As the Major League Baseball playoffs approach, what’s going on with teams at the other end of the standings? Here’s a look at the seven worst teams in the majors:
Athletics: Until it gets a new ballpark, which at best will be in 2025, Oakland wouldn’t seem to have much hope.
Owner John Fisher dropped the luxury-tax payroll to $48.2 million by trading Chris Bassitt, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olson before the season, and Frankie Montas in August. Oakland also allowed manager Bob Melvin to walk away to the Padres after last season.
The Athletics have used a franchise-record 62 players this season. That includes 34 pitchers and 12 players with at least one start at first base. Oakland also has used five catchers.
One of those catchers, 24-year-old Shea Langeliers, is a player Oakland can build around.
Oakland has a passionate fan base that deserves better. It’s going to be a slog for a while, but the waterfront Howard Terminal location is gaining momentum as the site of a new park.
After losing the Raiders and Warriors, Oakland seems to want to keep its baseball team.
Marlins: The surprise playoff appearance in 2020 has not led to further progress despite a roster with promising talent.
Owner Bruce Sherman has said general manager Kim Ng will return, although staff changes are expected following Derek Jeter’s unexpected February departure as team president.
Miami has ace Sandy Alcantara signed through 2026 with what could well be a bargain $21 million club option for 2027. Will Miami use Alcantara as a trade chip or build around him?
Nationals: President of baseball operations Mike Rizzo comes from a scouting background and Washington is counting on that acumen following the trades of Josh Bell, Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, Kyle Schwarber, and Juan Soto in the last 14 months.
Stephen Strasburg, who has pitched 31⅓ innings the last three seasons, is owed $140 million through 2026. He is 34 and making a comeback from thoracic outlet surgery. His future is cloudy.
The Lerner family is working on selling the team and the new owners will face a lot of challenges.
Pirates: This is shaping up to be the fourth consecutive last-place finish, which wasn’t unexpected.
But it was a bad look earlier this month when third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes was caught on camera taking off his glove and reaching into his back pocket for sunflower seeds while the ball was in play.
“I can see how someone would say something, but I really don’t care,” said Hayes, who was signed to an eight-year, $70 million deal in April.
Earlier this season, infielder Rodolfo Castro was suspended for a game after he slid into third and his cellphone popped out of his pocket.
The Pirates also lead the majors in errors.
But the underpinnings of success are present. The Pirates have seven players 25 or younger who are consistent contributors and more on the way.
They badly need 2021 first overall pick Henry Davis to emerge as the kind of player Adley Rutschman has been in Baltimore.
Reds: As the Reds played the Red Sox on Wednesday, injured first baseman Joey Votto made his way into the stands to greet fans in the crowd of 13,074.
Dozens left their seats to follow Votto around as the game went on.
It was a nice gesture by Votto, but it also underscored how faceless the rest of the roster is.
With Votto and catcher Tyler Stephenson out for the season, the Reds have Donovan Solano, Kyle Farmer, and Jake Fraley in the middle of the lineup.
Second baseman Jonathan India, the National League Rookie of the Year in 2021, has seen his OPS drop 15 percent.
There is hope. Hunter Greene is learning how to use his considerable talent, having allowed four earned runs in his last 23⅓ innings. Alexis Diaz has been dominant as a closer and Nick Lodolo is a potential No. 2 starter with a mix that includes an overpowering slider.
Say this for the Reds: They were 10-6 against the AL East, going 3-1-2 in six series.
Royals: The unexpected firing of president of baseball operations Dayton Moore on Wednesday was a reminder of how sharply the Royals have dropped since winning the 2015 World Series.
They have not finished over .500 since, failing to replace the Eric Hosmer-led group that won consecutive pennants.
Moore, who had been in charge since 2006, was replaced by his assistant, J.J. Picollo. Owner John Sherman wants a more data-based approach. It’s again a long way back for Kansas City.
Tigers: Detroit is already down the road to next season, having hired 35-year-old Scott Harris as president of baseball operations this past week. He spent three seasons with the Giants after working under Theo Epstein with the Cubs.
