It is no secret that the rebuilding Braves are a struggling major-league team. However, they do have some young talent in the rotation, and a new stadium to look forward to. Brandon Magee wonders if the Atlanta Braves last season at Turner Field could be one of the worst home-field seasons in history.
At the beginning of play on Wednesday, six different major league teams had won at least two games at Turner Field. A seventh team was certain to be added to the list after Wednesday’s game and it may come as a surprise that it was finally the Atlanta Braves, who picked up their second home win in their 18th game at Turner. To find a comparably futile home team, one has to reach back over a century to the 1913 Yankees, who won their first home game of the season on June 7 after losing their first 17 to begin the season. While we have previously laid bare the offensive problems with the Braves (currently hitting a dead-ballesque .227/.294/.294), their home futility has put them on course to be compared with some historically awful clubs.
1913 New York Yankees
The 1912 New York Highlanders finished dead last in the American League, 55 games behind the Boston Red Sox. With a 50-102 record, the team is still one of the worst in Yankees history. However, the team was merely poor at home, going 31-44 on the season while having a horrendous 19-58 road record.
With similar personnel as the 1912 team, it came as little surprise that the Yankees started the 1913 season poorly, losing 16 of their first 19 before recording their first winning streak of the season. But, the home futility was surprising given their decent (for a bad team) record the previous year. Their ineffectiveness at home did turnaround as summer struck. After starting out 0-17 at home, the Yankees went 27-30 in their last 57 home games.
Led by Harry Wolter and Birdie Cree, the 1913 Yankees ultimately finished up just outside of the basement with a 57-94 record – 38 games behind the Philadelphia Athletics. The Yankees would make it back over .500 in 1916, but would not make the World Series until 1921, after Babe Ruth came to town.
1935 Boston Braves
The 1935 Braves are famous for one reason, the final 92 plate appearances of Babe Ruth’s career, who retired after 28 games played and a line of.181/.359/.431. They were also the worst road team in National League history, winning just 13 of their 78 games played away from Boston.
However, bad teams tend to be poor regardless of where they play, and the Braves were no exception. Boston only won 33% of their 75 home games (25-50 home record) but were particularly bad down the stretch, losing 13 of their final 16.
The Braves finished 38-115, 61 1/2 games behind the 100 win Chicago Cubs. Led by Ben Cantwell’s 25 losses, Boston finished the season with only six victories in their final 41 games. The Braves would win 33 more games the following season and would finally reach above .500 in 1937. The Braves would not make it back to the World Series until 1948.
1939 St. Louis Browns
In 1929, the Browns finished with a 79-73 record. It would be the last time the Browns would see a winning record until World War II. Over the next dozen years, the Browns would garner at least 90 losses in eight seasons. But, the nadir of this futility came in 1939.
The 1939 Browns certainly had little expectations for greatness. Although they had an eleven game improvement in 1938, they had still experienced 97 losses. After starting out their season with a winning road trip (going 4-3), the team came back to St. Louis for their first 15 at home. The Browns lost their first four games, but came back with 5 wins in the next 11. The team was bad, but there was little indication of just how pathetic they would be.
On the next home stand, the team went 2-9. A 20-game home stand in July would see the Browns go 5-15. The team then mustered a measly 3 wins in their next 17 game home stand in August. Two smaller home stands ended the season, with the team winning a mere 3 of 13 games. Add all the games up, and you end up with the worst home season in history, 18-59, a winning percentage of only 23%
The Browns, however, were equal opportunity losers, going 25-52 on the road. The offense, led by George McQuinn, Harlond Clift, and Chet Laabs was not as bad as one would assume for a team that ended with 111 losses. However, the pitching staff headlined by Jack Kramer and Vern Kennedy allowed over six earned runs per game. St. Louis would improve by a massive 24 games the next season and finally see a positive record in 1942, before making the World Series in 1944. However, a true change in the franchise would not occur until the 1960s as the Baltimore Orioles.
1962 New York Mets
In 1962, the National League expanded to ten teams by placing the first major league team in Texas (Houston Colt .45s) and adding a new National League team in the city that never sleeps. Unfortunately the Mets became the team that rarely won.
The Mets lost their first nine games of the season. Their first seven games in New York also ended in defeat. A six-game homestand in May seemed to have the Mets getting the measure of a home-field advantage, with four walk-off victories in six games. And on May 20, after three consecutive wins on the road, the team had a 12-19 record and was not mired in last place.
