The 13 Worst-Run Franchises in Sports
Sports can be complicated. As fans, we can blame the players on the field, but we only go after the front offices when the horrendous play is sustained and sustaining (see the No. 3 entry on this list.)
Well, I intend to go after the teams who simply can't or won't get it done, and make boneheaded mistakes (see entry No. 8) on top of not getting it done. Can I make it without angering their fanbases? And can two divorced men share an apartment...without driving each other crazy?
Oh, and just so you know: This slideshow takes previous decisions into account, those that put the franchises in questions at the crossroads they're at today.
13: The Detroit Lions
The Lions should, and probably could, have been much higher on this list. And if I had written this article at this time last year, they would have been. But their improving outlook took them from the penthouse of bad to the duplex of bad.
After Matt Millen took a mediocre franchise and gave it a spike piledriver, there seemed to be no hope for the future. Not only did Millen completely blow the franchise to smithereens, he left lasting damage that can still be felt throughout the Detroit area. Okay, Millen wasn't responsible for the decline of the city of Detroit, but maybe he should have been held responsible.
Think about it. Millen was so bad as a GM, his decisions so horrible, that the Lions finished 50 GAMES UNDER .500 for his tenure. Do you realize how hard it is to be that bad?
And wasting first round picks on Charles Rogers and Joey Harrington is unreal.
But the reason the Lions aren't that high on this list is because current GM Martin Mayhew has a plan. It may involve getting beaten up some more, but the Lions could be players in the NFL for years to come.
12: The Cleveland Cavaliers.
I'm not here to defend LeBron James, a man I still like. Rather, I'm setting aside his no-brainer first-overall pick in 2003 to attack the Cleveland Cavaliers front office for the horrendous decisions made after James. This includes a decision that I wrote about in one of my previous articles. Since their multiple failures are well documented, I'm just going to write about that one pick in this section.
When you have a second lottery pick the year after taking "The Man," you have a choice. If there's one thing you know, it's that "The Man" can play multiple positions and is a genetic specialty that will allow him to play those positions at an All-Star caliber.
ESPN NBA Basketball, one of my favorite sports games ever, has him listed as a PG. You also know that this draft is rather short on talent. (Go look at that Top 10 from that draft. You'll have nightmares for weeks.)
Regardless, when you have that 10th overall pick, you are making a commitment to a player that he is going to be in your plans for YEARS. If this is not the case, TRADE THE PICK. The Cleveland Cavaliers took Oregon G/F Luke Jackson with that pick. My assertion is that this started the ball rolling toward "The Decision."
The reason I believe that is because they proceeded to misuse Jackson, as he played only 46 games over two seasons. This means you are not taking it seriously, and that your head coach doesn't get it. Injury or no injury, he's the 10th overall pick.
You cannot make this pick if you have no intention of using the player in it. And most players open the door on their talent after three seasons. After two, Jackson was dumped.
Instead of a player that could have played alongside James, it became, to me, a reminder of when the Cavs started laying the groundwork for the exit of the best player they had or ever will have.
11: The Baltimore Orioles
Your owner is just that: Your owner. Unless he is the GM, like the situation Jerry Jones has helped himself to in Dallas, his input is not needed or, in most cases, wanted.
However, Peter Angelos has not learned that. As a result, the Baltimore Orioles have been run horrendously, prior to this season.
Hiring Sam Perlozzo and Dave Tremblay is one thing. Consistently interfering in the way they run the team is another. Changing the draft philosophy of your scouting director and making them pick players who are cheaper and don't contribute in any way, shape, or form to the potential success of your team is silly. It takes away the initiative of your people.
The Orioles were bad, and even when they weren't, playing with two big bruisers in your division makes you look worse. Peter Angelos reminds me of William S.Paley, according to a biography I've been reading. Paley was a man who took credit for success and distanced himself from failure, even if he directly contributed to it. Who does that sound like?
And now, for no reason at all, a funny pic of Vlad Guerrero.
10: The Toronto Raptors
Head Coach Jay Triano wears that look quite a bit. Think about it, though: The Raps have had to dump one great player, one very good player and Vince Carter. Rebuilding is a word that consistently runs through the streets of Toronto, like a streaker in July. And it's used entirely too often by GM Bryan Colangelo.
