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Monday, October 8, 2012
Rock bottom for Red Sox?

By Glenn Stout
Special to ESPNBoston.com

Yes, it could be worse. In fact, it has been.

As awful and disappointing as this season was for Red Sox fans, other seasons have been even worse. In comparison, this might even make one optimistic about the state of the ball club today. If nothing else, the Boston Red Sox have cleared the decks to rebuild, something this ownership group certainly has resources to do.

That has not always been the case. The worst teams in Red Sox history are not just those with the worst records, but those that have squandered chances, underperformed and left the future looking even darker than the present.

Here are 10 Red Sox seasons that might make us feel a little better about 2012:

1906: 49-105 (.316)

After winning the pennant in 1903 and 1904 with eventual Hall of Famers Jimmie Collins and Cy Young on the roster, everyone got old at once. Player/manager Collins was replaced by outfielder Chick Stahl in midseason, but he made little difference. The great Cy Young went 13-21 and rookie hurler Joe Harris finished 2-21 -- the worst won-lost record in Red Sox history -- for the last-place club. During spring training before the 1907 season, after only a few days of workouts, manager Stahl committed suicide.

1925: 47-105 (.309)

In 1923, longtime baseball man Bob Quinn headed up a syndicate backed by glass bottle baron Palmer Winslow and bought the Red Sox from Harry Frazee. Then Winslow died, the money dried up like the yeast in the bottom of a bottle of beer, and an already-bad team rapidly became horrific. They hit bottom in 1925, losing eight of their first nine games and 10 of 12, never breaking .500 and finishing last, 46½ games behind the first-place Washington Senators. On the bright side, the Yankees finished seventh, but still finished 21 games ahead of Boston. The Dull Sox would not finish above .500 for a decade.

Tom Yawkey
Tom Yawkey bought the Red Sox in 1933 and poured millions into the team. Unfortunately money can't always buy championships, as we well know.

1926: 46-107 (.301)

See 1925. The Sox won one fewer game and lost two more than the year before. But they finished two games closer to first place. Pop the champagne! Seriously, no one noticed.

1932: 43-111 (.279)

The best thing about the 1932 season was that the Sox were so bad Bob Quinn finally decided to sell the team. How bad? At the end of June, the Sox were 12-55 and on pace to finish the year a MLB-record-worst 34-120. But instead of setting a record, the club surged in the second half, once even winning three games in a row, to botch its entry in the record book. They could hit a little -- in that most offensive season (pun intended), Dale Alexander batted .372 -- but pitcher Bob Kline was the only Sox pitcher to record double figures in victories, winning 11. No one else won more than six.

1933: 63-86 (.423)

On Feb. 25, 1933, Tom Yawkey inherited millions at the age of 33, bought the Red Sox and announced plans to buy players and rebuild the club, telling other American League owners: "The money's on the table." Unfortunately, the na´ve young scion got fleeced, overpaying for tired retreads and prospects other clubs had already rejected. Although Yawkey's "Millionaires" improved by 22.5 games, the club still finished seventh, 34½ games out of first place. Over the next 12 seasons, Yawkey's money bought little more than disappointment.

SportsNation

Where does the 2012 Red Sox season rank on your all-time worst list?

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    17%
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    40%
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    31%
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    12%

Discuss (Total votes: 588)

1955: 84-70 (.545)

After the 1954 season, Ted Williams announced his retirement. Although few people believed he would stay retired for very long, Ted did … until the day his divorce was finalized. Williams then magnanimously unretired and on May 13, 1955 signed a $98,000, one-year contract that conveniently was not included in his divorce settlement. With Williams back in the lineup, the Sox went 72-53 the rest of the year and pulled to within three games of first place before fading and finishing 12 games behind New York. But what if Ted had been in the lineup at the start? Oh, never mind. …

1965: 62-100 (.383)

Compiling their worst record since 1932, the Sox really weren't that bad -- they were just young, with Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, Tony Conigliaro and Jim Lonborg all 25 or younger. But change was in the air. The Yankees' dynasty was coming to an end, brash manager Dick Williams was waiting in the wings and there would soon be room at the top. Besides, they didn't finish in last place. That honor belonged to the 59-103 Kansas City Athletics.

1987: 79-84 (.481)

In a moment that no Red Sox fan will ever forget, in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series a Mookie Wilson ground ball slipped through first baseman Bill Buckner's legs, costing Boston a world championship as the New York Mets stormed back to win a World Series they should have lost. At spring training the next year, Sox manager John MacNamara told his club to forget all about the previous season. They did in every way possible, stumbling to a fifth-place finish after coming within one strike of winning a Word Series. A team that once looked like an emerging dynasty rapidly fell apart, not winning as many as 90 games for another decade.

Yastrzemski/Conigliaro
Carl Yastrzemski (left) and Tony Conigliaro were young members of Boston's 62-100 club in 1965. Fortunately, things improved after that.

2000: 85-77 (.525)

After dropping their third game in a row to the Yankees on Sept. 10, the Sox trailed the Yankees by nine games. General manager Dan Duquette and manager Jimy Williams did the math, threw in the towel, played kids and looked forward to 2001. The Yankees then proceeded to lose 15 of 18 games to win the AL East with only 87 victories as the Red Sox, through sheer indifference, missed an opportunity to sneak into the postseason.

2011: 90-72 (.556)

Never has a team seemed to clinch a world championship so early. Before the start of the 2011 season, prognosticators were predicting that the Red Sox, behind new acquisitions Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, would win 100 games or more and collect a world championship without breaking a sweat. It looked that way until Aug. 25, when the team peaked with a record of 80-50. They then fell apart, landing not with a thud but with a cluck and a belch, the first championship ever lost because of takeout chicken and beer, but the best "worst team" in Red Sox history.

Glenn Stout is the author of "Fenway 1912," series editor for "The Best American Sports Writing," author of the "Good Sports" juvenile series, and consulting editor for SB Nation Longform. For more information, see www.glennstout.net. You can follow Glenn on Twitter @GlennStout.