Are the 2022 Cincinnati Reds the Worst MLB Team in More Than 120 Years?

At 3-20 on the young season, the Reds may be the most pathetic ballclub since the 1899 Cleveland Spiders

Starting pitcher Reiver Sanmartin of the Reds throws against the Colorado Rockies
Starting pitcher Reiver Sanmartin of the Reds throws against the Colorado Rockies.
Matthew Stockman/Getty

A dumpster fire off of the diamond due to inept management and poor public relations, the 2022 Cincinnati Reds are also an unmitigated disaster on the field and currently have the worst record in Major League Baseball at 3-20 after losing nine out of their last 10 games.

Closing in on equalling the worst start by any MLB team since 2003 (Tigers, 3-25), the Reds have yet to win in the month of May and are already 12.5 games back of the first-place Brewers in the NL Central. It’s the worst start in the 141-year history of the franchise — and Cincinnati may not have even hit rock bottom.

As FiveThirtyEight points out, the Reds have a chance to be the most pathetic major-league ballclub since the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who lost 134 of their 154 games during their final season of existence. (No wonder Cleveland went with Guardians instead of Spiders when renaming their franchise prior to this season.) Losers of 40 of their last 41 games, the Spiders set a new standard for non-excellence with six separate double-digit losing streaks during the 1899 season, including one that lasted 24 games.

Since, like the Spiders, the Reds can’t beat anyone, they might be joining ’em. Since 1871 across the majors (excluding the Negro Leagues) only 16 teams ever had three wins or fewer in their first 23 decisions of a season. Now with a winning percentage of .130, Cincinnati is winning ballgames at the same rate as the Spiders’ .130 mark from 1899.

Why is this happening? Longtime franchise slugger Joey Votto, who is currently on the COVID-19 injured list and had 36 homers with 99 RBI last season following a slow start, has hit a miserable .122/.278/.135 through 22 games this season and the Reds as a team were 30th in slugging (.311) and OPS (.582) and 29th in average (.201) and OBP (.271) as of yesterday. Cincy’s pitching isn’t much better as the staff ranked 30th in team ERA (6.15), WHIP (1.63), and opponent batting average (.225) as of yesterday.

It is a brutal state of affairs for a franchise that has the sixth-most wins in MLB history (10,716) and it seems likely to continue following an offseason that saw the Reds spend $52.4 million (fifth-lowest in MLB) on the way to building the 10th-lowest MLB payroll ($116 million). But, according to FiveThirtyEight, the Reds won’t get caught in the Spiders’ web of incompetence.

“Despite all this, the Reds will doubtless finish the season better than the 1899 Cleveland Spiders did,” per the site. “Modern baseball may have brazen tanking, but there are enough competitive-balance guardrails in place to prevent current teams from flirting with a .130 winning percentage. But the fact that, 23 games into the season, we can even make a comparison between the two speaks to just how far the Reds have fallen — and how rough things can still get for baseball fan bases 123 years after the Robison brothers ran one of their franchises directly into the ground.”

Win the Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix Experience

Want the F1 experience of a lifetime? Here’s your chance to win tickets to see Turn 18 Grandstand, one of Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix’s most premier grandstands!