Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It might be bad, but it could be worse.

It isn't a secret, not many folks think the Caps will be much more than a middling AHL-quality team this year. But how bad, in the context of major pro teams since World War II, or even compared with the Caps' 8-67-5 weeping sore of an inaugural season in 1974-75 might they be?

There's bad, as in amusingly bad . . . there's bad, as in "do you believe this?" . . . and there's bad, but we'll get better. If you want to make the top of the list, you not only have to be bad, you need to give your following the impression that like a desert stretching to the horizon, your chances of any success in the foreseeable future will be as likely as finding a waterfall in the Sahara.

So, where do the Caps to be fit in? Not nearly as bad as one might think, in my Peerlessian opinion. Let's take a look at some of the epic disasters . . .

1949 St. Louis Browns. Geez, they stunk. True, at 53-101, they didn't have the worst record in the American League (that dishonor fell to, who else, the Washington Senators), but they left little in the way of hope for their fans. They were last in hitting and last in pitching, but here is the scariest statistic . . . 3,519 fans per game. The next worse team in the AL (yup, the Senators) managed to draw 10,101 a game. And, as if that wasn't bad enough, that year was the first of seven in which they averaged 98 losses a year (in the days of the 154-game schedule). By the time it was over, the Browns were the Orioles and playing in Baltimore. Now that, my friends, is bad.

1962 New York Mets. If there is a potential parallel with the 2005-2006 Caps, it's this team. So bad as to be a constant source of entertainment (they finished 40-120 in this, their inaugural year), but in seven years would be winning a World Series. They had Roger Craig, up until then a serviceable major league pitcher, finish 10-24 (sort of like finishing with a -50 plus-minus in the contemporary era of hockey) . . . and he'd be even worse the next year. Don Zimmer (Pedro Martinez' future sparring partner) batted .077 . . . no, he wasn't a pitcher. They did have a pitcher going by the name of "Vinegar Bend" (Mizell, for those keeping score). They finished 60.5 games out of first . . . guess they were figuring out the "magic number" for elimination, oh . . . about April 15th that year.

1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A donut hole for the year . . . oh-for-1976 . . . 14 games, 14 L's . . . the gold standard of "suck." The most entertaining part of their entire season was the post-game press conferences of head coach John McKay, whose coaching strategy appeared to take a strange, abrupt turn to the "George Burns" school of coaching very early on. Only four times that year did they finish within two touchdowns of their opponent. Four times, they were shutout. How bad were they? Steve Spurrier was their quarterback. No run, no gun, no fun. He’s been trying to make up for it ever since.

1980-81 Winnipeg Jets. You could make a case that this club was worse than the 1974-75 Caps . . . well, almost as bad. They set a record among major pro sports in North America for consecutive winless games - 30 (it still stands). They won nine games. But, unlike the 1974-75 Caps, who followed up their disastrous inaugural season with a 11-59-10 record, the Jets made the playoffs in 1981-82 with the third best record in the Campbell Conference, 33-33-14 . . . did I say that except for Edmonton, the Campbell pretty much sucked that year?

1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers. 9-73 . . . 59 games behind the Boston Celtics. How could they be that bad? Only twice all year did they win consecutive games (making them 5-73 for the other 78 games . . . something truly hideous to think about). But, three years later they were in the playoffs, kicking off a run of 15 years in 16 in which they made the playoffs, winning an NBA title and on two other occasions losing in the NBA final.

The Caps might have a bleak prospect for this year, but The Peerless foresees better times ahead than might have been the case for these sad examples of decrepitude.

Right? . . . Right??

-- The Peerless

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