All 30 MLB Franchises' Biggest Rock Bottom Moment
Perhaps it appears pessimistic or—at the very worst—vainglorious of me to point out all the worst moments in each MLB team's history. But hey, you're reading this, so you must enjoy some satisfaction in reading about the utter failures of organizations and people you don't know too.
Hey, it's human. Embrace it.
While we are used to hearing the great stories about baseball—the 1951 "Shot Heard Round the World," Jackie Robinson's breaking the color barrier and Babe Ruth's calling his shot in the 1932 World Series—sometimes it's just as important to examine baseball's worst moments.
After all, without the bad and forgettable moments, how could one ever truly appreciate the great, masterful ones? (Well, this is my defense, anyway).
With that said, here are the worst moments in the history of each MLB franchise.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Randy Johnson Leaves Arizona After Low-Ball Offer
Randy Johnson was an integral part of the Arizona Diamondbacks' 2001 World Series championship run and probably the greatest single Diamondbacks player ever.
After the 2007 season, however, as Johnson was on the precipice of his 300th win, the Arizona Diamondbacks let him walk to divisional rivals San Francisco Giants, after he declined the D-Backs $2.5 million offer for one year.
Although he was considerably past his prime by the time his contract was up, he was still productive, pitching in 30 games with a 3.91 ERA in 2008 for the Giants. Plus, the D-Backs missed the opportunity of letting Johnson rack up his 300th win with the team.
Atlanta Braves: John Rocker Blasts New York City
John Rocker was kind of crazy. While he had a number of productive, perhaps dominant, years in the MLB, he all but destroyed any career credibility when he made some extremely bigoted remarks about New York City.
Here are just a few of the many repugnant, prejudiced and uneducated comments John Rocker has said over his troubled career. The ones here are from a Sports Illustrated interview in 1999:
On ever playing for a New York team:
I would retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you're [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing.
And, on New York City itself:
The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. I'm not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?
Ah, John. You sure do know how to offend, well, just about everybody, don't you?
Baltimore Orioles/St. Louis Browns: Eddie Gaedel Pinch Hits
The St. Louis Browns, before they moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles, were the worst franchise in baseball. In their history, they had one just one divisional title, and even that was in the war-depleted season of 1944.
So it should come as no surprise that one of the worst franchises in history is also guilty of pulling off one of the most hair-brained schemes in baseball history.
In 1951—a year the Browns lost 102 games—manager Zack Taylor recruited a stage performer, 3-foot-7 Eddie Gaedel, to pinch hit in the first inning of a double-header against the Detroit Tigers. He was instructed to crouch down and leave his toy bat on his shoulder.
Gaedel took four straight pitches and drew a walk and was promptly pinch run for when he reached first base. Maybe the ploy worked in the end, but it also signified the great lengths to which a terrible franchise would go to get an advantage.
Boston Red Sox: The Curse of the Bambino
Sure, the Boston Red Sox have had a... well, checkered past, to say the least. While there was more than one candidate for the lowest of the low in Red Sox history (i.e. Tony Canigliaro hit in the face with a baseball, the ball through Bill Buckner's wickets in the '86 World Series), there really is no competition for "The Curse of the Bambino."
If you're a Red Sox fan, the story is well known; however, for those of you who don't know, this is how it all went down:
In 1918, the Red Sox had finished winning their fifth World Championship—a number of championships unparalleled at the time of their winning. But in 1920, due to then-owner Harry Frazee's financial need to finance his girlfriend's play, he sold one of the Red Sox's finest pitchers, George Herman Ruth, to the New York Yankees for $100,000.
Since the trade, the Yankees have gone on to win 27 World Series (zero prior to Ruth's arrival) and, until 2004, the Red Sox hadn't won a World Series since 1918. Now they've had two. But, hey—86 years wasn't too long to wait, right?
Chicago Cubs: The Curse of the Billy Goat
Not much more need be said about some stinky goat in 1945-Chicago that hasn't already been said—especially from a guy who grew up in Southern California and knows nothing about the heartache of being a Cubs fan.
Besides, if you're a Cubs fan, you knew this was coming anyway.
Chicago White Sox: 1919 Black Sox Scandal
One of the lowest moments in baseball history came during the 1919 World Series when the Chicago White Sox played the Cincinnati Reds. Eight members of the Chicago White Sox were banned from baseball for life for intentionally throwing games during the World Series.
