Thank God for the All-Star game. Without it, what would baseball use to track mid-season trends, stats, and standings? Without the All-Star game, we would be forced to say things like “at the halfway point,” or “midway through the season.” That would seriously be hell on Earth.
The All-Star break can also be seen as a short regrouping period in which players and teams can turn their fortunes around. However, that’s not always a good thing. For every inspirational talk, for every instance of increased focus and teamwork, there’s a manager that loses his team, or a player whose focus drifts. So let’s enjoy the breakdowns for a moment or two with the worst second-half collapses.
I based collapses on the differences in winning percentages in the first half of the season and the second half of the season. These are listed as the top 5, but there are a handful of entries that supersede these, but they’re from teams that were playing on polo fields in the 1880’s and such. Not the most fun. Fortunately someone else did the statistical heavy lifting with this list that I used as my benchmark.
5. Angels – 1983
Back when they were known as the “California” Angels, rather than the “Los Angels Angels of Anaheim” or “Anaheim Angels” or any of the other modern-day permutations, these guys were getting the attention of baseball by staging a monumental meltdown after the All-Star break. The Angels went from .543 to a miserable .321 on the back end. Reggie Jackson was in the twilight of his career and, though he played 116 games at DH, was only able to muster a .194 batting average. If someone can’t crack the Mendoza line over the course of 116 games, you might not want to play him in a position called “designated hitter.” They fell to fifth in their division and, of course, sat on the sidelines during the playoffs. Metaphorically speaking.
4. Brewers – 1975
In 1975, Milwaukee went from slightly over .500 with a .531 winning percentage to WAY under with a .309 run in the second half of the season. This team, owned by now-commissioner Bud Selig, ended up a worse-than-mediocre 68-95. It’s no easy feat to start the way the Brewers did and end up fifth in their division. Ugh.
The team’s collective ego was further marred by the fact that this was Hank Aaron’s inaugural year with the team. An auspicious start, Mr. Aaron.
3. Nationals – 2005
Hey! It’s a team from just yesterday. The upstart Nationals hung out to that famous Expo spirit in this effort, going from .617 in the first half of 2005 to .383 in the second half, which left them…back. It was the Nats first season in Washington, and to give you some idea of the legacy they were trying to shake in Montreal, the team had the 3rd biggest breakdown in MLB history, but was still able to pull one of the best finishes of the decade for the Expo/Nats. It’s nice to see you can have the wheels come off in epic fashion and still have a banner year for your team. Lowered expectations, I guess.
2. Philadelphia A’s – 1943
Congrats Philadelphians, you took a good run, but you couldn’t quite make it to the top here. The A’s went from a meager .443 winning percentage in the front half of the season to a nauseating .199 in the second half, which put them in 8th place in the American League in 1943. That doesn’t seem so bad until you realize that there were a lot less teams back then. Their most impactful pitcher was Don Black who went 6-16 in 33 starts. Rough. Poor Connie Mack. He had so much success, but not enough. It’s like the movie Major League, but in reverse.
1. Cubs – 1977
The dubious distinction of being first on this list of course belongs to the Cubs, whose breakdown in 1977 left the whole country and Cubs fans in particular saying “What just happened?” They went from a .630 winning percentage during the front nine to a .370 on the back nine, not only blowing an 8.5 game lead at the half, but blowing it so badly as to finish in fourth place IN THEIR division. Not great work, guys.
Maybe it had to do with utility player Dave Rosello switching positions 12 times, or team leader Bobby Murcer switching roles eight times. It’s a little hard to find a groove when every day finds you rotating around the diamond to fix a problem that wasn’t so prevalent in the first 81 games.