|The List: Worst group efforts|
By Jeff Merron
Page 2 staff
The Tigers are still in the running to break the Mets' modern record for most losses in a season, and it's remarkable how, as a group, they have pulled off such a stunningly bad season. The hitters can't hit, sporting a .238 average, the worst in the majors. The runners can't run, having been caught stealing 57 times, failing a terrible 44 percent of their attempts. Their pitchers can't pitch, sporting a collective 5.17 ERA, the second-worst in baseball, despite playing half their games in a pitcher's park. And the fielders can't play the field, leading the league in errors.
Now that's teamwork, and the crack team of P2 editors have already decided that the Tigers' season is one of the worst group efforts, in any endeavor, in history. But do they belong on the list below? September will make all the difference.
1. The engineers who designed the Edsel
Ford's marketing department revved up its hype machine long before the car's launch, then started selling the car in September, when buyers were taking advantage of year-end 1957 model discounts.
And the sales force failed to compensate for the challenges inherent in selling an expensive gas-guzzler during a recession.
The Edsel eventually succeeded, wrote Kathleen A. Erin in Failure magazine, as a cautionary tale for Saturn. "The Edsel Affair is what made Saturn a success," said that company's CEO, who distributed copies of the book to Saturn execs with a mandate to underline everything Ford screwed up.
2. 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3. All the President's Men
The tricks didn't get him elected -- he would have won anyway. But they did bring Nixon down. It all started with five bumbling burglars at the Watergate Hotel, who were caught trying to steal documents from the Democratic National Committee HQ. Within a few years, 58 people were charged with crimes related to Watergate, and 22 were imprisoned.
It all ended with the tapes, the so-called "smoking gun" evidence that proved, beyond a doubt, that Nixon knew about or was involved in planning much of his crummy, criminal campaign. When Nixon resigned, in Aug. 1974, he left the nation's political system in a shambles, after having pretty much destroyed the Republican Party.
4. The builders of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
The bridge quickly earned the nickname "Galloping Gertie." Good thing it acquired that nickname right away, because it collapsed on Nov. 7, 1940, when it swayed too much and fell apart in 40-mph winds. The 600-foot span that plunged into Puget Sound was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, because it was being dismantled by souvenir seekers.
5. MLB umpires' strike
The plan backfired. MLB accepted the resignations, but 12 umpires had jumped ship, undermining the union's solidarity. Baseball quickly hired 25 replacements, and by the time the umps who resigned realized that the plan had gone awry, only 22 were able to get their jobs back. Tom Hallion, an NL ump with 14 years experience, was one of the unlucky ones, wistfully recalling, as he pondered a new career, that "everybody was in this together."
Not so. "In the greedy, spoiled-rotten world of Major League Baseball," wrote Newsweek's David A. Kaplan, "the 68 men in blue have managed to make the players and owners actually look like the good guys." The mass resignation might rank as one of the worst collective moves in labor history.
6. Bonfire of the Vanities
7. The BCS committee
8. The brains behind Premier smokeless cigarettes
Among the problems with Premier was that they didn't light -- at least not without effort. The company had to include a four-page instruction booklet providing instructions for firing up. Once lit, you couldn't draw smoke without also drawing a hernia, and the ensuing taste and smell was akin to burning plastic, according to consumers. Four months after being introduced, the product was pulled. RJR had burned through $325 million on an ill-conceived, poorly-designed, badly marketed, and high-priced "alternative" that didn't give smokers enough of what they really craved -- nicotine.
Three losses and sixth place for the U.S. hoopsters in the World Championships? What is this, bizarro world? Paul Pierce, Baron Davis, Jermaine O'Neal, Ben Wallace, Reggie Miller, and Elton Brand, coached by George Karl, should have been able to win going away, but they flopped big time. The problem, besides Karl and a very short practice schedule? "Bad team chemistry and a roster with too many holes," wrote ESPN the Mag's Ric Bucher. A total embarrassment.
10. IBM's PCjr team
Also receiving votes:
The Coca-Cola Company and New Coke: For 99 years, the secret Coca-Cola formula remained unchanged (except, of course, for the cocaine, completely removed in 1929, when consumers needed it most). Deciding that success wasn't enough, the top tasteologists, technocrats, beancounters, and execs at The Coca-Cola Company decided that a new taste was needed. Out went the old Coke, in came the new, on April 23, 1985. Less than three months later, after dismal reviews of the new formula and urgent cries for the old, "Classic Coke," the old formula was brought back to the shelves, alongside the new product. Gradually, the "new" faded away; according to Coke's Web site, it's now called "Coke II" and "available in very select metro areas." Coke also has retold the "New Coke" story as one that "stands today as testimony to the power of taking intelligent risks."
The Soviet Union: As we know, the former superpower could have annihilated the U.S. many times over. But its military might was vastly overestimated, and overall, it was an extremely violent economic failure that, once its weaknesses were exposed, fell like a house of cards.
Baseball owners' collusion