2011 Boston Red Sox and the Most Dysfunctional Teams in Sports History

Zack Pumerantz@z_pumerantzAnalyst IIIOctober 12, 2011

2011 Boston Red Sox and the Most Dysfunctional Teams in Sports History

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    With each mediocre season and every shocking collapse that occurs as the postseason nears, there is a throng of players and coaches behind the scenes yearning to tell their story, wanting others to know why they never had a chance to prosper. 

    While some dysfunctional teams feature obnoxiously outspoken characters who put themselves on a pedestal, others are populated with a wide array of lackadaisical misfits who put more energy into illegal activities than practice.

    Many fans may associate dysfunction with disappointment, but the latter still allows for change and a positive future.

    One controversial player won't cut it; this list requires a throng of controversial individuals who successfully create a distasteful atmosphere, whether fans are aware or not. 

    Here are the most dysfunctional teams in history.


20. 2002 San Francisco Giants

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    Despite winning the Wild Card and reaching the World Series, before losing to the Anaheim Angels, a seemingly prosperous Giants team lacked a friendly intimacy that is necessary for long-term success.

    The team's two stars, Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds, were known for their behind-the-scenes feud that was tearing the team apart, but they decided to make their relationship public.

    Following the season-long turmoil, Kent left for the Houston Astros in the offseason and manager Dusty Baker left for the Cubs.

    The coming years didn't get any better for the one-man Giants amidst the excessive losses and steroid allegations.

19. Bronx Zoo Yankees of the 1970s

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    After getting swept by the Cincinnati Reds, known as "The Big Red Machine" to most, in the 1976 World Series, free-spending owner George Steinbrenner knew changes had to be made.

    He added Oakland's star outfield Reggie Jackson to the team, and fans were undoubtedly thrilled with the team's potential.

    However, controversial comments made to Sport Magazine in May 1977 regarding catcher Thurman Munson and Billy Martin didn't help the team's chemistry. He essentially displayed the lack of cohesion on the Yanks when he said, "It all flows from me. I’m the straw that stirs the drink...Munson thinks he can be the straw that stirs the drink, but he can only stir it bad."

    Not only did Martin, Steinbrenner and Jackson battle with each other consistently during the five-year contract given to "Mr. October," but Martin was hired and fired five times over the next 13 years.

    Rowdy fans, uncomfortable playing conditions in the Bronx and a lack of gentle friendship on this team led to the nickname "Bronx Zoo."

18. 2007-2008 Oakland Raiders

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    Oakland fans are finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel this year following several tumultuous seasons.

    After hiring Lane Kiffin in 2007 as the youngest head coach in Raiders history, Al Davis watched his franchise fall fast. It all started when Davis referred to Kiffin as "Lance."

    In his first season, the team finished 4-12 and rumors began to swirl about Kiffin being interested in college football coaching positions.

    Davis was then said to have tried to force Kiffin to resign, essentially having him forfeit his $2 million remaining salary. Those involved refused to comment.

    Finally, in September of 2008, Davis was said to have been unhappy with Kiffin and would soon fire him. He eventually fired his coach over the phone and announced publicly that Kiffin was "a flat-out liar" and that he brought "disgrace to the organization."

    Kiffin's 5-15 stint with the team ended far from amicably.

    Budding star Darren McFadden continues to run towards that light at the end of the tunnel.

17. 2011 Ohio State Buckeyes

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    After finishing 12-1 in 2010 with a sixth straight conference title, expectations were high for coach Jim Tressel and his potent Ohio State Buckeyes club. 

    However, five players were eventually suspended for allegedly selling memorabilia to the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor.

    Tressel, while already receiving a two-game suspension for having previous knowledge and failing to notify authorities, decided to attempt heroism and sit out the entire five-game suspension with Terrelle Pryor, DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, Solomon Thomas and Boom Herron so as to face the adversity with them.

    He then took it a step further, retiring in May 2011. To make matters worse, Pryor, their star signal-caller and a budding NFL prospect, decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL's supplemental draft.