Heading up the "Black Sox Scandal" was first baseman Arnold "Chick" Gandil (pictured) who had long-standing ties to petty underworld figures, while New York gangster Arnold Rothstein supplied the money for the gambit.
Eventually, eight players on the Chicago White Sox earned a lifetime ban for the ploy, and would-be Hall-of-Famer "Shoeless" Joe Jackson was similarly punished, though he finished the series with a .375 batting average.
Cincinnati Reds: Pete Rose Admits to Betting on Baseball
Until the years of the Big Red Machine, the Cincinnati Reds had a rather unimpressive history. But post-Big Red Machine (and also post-Pete Rose) Reds fans always had something great and tangible to hang their collective hats on.
Perhaps that's what made Rose admitting he had bet on baseball so painful. Rose was a Cincinnati Reds legend and continues to have one of the greatest careers in the history of Major League Baseball.
After he admitted to gambling, however (and even betting on his own team), while still managing the Reds, he was banned from Hall of Fame enshrinement. Even to this day, there are many who are calling for Rose's reinstatement even after his 1997 appeal to Bud Selig has gone unanswered.
Cleveland Indians: 10 Cent All-You-Can-Drink Night at Municipal Stadium
Oh sure, the Cleveland Indians have multiple less-than-impressive moments in their 111-year history. And yes, it's true they haven't won a title since Hall of Famer Lou Boudreau captained their infield long ago in 1948. There was Willie Mays' catch in the '54 World Series, Edgar Renteria's hit in the 1997 World Series, the spitball that killed Ray Chapman, but none of those moments was as bad as 10-cent beer night at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on June 4, 1974.
The grisly details aside, the "brilliant" idea was the brain child of Cleveland Indians' executive VP Ted Bonda, who wanted to drive attendance for a team that was in the throes of one of the worst strings of losing seasons in franchise history.
The idea "worked" insomuch as it drew nearly 25,000 fans when they had been averaging around 8,000 per night. However, with the game having to be forfeited due to fan unrest, (forget LeBron James and the moving of the Cleveland Browns), it was one of the worst points in Cleveland sports history.
Colorado Rockies: 17-Game Sunday Losing Streak
The Colorado Rockies haven't had a particularly long (or a particularly bad) history, so it makes sense that their lowest moment is actually kind of strange too.
Still, losing for 17 Sundays in a row is not very good. And it was clearly getting into the heads of the players, as evidenced by Troy Tulowitzki's feeling on the streak:
"The toughest part was talking about it all the time. You start to think about it. Obviously, we're out there playing and it's in the back of our heads. It's kind of over with now."
Whether or not the Sunday streak was anything else but dumb luck is another question altogether.
Detroit Tigers: Worst Season in Modern MLB History
Since 1936, there has only been one team who turned in a worse regular season record than the Detroit Tigers did in 2003, and they were an expansion team: the 1962 New York Mets.
In 2003, the Tigers were an embarrassment to the city of Detroit, losing a franchise-worst 119 games for a paltry .265 winning percentage. They finished 47 games out of first place.
Assuredly one of the worst pitching teams of all-time, the starting rotation featured almost three 20-game losers (Nate Cornejo, Jeremy Bonderman and Mike Maroth). Their fairly terrible offense was headed up by Dmitri Young, and they were easily one of the worst defensive teams ever.
Alan Trammell will not be putting that season—where he served as the club's skipper—on his Hall of Fame resume. That much is for sure.
Houston Astros: J.R. Richard Has a Stroke During Pregame Warmups
J.R. was a promising, young, hard-throwing right-hander for the Houston Astros in the late '70s. From 1976 to 1979 he won at least 18 games every season, and in 1980 he was in the midst of having his best year as a pro (10-4, 1.90 ERA, 0.92 WHIP).
In a pregame warm-up, however, Richard suffered a stroke and collapsed on the field. He attempted a comeback from his stroke in 1981 but was unsuccessful. He never played another major league game again.
Los Angeles/California Angels: Game Five of the 1986 ALCS
The heartbreak of the California Angels' loss in the ALCS is many times mis-remembered. The home run that Dave Henderson hit off Angels reliever Donnie Moore was not a game winner, and in fact the loss wasn't even in the final game of the series.
The game, which was actually won on a Henderson sacrifice fly in extra innings, simply prolonged the Red Sox playoff life enough for Boston to win in seven games back at home.
