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Listed below are the Major League Baseball teams with the worst season won-lost records, as determined by winning percentage (.300 or less), minimum 140 games played.
The following teams finished the season with a 0.300 record or worse.
|1962||New York Mets||National||40||120||.250||60½|
|1898||St. Louis Browns||National||39||111||.260||63½|
|1932||Boston Red Sox||American||43||111||.279||64|
|1911||St. Louis Browns||American||45||107||.296||56½|
|1937||St. Louis Browns||American||46||108||.299||56|
|1926||Boston Red Sox||American||46||107||.300||44½|
The 1899 Cleveland Spiders own the worst single-season record of all time and for all eras (with one exception), finishing at 20–134 (.130 percentage) in the final year of the National League's 12–team era in the 1890s. The only major league team to do worse, the 1884 Wilmington Quicksteps of the Union Association, played only 18 games, compiling a 2–16 record and a .111 winning percentage.
With shorter schedules during much of the 19th century, it was much more common for teams to finish with sub-.300 winning percentages. For example, the 1876 Cincinnati Reds (not the same franchise as the modern-day Reds) went 9–56 for a .138 percentage. By 1899, the National League was playing the standard 154–game schedule.
The Cleveland Spiders had had a fair amount of success in the 1890s, with seven straight winning seasons 1892-98 and a Temple Cup victory in 1895. Meanwhile, the once four-time American Association champion St. Louis Browns had fallen to a then-all-time low of 39–111 in 1898. But Spiders ownership (the Robison brothers) bought the Browns in time for the 1899 season, creating an obvious conflict-of-interest situation which was later outlawed. On the eve of the season, they traded almost all of Cleveland's good players to St. Louis for very little in return, with respectable results for St. Louis and disastrous results for Cleveland.
The 1899 Spiders set the major league record for most consecutive losses in a season (24, from July 26 to September 16), and had 6 double-digit losing streaks. Although they lost 27 games in September, the record for the most games lost in a month is held by the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics who went 2-28 in August. The Spiders lost 40 of their last 41 games. They also finished 84 games behind the 1899 National League champion Brooklyn Dodgers. The 1899 Browns, renamed the "Perfectos" and staffed with all the best players from the 1898 Spiders—six of the Spiders' eight starting position players and four starting pitchers, including the great Cy Young—would improve by a whopping 44½ games, from 39–111 to 84–67. However, all St. Louis did ultimately was to trade places with Cleveland in the standings. The Browns/Perfectos would be renamed the St. Louis Cardinals in 1900, and are unrelated to the American League St. Louis Browns that adopted the discarded nickname and also appear on this list.
After the 1899 season, the National League contracted from twelve to eight clubs, and the Spiders were one of four teams to fold, along with Baltimore, Louisville and Washington. Baltimore had also been stripped of its best players by Brooklyn in 1899, to somewhat less dramatic effect but still enough to speed their demise. The American League soon arose to fill the void.
The 1935 Boston Braves featured Hall of Famers Rabbit Maranville (age 43) and Babe Ruth (age 40). Braves owner Emil Fuchs had promised Ruth an ownership stake in the Braves and a chance to manage the club in the near future, but had little intention of delivering either. Ruth retired on June 1, 1935, having hit .181 in 72 at-bats for the Braves, with six home runs (the last three all coming on the same day, May 25, 1935, at Pittsburgh).
The 1939 Browns drew 386 fans to the park for a 7–4 home loss to Detroit on September 27.
The 1962 New York Mets were an expansion team created to fill the void caused when the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers left New York City after the 1957 season. The Mets, filled with castoffs like "Marvelous" Marv Throneberry as well as aging Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn and low-talent rookies such as Choo Choo Coleman, finished with the third-worst winning percentage in the modern era and the modern-era (1900-present) record for most losses. The Mets went on to finish last or next-to-last for seven years in a row, before they shocked the baseball world by winning the 1969 World Series.
The 2003 Tigers seemed like a sure bet to break the 1962 Mets' record for most losses when they stood at 38–118 after 156 games, but they won five of their last six to avoid ignominy. On September 27, in their next-to-last game, the Tigers came back from an 8–0 deficit to beat the Minnesota Twins 9–8 (the Twins, having just clinched the division, were resting their starters). When the Tigers won the season finale to avoid tying the record, they received a standing ovation from the crowd. Mike Maroth, a starting pitcher for the 2003 Detroit Tigers, went 9–21 and became the first pitcher to lose 20 games in a season since Brian Kingman dropped 20 games for the 1982 Oakland Athletics. Ramón Santiago of the Tigers became only the 12th Triple Crown loser (a player who finishes last in all of the three Triple Crown categories) in modern MLB history.
Three years after losing 119 games, the Detroit Tigers went 95–67 and won their 10th American League pennant, before losing the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Players common to the 2003 and 2006 Tigers teams included Brandon Inge, Ramón Santiago (who spent 2004 and 2005 with the Seattle Mariners), Craig Monroe, Dmitri Young (released in September 2006), Omar Infante, Mike Maroth, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, Jamie Walker, Wilfredo Ledezma, and Fernando Rodney.
On October 2-3, 2012, the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs became the first two teams in Major League Baseball history to lose 100 or more games and then play each other in the same season. They faced off in the final series of the year. The Cubs lost the first game of the 3-game series 3-0 to reach 100 losses, then lost the second game by the same score before winning the 3rd game 5-4. The two teams finished the season with the worst two records in Major League Baseball. The Cubs finished 61-101 (.377), while the Astros finished 55-107 (.340)