    It's only fitting that he ended up in the Black Hole, with the Raiders finally making noise this season.

    He's hoping to not follow in JaMarcus Russell's footsteps.

16. 1991-1992 New York Giants

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    After losing fiery and passionate head coach Bill Parcells and brainy defensive coordinator Bill Belichick, the 1991 Giants were seemingly bereft of a leader.

    Not only was it the first time since their 1925 founding that the Giants had not been wholly owned, but the team decided to choose running backs coach Ray Handley as head honcho. His passive and seemingly reluctant style wasn't truly accepted, considering the players were accustomed to Parcells' harder style.

    Handley immediately made his presence known when he started quarterback Jeff Hostetler over the illustrious Phil Simms. They finished the season 8-8, but lacked the enthusiasm of the previous year.

    With an aging defense, a quarterback controversy and the defense losing all respect for defensive coordinator Rod Rust, Handley had seemingly lost the faith of his team and its fanbase.

    He was fired following the season. 

15. 2003-2004 Los Angeles Lakers

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    Just as money doesn't bring happiness, winning regular-season games doesn't necessarily create togetherness.

    After losing the second round of the 2003 NBA Playoffs to the San Antonio Spurs in six games, the Lakers dealt with quite a bit of controversy.

    It began when Shaquille O'Neal yelled at Lakers owner Jerry Buss, "Pay me," and continued his public feud with Kobe Bryant. Then the team had to deal with the media regarding Bryant's sexual-assault case.

    They signed Karl Malone and Gary Payton to seemingly distract their fans, but then were faced with injuries and controversial comments from assistant coach Tex Winter about Shaq during the 2004 NBA Finals.

    The dominant center was traded to the Miami Heat during the offseason and head coach Phil Jackson decided not to return. He then wrote a book about the 2003-04 Lakers, The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, in which he called Bryant uncoachable.

    Of course it was all in good fun.

14. Portland Jail Blazers of the Early 2000s

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    Some of the most talented players to ever walk through the Rose Garden turned out to be some of the most dysfunctional.

    While Scottie Pippen, Chris Dudley and Arvydas Sabonis seemingly believed in the community and a dedication to winning and pleasing fans, the rest of the roster was evidently following a different path.

    The roster was full of talent, but with no camaraderie. Executive Bob Whitsitt was vilified for his focus on the short term, as well as his affinity for star players with no intangibles.

    Referred to as the Jail Blazers by disgruntled viewers, the team featured Ruben Patterson (a registered sex offender), Zach Randolph (DUI and known for punching Patterson during practice), Damon Stoudamire (multiple marijuana charges, speeding while under the influence), Qyntel Woods (marijuana charge and arrested for participation in a dog fighting operation) and Shawn Kemp (cocaine and alcohol abuse).

    The most classy displays were from Bonzi Wells, who said that the fans didn't matter to them, and Rasheed Wallace, who had the record for most technical fouls and threatened referee Tim Donaghy after a game.

    Their road to redemption began on July 7th, 2005, when the team hired Nate McMillan. They finally realize that character and attribution matters.

13. 2009-2010 Washington Wizards

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    This season was essentially headlined out by an act that occurred during a game against the 76ers. As Gilbert Arenas hit the court following his gun incident with Javaris Crittenton, his teammates surrounded him as he shot at them with his fingers in a joking manner. The team was far from pleased.

    Not only did he admit storing unloaded guns in his locker at Verizon Center, but he was involved in an argument regarding gambling debts with Crittenton on Christmas Eve, with guns present in the locker room.

    Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee fighting outside of a D.C. nightclub and the team finishing the season with a record of 26-56 were the least of the Wizards' problems.

12. 2004-2005 Philadelphia Eagles

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    Injuries and Terrell Owens-filled drama headlined this disappointing season for the Eagles.

    After reaching the postseason every year since 2000 and winning the past four NFC East titles, Philly finished the 2005 season with a surprising 6-10 record. 