Regardless, the blow to the franchise was significant. It took the Angels another 16 years before it ever saw playoff baseball again. In addition, reliever Donnie Moore—the pitcher that surrendered both the go-ahead home run and eventual game-winning sac fly—committed suicide in July of 1989 after shooting his wife three times.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Dodgers File for Bankruptcy
Two of the worst moments in Dodgers history came on the watch of Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. (Can I just say again: thank goodness he is selling the team!)
First, there was the security issue and the Brian Stow incident. And arguably the worst (or at least most embarrassing) moment in Dodgers history was the Dodgers filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011.
While some may argue that the Dodgers moving from Brooklyn was a travesty, in the end, there were positives and negatives that came with the move. For the Dodgers, one of the most storied, popular and (should be) rich teams in MLB to file for bankruptcy is absurd and embarrassing.
Oh, and thank goodness he is selling the team! ...did I already mention that?
Kansas City Royals: Bo Jackson Suffers Career-Endangering Hip Injury
Aside from the young, up-and-coming talent the Kansas City Royals currently enjoy on their MLB roster, perhaps the last time any warm-blooded KC fan had reason to smile was for athletic freak Bo Jackson.
Most remember Jackson's baseball career for the sheer athletic wizardry he commanded out on the baseball field—a la his "wall run" catch and throwing Harold Reynolds out from the outfield warning track—as opposed to any statistical dominance.
But when—in 1990—Jackson suffered a career-endangering hip injury playing for the NFL's Los Angeles Raiders, Royals fans breathed a collective gasp. Although he eventually came back to Major League Baseball, Jackson was never the same freakish physical specimen that made him such an exciting ballplayer to watch.
Miami/Florida Marlins: The 1997 Post-World Series "Fire Sale"
The 1997 World Series itself was one of the most exciting World Series of the past 25 years. However, after the infamous Florida Marlins "fire sale" in the winter of 1998, it cast a gloomy cloud over the otherwise happy proceedings of the previous October.
Citing significant financial losses, Florida Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga completely dismantled the World Series champions, trading away almost all recognizable players from the year before. On the outs were Moises Alou, Kevin Brown, Bobby Bonilla, Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson and Jim Eisenreich, and the team went from a 92-70 regular season record in 1997 to an embarrassing 52-108 in 1998.
Significant financial losses or not, it was one of the most gutless moves by any owner in the history of baseball and cheapened the World Series win of the year before.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ryan Braun Tests Positive for PED Use After Winning NL MVP
The history of the Milwaukee Brewers is not filled with particularly successful teams. The 96 wins they compiled last year thanks to NL MVP Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder were a club-best—even Harvey's Wallbangers of 1982 won only 95.
So when Ryan Braun won the NL MVP after season's end, it was the icing on the franchise's proverbial cake. Unfortunately, the glory was short-lived, as soon thereafter it was revealed that Ryan Braun had tested positive for PED use.
Not only was it bad news for Braun, who is set to receive a 50-game suspension to start the 2012 season, it was bad for the Brewers and for Major League Baseball, who is trying to repair its muddied image after an era riddled with steroid use.
Minnesota Twins: Kirby Puckett's Career Cut Short When Hit in Face
Kirby Puckett was a living legend in Minnesota before his death in 2006. In both 1987 and 1991, Puckett was instrumental in bringing the Twins their first world championships since 1924, and he entered the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 2001.
However, when Kirby Puckett was struck in the cheek by a pitched ball from Dennis Martinez in 1995 and effectively ended his career, the city of Minneapolis was devastated. The next year, at just 35, Puckett was forced to retire due to a development of glaucoma.
Although in Puckett's final years in Minnesota, the Twins weren't particularly competitive, it wasn't until the early 2000s that the Twins finally returned to prominence after Puckett's departure.
New York Mets: "The Midnight Massacre"
Although the full story is a long-winded and complex one, suffice it to say the New York Mets' darkest moment was the day they traded "The Franchise," Tom Seaver.
At the time of the trade—June 16, 1977—Tom Seaver was the most popular player in New York City and as close to a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame as a 32-year-old can be. After making some disgruntled comments early in the season about how the big-budget Mets front office was not making any impact moves to improve the team, Seaver found himself at odds with the tight-fisted Mets board chairman M. Donald Grant.
The feud quickly gained traction in the New York media, culminating in NYC columnist Dick Young asserting that Seaver was jealous of Nolan Ryan's—a former teammate—huge contract he received from the California Angels. Seaver went on to demand a trade, and he was promptly dispatched to Cincinnati, with the Mets essentially trading away the face of the entire franchise.
