The Worst of the Worst

2000 Erie SeaWolves manager Don Wakamatsu
2000 Erie SeaWolves manager Don Wakamatsu (right) with Reading Phillies manager Gary Varsho, April 21, 2000. Wakamatsu is now the manager of the Seattle Mariners. Varsho is the bench coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

Back on March 27 I posted an article about the best teams in Angels minor league history, and promised you a look at the all-time worst teams.

Well, here we go.

The top ten — bottom ten?! — teams with the worst winning percentage are:

  1. 2004 Mesa Angels 12-44 .214
  2. 1973 Idaho Falls Angels 23-48 .324
  3. 2000 Erie SeaWolves 47-94 .333
  4. 1987 Quad Cities Angels 47-91 .341
  5. 1998 Butte Copper Kings 26-50 .342
  6. 1990 Mesa Angels 19-36 .345
  7. 2002 Arkansas Travelers 51-89 .364
  8. 1980 El Paso Diablos 50-86 .368
  9. 2006 Arkansas Travelers 51-87 .370
  10. 1998 Vancouver Canadians 53-90 .371

As we saw with the best of the best, many of these are short-season teams, which tend towards more extreme results in a shorter period. If we look at full-season teams (i.e. more than 100 games), the worst ten are:

  1. 2000 Erie SeaWolves 47-94 .333
  2. 1987 Quad Cities Angels 47-91 .341
  3. 2002 Arkansas Travelers 51-89 .364
  4. 1980 El Paso Diablos 50-86 .368
  5. 2006 Arkansas Travelers 51-87 .370
  6. 1998 Vancouver Canadians 53-90 .371
  7. 2002 Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 52-88 .371
  8. 1965 El Paso Sun Kings 53-87 .379
  9. 1972 Stockton Ports 52-85 .380
  10. 1964 Hawaii Islanders 60-98 .380

Mesa was the Angels’ Rookie-A “camp” team in the Arizona League through 2005, when the minor league complex was moved to Tempe at the renovated spring training site. These are usually the youngest and most inexperienced players in the organization.

Even though you might think the 2004 Mesa team had no talent, there were a couple players who went on to big-league success.

Alexi Casilla was the second baseman. He had an AVG/OBP/SLG of .258/.332/.313 as a 20-year old. He was traded on December 9, 2005 to the Minnesota Twins for reliever J.C. Romero. He made his major league debut less than one year later, on September 1, 2006. He played 95 games at 2B for the Twins in 2008.

Angels reliever Jose Arredondo was on the 2004 Mesa Angels — as a shortstop. It was during this season that the Angels decided to give Jose an audition on the mound. They discovered his mid-90s velocity and the rest is history.

Arredondo wasn’t the only infielder-pitcher convert. Josh Davies, an 18-year old Aussie, was released by the Angels in 2007 and signed by the San Diego Padres, who tried to convert him into a pitcher. Josh had a 6.45 ERA in 18 relief appearances in 2008 for the Peoria Padres, and was released.

Brian Harper was the Mesa manager. Selected by the Angels in the 4th round of the June 1977 draft, Harper was traded to the Pirates for Tim Foli and is probably best known as the catcher for the world champion Minnesota Twins in 1991. He’s now the roving catching instructor for the San Francisco Giants.

Click Here to listen to a 2004 interview with Brian Harper. Windows Media Player required.

The 2000 Erie SeaWolves didn’t have inexperience as an excuse. It was simply lack of talent, although there were a few key injuries.

Angels infielder Justin Baughman resumed his career at Double-A Erie after missing all of 1999 due to a horrific broken leg suffered playing winter ball in Mexico. Justin was really never the same; after he retired, he coached briefly in the Angels system before taking the head coaching job at his alma mater, Louis & Clark University.

Nathan Haynes was a top-prospect center fielder, but a series of injuries were to derail his career. Nathan was actually out of baseball in 2004-2005, starting playing independent ball in 2006, was re-signed by the Angels and reached the majors with Anaheim in 2007. He’s currently in the Texas Rangers system.

Catcher Shawn Wooten would go on to the 2002 World Series. But he wasn’t the SeaWolves’ #1 catcher. That job was shared with Bret Hemphill and Woot’s West Covina buddy Kevin Lidle.

John Lackey joined Erie for eight starts at the end of the season, after a promotion from High-A Lake Elsinore. Lack was 6-1 with a 3.37 ERA and 43:9 SO:BB ratio in 57.1 innings.

Lackey would return to Double-A in 2001, but not in Erie. The SeaWolves terminated their two-year relationship with the Angels, choosing to affiliate with the nearby Detroit Tigers. The Angels wound up in Little Rock, with the Arkansas Travelers, and won the 2001 Texas League pennant.

Don Wakamatsu, Erie’s manager in 2000, was promoted to Minor League Field Coordinator, meaning he coordinated all minor league operations in the field and answered to Darrell Miller, the Director of Player Development. In 2003, he moved on to become the Texas Rangers’ bench coach under Buck Showalter. Wak was named the Seattle Mariners’ manager on November 18, 2008, and selected several former and current Angels minor league instructors for his coaching staff.

Click Here to listen to a 2000 interview with Don Wakamatsu. Windows Media Player required.

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