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The Phillies are struggling to get over .500. The Blue Jays have been an injury-riddled mess. But which team is the most disappointing team of 2012?
The Chicago Cubs are a mildly disappointing team. They have a chance to lose 100 games, which would be only the third time in franchise history. They currently have the fifth-worst winning percentage in franchise history. Again, we're talking about the Cubs, a team with a national identity crafted around them being lovable losers. Because they lose. A lot. For this team to be the fifth-worst is something. They weren't supposed to be good, but they probably weren't supposed to be that bad.
They aren't close to the most disappointing team, though. They're just a different shade of bad than expected. So which team is the most disappointing of 2012?
The Toronto Blue Jays have an argument.
Yeah, that's about right. When May ended, the Blue Jays were two games back in the AL East. Since then, they've put an entire rotation on the disabled list, and the pitchers who replaced the injured pitchers were injured. The Jays have five starting pitchers currently on the 60-day DL, and the closer they traded for in the offseason might miss chunks of next year with a labrum injury.
Two pitchers haven't missed a start: Ricky Romero and Henderson Alvarez. They've both been awful. Really, the only two players who weren't disappointing in some fashion were Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, and Bautista is out for the season now.
The Blue Jays can't be the most disappointing team for a very simple reason, though: No one picked them to win the division. They had a chance, sure. More than the Orioles, at least. And for a while, they were competitive. But the theme of the 2012 season isn't "Wait, the Blue Jays didn't contend?" We didn't expect the injuries to be the reason, but that's not the point.
No, the Phillies have a better claim. They won 102 games last year. The last time they finished under .500, Jose Mesa was their closer. For years and years, everyone was supposed to be on guard and waiting for the Phillies collapse. For years, the Phillies didn't care. All of that concern trolling seemed hollow when the Phillies were in the middle of five straight NL East titles. Who cared if they were getting older?
And then they went and got old and broke all at the same time. Chase Utley missed the beginning of the season with papier-mâché knees. Roy Halladay was hurt, and he hasn't been close to the same pitcher he was last season. Cliff Lee was beset with rotten luck. The bullpen was dreadful, with the exception of their very expensive closer.
They'll finish in third place, but their late run -- 31-19 since Aug. 1 -- gives them a good chance to finish over .500. Considering where they were and what they've been through, that's not a small feat. The season-end trudge toward respectability keeps them out of the top spot, where they might have been if they had kept up their 90-loss pace.
There are other contenders. The Diamondbacks went to the playoffs last year on the backs of a young core that was still intact for 2012, but they'll finish in third. The Indians paid a steep price for Ubaldo Jimenez, and he's kind of a metaphor. On June 22, the Indians were up 1½ games in the AL Central. Since then, the Indians have gone 26-58 -- the .310 winning percentage during that stretch would have been the third-worst winning percentage in Cleveland Spiders history.
But the Diamondbacks had to deal with the Plexiglas principle, and the Indians weren't favorites in the Central. They're disappointing as all heck, but they aren't the most disappointing.
No, the winner for the most disappointing team is a runaway. It's a 10-1 game in the second inning. It's not even close. Here's a quote from Monday:
After going "all in" this season with a franchise-record $95 million roster payroll, the Miami Marlins will likely scale back in 2013 to a more moderate figure, somewhere in the $70 million to $80 million range, sources said.
Well, that's just ducky. After preparing for years, after signing Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson to extensions, after being connected with every free agent on the 2011 market, after just missing out on Albert Pujols -- whooooops! Never mind. One bad season, one 162-game season of unfortunate events, is enough to scale everything back.
The Phillies had injury problems from spring training. They can hope they'll be healthy next year.
The Blue Jays had horrific injury problems. All the king's horses and all the king's men and Dr. James Andrews will fix the pitchers. They might not be good. But nothing like this should happen to any team again.
The Marlins went from probable contenders in the NL East, a team desperate to craft an identity and assuage the fears of twice-bitten fans, to a team giving up on the plan halfway through the season. They got the stadium. They made a somewhat-earnest effort. The response wasn't immediate, so it's back to business as usual.
Other teams can come back with different or fixed players. The Marlins are coming back with a change in philosophy. They might not be the spendthrifts they were in Joe Robbie. But they aren't the nouveau-riche they thought they were, either. Baseball Reference estimates the payroll for their current roster at $85 million next year. Well, shoot. Time to break out the red pen and start cutting.
The real race is for second place. The Marlins have the most-disappointing crown locked up.