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Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

July 26, 2011 at 9:42 AM

Giving the Cleveland Spiders their due and where the Mariners rank historically

One thing I’ve learned throughout this Mariners losing streak: no one has a comprehensive list of the worst losing streaks of all-time in baseball.
I thought I’d figured it out on my own last night, but then the Associated Press compiled their own list that contained some teams I’d missed. Then, I realized I’d found some teams the AP missed. So, I’ll put them all together later on in the post and hopefully we can come up with a list we all agree upon.
The other thing I figured out is that everyone wants to believe baseball began after the 1900s got started. I think that’s terrible. A gross injustice being perpetuated on the truly awful 1899 Cleveland Spiders.
I mean, what if, 89 years from now, some guy with a spreadsheet decides the New York Yankees dynasty of the late 1990s doesn’t really count? Other than some of us in Seattle, will any fans truly be happy about that?
The Spiders went 20-134 back in 1899 and at one point lost 24 in a row.
In my book, that makes them baseball’s all-time losing streak champ. Not the 1961 Phillies, who lost 23 in a row and 107 games overall. They are the pretenders. The phony champions. Besides, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys of the National League in 1890 already had a 23-gamer.
(And no, we’re not counting the Louisville Colonels of 1889, who lost 26 straight games while playing in a now-defunct league called the American Association. We’ll limit this to AL and NL teams. But give the Colonels some “major” (army joke) props, that’s a darned good streak. Honorable mention here).
For now and for all eternity, the Spiders will be the baseball lowlite all other non-winning franchises use as a benchmark.
Unless somebody loses 25 in a row.

Back to the Mariners, there has been some discrepancy as to where we rank them on baseball’s all-time losing streak list.
I have their streak as the eighth longest of all-time if you count the Spiders and the 1890 Pittsburgh Pirates on the list. And yes, there are many more teams than that actually ahead of the Mariners and their 16 games.
But if a bunch of teams are tied at 20 losses in a row, to me, that counts as one losing streak mark. Not as four or five. In the Olympics, if two guys tie for the bronze medal, they don’t give one the medal and announce that one finished fourth.
No, there are two third-place finishers and then the next guy in line is fourth. He isn’t fifth.
Does this matter? No, not really. This is a bad losing streak for the Mariners, plain and simple. Getting down to the details of it doesn’t really matter much. We can analyze every missed call, every error and every non-hit in a key situation, but, when a streak runs this high, analysis is futile.
You just have to assume these players are putting so much pressure on themselves that they are making mistakes they wouldn’t normally make. Whether it’s the normally reliable Adam Kennedy or the even more unflappable Dustin Ackley doing the miscues, this team just can’t be judged normally right now.
The losses have taken over.
Yes, there is an offensive undercurrent to all this. For the most part, the offense hasn’t been good enough. There is a huge difference between scoring a bunch of runs early against a top-throwing starter and doing it late against a tiring starter or third-rate bullpen arm when your team is down by four, five or eight runs. A starter trying to protect a one-run lead isn’t going to always attack the zone as aggressively as a guy with a six-run lead will.
There is a huge difference in pressure these Mariners feel going up there with a chance to end this streak versus a chance to pad some runs and make an 11-3 or 9-1 game more respectable. I suspect — though, no, can’t scientifically prove it — that this is the reason the M’s could score a couple off a tiring Freddy Garcia last night or a fading Tim Wakefield the other day versus doing it with the bases loaded and none out off top setup man Daniel Bard in Boston the other night in the eighth.
There is indeed “garbage time” in baseball. And when a team like the M’s keeps scoring when the game’s all but over, but doesn’t score when it’s on the line, I do think it’s fair to look for trends. Especially when a team has lost 16 in a row.
Yes, Miguel Olivo did hit that grand slam the other day to tie a 5-1 game in the eighth. Again, the play came out of nowhere, with the M’s loading the bases on two infield singles and a walk. Olivo’s blast was one of those things you’ll see about once a season, just like Seattle’s never-since-repeated 13-run outburst against Detroit back in mid-April that has proved an outlier for a bad offense.
If this team starts scoring and sustaining it when it counts, then I’ll be convinced. But the M’s had three hits before last night’s seventh inning and were down 9-1 when they finally began hitting again.
Want to end this streak? Either somebody throws a shutout, or the M’s have to do a better offensive job.
Please, no one is criticizing the M’s for hitting well late. Nobody is blaming Brendan Ryan for his late grand slam, or Justin Smoak for his late RBI single last night. What is being criticized is the inability of the Mariners to do much when a game is still within reasonable striking distance. In other words, somebody needs to come through before Ryan’s slam, and before Mike Carp’s three-run homer the other night.
And for most of the season, with few exceptions, this has been the M’s story.
They showed signs of early life in Boston on Sunday before Michael Pineda yielded a five-spot. So, the pitching will have to sync up on the rare days the offense does get things together and score first. Every streak — good or bad — needs some luck to keep it going and it was Seattle’s bad luck that Pineda picked Sunday to have his worst inning of the season.
But that’s it. The real key now is to end the streak somehow and some way. After that, we can get back to scrutinizing every single play. But overall, the offense still hasn’t been good enough despite a bunch of “garbage time” runs and the pitching has taken the step back we all suspected it might. It’s been made to look worse than it is by three good offensive teams from the AL East.
But throw that in with a historically bad offense that didn’t have any improvements made to it this season and this was a disaster waiting to happen. Nobody could have forseen these 16 losses in a row. But a prolonged stretch of losing was never out of the question, even when we were championing for additional bats to be added. This stretch of schedule was far to tough to head into it with an offense scoring one or two runs per game when it matters.
Here is the comprehensive list of all-time losers. Any additions, suggestions are more than welcome.
24 — Cleveland (NL), 1899
23 — Philadelphia (NL), 1961
23 — Pittsburgh (NL), 1890
21 — x-Baltimore (AL), 1988
20 — Boston (AL), 1906
20 — Philadelphia (AL), 1916
20 — Philadelphia (AL), 1943
20 — Montreal (NL), 1969
19 — Kansas City (AL), 2005
19 — Detroit (AL), 1975
19 — Boston (NL), 1906
19 — Cincinnati (NL), 1914
18 — Philadelphia (AL), 1920
18 — Washington (AL), 1948
18 — Washington (AL), 1959
18 — St. Louis (NL), 1897
17 — Boston (AL), 1926
17 — New York (NL), 1962
17 — Atlanta (NL), 1977
16 — Boston (NL), 1907
16 — Boston (NL), 1911
16 — Brooklyn (NL), 1944
16 — Seattle (AL), 2011

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