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The MLB Misery Index

Courtesy of Jim Caple:

The Misery Index is a 60-point system that measures two types of fan misery -- despair (produced by losing seasons) and pain (brought on by agonizing ends to winning seasons). There are six 10-point categories in the Misery Index (see table at right).

The six categories in the table: Historic despair, recent despair, historic pain, recent pain, intangible misery, and misery outlook. The Mariners wound up tied with Pittsburgh for 8th in the league with a Misery Index of 36.0, just behind the Astros and just ahead of the Padres and Tigers. I thought I'd go ahead and try my hand at this to see if my rating comes out the same as Caple's.

(Interesting note: you could argue that the seven most miserable teams are all legitimate playoff contenders in 2006. Also, the Devil Rays and Royals somehow came out 13th and 15th, respectively. Maybe I'm not understanding the system correctly, but I can't imagine that even the most pessimistic Cubs fan feels worse about his team than the most optimistic D-Rays fan.)

Moving on to the Mariners...

Historic despair: the Mariners have finished at .500 or better just nine times in 29 years of existence, going 21 years before having their first 90-win season. They've only made the playoffs four times, never reaching the World Series, and for much of the team's existence the fan base has known that it doesn't have much of a chance of competing. Although they haven't existed long enough to rack up a large sum of seasons that were awful from the get-go, strictly on the basis of percentage, I'd say they rank near the top of the list. I'm giving them a 9.0 here, because the only sustained success they've had has been more recent than historic.

Recent despair: I guess it really depends on your definition of "recent". On the one hand, the Mariners were incredible in 2001 and pretty damn good in 2000, 2002, and 2003, but on the other, they've been awful for each of the last two seasons. As neat as that 2001 run was to experience, though, if anything, I'd say the memory of 116 wins only makes the current state of the franchise feel worse. I'm going to split the difference, with a slight weight on 2004 and 2005, and call it 5.5.

Historic pain: using Caple's definition of "pain," there's not much there, aside from 1995 (and 1997, I guess, although not really). Even the ALCS loss to Dennis Martinez and the Indians doesn't seem so bad, since everything the Mariners did in the weeks leading up to the series was incredible. I think the fact that The Double remains the lasting memory of that October speaks volumes about how "disappointing" it was. Losing to the Orioles in '97 sucked, but they were a good team with one heck of a pitching staff. 3.0.

Recent pain: here we go. No, the Mariners haven't blown any World Series Game Sevens to date, but Arthur Rhodes' Yankee Stadium nightmare in 2000 and the failure to even reach the Series in 2001 live on as some of my most painful sports memories. A team that wins 116 games in the regular season shouldn't collapse in the playoffs. That was a team of destiny, and the Yankees tore our collective heart out. Throw in the fact that the 2002 and 2003 Mariners won 186 games without making the playoffs either year and I'd say that's a whole hell of a lot of disappointment. 8.5.

Intangible misery: let's see...losing Randy? Check. Losing Griffey? Check. Losing A-Rod? Check. Losing Lou Piniella? Check. Suffering through more than two decades of the Kingdome? Check. Failing to give Edgar Martinez the Series ring he so absolutely deserved? Check. Cynical fanbase created by a deceptive front office and a team that routinely underperforms? Check. Employing Matt Thornton? Check. 8.0.

Misery outlook: okay, again, there are two sides to this one: the Mariners have a talented young team built around a handful of superstars that should remain productive for the next several seasons, but it's a tough division currently sporting three other good young teams that are probably at least a few games better. With Billy Beane in Oakland, Bill Stoneman and Arte Moreno in Anaheim, and a suddenly competent front office in Texas, the Mariners are in the difficult position of having to improve every year just to keep pace. I'm giving them a 6.0 here, mostly because I think the negatives serve to outweight Felix Hernandez's awesomeness by a little bit.

That comes out to a total Misery Index of 40.0, which is four points higher than Caple's. That would bump the Mariners up from 8th to 4th, sandwiched between the Brewers and Phillies. Could we really be the fourth-most miserable fans in baseball, though? Something about that doesn't seem quite right, but perhaps that's because we've been conditioned to expect and accept less every year due to the annual disappointment that comes from following this team. I don't know. Fun topic, though. Feel free to post your own ratings in the comments section - maybe we could average them all out to find a "true" Misery Index, similar to the way we're handling the community projections. Go nuts. Re-living past agony is always a good time.