Toronto is a hockey town. We've accepted that when it comes to the Jays, because it has become routine to throw up your hands and say, "Well, the Red Sox/Yankees own this division." But that said, a professional franchise cannot have no hope of competition, which is something the Raptors have been dealing with in spades.
There is hope. DeMar DeRozan looks like he's going to be a pretty good player.
Colangelo has only been around since 2006. His highest win total as the GM is 47. That's still pretty good, right? Well, not exactly.
It was Colangelo, after all, who decided that T.J. Ford was the PG of the future, only to realize that Jose Calderon was the better player and that Ford was unwilling to be the backup.
It was Colangelo who decided that Andrea Bargnani, the very epitome of the defense-abhorring European basketball player, was his No. 1 overall.
It is Colangelo who brought the Phoenix model of defense to Toronto.
And worst of all, It was Colangelo who put the Undertaker in the vegetative state. Wait, that last one didn't happen.
9: The Detroit Pistons
At the beginning of the previous decade, the Pistons stood as a model of how to play efficient defensive basketball. It was that Pistons team that, in 2004, stunned the rampaging Los Angeles Lakers team in the final season of the Shaq-Kobe-Phil triumvirate. So when the Pistons began a slow, steady decline (think the past seasons of CSI, for example), Joe Dumars had a decision to make.
Basketball players grow old. Bodies break down. Coaches eventually get tuned out. Players eventually fade into the mists of time and sometimes are remembered as being much better than they were (Hey, Glenn Robinson, how ya doin?).
But the decision that started the ball rolling was the hiring of Michael Curry after canning Flip Saunders. Keep in mind the Pistons had won 50 games every year since the 2001-2002 season before Curry was hired for the 2008-2009 season.
Joe D is not a bad GM. But his decisions are head scratching—both that one (Come on. Not only did you make a bad hire but you gave him one season) and the Ben Gordon/Charlie Villanueva signings.
As I don't have a ton of space left, let's just say that the Pistons have buried themselves deep in a mountain of horrendous decisions...and they may take a while to get out of it.
8: The Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals.
Mike Rizzo is an intelligent guy. The contract he gave Jayson Werth, while good for Werth, is extremely bad for the Nats. A team who blustered that they couldn't afford Adam Dunn.
Adam Dunn is awesome. (Cue The Miz's theme music here.) In yet another bad decision by a franchise that hasn't made a good one since Felipe Alou left, the Nats paid Jayson Werth $126 million over seven years. YOU'RE PAYING JAYSON WERTH $126 MILLION!
And here's what makes the decision worse. Werth is 32 years old. At the age of 36, he'll be making $20 million, when he'll be well into his decline. You've essentially crippled your franchise.
A franchise, I might add, that couldn't afford Vlad Guerrero (you know, future Hall of Famer Vlad Guerrero), had no intention of ever being competitive in their final years in Montreal and essentially played a game of chicken with the city of Montreal, which ended with the city telling a team they had once vociferously supported to get lost. To move to a market that has lost two teams.
A franchise that might waste the hottest pitching prospect (TINSTAAPP notwithstanding) that has hit MLB in ages.
Washington is not a baseball town. Hasn't been in decades. Probably won't be until the Nationals start winning regularly. And that's YEARS off. So...congratulations to you, I guess.
7: The Seattle Mariners
I like the Seattle Mariners.
But they sure can make some horrendous decisions.
Seattle is a town that can take or leave their sports. The Supersonics walked away because their owner is a jerk. (And they have first dibs on any expansion team that rolls into town—it's only fair.)
The Seahawks tend to fluctuate because of their checkered history.
But the Mariners have had such horrendous ownership in the past that their fans could be forgiven for enjoying their reign as baseball's best regular season team in the 2001 season and the winning seasons surrounding that one.
Which is why it's perplexing to watch them slide slowly back into the mediocrity that infested the franchise for years. While we Cub fans will always be grateful to the M's for taking Clownshoes Bradley off our hands, we then wondered why they kept him, and why he was batting third. Are ye daft?
Unless you're the Yankees or the Red Sox, you can't paper over your mistakes. And one mistake the M's made is Safeco Field. No, there's nothing wrong with the park itself...it's the design of the team around it.