The Tigers took a shot last winter, signing Javy Baez for six years and $140 million and Eduardo Rodriguez for five years and $77 million. Baez has a .671 OPS and Rodriguez missed much of the season because of marital discord.
Now comes a rebuild, which will start with improving the staff and infrastructure.
But this will be tricky. Manager A.J. Hinch is strong-willed and will want a say. It’s also odd that Detroit Red Wings executive vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman played a major role in the decision to hire Harris.
Chris Ilitch owns both teams and trusts Yzerman. But a hockey executive helping to hire a baseball exec?
There’s also the question about what to do about Miguel Cabrera, who is signed through 2023 at $32 million. He has a .703 OPS since 2019 and a true rebuild might include releasing him.
For Story, season of frustration
Trevor Story played in 92 percent of Colorado’s games from 2017-21 with an .856 OPS. So it’s a little troubling that he has played in only 62 percent of the Red Sox games this season and has a .737 OPS.
But it’s not a red flag.
Story missed 37 games with a fractured bone in his right hand after being hit by a pitch on July 12. He hasn’t played since Sept. 11, when he bruised his left heel after landing awkwardly on first base trying to beat out a double play in Baltimore.
He also appeared in only five spring training games after signing with the Sox on March 23. That led to his sitting out five games in April as the Sox were careful not to overload him.
Story has a .805 OPS since mid-May and 52 of the 57 games he has missed are for reasons out of his control.
“Frustrating,” Story said. “Especially with this being my first season in Boston.”
Story’s excellent play at second base has been missed when he’s out of the lineup. The Sox are much better defensively when he’s on the field and that could be even more the case next season when his range will matter more given the new rules against shifting.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ When was the last time the Sox had a good leadoff hitter?
Since the start of the 2020 season, Sox leadoff hitters have a .245 batting average (24th in the majors), a .315 on-base percentage (25th), and a .403 slugging percentage (18th).
They’re also third in strikeouts.
Mookie Betts was the leadoff hitter for much of 2019. Alex Verdugo had a .362 OBP in 33 games as the leadoff hitter in 2020. Kiké Hernández was there in 2021 with mixed results.
This season has been a stew of Jarren Duran, Hernández, Tommy Pham, Story, and Rob Refsynder.
Despite the low numbers from the first spot, the Sox are fifth in the majors in runs since 2020.
▪ Red Sox outfielders have a collective 2.6 WAR, the eighth lowest in the game. It’s been a downward trend. They were first in 2018 (20.1), sixth in 2019 (11.0), and 10th in 2021 (7.2).
▪ Jay Groome is 3-2 with a 3.28 ERA in nine starts for Triple A El Paso since the Sox traded him to the Padres in the Eric Hosmer deal. The lefthander went eight innings against Oklahoma City on Thursday and allowed two runs.
▪ The Sox went into the weekend with four players — J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and Verdugo — in the top 10 for doubles in the American League.
Their leading home run hitter, Devers with 27, was tied for 13th in the league.
▪ Canada is expected to end COVID-19 vaccination requirements to enter the country before the end of the month. So it appears we will never know if Tanner Houck or Chris Sale would have gotten the shot to play.
The Sox have a series in Toronto starting Sept. 30.
The occasional (and helpful) Yankee
Red Sox fans remember Ryan Weber. The righthander was 3-7 with a 5.54 ERA over 36 games from 2019-21.
He has since made a career of signing with the Yankees, pitching in a game or two, getting designated for assignment, re-signing with the team, and then starting the process again.
Weber, 32, has been part of 19 transactions with the Yankees this season and a surprisingly helpful player. He has allowed one run in 10⅔ innings over five games.
Weber signed with the Yankees on March 13 and was invited to spring training. He opened the season in Triple A and was called up on June 16. That was the first of four times the Yankees added him to the roster.
He was designated for assignment on June 17, July 6, July 25, and Sept. 16. Weber became a free agent on Monday, so he’s out there if the Yankees need him again.
If not, Weber is still in line for a playoff share and perhaps a World Series ring.
