The Philadelphia Phillies could be historically bad

The Philadelphia Phillies are laughably bad, even failing at the most basic fundamentals.
Rob Carr/Getty Images

By Cordell Oberholtzer

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the Phillies, Tuesday night happened. Playing the second game of a 2-and-2 set with the Orioles, the Phillies hit a whole new low. The Phillies surrendered eight homers to the Orioles (a franchise record for the Orioles) and lost 19-3. The loss dropped the Phillies to 22-44 on the season and 14 games back in the National League East (they’ve since lost and won a game). The Phillies are on pace to lose 108 games this season which would be the worst for the franchise since 1945, when they matched that total.

On May 18th, the Phillies beat the Rockies, extending their winning streak to six games and improving their record to 17-24. Since then, they are 6-21 and it’s somewhat remarkable they won that many in that stretch. They are a putrid 7-28 on the road this season, and they’re averaging 3.0 runs per game (the lowest of any MLB team through this part of the season since 1972). The Phillies starters are 0-14 with a 5.89 ERA since May 24, and the team is batting .236 with only 39 homers as a team.

The last time the Phillies’ franchise lost 100 games was 1961. That fact alone is pretty remarkable considering the terrible years of the early seventies, late 80s, late 90s and early 2000s (obviously there has been a lot of losing baseball in Philadelphia). Not only is team on the path of doing just that, they could make a run at being one of the worst teams of all time.

The fact that the Phillies are a terrible team isn’t surprising; it was a forgone conclusion they would not get out of the cellar this year. However, it is a little jarring how truly awful they have been. This is their worst start to a season in 19 years and the manager (Ryne Sandberg), who appeared at the beginning of the season to be safe from firing due to the poor hand he had been dealt, now could legitimately be fired before the season is over.

Sandberg said at the beginning of the season that fundamentals were going to be a focus for this ball club, basically saying, “We don’t have a lot of talent, but we can try to do the things that little league teams are able to.” The problem is that they have not been able to do the fundamentals. From fielding, to bunting, and to base-running (here’s looking at you Ben Revere), the Phillies have been almost comical on occasion with their attempts at mastering the fundamentals. So yes, Sandberg is not blessed with a talented team, but the one objective he had at the beginning of the season has been such a failure, that his managerial skills has to be questioned. As many Phillies experts said upon his hiring, there must have been a reason that the Chicago Cubs didn’t hire him when they had a chance. If the team you virtually played the entirety of your Hall of Fame career with does not want you to coach their team, then you must not be very good at coaching.

Arguably the worst team of all-time was the 2003 Detroit Tigers. Yes, the 1962 Mets lost 120 games (the most losses in the modern era), but the futility of the ’03 Tigers (who lost 119) games is even more remarkable. The Mets were an expansion team while the Tigers are one of baseball’s oldest franchises. The 2003 Tigers, through June 18th, were 17-51 (Phillies are a solid 23-45), and went 18-52 in the second half of the year. The Phillies, who have seven road wins so far in 2015, are ahead of the pace of that Tigers who managed to win 20 total games on the road.

The attendance marks of the Phillies so far has been a popular point of conversation, especially because of the 257 consecutive sell-outs the Phillies managed during their run of October success several years ago. However, the 2003 Tigers had eight home games that year that drew less than 10,000 fans. That’s unheard of nowadays. The Phillies are still averaging 25,000 a game, which will assuredly decrease as the season progresses, but they likely won’t reach those numbers the Tigers did in 2003.

This Phillies probably won’t lose 119 games. That is a ton of losses. But 100 losses seems like a foregone conclusion and this team (other than that 6-game winning streak in May) hasn’t shown any reasons to think they will avoid the dreaded century mark.

By the way, three years after the Tigers lost 119 games, they were in the World Series. That will likely not be repeated by this Phillies club.

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