The 10 Worst Pro Sports Teams of the Decade (So Far)
Earlier this week, the Lakers' NBA Championship moved me to put together a system to rank the best teams of the 2000s decade. While creating a list of the best, I also came up with a list of the worst.
For reasoning behind my methodology, see my article on the Top 10 Teams of the Decade.
Here is a quick recap of how the scoring works.
A team loses one point for every year they finished below .500 in the MLB, NFL, and NBA, and for each non-playoff team in the NHL since there is not really a .500 mark. I subtracted an additional point for the worst record in the conference and took away a third point for the worst record in the league.
Even though we’re looking at the worst teams of the decade, positive contributions cannot be ignored.
A championship victory was awarded five points, while a Finals, Super Bowl, or World Series appearance was awarded two points.
I also awarded the teams who showed consistent levels of success. Back-to-back appearances in the finals were awarded one bonus point, while back-to-back titles were given three bonus points.
Don’t worry, none of the teams on this list qualified for any of these.
In the NFL and MLB, a much smaller percentage of teams make the playoffs than in their NBA and NHL counterparts. As such, I awarded one point to each NFL and MLB playoff team and one-half of a point to each postseason participant in the NBA and NHL (who did not make the finals).
Finally, in the NBA, a sub-.500 playoff team was awarded no points. They just don’t deserve any in my book.
The Bottom 10 contains a few usual suspects and a few surprises—read on to find out who made the list.
10. Baltimore Orioles—Negative 9.0 Points
The Orioles have been a model of consistency this decade. Unfortunately for the Baltimore faithful, it’s not the good kind. Nine seasons, nine losing records, and nine Octobers spent at home—a trend which looks to continue in 2009.
While it’s true that the Orioles play in the ultra-competitive AL East, even the Rays pulled it together once this decade.
The nine losing seasons (consecutive, no less) ties Baltimore for the most in any of the four major sports. If you hadn’t guessed, the other team is coming up later in the countdown.
What’s amazing to me is that the Orioles never even managed to be the worst team in the AL during this span. Impressive.
8. (Tie) Atlanta Hawks—Negative 9.5 Points
With two straight postseason appearances, including a trip to the second round this past year, the Hawks appear to be turning things around. That, however, does not erase the misery that was the Atlanta Hawks franchise from 2000-2007.
More than half of the NBA makes the playoffs every year. For eight straight seasons the Hawks were not among those teams, finishing below .500 all eight times.
The eight seasons below .500 were the most of any NBA team this decade. 2005 was the lowest of the lows, as the Hawks finished 13-69, which equates to a brutal .159 winning percentage.
8. (Tie) Columbus Blue Jackets—Negative 9.5 Points
The Blue Jackets are almost identical to the Hawks, missing the playoffs eight straight times from 2000-2008 (lockout not included) before finally making their first ever postseason appearance in 2009.
The eight straight playoff misses are the most in the NHL in the decade, and the Jackets topped it off with an ugly stretch in 2002-2003 where they finished dead last in the Western Conference twice in a row.
The Jackets' point total in those two seasons was 126, just 10 more than the Detroit Red Wings’ point total in 2002 alone.
7. Golden State Warriors—Negative 10.0 Points
What I will remember most from the Warriors this decade was their inspired upset of the No. 1 seed Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs. That’s probably because it was their only playoff appearance this decade.
Golden State finished below .500 in seven consecutive seasons between 2000 and 2006, and eight times overall, second most in the NBA. The Warriors were the worst team in the West in 2001 and 2002, and in the latter season they tied for the worst record in the league.
Over those two seasons they managed to win just 38 games, which wouldn’t have even got them a playoff spot in the lowly East.
4. (Tie) Tampa Bay Rays—Negative 11.5 Points
Last year’s magical run to the World Series has made some people forget how truly terrible the Devil Rays were for the first eight years of the decade.
During that span, the Rays missed the playoffs and finished below .500 every year. Their best season was 2004, when they went 70-91 (.435) and finished in fourth place in the AL East, the only campaign prior to 2008 where they did not finish dead last.
The Rays lost 100 games three times and also finished with the worst record in the majors three times over that span. If it were not for their trip to the Fall Classic last year, Tampa would have been atop the list.
Amazingly though, they are not even the worst team from the American League.
4. (Tie) Los Angeles Clippers—Negative 11.5 Points
You can’t have a bottom 10 list without including the Clippers. The worst NBA team of the decade, the Clippers had an amazing run of badness that was rudely interrupted by a 2006 playoff appearance.
In a conference where more than half the teams make the playoffs, the Clips only did so once. They finished under .500 a total of nine times, had the worst record in the Western Conference twice, and in 2000 finished last in the league with a 15-67 record.
The Clippers already get beat up enough, so I won’t go into any more detail.
4. (Tie) Atlanta Thrashers—Negative 11.5 Points
It’s not entirely fair to fault the Thrashers for their poor play early in the decade, as the 1999-2000 season was their first in existence. Unfortunately for them, the system doesn’t account for that, so their league-worst records in 2000 and 2002 count all the same.
The Thrashers missed the playoffs every year between 2000 and 2006, and after a brief four-game appearance in 2007, missed them again in 2008 and 2009.
They were unlucky in 2006, finishing with 90 points and missing the postseason by just two points. The Thrashers’ one playoff appearance ties them for the fewest in the decade with Columbus and the Florida Panthers.
2. (Tie) Detroit Lions—Negative 12.0 Points
Surprise! The worst NFL team of the decade by a whopping 4.5 points is the Detroit Lions. The Lions would have to make the Super Bowl in 2009 just to have any chance of moving out of last place in the NFL.
Zero playoff appearances and eight straight losing seasons, culminating with last year’s first ever 0-16 performance, put the Lions at rock bottom of the NFL. Aside from last season, the Lions also had the worst record in the NFC in 2002 and 2006, finishing 3-13 both years.
The Lions' last playoff appearance was 1999, and their last postseason victory was 1991. Since their 9-7 season in 2000, the Lions have lost fewer than 10 games only once, a 7-9 season in 2007 when they started the year at 6-2.
The Lions have lost 23 of their last 24 games. Enough said.
2. (Tie) Pittsburgh Pirates—Negative 12.0 Points
The lone National League team on the Bottom 10 list, the Pirates achieved poor results in style. Along with the aforementioned Orioles, the Pirates are the only other team to finish below .500 every year of the decade.
The best finish for the Bucs was 2003, when they were 75-87, good for a .463 winning percentage. The Pirates finished fourth in the NL Central that year, tied for their highest finish in the division during the decade.
The Pirates tied for the worst record in the majors in 2002 and had the worst record in the NL in 2005 and 2007.
Amazingly, 2008 marked the 16th straight season that the Pirates finished under .500 and missed the postseason. It appears the curse of Francisco Cabrera and Sid Bream still has not worn off.
1. Kansas City Royals—Negative 13.0 Points
To describe the Royals’ futility this decade, it’s easiest to look at their one and only relatively successful season, which was 2003.
That season, the Royals finished at 83-79, their only season above .500. It was also the only campaign in which they lost fewer than 85 games.
They finished third in the division, the only time they managed to finish that high all decade.
The Royals finished with the worst record in the majors twice, in 2002 and 2005, and had the worst record in the AL in 2004. Each of those seasons saw Kansas City lose 100 or more games, a feat they also achieved in 2006. Just an utterly awful decade so far for the Royals.
With only the 2009 season to go, and the Washington Nationals a near lock to have the worst record in the league, it appears that the Royals have only the Lions to contend with for the crown.