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If MLB Had Relegation

Look away. (By Jonathan Ernst- Reuters)

The weird thing about the hyper-divisioning of American sports leagues is that massive failure can be partially masked. When you're comparing one failing team with four other mediocre teams, you don't always grasp the sheer magnitude of the failure, in the same way you would when comparing one team to 29 others.

That's the great thing about the European model. Single-table standings really bring failure to the forefront. Like, Arminia Bielefeld, the last-place team in the Bundesliga this year, finished with four wins in 34 games, half the total of the next worst team. Le Havre AC from France's Ligue 1 finished 11 points out of next-to-last, easily the biggest gap in the table.

Well, mix Arminia Bielefeld with Le Havre AC, and you find yourself just off South Capitol Street. If you take all 30 MLB teams, stick them in a single table, and start thinking relegation, the Nats sure lead the pack.

Here's the key stat: 11 teams, or more than a third of MLB, are within eight games of the best overall record. The Nats, meantime, are eight games out of 29th place. No other team is more than four games behind the next-ranking team. No MLB team has a winning percentage that starts with ".3." (The Nats are at .273.) If you take away the 0-7 start, the Nats would still be further behind the team directly above them in a single table than any other MLB team.

Like everyone else, I love Manny Acta to death, but....really? Still?

(Although they are six games behind their Pythagorean record, so I guess that would have them back in the realm of normal badness instead of legendary badness.)

A few more numbers:

* When the Nats were palindromic at 13-31, I jokingly said that next up would be 14-41. Well, at 15-40, they came up one game short. 15-51 anyone? It's just 11 short losses away.

* I've heard different reports on how far off accuracy is the clock at Nationals Park, ranging from 10 minutes to one hour. Oh, for a clock that can turn back time, say, three months.

* For the Nats to avoid 100 losses, they'd need to play .449 baseball down the stretch (48-59). They've been above that mark only once in the last four seasons, finishing .'07 with a .451 percentage. Manny Acta's career winning percentage is .389.

* And yet, for all that, they're still on pace to finish with a better record than the Wizards.

Here are the single table standings.

1. L.A. Dodgers, 39-20, .661, --
2. Philadelphia Phillies, 33-22, .600, 4
3t. N.Y. Yankees, 33-23, .589, 4.5
3t. Texas Rangers, 33-23, .589, 4.5
5t. Boston Red Sox, 33-24, .579, 5

5t. Milwaukee Brewers, 33-24, .579, 5
7t. Detroit Tigers, 30-25, .545, 7
7t. N.Y. Mets, 30-25, .545, 7
9. St. Louis Cardinals, 31-26, .544, 7
10. Toronto Blue Jays, 32-27, .542, 7

11. San Francisco Giants, 29-26, .527, 8
12. Chicago Cubs, 28-26, .519, 8.5
13. Cincinnati Reds, 29-27, .518, 8.5
14. L.A. Angels, 28-27, .509, 9
15. Tampa Bay Rays, 29-29, .500, 9.5

16. Seattle Mariners, .28-29, .491, 10
17. Atlanta Braves, 27-28, .491, 10
18. Minnesota Twins, 28-30, .483, 10.5
19. Florida Marlins, 27-31, .466, 11.5
20t. Chicago White Sox, 26-30, .464, 11.5

20t. Pittsburgh Pirates, 26-30, .464, 11.5
20t. San Diego Padres, 26-30, .464, 11.5
23t. Houston Astros, 25-30, .455, 12
23t. Oakland Athletics, 25-30, .455, 12
25. Arizona Diamondbacks, 25-32, .439, 13

26t. Kansas City Royals, 24-32, .429, 13.5
26t. Colorado Rockies, 24-32, .429, 13.5
28. Cleveland Indians, 25-34, .424, 14
29. Baltimore Orioles, 24-33, .421, 14
30. Washington Nationals, 15-40, .273, 22

By Dan Steinberg  |  June 8, 2009; 11:41 AM ET
Categories:  MLB , Nats  
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The Nats need to shake things up by letting Teddy win the race!

