7. 1993 Oakland A's
1992 Season: 96-68, 1st in AL West, lost in ALCS
1993 Season: 68-94, last in AL West
An accepted formula for decline involves injury, defection and ineffectiveness. The Oakland A's of 1992-93 illustrated this to perfection.
In '92, the A's went 96-68 (.593), won the American League West and lost in the ALCS to eventual World Series champion Toronto. They had the MVP and Cy Young Award winner in Dennis Eckersley, the manager of the year in Tony La Russa, and a lineup that included Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco and Harold Baines. Can you say dynasty? The A's couldn't.
The next year, they plummeted to 68-94 (.420), finishing last in the West, 26 games out of first. Why? Well, McGwire was plagued with foot injuries and played only 27 games. Henderson was traded to Toronto, Canseco went to Texas, Baines to Baltimore and solid third baseman Carney Lansford retired. Replacements such as Mike Aldrete, Brent Gates and Craig Paquette couldn't fill the void.
The 1992 rotation included Mike Moore, Ron Darling, Dave Stewart and Bob Welch. And Eckersley went 7-1 with a 1.91 ERA, 51 saves and a 0.91 WHIP. The '93 rotation was a mess: Darling (5.16 ERA), Welch (5.20), Bobby Witt (4.21), Todd van Poppel (5.04) and Shawn Hillegas (6.97). Even Eckersley declined, with a 4.16 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Just a few years later, after the Haas family sold the franchise, the A's had morphed into the spendthrift model for "Moneyball."