To be kind, this season has been a struggle for the New York Yankees. An aging team beset with injuries to regulars, an abysmal offense, and the never-ending Alex Rodriguez drama, latest chapter A-Rat, the Yankees are enduring their worst season in more than 20 years.
It’s not the first time. Despite their long and glorious history, the Yankees have had bad years in the past. Four times since the New York Highlanders began play in 1903, the Yankees have finished in last place — 1908, 1912, 1996 and 1990. And on other occasions the Yankees failed to live up to expectations.
Where does the 2013 team rank on the ignominious list of worst Yankee teams in history. Well the season’s not finished yet, so we shall see.
Meantime, here are the 10 worst teams in Yankee history.
1. 1966 — 70-89, last of 10 in American League
After winning 14 pennants and nine World Series from 1949-64, the Yankee dynasty crumbled…quickly. Just two years after a seventh-game loss to St. Louis, the once mighty Bronx Bombers finished last for the first time since 1912. After a 4-16 start, manager Johnny Keane was replaced by former skipper Ralph Houk. The change was cosmetic — after a brief spurt the Yankees floundered the rest of the way. The low point occurred on September 25 when 413 fans — the smallest crowd in Yankee Stadium history — turned up for a loss to the White Sox. Legendary broadcaster Red Barber was fired after asking WPIX cameras to pan the empty seats, see above. One consolation — the Yanks .440 winning percentage was the highest for a last-place team in MLB history.
2. 1912 — 50-112, last of 8 in American League
Statistically at least, this is was the worst team in Yankee history. The club, then known as the Highlanders, finished with a .329 percentage, the lowest ever by a New York American League entry and 55 games behind the World Champion Boston Red Sox. The 1912 team set records for most errors (.386) and lowest fielding average (.939) in club history. Russell Ford led the AL with 21 losses, and Jack Warhop has 19. Guy Zinn hit 6 home runs to lead the team. The Highlanders stole home 18 times that year, at the time a record. Mercifully, manager Harry Wolverton, pictured right, was dismissed after one year at the helm.
3. 1925 — 69-85, 7th of 8 in American League
After finishing in the first division for eight straight years and winning three American League pennants and their first World Series in that span, the Yankees dropped like a stone in 1925, finishing 28 1/2 games behind the Washington Senators. Only the hapless Red Sox were worse. Hard to believe a team with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig could be so bad. Ruth suffered a serious stomach illness in the spring (due to excessive indulgences), played in just 98 games and hit just .290 with 25 HRs and 66 RBIs. It was his worst season in pinstripes. Gehrig a relative newcomer, contributed 20 homers, 68 RBIs. and a .295 average in 126 games. The Yankees recovered quickly, winning the AL pennant in 1926 and the World Series in 1927 and 1928 in four-game sweeps.
4. 1990 — 67-95, last of 7 in American League East
In 1990, the New York Yankees finished dead last in the American League East, were outspent by the Kansas City Royals and outdrawn by the Pittsburgh Pirates, according to baseballreference.com. They managed to fall a game and a half out of first place before they even played a game. Andy Hawkins pitched a no-hitter and lost 4-0. Third baseman Mike Blowers made four errors in a single game. The team’s high-profile, off-season free agent acquisition, pitcher Pascual Perez, pitched just 14 innings all year. “There was a lot of chaos,” said Bucky Dent, who managed the end of the 1989 season and had been promised a chance to manage a full season in 1990 by owner George Steinbrenner. He was fired in June, replaced by Stump Merrill.
5. 1959 — 79-75, 3rd of 8 in American League
Although they wound up in third place, the 1959 Yankees were never in the running and finished 15 games behind the Go-Go Chicago White Sox. It was a puzzling campaign for the Bombers who won their fourth straight pennant and then overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Milwaukee Braves in the World Series the previous October. They never got out of the starting gate in 1959 and fell into last place on May 20 for the first time since 1940. The 1959 Yankees lacked power and speed, although Mickey Mantle did hit 31 home runs and stole 21 bases. The Mick is seen above tossing his batting helmet in frustration.
6. 1908 — 51-103, last of 8 in American League
The 1908 Highlanders were outscored by more than 250 runs –713 to 460. Managed by Clark Griffith and then Kid Elberfeld, they suffered 103 losses to finish in the basement for the first time in their history. The Highlanders lost nine games by a 1-0 scored, including five by Jack Warhop, at the time an American League record. Only the 1912 Yankees had a worse winning percentage than the 1908 Highlanders at .331.
7. 1982 — 79-83, 5th of 7 in American League East
After blowing a 2-0 lead and losing to the Dodgers in six games in the 1981 World Series, the Yankees retooled with scant success. The season started badly when a huge blizzard wiped out Opening Day and several games beyond that. Following five playoff appearances, four AL pennants and two World Championships in the previous six seasons, the Yankees played under .500 ball and fell to fifth place, They would not reach the playoffs for another 13 seasons. Three different managers — none of whom named Billy Martin — piloted the team. For the record, they were Bob Lemon, Gene Michael and Clyde King.
8. 1965 — 77-85, 6th of 10 in American League
And thus began the decline and fall of the Yankee empire. Between 1949 and 1964, the Yankees failed to win the AL pennant just two times — in 1954 and 1959. But by 1965, key players such as Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, were beset by age and injury. Yankee Stadium attendance was the lowest since 1945, while Casey Stengel and the Mets were drawing big crowds at Shea Stadium. Johnny Keane, who led the Cardinals to a seven-game World Series win over Yogi Berra’s Yankees in 1964, was manager of this underachieving group. One bright spot — Whitey Ford beat the Red Sox at Fenway Park on the final day of the season to become the Yanks all-time leader in wins.
9.. 1913 67-94, 7th of 8 in American League
Officially known as the Yankees for the first time, the Yankees abandoned Hilltop Park and moved into the Polo Grounds as tenants of the Giants. Before the season even started the Yankees held spring training in Bermuda — the first MLB team to train outside the USA. Future Hall of Famer Frank Chance became manager, but the club climbed just one position to seventh, leaving John McGraw and the Giants as clear-cut favorites in New York. The Yankees endured a 13-game losing streak, longest in their history and permitted 32 passed balls, a club record.
10. 1945 — 81-71, 4th of 8 in American League
In the final year of World War II, the Yankees finished fourth, their worst finish in 20 years. Manager Joe McCarthy, upset by his team’s performance, was occasionally ill during the season and was unable to manage, being replaced by his trusted aide Art Fletcher. Despite the fourth place finish, the Yankees led the AL in home runs with 93. Snuffy Stirnweiss led the league in seven categories, including runs (107), stolen bases (33) and batting average, a pedestrian .309. Nick Etten led the AL in RBIs with 111.