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MLB’s Worst Seasons: 2004 Diamondbacks

Life is full of lessons in which we learn how to progress as human beings. The same is true of baseball teams. A bad season can often spur a transition into an elongated period of success. Fans have borne firsthand witness as rebuild after rebuild has resulted in championship runs for multiple teams in recent years. However, to find such success, one first has to fail, and in this new series, we will be looking at the worst MLB seasons. Yes, these are cringeworthy, and yes, you might want to look away at times. But all the same, we learn from history. Hopefully, we can do just that. Our first team to have one of the worst MLB seasons is the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks.

Worst MLB Seasons: 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks

A Fall From Grace

The story of the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks (51-111), and their inclusion on the worst MLB seasons list, begins with the 2001 Diamondbacks. These underdogs upset the New York Yankees in the World Series. In 2002, they returned to the playoffs but lost in the first round to the St. Louis Cardinals. 2003 came calling, and they fell to third place in the division. At this point, they began trading away some fairly notable names. Curt Schilling, Craig Counsell, Lyle Overbay, and Junior Spivey all left. The biggest name that came to Arizona was slugger Richie Sexson. Thus, the rebuild began…and the 2004 season spoke to that.

A Bad Offense

One would think that, even in spite of the various departures, the 2004 Diamondbacks would have had a somewhat competitive offense. After all, their outfield consisted of such notable veterans as Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez. They also had the typically solid bats of Danny Bautista and Chad Tracy. They even brought on 36-year-old Roberto Alomar in what would turn out to be his final season. Put Sexson in that lineup and one would think that Arizona might have had one of the better offenses in the league. However, the opposite was true, as the team finished near the bottom of the league in most major offensive categories.

Sexson’s Struggles

Out of all of the rather brutal disappointments, the injury-plagued season of Richie Sexson has to be the most notable. He came to the Diamondbacks in a deal that sent names such as Counsell, Overbay, Spivey, and Chris Capuano to the Milwaukee Brewers. Arizona had reason to make such a deal. In 2003, the team had finished 12th in homers and Sexson had slugged 45 for Milwaukee while making his second consecutive All-Star appearance. Having him seemed like it would be a shot in the arm for Arizona’s offense. Unfortunately, Sexson twice injured his shoulder and only homered nine times in 23 games.

 A Half-Effective Rotation

A team makes the worst MLB seasons list not just on the strength (or lack thereof) of their offense alone. It takes a bad pitching staff, and the 2004 Diamondbacks had, for the most part, a pretty terrible one. Randy Johnson continued to work his magic, winning 16 games with a sparkling 2.60 ERA and 290 strikeouts. Probably the best moment for Arizona in their dismal season was his perfect game against the Atlanta Braves. Young hurler Brandon Webb, despite leading the league with 16 losses, still managed a 3.59 ERA and 164 strikeouts. The free pass harmed him, as he issued 119 walks. Those two were followed in the rotation by Casey Fossum (4-15, 6.65 ERA) and Steve Sparks (3-7, 6.04 ERA).

A Rank Bullpen

All things considered, the Diamondbacks had a decidedly terrible bullpen. Closer Greg Aquino was really the only bright spot, posting 16 saves and a solid 3.06 ERA. Other than that, the average ERA ranged from the mid-fours to the high nines and even over 11 in one case. The regular relievers were a mixed bag, as guys like Mike Koplove, Elmer Dessens, and Randy Choate hovered around the league average in terms of ERA+. All told, Diamondbacks pitchers gave up 1,480 hits, 197 homers, and walked 668 batters. The upside was that their 1,153 strikeouts were third in the league.

An Overall Assessment of One of MLB’s Worst Seasons

While a 51-111 mark is a bit of a far cry from the worst record of all time, the 2004 Diamondbacks certainly encapsulated the struggles rebuilding teams have to endure. However, things would not be permanently doomed. In fact, within only three seasons, the Diamondbacks would find their way back to the playoffs. They made a deep run in 2007, losing out in the NLCS to the Colorado Rockies. But the 2004 edition of the most serpentine team in baseball is something that fans of the franchise cannot be proud of. All of this makes it one of MLB’s worst seasons.


Photo Credit: © Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports / USA TODAY NETWORK


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