Seven ma­jor league teams stum­ble to­ward 100 losses

De­feats add up in re­builds, tank­ings

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Gabe Lac­ques USA TO­DAY

“If you get to the promised land, it doesn’t mat­ter how you got there,” says the Roy­als’ Danny Duffy, about fol­low­ing in the Astros’ foot­steps.

It seemed so sim­ple when the Astros did it: Strip-mine the ma­jor league club, rack up 100-loss sea­sons while sav­ing money and ac­cu­mu­lat­ing high draft picks, and pivot to cham­pi­onship-cal­iber base­ball when the time was right.

Yet as the 2018 Ma­jor League Base­ball sea­son un­folds, it ap­pears there’s no such thing as a trust­wor­thy process.

One year af­ter the Astros claimed a World Se­ries ti­tle just four years re­moved from three con­sec­u­tive 100-loss sea­sons, base­ball is flush with ter­ri­ble teams. A stag­ger­ing seven ball­clubs were on pace to lose 100 games, exceeding the com­bined to­tal from the past seven sea­sons.

Not since 2002 have as many as three teams lost 100 games, but that mark will be in peril this sea­son. In or­der of pu­trid­ity, the White Sox (10-27), Ori­oles (1328), Reds (14-27), Roy­als (13-27), Mar­lins (14-26), Padres (16-26) and Rangers (16-26) were on track to lose be­tween 100 and 119 games.

With the sea­son one-quar­ter fin­ished for most teams, things can surely get bet­ter. In fact, the Ori­oles won for the fifth time in seven games May 13 while the Reds had reeled off six in a row against the Mets and Dodgers.

But the cycli­cal gains made by many of these clubs very well could be nul­li­fied by ros­ter dele­tions be­fore the July 31 trade dead­line. All but the White Sox and Padres are al­ready dou­ble­fig­ure games out of first place, and all are look­ing up at three or four teams in their di­vi­sion.

Is tank­ing to blame? Largely, but not en­tirely.

The process pop­u­lar­ized by the Astros and, to a lesser ex­tent, the Cubs in win­ning World Se­ries cham­pi­onships has been mim­icked to var­i­ous de­grees.

“It worked for them,” Roy­als lefty Danny Duffy, a holdover from their 2015 cham­pi­onship club, said of the Astros. “There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s. If you get to the promised land and you win, it doesn’t mat­ter how you got there.”

The big losers of 2018 find them­selves mired in var­i­ous points of the process, and some il­lus­trate the per­ils of get­ting in too deep.

The Ori­oles? Avoid­ing a re­build as long as pos­si­ble, as they make one more (ap­par­ently fu­tile) run with fran­chise player Manny Machado and sev­eral other key free agents-to-be.

The Rangers? Like the Ori­oles, un­der­cut by an in­ef­fec­tive pitch­ing staff and stuck some­where be­tween vet­er­ans on the down­side and the emer­gence of promis­ing young­sters.

The Roy­als? Just get­ting started af­ter their cham­pi­onship win­dow closed with the de- par­ture of three key free agents.

The Padres? In half-tank mode, as their sign­ing of ex-Royal Eric Hos­mer to a $143 mil­lion deal sig­nals a ramp­ing up — yet their skimp­ing on a ro­ta­tion that had yielded a 5.05 ERA in­di­cates they’re not yet ready to go all in.

The Mar­lins? It’s what they do, though this time un­der the aus­pices of new own­er­ship ea­ger to shed debt.

Then there are the Reds and the White Sox, who can’t seem to change the course they charted.

White Sox GM Rick Hahn noted that this might be the tough­est year of their re­build, and it’s cer­tainly play­ing out that way. The White Sox were 5-2 against the Roy­als and 5-25 against ev­ery­body else; the start­ing ro­ta­tion had a ma­jor league-worst 5.78 ERA, as vet­eran stop­gaps have strug­gled and young­ster Lu­cas Gi­olito (6.91 ERA) holds the du­bi­ous dis­tinc­tion of walk­ing more bat­ters (32) than he’s struck out (24). In the mean­time, they’ve kept their top prospects, fire­balling right-han­der Michael Kopech and pow­er­hit­ting out­fielder Eloy Jimenez, in the mi­nor leagues, which is prob­a­bly pru­dent.

All these clubs present case stud­ies of what a fan base can en­dure.

The Reds have av­er­aged 93 losses over four sea­sons since their last play­off ap­pear­ance and look bound for their first 100-loss sea­son since 1982. Av­er­age at­ten­dance has fallen from 31,000 in 2013 to 22,000 last year. The Reds are av­er­ag­ing 17,000 this sea­son, though the usual early-sea­son weather and school caveats ap­ply.

The White Sox drew 1.63 mil­lion fans in 2017, their low­est since draw­ing 1.34 mil­lion in 1999.

The Padres drew 2.46 mil­lion fans in 2015, when vet­er­ans in­clud­ing Justin Up­ton, Craig Kim­brel and James Shields were added and helped boost at­ten­dance. That num­ber fell to 2.14 mil­lion last year.

The Ori­oles saw at­ten­dance dip even be­fore the on-field prod­uct suf­fered last year, and a re­luc­tant re­build could dent at­ten­dance fur­ther in com­ing years. The team coun­tered by of­fer­ing free ad­mis­sion to chil­dren 9 and un­der this sea­son and on Sun­day drew more than 25,000 on a chilly Mother’s Day.

“Win­ning solves ev­ery­thing,” says All-Star out­fielder Adam Jones, like Machado a free agent af­ter the sea­son. “If you con­tend, the fans should be there.”

For nearly a third of ma­jor league teams, how­ever, that im­pe­tus might not ex­ist in what could be some very long sea­sons.

GREG M. COOPER/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

KAMIL KRZA­CZYN­SKI/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Start­ing pitcher Lu­cas Gi­olito has walked more bat­ters (32) than he has struck out (24) this sea­son as the White Sox had posted a 10-27 record.

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