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Number Five With A Bullet?
2005-06-01 21:42
by Mike Carminati

The Phils beat the Giants tonight on a Chase Utley pinch-hit grand slam. They are now one game under .500 for the first time since April 22 (8-9). If the Phils sweep the Giants tomorrow, they will have recorded their tenth day at or above .500. They are 11-6 since May 13 and 16-13 since the beginning of May.

Keep in mind that the Phils have not been more than one game over .500 all year. They may be 3.5 games out of first and one game out of third, but they are still in last place and have very little prospects of sustained winning streaks with their sub-par rotation and pen. They haven't won more than three games straight all year.

The Phils will probably pass the Nats once the excitement of escaping their Montreal/San Juan limbo wears off and the Mets aren't world beaters. But the division still comes down to Atlanta and Florida in my opinion.

It did make me wonder, however, whether a fifth-place team had ever finished the season closer than 3.5 games behind the division champ. The answer is yes and no. The 1981 Red Sox finished fifth, just 2.5 games out, but that was a) a strike-shortened year and b) a year in which the standings were split into half-seasons. The Sox finished 4 games out in fifth in the first half, and the Indians finished five out in the second (the Sox were second). The fact that Boston finished 2.5 out overall is irrelevant.

Here are the fifth-place teams that came closest to first all time. The 1988 Yankees were 3.5 games out in fifth:

Fifth-Place TeamYrLgDivGB
Boston Red Sox1981ALE2.5
New York Yankees1988ALE3.5
Chicago Cubs1973NLE5
Milwaukee Braves1964NL 5
Newark Pepper1915FL 6
California Angels1967AL 7.5
New York Mutuals1871NA 7.5
Cincinnati Red Stockings1884AA 8
Boston Red Sox1940AL 8
Chicago White Sox1987ALW8
Chicago White Sox1926AL 9.5
St. Louis Cardinals1933NL 9.5
Seattle Mariners1984ALW10
Atlanta Braves1966NL 10

OK, but those Yankees had two teams behind them in the AL East. The Phils are currently last, and would remain so if the remain in fifth. What's the closest a last-place team has ever come to first?

Last-Place TeamYrLgDivGB
California Angels1994ALW5.5
California Angels1987ALW10
San Francisco Giants1995NLW11
Oakland Athletics1995ALW11.5
Philadelphia Phillies1973NLE11.5
San Diego Padres1994NLW12.5
California Angels1991ALW14
Oakland Athletics1998ALW14
San Diego Padres1997NLW14
Texas Rangers1984ALW14.5
Milwaukee Brewers1994ALC15
Pittsburgh Pirates1996NLC15
Rockford Forest Citys1871NA 15.5
Chicago Cubs1997NLC16
Montreal Expos1970NLE16
Baltimore Marylands1873NA 16.5
Chicago Cubs1994NLC16.5
Cincinnati Reds1983NLW17
Cleveland Indians1982ALE17
Chicago Cubs1975NLE17.5

Another strike-shortened season leads the pack. 1994 no AL West team had a winning record.

The Royals, even after winning two straight against the Yankees under new manager Buddy Bell, are 19.5 game out of first, mired in last place in the AL Central. What's the farthest back any last-place team has ever been?

Last-Place TeamYrLgDivGB
Cleveland Spiders1899NL 84
Boston Beaneaters1906NL 66.5
Louisville Colonels1889AA 66.5
Pittsburgh Alleghenys1890NL 66.5
Boston Doves1909NL 65.5
St. Louis Browns1939AL 64.5
Boston Red Sox1932AL 64
St. Louis Browns1897NL 63.5
St. Louis Browns1898NL 63.5
Philadelphia Phillies1942NL 62.5
Boston Braves1935NL 61.5
New York Mets1962NL 60.5
Philadelphia Athletics1954AL 60
Washington Nationals1886NL 60

OK, so how about since divisional play started in 1969?

Last-Place TeamYrLgDivGB
Florida Marlins1998NLE52
Tampa Bay Devil Rays1998ALE51
Toronto Blue Jays1979ALE50.5
Montreal Expos1969NLE48
Tampa Bay Devil Rays2002ALE48
Detroit Tigers2003ALC47
Cleveland Indians1969ALE46.5
Montreal Expos1976NLE46
Toronto Blue Jays1977ALE45.5
Minnesota Twins1995ALC44
Pittsburgh Pirates1986NLE44
Houston Astros1975NLW43.5
Pittsburgh Pirates1985NLE43.5
Cleveland Indians1971ALE43
San Diego Padres1993NLW43
Texas Rangers2001ALW43

Surprise, a bunch of new expansion teams top the list. The Royals are going to have to work overtime to make that list. Hiring Buddy will eventually help though.

2005-06-02 09:45:07
1.   PhillyJ
Bingo...3 1/2 games out in second place has different meaning than when in 5th place. Too many teams have to play poorly...

That said, I am looking forward to this homestand and next 40 games to see if they can move at all.

It is what we all knew it would be: Marlins and Braves...I like Florida but betting against the Braves is just stupid.

Please tell me why Utley is not playing every inning of every game?

2005-06-02 10:19:03
2.   Mike Carminati
Two reasons:

1) To get Polanco enough playing time to shop him around (and to improve on his poor early season numbers).

2) Because the Phils' brass is about as smart as a plug nickel. They distrust young, inexperienced players, though Utley is hardly young anymore and his inexperience stems from their lack of trust. Idiots. Couldn't count to two without dropping their pants.

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