    Contract issues with T.O. and running back Brian Westbrook following the Super Bowl season hindered any development, and injuries to quarterback Donovan McNabb, Westbrook, wide receiver Todd Pinkston, offensive tackle Tra Thomas, defensive lineman Jerome McDougle, center Hank Fraley and cornerback Lito Sheppard hurt their depth, as well as their talent.

    In November, issues with T.O. got so bad that the team suspended him for the remainder of the year.

    Mike McMahon clearly wasn't the man to lead the team under center.

    An ugly season.

11. 2007-2008 Indiana Pacers

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    Following an abysmal 2006-2007 campaign in which the Indiana Pacers finished 35-47 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1997, the team fired head coach Rick Carlisle and hired Jim O'Brien, excited for a more up-tempo style of play.

    Emotionally past the brawl of 2004, the Pacers were still dealing with plenty of controversy.

    Point guard Jamaal Tinsley and teammate Marquis Daniels were involved in a fight at a bar in the area early in the 2007 season. A felony charge of intimidation, misdemeanor counts of battery and disorderly conduct charges were thrown at Tinsley like candy. It only got worse.

    While his charges were dropped in exchange for community service, Tinsley was involved in another incident during that time.

    A calm drive with Tinsley and his group of loyal buddies through the streets of Indianapolis in December 2007 turned into a high-speed chase with shots fired.

    Shawne Williams' numerous drug charges also played a role in a detrimental season for the Pacers.

    Things could only get better.

10. New York Mets of the 1980s

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    For the Mets of the '80s, only player quotes can possibly sum up the type of wild lifestyle that these players lived.

    Talented outfielder Darryl Strawberry said beer was the basis of their "alcoholic lifestyle." He added that the team "hauled around more Bud than the Clydesdales." To detail it more gently, Strawberry said in his autobiography (h/t New York Post), "The beer was just to get the party started and maybe take the edge off the speed and coke."

    These testimonies don't make the 1986 Red Sox look any better.

9. 1940 Cleveland Crybabies

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    A former third baseman, Ossie Vitt was hired in 1938 to become the manager of the Cleveland Indians. In 1940, he took a stance when he said he didn't want any lazy players on his team. He threatened to get rid of all those who didn't hustle.

    Apparently his players felt accused, and went on to clash with him during the rest of his tenure.

    In June 1940, Vitt went to the mound to remove Mel Harder, and asked him when he was going to earn his salary. This was a pitcher who had won at least 15 games for eight consecutive years, with 20 wins twice.

    The team wasn't pleased and signed a petition to have Vitt removed as manager. The players essentially believed that they could win the pennant without Vitt leading them.

    Vitt held his job and the team missed the playoffs at 89-65, one game behind the Detroit Tigers.

8. 2010 World Cup French National Team

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    Practice...we're talking about practice?

    The World Cup team allegedly refused to train in protest of striker Nicolas Anelka being expelled from the team after he had a provocative outburst against coach Raymond Domenech.

    This was followed by the resignation of France team director Jean-Louis Valentin, who was seemingly tired of the drama and disgusted with the results.

    Fans weren't pleased.

7. 2005-2006 New York Knicks

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    Fans in the Big Apple were undoubtedly excited when general manager Isiah Thomas signed Larry Brown to become the highest-paid coach in NBA history with a five-year contract worth over $50 million. The team seemed to be in the right hands.

    However, his one season in New York featured a 23-59 record and constant feuding between Brown and his self-entitled point guard Stephon Marbury, as well as other players.

    Thomas was hired as coach the following season, and the team snowballed towards mediocrity.

    A dark time for Knicks fans.

6. 1994-1996 Dallas Mavericks

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    The "Three J's" not only included the second overall pick in the 1994 NBA draft, Jason Kidd, Jamal Mashburn and Jim Jackson, but they were seen as the future of the Mavs.

    The experiment didn't exactly come to fruition, as Kidd and Jackson clashed during their tenure together.

