The Panic Button: Historically Bad Losses By Historically Good Teams

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Finding it too hard to take our advice about taking the long view of things when it comes to baseball? Recent Nationals games have you on edge?  Don’t worry-you’ve hit The Panic Button – and we’ve got you covered.

Credit:  Thanks to @CBJinDC for helping me find most of these.

Let’s face it; there wasn’t anything good about the Nationals 15-0 loss Friday night to the Cincinnati Reds.  Despite the Nationals official twitter trying to polish said turd:

This was still the most lopsided loss in modern Nats history.

Despite multiple renditions of “don’t panic” and “it’s one game” from a healthy portion of Nats fans, much of Natstown just couldn’t get over how ugly it was last night.  Many seemed to be ready to pack in the season (and quite a few more are ready to send Dan Haren packing after just one start).

Still, there is every reason to expect that the Nationals can “overcome” their first loss of the season despite it hitting every branch (and Reds bat) on the ugly tree.  Why?  We turn to the only thing we have in baseball-History.  Let’s look at some really great teams and some really awful losses:

  • The 1928 Yankees are often thought to be among the most complete teams in Baseball History.  They won 101 games en route to a World Series title and Nine Players from this team would make the Hall of Fame.  Forget the Goon Squad for a second, these guys still had Murderer’s Row.  And yet on July 29 of that year, a team AT THAT TIME 40 games over .500 dropped their second game in a row, this time to the lowly Cleveland Indians (who’d finish 62-92) by the score of 24-6.
  • Flash forward to the 1930 Philadelphia A’s, managed by one Cornelius McGillicuddy (Connie Mack).  His Athletics would win 102 games on the way to another World Championship.  The Senators would win 94 games that year and still be a distant second.  On May 11 however, the Cleveland Indians (again!) put the screws to the eventual Champions by the score of 25-7.  The Indians would finish a more respectable 81-73.

Keep in mind, in these early years of baseball, the talent disparity was much bigger then than it is now.  Awful teams were truly awful- so these losses were especially inexplicable.  Moving on:

  • How about those 1957 Milwaukee Braves!  Their 95 Wins pushed them to their only World Series title.  They didn’t look like champions when they got trounced 20-4 by the then Brooklyn Dodgers (84-70) on July 15.  Hardly peak form.
  • 1972-the Oakland Athletics would win the franchise’s first World Series since 1930 (mentioned above) and the first of three in a row.  Tell that to an A’s fan on May 19, 1972 however.  He wouldn’t believe they’d win 93 games, let alone three championship rings, after watching the Kansas City Royals eat his team up 16-1. (The Royals finished 76-78).
  • Still not convinced?  The 1980 Philadelphia Phillies lost 14-0 to the Kozma-less Cardinals on August 6.  By the end, the Phillies 91 wins put them in the playoffs on the way to winning the World Series, and the Cards managed only fourth place in the NL East with 74 wins.
  • One last one to really drive home my point.  The Cleveland Indians (for the third time!) on this list beat the snot out of a really good team.  This time it was the 2004 New York Yankees, who like the 1928 crew, would win 101 games in the regular season.  They didn’t win the World Series that year, but they were clearly a championship caliber team.  Except on August 31, when they lost 22-0 to the tribe at home.  The Indians would only finish 80-82 at the end of the year.

Hopefully you’ve got the bigger point by now- that one game is really just that. One Game.  But look a little deeper into these examples:  In all of these cases the blowout win was won by a vastly weaker team.  Not only that, but in nearly all cases the wins came much, much later than the first week of the season.  These teams knew exactly who they were on both sides of the ball, which makes the loss all the more puzzling.

On Friday, the Nationals lost to a very good baseball team- it didn’t help that everything went right for the Reds and everything went wrong for the Nats.  Frankly, if the Reds had a bad game and the Nats were “locked in,” the exact same thing could happen in reverse.  Saturday’s back and forth match up (which the Nats won) is likely a more accurate representation of how evenly these teams are matched up.

It may be cold comfort to put it so bluntly: but suck it up!  This happens, and part of being a baseball fan is learning how to hack it when the team soils the bed beyond all recognition. The Nats are great, but they aren’t the 1928 Yankees (if only because the talent level across teams is so much closer).  If the ’28 Yankees can get their brains beaten in and pick themselves up, so can the Nationals.  So, have a little faith and fun and just get ready for the next game!  There are 157 left, and they won’t wait for you or me to stop crying in our beer before they play the next one.

Again:  Thanks to @CBJinDC for helping me find most of these.

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