Seven teams on pace to lose 100 games

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It seemed so sim­ple when the Houston 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 straight 100loss sea­sons, base­ball is flush with ter­ri­ble teams.

A stag­ger­ing seven clubs are 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 Chicago White Sox, Bal­ti­more Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Cincin­nati Reds, Miami Marlins, San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers are on track to lose be­tween 100 and 119 games.

With the sea­son barely one-quar­ter fin­ished, things can surely get bet­ter. 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, Royals and Padres are al­ready dou­ble-digit games out of first place; 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, Chicago Cubs in win­ning the past two 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, right? If you get to the promised land and you win, it doesn’t mat­ter how you got there.”

All the big-los­ing 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. In the mean­time, av­er­age at­ten­dance has fallen from 31,000 in 2013 to 22,000 last year. The Reds are av­er­ag­ing 17,000 so far this sea­son, though the usual early-sea­son weather and school caveats ap­ply.

The White Sox drew 1.63 mil­lion fans in 2017, their low­est to­tal since draw­ing 1.34 mil­lion in 1999. The Padres drew 2.46 mil­lion fans in 2015, when veter­ans like Justin Up­ton, Craig Kim­brel and James Shield were added and helped boost at­ten­dance. That num­ber fell to 2.14 mil­lion last year.

The Orioles al­ready 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,” said All-Star out­fielder Adam Jones, like Machado a free agent af­ter the sea­son. “If you con­tend, the fans should be there.”

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

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