The M's have had exactly two power-hitters since Safeco became a reality in 1999 (I'm fairly certain this is not what Prince is referring to in the song of the same name), and all teams need a power guy in today's baseball. Whitey Herzog's Cardinals would lose 90 games a year in today's baseball.
Felix Hernandez is probably your best player period. Yet he's not getting any help. And when a superstar gets no help from his original team, we end up seeing him on ESPN announcing the next team he's going to sign with.
Yes, John, they are funny, but they didn't make this list.
6: The New York Mets
I want it known right here: I HATE CITI FIELD.
I hate Citi Field with a roaring passion.
But that's not why they're here.
As you know, the issue with the Wilpons being involved with Bernie Madoff's theft of billions of dollars has put them in a situation where the Mets have to be sold to satisfy the pending lawsuits (a majority of which will probably be successful). And my Mets fans buddies say "good riddance."
The Mets payroll this year is $142 million (including signing bonuses and the $19 million obligation to Ollie Perez, Luis Castillo, and Gary Matthews Jr.) For that much money spent, you expect a team to win 90 games a year and run off a string of dominance of their division (see: Atlanta Braves)
Nah. Not the Mets. Not after the spending spree of crap Omar Minaya decided to go on.
And rather than go into that, let me state something. Only the Mets, ONLY THE METS, would build a ballpark that neutralizes right-handed power when the majority of the power in their lineup comes from right-handed hitters (Wright, Bay, Beltran from the right side.)
The phrase "lol mets" has become a staple of a message board I post on, and for good reason. When you give a bad pitcher like Oliver Perez $12 million a season ($12 MILLION FOR A plus-5.00 ERA), you're opening the door for the kick in the pants that's coming when the Phillies and the Braves decide that you don't deserve to compete with them.
5: The Washington Redskins
Daniel Snyder is a braying, roaring jackass with lots of money and a tiny brain.
I'd go into that in more detail, but the record speaks for itself.
The Washington Redskins are the laughingstock of the NFL. Tons of money spent for absolutely nothing. Sad.
4: The Oakland Raiders
When I think of Skeletor...I mean, Al Davis, I think of Botchamania icon Jim Cornette'a rant about the Hogan/Piper cage match. In that rant, Cornette finishes with what is quickly becoming my favorite wrestling line ever. "Memo to Hollywood Hogan: You may be a household word, but so is garbage. And it stinks when it gets old too."
Al's negotiating skills sure went south after he turned 99. Wait. He's not 99? You're kidding! It was Al's decision to give a fat, bad QB with loads of arm strength and NO ACCURACY (except to the other team) a $68 million dollar contract with nearly $32 million of it guaranteed. This decision not only was the worst in Raider history, not only did it cripple the franchise for a long, long time, but indirectly, it led to the lockout going on currently in the NFL.
You see, when you pay $31 million for this stat line (52.1 completion percentage, 18-23 TD-INT ratio, 65.2 passer rating, and 15 lost fumbles), it tends to make the other owners a bit skittish.
Unlike the old days, players have agents now. And when those agents see Jamarcus Russell getting a $68 million dollar contract, and then playing like Rick Mirer, it doesn't look good for your so-called bottom line. So you eventually spend too much money and end up selling the team.
Al also seems to not understand that wide receivers have to catch the ball...or score touchdowns. His 2009 seventh overall pick was Darrius Heyward-Bey. In two seasons, Heyward-Bey has 35 receptions and two touchdowns. Troy Williamson V2, he is. Comparatively, Michael Crabtree, taken in that same draft by the team across the bay, has 103 receptions and eight touchdowns. And he's getting the ball from ALEX SMITH. (And Troy Smith, and whatever sad sack the Niners could dredge up)
In conclusion, I submit that Al Smith has officially become incompetent to stand trial for crimes against sports. But he should still be punished somehow.
Ever feel like you want to do this to your GM?
3: The Pittsburgh Pirates
It used to be that streaks like this happened all the time in the early years of modern baseball. For example, in the 20s, after selling Babe Ruth to the eventual Evil Empire, the Red Sox got the Hogan Atomic Leg Drop from the American League for almost 20 years.
The Philadelphia Phillies were the worst team of the period between 1900 and 1950, representing the National League in the World Series only once, in 1915. THEY HAD ONE WINNING SEASON IN 30 YEARS.
