Saturday, October 1, 2016

Boileryard, the BIg Train and the Walking Man: Piling up the losses

The 2016 Twins officially set a new Minnesota standard for futility Friday night with their 103rd loss of the season.

They have a chance to catch or pass the 1949 Senators (104 losses) for third most losses in franchise history this weekend. But since the three worst Washington clubs racked up their godawful records in the days before the 162-game schedule, the 2016 Twins will have a better winning percentage.

The worst teams in franchise history: the 1949 Senators (50-104, .325); the 1909 Senators (42-110, .276); and the 1904 Senators (38-113, .252).

The '49 team is a collection of nonentities. They finished 47 games behind the Yankees. The most recognizable names these decades later would be first baseman Eddie Robinson, who had a pretty solid season; third baseman Eddie Yost, who would go on to earn the nickname "Walking Man" for his ability to draw bases on balls; and Sam Mele, who went on to manage the 1965 Twins, the team with the best record in franchise history.

The '04 team is even less distinguished, as you might expect.; they finished 55.5 games behind the Red Sox. The most interesting names on the roster are the nicknames: Boileryard Clarke, Highball Wilson, Beany Jacobson, Happy Townshend. Beany, Highball and Happy were pitchers who combined to go 10-52; I don't know how happy any of them were that year.

And then there's the '09 Senators, who finished 56 games behind the Tigers. They had a 21-year-old pitcher who threw 294 innings with an ERA of 2.22 who you might have heard of: Walter Johnson. It was the Big Train's second full season in the majors, and one of the worst seasons of his brilliant career (lowest winning percentage, most losses, fourth-worst ERA+). A 2.22 ERA sounds good, that was only the 17th best ERA among the AL's 34 qualifying pitchers in that deadball era. The next year he really tapped into his greatness.

If nothing else, a few minutes gazing at Johnson's stats is time well spent.

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