It’s a simple question, one that a year ago today would have been seemingly unfathomable. It is one that should never be asked of a team paying upwards of $170 million for its 25 man roster. However, we have reached the point where it needs to be asked.
The anatomy of this catastrophic drop from a year ago—where on this date their record stood at 84-55—has been analyzed to the point of exhaustion. Blame has been meted out to management, the players, the manager, the baseball gods and pretty much anyone else associated with the team.
However, if one were to replace the seemingly-mystical Red Sox brand with, say, the Marlins, then the conversation would quickly turn from making excuses about why the team is terrible and focus significantly more on the simple, gross ineptitude the team has shown on the field.
There is no escaping the fact that this Red Sox team is horrible; at 63-74, they own a .460 winning percentage that ties them for 22nd in MLB.
While nobody is going to touch Houston’s horrific 42-94 record this season, the Astros have also not been competing under the delusion that they are playoff contenders.
Of the teams worse than the Sox record-wise, only Miami and perhaps Cleveland had any legitimate playoff aspirations heading into the season. The Sox’s opening day payroll, though, was almost 150 percent bigger than the Marlins’ and over 220 percent bigger than the Indians’.
The Astros—they own the worst record in baseball—have paid $1.44 million per win this season. The Sox, on the other hand, have paid almost twice as much ($2.75 million) for each victory. In fact, the only team that compares to this level of inefficiency is the Philadelphia Phillies, who clock in at $2.69 million.
Things really soured for the Sox in the month of August.
Whereas they had maintained some level of mediocrity before the month commenced, their 9-20 record cemented the team’s status as one of MLB’s worst. Only Cleveland, Houston and the Cubs posted worse winning percentages for the month.
The futility has been most apparent at home.
The Sox have posted a 32-38 (.457) record at Fenway Park, the fourth-worst home winning percentage in the game. Considering in the previous five years the Sox had a combined .627 mark at home, this staggering drop reflects just how bad this team has become.
Judging a team to be “bad” or the “worst” can be performed through a number lenses. The simplest and most popular is of course by overall record; it eliminates subjectivity, following the Bill Parcells corollary of “you are what your record says you are.”
The gap between expected and actual performance is another way of viewing “bad.” A team expected to succeed that instead sinks to near the bottom of the league is not just playing bad baseball, they also are eroding the support of their fans by failing to deliver on preseason promises.
In a case such as the Red Sox, the expectations relative to the team need to be considered in order to properly understand the context of the their failure.
Especially given the addition of a second Wild Card team this season, the Sox were projected by most (although not all) to at the very least earn a shot at the playoffs. Not only have they failed to spend even one day in first place in the AL East, but they have spent 99 of the season’s 136 days either at or below .500.
While fans knew this team was capable of playing poorly after the events of September 2011, the carryover into this season has nevertheless been startling.
With their huge payroll, big names and previous success, the Red Sox by all accounts should be in the thick of the pennant race right now.
Their abject failure despite the sizable advantages they have over the rest of the league makes them easily the biggest disappointment in MLB. If we also take into account the ways in which they’ve treated their fans, they can readily be called the worst team in all of baseball.