Then the trap door opened. The Mets lost a pair at fellow debutantes Houston and would lose fifteen more in a row before getting a one run win at Chicago. The seventeen consecutive losses included seven in succession at home, a run of futility that would not end until they suffered a dozen consecutive home losses. Later in the season, the team would lose another nine in a row at the Polo Grounds.
The Mets were not without talent. The other Frank Thomas hit 34 home runs. Richie Ashburn batted .306/.424/.393 over 135 games. But, with five pitchers picking up double digit losses – led by Roger Craig’s 24 – the team would set a National League record in home futility by winning only 22 of 80 games. Combined with just 18 wins in 80 road contests, the Mets are still the standard bearer for the worst team in MLB history with a 40-120 record. Amazingly, if not for the 103 loss Chicago Cubs – who the Mets split 18 games with – the record could have been even more spectacular. The worst record of the other eight teams in the NL against the Mets that season was the Milwaukee Braves, who went 12-6 against them.
The Mets would lose triple digits in five of their first six seasons in existence, breaking into the 80 loss barrier in 1968 before winning 27 more games and the miracle World Series season of 1969.
2003 Detroit Tigers
Much like the 1939 Browns, the 2003 Tigers were the lowest point of a seemingly never-ending run of poor play by the franchise. In 1984, the Tigers won 104 regular season games and the world championship. Three seasons later, they won the AL East with 98 wins. Two seasons after that, fortunes would be reversed with the Tigers losing 103 games. Over the ensuing seventeen seasons, the Tigers would only have a record above .500 twice, and would lose triple-digit games four times.
Coming into the 2003 season, the Tigers certainly were not thought of as contenders. Having lost 106 games in ‘02 and with Dave Dombrowski’s tenure only a year old, the organization was focused on repairing its long-term infrastructure – there was even a chance the team would once again hit triple digits. Then the team came out of the gate ice-cold, losing their first nine contests before getting a one-run win against the White Sox. Another eight game losing streak followed that win. The Tigers were 3-25 before picking up their first winning streak, winning four in a row. It would end up being their longest winning streak of the season.
While the team could never get a long winning streak going, it took until August to gain their first double-digit losing streak (11 games). A ten game losing streak in September brought them to the edge of inglorious history. With 118 losses and six game remaining, the Tigers were set to eclipse the Amazin’ Mets of ‘62. With the final four games of the season against the Minnesota Twins, who had won 14 of their 15 meetings to that point in the season, it was an inevitability. Somehow, the fates intervened with the Tigers winning five of the final six to escape that dubious record.
The Tigers were bad everywhere. Their home record of 23-58 was only slightly better than their road record of 20-61. But, like all the teams on this list, the team was not completely devoid of talent. Dmitri Young led the offense with a line of .297/.372/.537 with 70 extra-base hits. But, Dombrowski went with a young starting staff. 20-year-old Jeremy Bonderman went 6-19. 23-year-old Nate Cornejo picked up 17 losses in 23 decisions. Mike Maroth (25-years-old) earned the distinction of being the most recent pitcher to lose 20 games in a season with 21 losses in his 30 decisions.
The Tigers would improve by 29 games in the 2004 season and would then add another 24 games two seasons later, reaching their first World Series since 1984 in 2006.
2016 Atlanta Braves
So, where does that leave Atlanta? A 2-16 record at home and an overall record of 8-24 puts them 9 1/2 games behind the Miami Marlins for fourth place in the NL East. A finish outside the basement in the division seems, at best, remote. However, the Braves are not currently the worst team in baseball, as the Minnesota Twins, with their 8-25 record, continues to gift victories to all the cities they visit (2-15 on the road).
Usually teams that are bad at home are also at least equally adept at losing on the road. Atlanta, in their final season at Turner Field, are attempting to be exceptions to that rule, winning six of their first 14 on the road. Is the final season affecting the team negatively? Will looking towards Cobb County continue to affect their win totals in the city of Atlanta? Or, like the 1913 Yankees, will they find some measure of success in their home park?
One thing is certain by looking back. The immediate-future may be bleak for the Braves, but teams rarely hit such depths without bouncing back to mediocre soon thereafter. And almost all of them found the World Series in less than a decade. The near-future should be much brighter for the Cobb County Braves.
Brandon Magee is our minor league expert; he has written about minor league travel, ranking prospects, a first round draft pick, and the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.