After 1977, the Mets went on to post (what would have been) seven consecutive seasons of 90+ losses—if not for the strike-shortened 1981 season—and wouldn't see the playoffs again until 1986, when they won the World Series.
New York Yankees: Lou Gehrig Is Forced to Retire
Lou Gehrig's retirement speech is one of the most iconic in the history of baseball. It is also one of the saddest moments ever captured on a baseball field.
At age 36, just three years removed from the last of his two MVP awards, Gehrig was forced to retire from baseball. On July 4, 1939, Gehrig was honored by the Yankees and fans at Yankee Stadium as he delivered his famous retirement speech, which included the famous phrase: "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." Just two years later, Gehrig died.
While the moment was certainly memorable for its emotional poignancy, it is also one of the lowest moments for a great and proud franchise.
Oakland A's: After Three World Series Championships, Reggie Jackson Is Traded
From 1972 to 1974, the Oakland A's and Reggie Jackson won three straight World Series. After the 1975 season, however, in which the A's were swept out the playoffs, the Oakland front office decided to trade soon-to-be free agent Reggie Jackson because it felt his demand for a new contract was going to be unreasonable.
It's a common series of events you see nowadays in baseball, but trading a Hall of Famer—who would go on to win two more championships with the New York Yankees—was not a good idea.
Along with Jackson, the A's traded away World Series hero Ken Holtzman, essentially dismantling the team that had won three straight championships. In return, Oakland received Mike Torrez, Paul Mitchell and Don Baylor—who only hit 15 home runs in an A's uniform—and didn't make another World Series appearance again until 1988.
Philadelphia Phillies: First Professional American Franchise to 10,000 Losses
On July 16, 2007, the Philadelphia Phillies lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, making them the "losing-est" professional franchise of all-time.
Sure, the 10,000th loss probably didn't sting too bad for Philly fans who eventually saw their club make an NLDS appearance the same year—and a World Series win a year later—but 10,000 losses is 10,000 losses.
Since then, the Atlanta Braves have joined the Philadelphia Phillies in the 10k-loss club, but the Phillies were the first. And being first, in this case, is the worst.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Pittsburgh Drug Trials
The 1980s were a wild time, weren't they? Well, at least they were in Pittsburgh where the infamous Pittsburgh Drug Trials went down in the mid-80s.
In 1985, two men were put on trial in Pittsburgh for allegedly supplying a number of professional ballplayers with cocaine. In fact, even the guy inside the Pirate Parrot costume admitted to buying cocaine in the depths of Three Rivers Stadium.
In return for immunity, several players including former MVP Keith Hernandez and Hall of Fame hopeful, Tim Raines, testified that they had used cocaine—in some cases during actual games.
Although legally, the players who testified were cleared from any legal repercussions, Major League Baseball hammered eleven players—including Hernandez and Dave Parker of the Pittsburgh Pirates (pictured)—with one-year suspensions (in some cases). While the punishments were eventually lessened, at the time, they were some of the worst punishments dealt by MLB officials since the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
San Diego Padres: Combined 1-8 World Series Record
For most of the San Diego Padres' existence in the major leagues, they have had little-to-no ongoing impact on the sport and have been pretty much consistently terrible.
(Sorry, San Diego. It's true.)
But perhaps what's even worse is in their only two World Series appearances (1984 and 1998), they've gone a combined 1-8.
Although in both years they put together solid regular seasons with good individual performances (i.e. Ken Caminiti's 1998 NL MVP), in the World Series they just haven't been able to put it together. And in 1998, when they squared off against the monstrously assembled New York Yankees, the world championship was all but a foregone conclusion before the first pitch was even thrown.
San Francisco Giants: Barry Bonds Steroid Saga
It has come to be that when you see old ballplayers in dark suits, it usually is a bad thing. The same holds true for Barry Bonds, the all-time home run king in Major League Baseball.
While he was mashing home runs for the San Francisco Giants in the late '90s and early 2000s, everything was great and San Francisco loved him—well, sort of. But after the publication of the now-famous book Game of Shadows about the steroid allegations linking Bonds to the BALCO labs, everything about Bonds' career came into question.
Today, wtih the legal ramifications of his conviction for obstructing justice meaning nothing more than some probation time, the worst is over for Barry Bonds. But the stain he left on the game for his alleged steroid use will last forever.
