The Seattle Mariners were expected to contend this season.
Yet, they're baseball's worst team with a 24-43 record heading into Saturday's action against the Washington Nationals.
The M's are 16 1/2 games out in the AL West, the largest deficit in the majors.
A far cry compared to last year, when the Mariners were in Wild Card contention all the way into September.
Seattle has not seen postseason baseball since the record-setting 116-win 2001 campaign, a year which ended prematurely in the ALCS.
Of course, the M's started the 2002 season on their '01 pace, but a second-half slump cost them a postseason berth.
They haven't been back since.
And this year, the additions of pitchers Erik Bedard (Orioles) and Carlos Silva (Twins) were supposed to help.
I knew from day one that Silva would be a bust, but I've been surprised by Bedard's non-performance so far.
Silva was 13-14 with a 4.19 ERA with the Twins in 2007, but some were saying the right-hander would benefit by not pitching half his games at the Metrodome. SAFECO Field was supposed to be wonderful for Silva.
Not so, though it looked good early. Silva started out 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA in his first four starts.
But that's why you don't hand out awards that early in the season. Since that early-season success, Silva has gone 0-7 in 10 starts, and his season-ERA is approaching 6.00.
Bedard has gone a pedestrian 4-4 with a 4.26 ERA, though he has had a couple of dominating performances so far. But just not as many of those types of outings as the Mariners had hoped.
Okay, that's the pitching, but what about the offense? Again, a big joke.
Adrian Beltre, who stunned the baseball world by clubbing 48 homers and batting .334 while playing half his games at pitching-friendly Dodger Stadium in 2004, has never approached those numbers since.
Beltre, who went to Seattle after that '04 season, has been a total bust. This season, Beltre has 13 dingers, but is hitting just .226.
But that batting average is not even the lowest in the Mariners lineup.
Another bust, Richie Sexson, is batting .217 with nine bombs.
Like Beltre, Sexson joined the M's for the 2005 season (they were signed as free agents two days apart), and last year the first sacker's numbers were awful: .205 and 21 dingers.
When your corner infielders are giving you that kind of production, with Beltre at third and Sexson at first, you're in big trouble.
And they have .222-hitting, four-homer Jose Vidro at DH.
Apparently, Seattle's formula is going with a trio of stiffs at the traditional power-hitting positions. You can see why it hasn't worked out.
And a lot of other moves the M's have made in the past haven't panned out either.
Trading away Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe to the Red Sox in 1997 for Heathcliff Slocumb, who managed only 13 saves in just over a season for Seattle?
Giving up a promising Jose Cruz Jr. for Toronto's Mike Timlin in the same season? Timlin notched only 20 saves in just over a season in a Mariners uniform.
Granted, the M's needed major bullpen help during their '97 run, but both Slocumb (4.50 ERA) and Timlin (54.00) were awful in the postseason, as were the other Mariners, and Seattle fell in the ALDS against Baltimore.
Varitek, of course, has led Boston to two World Series championships. Lowe has been an effective major-league closer and starter in his career.
Cruz hasn't really panned out, but at least has been able to put together back-to-back 30-homer seasons, including a 30-30 campaign in Toronto, before becoming a journeyman.
And, if you wanted to go back further in time, the M's once had Mike Hampton, who then went on to post a 22-win season for the Astros before leading the Mets to the World Series with an NLCS MVP performance.
Hampton, plauged by injuries in recent seasons, was at least able to have three 15-win seasons, plus a pair of 14-win campaigns when he was healthy.
Oh, Hampton was sent away for one Eric Anthony, who played one season and clubbed just 10 homers.
Scott Podsednik, who almost won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2003 (finishing behind Dontrelle Willis), was basically given away by the Mariners, as the Brewers claimed him off waivers.
Podsednik was a big part of the White Sox's 2005 championship season, batting leadoff and hitting two big homers during their postseason run.
When the M's were battling to defend their AL West title in 2002, they went out and only got weak-hitting Jose Offerman, despite the fact they needed a power bat in the lineup. That was dumb.
The Mariners' biggest acquisition in 2003 was Armando Benitez, and they finished only three games out.
And for some reason, they felt compelled to go out and re-invite a washed-up Aaron Sele for the 2005 season after three straight diastrous seasons with the Angels. Sele was 6-12 with an ERA of nearly 6.00 in his second stint in Seattle.
Giving Rafael Soriano to the Atlanta Braves for Horacio Ramirez after the '06 season? (ESPN called it the worst trade of the off-season, citing the fact Soriano was a lot better than Ramirez.)
Ramirez went 8-7 with a 7.16 ERA in one season for Seattle before getting released in March this year.
Soriano, in the meantime, was solid in the Braves bullpen in 2007 with a 3.00 ERA in 71 appearances, serving as a set-up man and closer, and was re-signed by Atlanta.
Oh yeah. Jeff Weaver. The right-hander was a star for the 2006 Word Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, pitching the clincher.
Seattle chose to overlook Weaver's 8-14 record and 5.76 ERA, and gave Weaver a one-year deal worth over $8 million in the off-season.
Yes, Weaver pitched well in the second half in 2007 when the M's were in contention, but he started out 0-6 in his first six starts lasting only 22 innings (14.32 ERA) before landing on the DL. (Weaver finished the year 7-13 with a 6.20 ERA.)
Hmm. The 2007 M's finished six games out in both the AL West and wild card race. How costly was Weaver's 0-6 beginning?
Great signing, eh?
Anyway, the Mariners won't make the postseason in 2008.
They may lose 100 games this year.