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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

July 1, 2009 at 2:47 PM

The Mariners could join extremely rare company this year

Just to expand on my earlier item about the Mariners being on pace to improve by 22 games over last season, I’ve got some more statistics to chew on, with the able assistance of Elias Sports Bureau and the Mariners’ manager of baseball information, Jeff Evans. Jeff is fresh off a triumphant showing in the Rock and Roll Half Marathon. His goal was to run the half in two hours, and he clocked in at one hour, 59 minutes and 59 seconds. Had it all the way.

Turns out, if the Mariners can maintain a winning record, they would join just a handful of teams in history that have followed a 100-loss season with a winning record. There have been 14 all-time, but only nine in the last 50 years.

The most recent team to accomplish the feat was the 2003 Kansas City Royals, who went 83-79 in 2003 after thudding to a 62-100 mark in 2002. The Royals were so charged up by that accomplishment that they lost 104, 106 and 100 games the next three years — proving that one turnaround does not a resurrection make.

The unquestioned master of the one-season revival was Billy Martin. In 1973, he took over as Rangers manager for the final 23 games (replacing Whitey Herzog, of all people) of a 105-loss season, then orchestrated the 1974 turnaround to an 84-76 mark. And after the A’s lost 108 games in 1979 under manager Jim Marshall, Martin took over and made a remarkable 29-game improvement to 83-79. That was the year of “Billy and His Five Aces” — Rick Langford, Mike Morris, Matt Keough, Steve McCatty and Brian Kingman, who combined for 93 complete games.

The biggest improvement in history was executed in 1890 by those plucky Louisville Colonels, who jumped 61 victories, from 27 to 88, under the shrewd leadership of Jack Chapman. He turned out to be a much better manager than Dude Esterbrook, who began as Louisville manager in 1889 but was fired en route to a 27-111 season. I can just imagine the conversation when they called in Esterbrook to let him go.

“Dude, these guys suck. Sorry, Dude, but you’re outta here.”

In modern times, the biggest jump was the by the 1962 Phillies, who jumped 34 wins, from 47 to 81. Doing the managing both years was Gene Mauch, slowly building a team good enough to stage an epic collapse two years later.

Here is the complete list of teams that lost 100 games one year, and had a winning record the next:

2002 Kansas City Royals: 62-100, .383

2003 Kansas City Royals: 83-79, .512

1988 Baltimore Orioles: 54-107, .335

1989 Baltimore Orioles: 87-75, .537

1985 Cleveland Indians: 60-102, .370

1986 Cleveland Indians: 84-78, .519

1985 San Francisco Giants: 62-100, .383

1986 San Francisco Giants: 83-79, .512

1979 Oakland A’s: 54-108, .333

1980 Oakland A’s: 83-79, .512

1973 Texas Rangers: 57-105, .352

1974 Texas Rangers: 84-76, .525

1966 Chicago Cubs: 59-103, .364

1967 Chicago Cubs: 87-74, .540

1962 Chicago Cubs: 59-103, .364

1963 Chicago Cubs: 82-80, .506

1961 Philadelphia Phillies: 47-107, .305

1962 Philadelphia Phillies: 81-80, .503

1946 Philadelphia A’s: 49-105, .318

1947 Philadelphia A’s: 78-76, .506

1917 Pittsburgh Pirates: 51-103, .331

1918 Pittsburgh Pirates: 65-60, .520

1904 Philadelphia Phillies: 52-100, .342

1905 Philadelphia Phillies: 83-69, .546

1898 St. Louis Browns: 39-111, .260

1899 St. Louis Browns: 84-67, .556

1889 Louisville Colonels 27-111, .196

1890 Louisville Colonels: 88-44, .667

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