At this point, even the thesaurus struggles to produce the proper word to describe the Mud Hens' August free-fall.
Is it frightful? Horrible? Appalling? Ghastly?
One word that certainly doesn't fit is "shocking," since the Mud Hens' recent history makes clear this isn't an isolated event. One need look no further than last season for evidence.
In 2003 Toledo used a pair of six-game losing streaks to finish with a 10-22 mark after Aug. 1, the worst mark in the International League.
Sadly, that isn't even the Mud Hens' worst finish - or even second-worst finish - in the last 10 seasons.
In 2000 the Hens limped home to an 8-26 finish, or a .235 "winning" percentage. That victory total and winning percentage both are the lowest for an IL club since the league became a 14-team circuit in 1998.
The second-worst winning percentage? That belongs to the 1998 Mud Hens, who were 11-25 after Aug. 1 for a .306 inning percentage. Last year's .313 mark is the third-worst in that time.
The only teams that have come close to matching those futility totals are Ottawa in 2000, which was 12-26 for a .316 winning percentage, and Rochester in 2002, which finished 11-22 for a .333.
It should be noted that Rochester dumped its parent club, the Baltimore Orioles, after that poor finish in 2002. Tiger-bashers also should be aware that it was Detroit who also gave Toledo its best finish to a season in recent memory: the 2002 club went 19-13 (.594) after Aug. 1 to claim the West Division pennant.
This season the Hens have earned their 2-16 August mark heading into last night's game. As a team they have scored 58 runs in 18 games, or 3.2 per contest. The pitching staff has a 6.84 ERA, including a 9.25 ERA for the team's starters.
With 16 games left including last night's, the Mud Hens need to go 7-9 to avoid the 2000 team's records for fewest losses and lowest winning percentage.
ANOTHER CHASE: While the team on the field looks to avoid some ignominious records, the front office continues its chase for a record-setting attendance total.
Before last night the Mud Hens had welcomed 476,117 fans to Fifth Third Field in 63 dates, or an average of 7,557 fans per game. Assuming last night's crowd was 10,300 - a mark the team has at least equaled for the previous eight Saturdays this season - that would give the Hens seven dates to attract the 60,787 fans it would take to equal the franchise record of 547,204 drawn in 2002.
The Mud Hens must average 8,684 fans for their final seven home dates to break the old record, a mark that will be difficult but not impossible to reach.
The playoff-bound club of 2002 helped the Hens sell out 13 of their last 14 games and average 9,774 fans per game in August and September. Last year an average of 8,518 fans visited Fifth Third Field after Aug. 1.
SCREAMING FOR STRIKEOUTS: At every home game the Mud Hens select one player from the visiting team and make him the "Strikeout Player of the Game." Every time that player strikes out in the game, a certain number of fans receive ice cream.
Ever wonder how players respond to that challenge?
Well, entering last night's game the "strikeout players " had combined for a .283 batting average, well above the .251 mark Mud Hens pitchers have allowed at home this season. The strikeout players also have six home runs and 30 RBIs as well as 32 runs scored in 233 at-bats this season.
Most importantly, those players also have given Fifth Third Field fans ice cream 56 times this year.
- John Wagner