The Browns and the 1962 Mets
|Joe Posnanski||Dec 19, 2017|
Most people would consider the 1962 Mets to be the worst team in baseball history. Sure, you can talk about the 1899 Cleveland Spiders who lost 134 games, but that was a whole different time, a whole different era. Those Spiders were so bad and drew so poorly that teams simply stopped coming to Cleveland. No, seriously, they just stopped coming. They said that the revenue from Cleveland games didn't even cover their expenses.
Wonder if NFL teams can do that now.
As a result, the Spiders played eight of their last 93 games at home. In all, that team played 112 out of 154 games on the road ... and lost 101 road games. The Spiders were their own thing.
The worst modern team, by percentage, is the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics who went 36-117. That team had three 20-game losers on it, including the much beloved Jack Nabors who went 1-20. Nabors soon after joined the army, caught a serious case of influenza and died at the age of 35. In any case, this too was a different time -- the Deadball Era -- and it was at the start of that period when Hall of Famer and all-time great Connie Mack couldn't afford to put a decent team on the field. Mack's A's had won three World Series and three more pennants when he felt the need to sell off everybody; Mack averaged 102 losses per season from 1915 to 1921.
The 1935 Boston Braves were remarkably terrible, they went 38-115 and not one pitcher with a decision on the entire team had a .500 record. No one was even 1-1. That Braves team, incidentally, was also managed by a Hall of Famer -- Bill McKechnie. It's amazing: The three worst teams of modern times were all managed by Hall of Fame skippers.
Maybe this is a reason to believe in Browns' coach Hue Jackson.
Anyway, I like to think of the 1962 Mets as the worst team ever, perhaps because there are so many wonderful stories about their awfulness. They went 40-120 under the guiding influence of Hall of Famer Casey Stengel. My favorite story is well-worn but it never loses its joy, it's the "Yo la tengo!" story. There's a pretty great band named after it.
Apparently, Mets shortstop Elio Chacon was pretty reckless in how he chased after fly balls hit to centerfield. This concerned the Mets veteran centerfielder and future Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn, who was 35 at the time and didn't particularly fancy crashing into a 25-year-old kid. Chacon was from Venezuela, so Ashburn came up with a good idea.
"Elio," he said. "How do you say, 'I got it" in Spanish?" he asked.
Chacon replied: "Yo la tengo."
Asbhurn practiced the words, practiced them, and that night a fly ball was lifted, it was Ashburn's ball, but out of the corner of his eye he could see Chacon tearing after the ball with blood in his eyes.
"Yo la tengo! Yo la tengo!" Ashburn shouted. And to his surprise and joy, Chacon stopped.
That's when right fielder Frank Thomas plowed into Ashburn and the baseball dropped.
Anyway, the 1962 Mets have a special place in baseball history, and their 40-120 record has a certain mathematical elegance about it, and Jimmy Breslin wrote a classic book about them with the classic title "Can't Anyone Here Play This Game," so let's go with them.
What do these guys have to do with the Browns other than their obvious shared stinkiosity?
Well, for that let's thank brilliant reader Patrick who came up with my favorite stat theme in recent months. Patrick is a long-suffering Browns fan, naturally, and so he decided to look into how the Browns have done over their last 162 games to make a direct baseball comparison. He also decided to see how the same stat would look if the Browns lose their last two and finish 0-16 this year.
I think the Browns have a reasonable chance of winning one of their last two. They play the Bears this week in Chicago, and while the Bears absolutely COULD destroy them, well, the Bears aren't all that good either, and they probably won't be super motivated, so who knows? And then last week the Browns play Pittsburgh, which would be a 600 point loss if it mattered, but it likely won't matter to the Steelers at all. So, it's not impossible and perhaps not even crazy improbable that they win a cheap game.
But let's proceed as if they go 0-16 like they should.
If that's the case -- and now we're following Patrick's chart.
0 wins in last 17 games.
1 win in last 35 games.
2 wins in last 43 games.
3 wins in last 46 games
4 wins last 53 games
5 wins in last 55 games.
OK, stop here. Look at that: Assuming the Browns lose out, they will have gone 5-50 in their last 55 games. We often joke about how a college football team, even a great one like Alabama, would get destroyed by NFL teams. I am one of the more staunch "No college team could compete against an NFL team" people.
BUT, I think if you gave Nick Saban this year's Alabama team, put them through NFL training camps, kept them all together for four years, and had them play a three and a half year, 55-game NFL schedule, would they be worse than 5-50? I don't know. I kind of doubt it.
Even if they were worse, they couldn't be MUCH worse for various math reasons.
OK, keep going.
Browns won three in a row in 2014 (woo hoo!) so that makes it eight wins in 59 games.
OK, there was another two-game winning streak in 2014 and a three-game streak in 2013 and a three-game streak in 2012. Yes, they're rolling. We are going backward so that that 2012 streak made them 18-68 over t86 games, which, yeah, that's terrible. a .209 winning percentage, worse than any baseball team of the 20th century. But we have only barely made it to half a baseball season. So we keep going.
The Browns won 19 of their last 90, 20 of their last 102 (a sweet 11-game losing streak from end of 2011 to 2012 that you probably forgot about), 21 of their last 106. In 2009, under Eric Mangini, the Browns actually won four games in a row -- yes, they were the last four games of the season against mediocre-to-lousy teams that didn't care, but four-game streaks are four game streaks.
Counting that streak, the Browns will have won 33 of their last 139 games.
We're getting close to the full baseball season now. But we're also closing in on the 2007 season, the one semi-precious gem in the Browns treasure box of garbage. The Browns went 10-6 in 2007. Does that put them over the New York Mets?
Well, now it can be told. As of right now, the Browns are 39-121 over 160 games ... one game worse than the 1962 Mets! BUT, this is cheating a little bit because this record butts up against a two-game winning streak. So over 162 games, which is a the real baseball seaosn number (the 1962 Mets played in a time when nobody cared so much about it) the Browns are 41-121. This would tie them with the Mets in the standings but it is three percentage points better than the Mets.
However, if they can just lose out this year, yep, it's all theirs: The Browns would be 39-123 over 162 games, worse than the 1962 New York Mets. It is something to dream about.