Posted by: mateo_md | June 8, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

"Like everyone else, I love Manny Acta to death"

Who is "everyone?" No one I know that's for sure.

Posted by: RickFelt | June 8, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

What's the record for losses by two teams within 30 miles of each other?

What's the record for HR balls hit by the home team being thrown back on the field by opposing fans?

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | June 8, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I love the idea of relegation in MLB (and MLS of course). How awesome for us would that be if both local teams went down to the minors?

Posted by: dug2008 | June 8, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

With the loss yesterday, the Nationals tragic number is no 99. Any combination of Nats losses and wins by KC, Baltimore or Colorado that total 99 lock the Nats in for the #1 pick in 2010.

Posted by: Brian_ | June 8, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

dug2008, realistically? After the novelty wore off, not very. I would support promotion of the Norfolk Tides though.

Posted by: sitruc | June 8, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

If there were relegation, the Nats would be playing AA baseball. NCAA AA baseball. The only way our pitching would be worse would be if the Nats threw underhanded. And I ain't talkin' fast pitch, either.

Posted by: SupportAndDefendTheConstitution | June 8, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Would MLB ever consider a set-up where you split the season into two halves and somehow the first half winners and the second half winners would all participate in a playoff at the end of the full season?

I also like the idea of relegation in MLB. It would give the KCs and Pittsburghs and Nats and Orioles some realistic goal to shoot for every year.

Posted by: AsstGM | June 8, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

You can get the single-table standings from's MLB standings page -- click "Overall."

Posted by: Cosmo06 | June 8, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: NATSFAN10 | June 8, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

At least if the Natinals were relegated to AAA ball then Lastings Milledge would be back on the club. And maybe Bud Selig would have to allow him to play in the All Star Game. WOO HOO!

Posted by: BoteMan | June 8, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

AsstGM, MLB tried that following the 1981 strike that wiped out two months of that year's regular season. You can find undoubtedly completely reliable details at

but here's an excerpt:

Facing a playoff no matter their finish in the second half, the first-half winners lacked incentive (as opposed to the minor leagues, where if the same team did win both halves it was given a bye into the next round) to repeat and ultimately dawdled through the second-half of the season with a composite record of only three games above .500. To make matters worse, the Cincinnati Reds (National League West) and St. Louis Cardinals (National League East) each failed to make the playoffs. This was despite the fact that they had the two best full-season records in the National League that season. In contrast to the Reds' and Cardinals' bad luck, the Kansas City Royals made the postseason despite owning the fourth-best full-season record in their division and posting a losing record overall (50-53).

Posted by: greggwiggins | June 8, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Here's my twist on relegation: Expand the majors to 32 teams and divide into four 8-team leagues (Premiership, First, Second and Third leagues), with East and West divisions in each. The winners in each division of the First through Third leagues would be promoted, with the last-place team in the Premiership through Second leagues relegated. (So if the season ended today, next year Washington and Baltimore would be in a league with Arizona, Kansas City, Colorado, Cleveland and two expansion teams.) You would still have some interleague play to guarantee traditional rivalries such as Yanks-Bosox, Cards-Cubs, Dodgers-Giants, Tigers-Indians and so on.

Posted by: VPaterno | June 8, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse


Yes, that was somewhat tongue and cheek, hard to express in typeface. It does point to how pathetic our situation in DC has become. And maybe the possibility of relegation would light a fire under management's collective arses.

We can only dream... (or move to Europe)

Posted by: dug2008 | June 8, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Tragically, yesterday they had to resort to throwing back the HR balls hit by the Long Haul Bombers during the pregame show. Okay, I made that part up.

Re. the clock, it's either very fast or very slow. At one point during yesterday's match, it read 10:15, if I recall correctly.


What's the record for HR balls hit by the home team being thrown back on the field by opposing fans?

Posted by: PowerBoater69 | June 8, 2009 11:57 AM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 8, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

And it was a day game. (rim shot)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 8, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

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