Seattle Mariners: Knocked out of Playoffs in Five Games After 116-Win Season
Going into the 2001 playoffs after tying the major league record for most wins in a season (116), the Seattle Mariners were easily dispatched by the defending champions, the New York Yankees.
After a season that provided so much hope—and what appeared to be the culmination of many good Mariners seasons preceding the one in 2001—hopes were high that the team could finally translate regular season success into a World Series championship.
But alas, it was not to be. After the Yankees resoundingly beat them in five games—including a particularly tough shellacking in the final game of the series where the Yanks beat them 12-3—the Seattle Mariners never returned to the "promised land," missing the playoffs the next season and the following nine seasons after that.
St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols Leaves St. Louis After World Series Win
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Sorry, that's another story. But it actually fits this one.
After bringing home a World Series championship to the St. Louis Cardinals, Albert Pujols left home in 2011. Soon after the announcement that the Los Angeles Angels had signed Pujols to a 10-year deal, Pujols' wife, Deidre, was quoted as saying the following:
"When you have somebody say 'We want you to be a Cardinal for life' and only offer you a five-year deal, it kind of confused us. [...] Well, we got over that insult and felt like Albert had given so much of himself to baseball and into the community [...] we didn't want to go through this again."
The inference, of course, is that the Cards may have been able to re-sign Pujols had they been more aggressive from the get-go. Then again, this was coming from Albert's wife—for whatever that's worth.
However, it's all water under the bridge now. Pujols is an Angel and probably will be for the next 10 years. Say so long, St. Louis.
Tampa Bay Rays: Manny Ramirez's Second Incident with PEDs Prompts Retirement
The Tampa Bay Rays have not had an extensive history, so there is little to choose from in the form of worst moments. However, when Manny Ramirez was accused for a second time of using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) just before the start of the 2011 season, it was a terrible moment for the franchise.
The Rays had just come off a season where they had lost to the Texas Rangers in the ALDS and had signed veterans Johnny Damon and Ramirez in hopes of their leading the team to another playoff berth and a possible World Series.
Unfortunately, just a matter of weeks into the season, Ramirez's results from his preseason drug test showed that he had used PEDs. Rather than face the prospect of becoming banned for 100 games, Manny promptly announced his retirement from baseball to the great embarrassment of the franchise and its fans.
Texas Rangers: Fan Falls to Death After Trying to Catch Thrown Ball into Stands
In one of the more horrible moments of last year, Texas Rangers fan Shannon Stone fell from a raised platform at the Ballpark in Arlington after outfielder Josh Hamilton threw him a foul ball in the second inning.
Apparently, in an attempt to catch the ball for his son, Stone swung over the outfield railings and fell to his death. Hamilton felt terrible after the incident, and the Rangers started a fund to benefit Stone's family.
The accident was isolated, and the Rangers have since installed taller railings to avoid accidents in the future, but the tragedy of the fan's death cast a particular shadow over an otherwise successful season for the Texas Rangers in 2011.
Toronto Blue Jays: The 1987 Collapse
Behind AL MVP George Bell (and that beautiful mop of hair he sported), the Toronto Blue Jays suffered one of the worst collapses in franchise history to forfeit the AL East divisional title and a possible shot at their first World Series in 1987.
With a slim 2.5 game lead over second place Detroit Tigers with seven games remaining in the season, the Toronto Blue Jays lost all seven games (four to the Tigers themselves), capped by a 1-0 shutout tossed by Frank Tanana on the last day of the season. In just two hours and 29 minutes, it was all over.
The collapse was really a shame too because the Blue Jays had one of their best teams ever. Anchored by AL MVP George Bell, their lineup also featured star sluggers Jesse Barfield (28 HR, 86 RBI), Lloyd Moseby (26 HR, 96 RBI) and a young Fred McGriff (20 HR in 295 AB).
Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos: Playoff Run Cut Off by 1994 MLB Strike
After 25 years of mediocrity and just one playoff appearance, in 1994, it appeared as if the Montreal Expos might actually make the playoffs and make a serious push toward the World Series.
With players like Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom and Moises Alou, the Expos were strong and they knew it.
And then the players strike of '94 came and ended everything.
After being cut off at a 74-40 record (.649 win percentage), they returned in 1995 without Walker and Grissom and finished in last place in the NL East with a 66-78 record, while Expos fans were left wondering what might have been.