

The Mets.

The Padres, whose first season was 1969, and not until 1975 did San Diego finish .400 or better. But even those Padres weren’t losing 105, 106 games. Their final five winning percentages in that rocky start were .389, .379, .379, .370 and .370.

The new Washington Senators, who eventually became the Rangers, opened with four straight sub-.400 seasons, 1961-64, but only one of those years was below .373.

The Blue Jays were born in 1977 and stunk for three years: .335, .366 and .327.

And the Tampa Bay DevilRays from 2001-03, their third, fourth and fifth seasons in existence, were 62-100 (.383), 55-106 (.342) and 63-99 (.389).

So have any modern-era, non-expansion teams approached these Astros? Yes.

Let’s not count the original Senators (who were futile from 1955-58 and soon thereafter moved to Minnesota) or the 1952-55 Pirates (who were truly awful, but that’s now been 60 years ago).

So here’s the list.

* The 2004-2006 Royals went 58-104 (.358), 56-106 (.346) and 62-100 (.383). That’s still 14 games better than these Astros.

* The 1971-73 Rangers (who actually were in Washington in ’71), who went

63-96 (.396), 54-100 (.351) and 57-105 (.352). That’s 23 fewer defeats than these Astros.

And that’s it. These Astros are playing the most sustained bad baseball (at least three years) since the 1950s.

by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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