Thursday, May 31, 2007

We're Not Alone, O's Fans

Saddle up to a bar in these cities and commiserate with the locals

By Matthew Taylor

The fact that they’re in second place doesn’t matter; .500 baseball is what matters. An even record would end the extended run of futility that has overshadowed the team’s glorious past. And it could mean bringing fans back to one of baseball’s most beautiful ballparks.

Sound familiar? It should if you’re a fan of the Birds (25-27) or the Pittsburgh Pirates (23-28), currently two of Major League Baseball’s most futile franchises.

Party like it’s 1979? Hardly. That’s the season when Pittsburgh won 98 games and its most recent World Series. Meanwhile, the O’s won 102 games for the first of two consecutive 100-win campaigns.

Four years later the Birds recovered from a stunning Pirates comeback in the ’79 Series to win their most recent World Series. And things haven’t been the same since.

Where have you gone, Joe Altobelli?

The Birds’ trip to Kansas City this week got me curious about bad baseball. (Coincidence? I think not.) Think things are bad in Charm City? Okay, they are. But misery loves company, so here are some spots worth visiting if you’re looking for fans with whom to commiserate.

Pittsburgh (14 straight losing seasons)

Clouds over the franchise:
-Current record below .500.
-Last playoff appearance: 1992 (lost NLCS to Atlanta, four games to three).
-Average 2007 attendance at PNC Park: 19,358.
-100 losses in 2001.

The silver lining:
-Five World Championships, nine pennants, and 14 playoff appearances.
-Jason Bay.
-“We Are Family” still a classic.

Tampa Bay (9 straight losing seasons)

Clouds over the franchise:
-Team has never had a winning season, a run of nine straight losing seasons to match the Birds.
-Rays have lost at least 90 games every season.
-Thirty percent of the team's seasons have ended with at least 100 losses.
-Never finished higher than fourth in the AL East.
-Average 2007 attendance at Tropicana Field: 14,410 (lowest in the majors).
-Promising young prospects have tested the limits of “no such thing as bad publicity” adage.

The silver lining:
-Wade Bogg’s 3,000th hit at The Trop – a home run, no less.
-James Shields off to a good start in 2007.
-How bout ‘dem Tampa Bay Lightning?

Kansas City (3 straight losing seasons)

Clouds over the franchise:
-Prior to winning 83 games in 2003 the team had eight straight losing seasons.
-Royals have finished below .500 in 11 of the last 12 seasons.
-Lost 100 games in four of the last five seasons.
-A lock to finish below .500 again this season.
-Average 2007 attendance at Kauffman Stadium: 17,820 (29th in MLB).

The silver lining:
-Alex Gordon.
-Joakim Soria (although he’s currently on the DL).
-At least they’ve got good barbecue.

Proof there’s still hope for the O’s -

-Appeared in the 2006 World Series after 12 consecutive losing seasons, including 119 losses in 2003 (a .265 winning percentage).

-Twelve straight losing seasons prior to finishing 81-81 in 2005; finished below .500 in 13 of 14 seasons heading into 2007; currently leading the NL Central behind young heavy hitter Prince Fielder.

Other notable losing streaks: Colorado (6 seasons), Cincinnati (6).

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