The Brooklyn Dodgers were constantly in danger of being folded by the Brooklyn Trust Company because of their horrendous performance (and its resulting low attendance) until Larry McPhail saved the franchise.
That preamble was written because it brings me to the worst run franchise currently in Major League Baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates have the longest streak of losing seasons in sports: 17 years and counting. I said back in the Oriole comment: When an owner is unwilling to pay the money to draft good players, who are going to be good, you are going to pay the price.
As an example of the backward thinking of the former Pirate ownership, the Pirates took right-handed pitcher Bryan Bullington first overall. Players taken behind Bullington: Jon Lester, B.J. Upton, Prince Fielder, Scott Kazmir, Nick Swisher, and Cole Hamels.
Now, the baseball draft is the biggest crapshoot in sports. You never know who is going to be good.
The Pirates, however, took Bullington, not because he was the best player available (he wasn't by a long, long, long shot) but because they figured he would be easier to sign than any of the players named, and he wouldn't want as much money.
That's the hallmark of a bad franchise right there. When you consider money spent against money you'll earn from the player's performance, you're automatically in trouble off the bat.
Fun fact: Last season this franchise turned a profit from revenue sharing before any income from the ballpark was even considered.
2: The New York Knicks.
New York is the biggest city in the United States. Per capita, it also has the highest income of any major metropolitan area in the country. With so many business people in the area, you'd think one of them would know how to make the Knicks into the team they were in the 90s, let alone the 70s, when they notched both their NBA titles.
James Dolan has single-handedly prevented that from happening.
First, it was this signing of Eddy Curry, a basketball flameout, who mismanaged his money and eventually ate his way out of the NBA.
Then, it was Stephon Marbury, a malcontent who dared the Knicks to play his game of one-upmanship.
It was Zach Randolph, a borderline head case who only wasn't out of the league because someone thought he could still play ball (and who eventually turned his career around in Memphis.) And who was the puppet master of this train wreck circus?
Why, it was Isiah Thomas, a business failure who destroyed the CBA and killed the Knicks with poor decisions and stupidity, such as the secret pre-draft workouts that cost the Knicks $200,000. And giving Jerome James and Jared Jeffries expensive long-term deals, both of which—and I know I keep saying this, I'm sorry—crippled the franchise and sent the Knicks deeper into Salary-cap Hades. Oh, and I almost forgot: The Sexual Harassment Lawsuit that cost them $11.6 million.
Now, if a man cost me 11.6 million dollars, I wouldn't consider listening to another word he said. He would be lucky I didn't have him killed. But James Dolan, being the idiot that he seems to be, thinks Thomas can do no wrong and is even consulting with him about the current Knicks team, which features two all-NBA players now and probably is a contender.
That sound was my palm hitting my face. Repeatedly.
Last Time, I Promise!
Yes, Ric, I feel that way about Daniel Snyder and Isiah Thomas too.
1: The Los Angeles Clippers
When you read biographies of famous people, what you eventually take away from them is that they have successes and they have failures. THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS IS FAILURE.
I cannot stress this enough, especially since I wrote an article about the the Clippers almost a year ago. The mismanagement of the Clippers is borderline criminal.
Donald Sterling is a complete scumbag who probably shouldn't own shares in NBC, let alone a professional basketball franchise. It boggles my mind—it literally makes me ask what the hell is going on in the owners' minds—that this guy, who refused to pay for an employee's life or death surgery, who has made the Clippers from an absolute joke into a complete hunk of waste, is STILL THE OWNER OF THIS TEAM.
How is this at all possible? There have been owners who were forced out for much, much less than blatant racism, destroying the morale of the team and being an overall bad human being.
I went into it before, but I'll say it again. Why is it that when the NBA talks about contraction, the Clippers are never brought up? It's that bad. I always laugh when I hear the Clippers talking about "rebuilding." THEY'VE NEVER BEEN GOOD ENOUGH TO REBUILD. People used to jump on Elton Brand for running for Philly after convincing Baron Davis to sign with this team. Now, it makes sense.
Would you work for, or want to work for, an employer that looks at you as little more than property and wouldn't save your life for what to him is pocket change? No? I didn't think so.