Fare thee well, Kurt Suzuki. The catcher announced his retirement after 16 seasons in the majors. Suzuki never played for the Red Sox but there was a connection. He was under consideration for the 65th overall pick of the 2004 draft coming out of Cal State Fullerton before the decision was made to take Dustin Pedroia. Suzuki went two picks later to the Athletics. Suzuki was a career .329/.383/.471 hitter in 70 career games against the Sox … There are plenty of statistics that tell the story of Aaron Judge’s incredible season. This simple one may be most telling. Prior to this season, no player had finished a calendar day with 20 home runs more than any other player since the final day of the 1928 season, when Babe Ruth led Jim Bottomley and Hack Wilson by 23 … Fame is fleeting: With Dayton Moore getting fired by the Royals, only five heads of baseball operations who have won a World Series in the last 15 years are still in the same job. They are Brian Cashman (2009 Yankees), John Mozeliak (2011 Cardinals), Mike Rizzo (2019 Nationals), Andrew Friedman (2020 Dodgers), and Alex Anthopoulos (2021 Braves) … Quiz: Buck Showalter has now taken four teams to the postseason (Yankees, Diamondbacks, Orioles, and Mets). Dusty Baker (Giants, Cubs, Reds, Nationals, and Astros) has the record with five. Do you know the other two with four? Answer below … Clayton Kershaw had his 27th game with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks when he dominated the Diamondbacks on Monday. That matched Curt Schilling for third most in history. Only Randy Johnson (39) and Max Scherzer (29) have more … At 37, Daniel Bard had his first season with 30 saves. He has 16 victories and 58 saves in three seasons with the Rockies after a six-year absence from the majors battling the yips. Bard is signed through 2024 … The Yankees drew a crowd of only 23,154 on the final day of the 1961 season when Roger Maris hit his 61st homer. Globe reader David Kaiser e-mailed to explain that commissioner Ford Frick ruled weeks before (on July 17) that the home run record would have to be set in 154 games. Once Maris did not accomplish that, attendance dropped for the remainder of the 162-game schedule … Following the lead of Rawlings with the Gold Gloves, Louisville Slugger announced it would award a Silver Slugger to a utility player in each league … The Brewers called up center fielder Garrett Mitchell, a 2020 draft pick, after only 132 minor league games. Sal Frelick might be the next Milwaukee prospect to follow that path. The former Lexington High and Boston College outfielder moved from High A to Triple A this season and has a .945 OPS through 44 games at Nashville … The Dodgers saved $28.2 million from the suspension of Trevor Bauer. They paid the righthander $3.8 million of his $32 million salary before he was formally suspended by Major League Baseball on April 29. Bauer, who has appealed to an arbitrator, also is suspended for all of 2023 … Congrats to Jill Gearin. The former Emerson College softball player did three innings of play-by-play during the Diamondbacks-Dodgers game on Tuesday. That made her the first woman to call even part of a Diamondbacks game on the radio. Gearin called games this season for Arizona’s Single A affiliate Visalia. She got her start in radio in 2017 calling Nashua games in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League … Former Red Sox farmhand Joey Meneses has made an impact on the Nationals as a 30-year-old rookie. Meneses went into the weekend hitting .328 with a .927 OPS over 43 games. He had an .863 OPS with Worcester and Portland in 2021 … MLB and USA Baseball are hosting an amateur showcase in Arizona this weekend. The States Play invitation rosters include catcher Matt Conte of Andover and Dexter Southfield and 6-foot-8-inch righthander Mavrick Rizy of Fiskdale and Worcester Academy. Conte is committed to Wake Forest and Rizy to UConn. The East manager is Jonny Gomes … Quiz answer: Davey Johnson (Mets, Reds, Orioles, and Nationals) and Billy Martin (Twins, Tigers, Yankees, and Athletics) … Happy birthday to Rocco Baldelli, who is 41. The Rhode Island native played for the Red Sox in 2009 and now manages the Twins. Reggie Jefferson is 54. He had an .868 OPS for the Red Sox from 1995-99. He hit .347 in 1996 but only had 418 plate appearances and didn’t qualify for the batting title. A switch-hitter who didn’t handle lefthanded pitchers well, Jefferson was left off the roster for the 1999 Division Series against Cleveland and decided to go home. That ended his tenure with the Sox.