    Kidd may have called Jackson selfish on the court, but it was his supposed situation with Toni Braxton that caused the most controversy.

    It is said that the R & B singer went to pick up her date, Kidd, at his Atlanta hotel, but eventually left with Jackson.

    Kidd demanded the team to trade either himself or Jackson, and he was eventually traded to the Phoenix Suns.

    While everyone denies the rumors, Kidd admitted that the team was too young to handle the controversy and a collapse was seemingly imminent.

5. 1977-1978 Miami Hurricanes

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    Former NFL head coach Lou Saban was hired late in 1976 to become coach of the Miami Hurricanes, ready to bring promise back to a beleaguered college team.

    After two seasons, Saban resigned after his players were said to have thrown a Jewish man into an on-campus lake. He may have found work at Army, but his former team was left in the dust.

    With the constant coaching changes and apparent fiscal problems, the Board of Trustees voted on whether to move the Hurricanes to Division I-AA or drop the team altogether.

    They were convinced to do otherwise by executive vice president Dr. John Green, who then hired former Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Howard Schnellenberger to take over.

    The team was seemingly breaths away from elimination.

    A game of inches.

4. Dallas Cowboys of the Late 1990s

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    This era was associated with one incident that occurred in July 1998, while the Cowboys players were receiving luxurious haircuts. 

    After waiting his turn in line, Everett McIver, an offensive lineman, sat into his chair, ready for a fresh cut from the traveling team barber. But as soon as star receiver Michael Irvin, known as "The Playmaker" entered the room and demanded a cut at that moment, it all went downhill.

    Irvin yelled "Seniority," as well as a healthy amount of profanities in an attempt to rile McIver up. A fight broke out that even massive defensive lineman Leon Lett couldn't break up. Irvin, in an act of rage after getting punched in the face, took scissors and slit McIver's neck. A frenzy ensued, and the medical unit immediately rushed in.

    It was their dedication to bringing on guys who were seen as crazed nutcases, such as Charles Haley, and their care-free attitude that led "America's Team" to rock bottom.

    Some refer to it as the "implosion of the Dallas Cowboys."

3. 1995-2000 New York Islanders

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    Before the 1995 season, Mike Milbury was hired as head coach of a seemingly decimated franchise.

    The Islanders attempted to create a new image by unveiling their new logo, which was eventually despised by fans. They naturally went back to a modified version of the old logo.

    Finishing 22-50-10 on the ice in the 1995-1996 season was the least of their problems, as management issues clouded any progress.

    General manager Don Maloney, who fans blamed for the team's mediocrity, was fired midway through the season. Milbury was given full control as coach and GM.

    During the 1996-1997 season, Milbury resigned as coach and promoted assistant Rick Bowness to the head spot, only to take over as coach again the following season after minor improvement. He then stepped down in the middle of the next season to focus on managing the team.

    The chaos was shadowed by the team being sold to Dallas businessman John Spano in 1996, only to have Spano pay off a fraction of what was owed. John Pickett regained the team, only to find a new buyer in a deal that almost fell threw again.

    The team began to trade young talent (Todd Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe) for veterans (Trevor Linden) with a win-now formula and run a strict budget to make a profit. Complaints about Nassau Coliseum, rumors about the team moving and a lack of production on the ice resulted in a consistent attendance under 12,000 per game.

    Things could only get better.

2. 2011 Boston Red Sox

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    On the surface it seemed like just another epic collapse by an optimistic club. In the shadows, however, it was much more.

    Following the departure of manager Terry Francona, and the impending departure of general manager Theo Epstein, fans are beginning to question what happened behind the scenes.

    Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey were said to have been drinking and playing video games during games, players questioned the dedication of those fighting injuries, high-priced acquisitions failed to live up to expectations and Francona allegedly dealt with personal issues that possibly hindered his ability to manage.

    It was a season to forget.

1. 2005-2006 Cincinnati Bengals

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    More arrests than wins was evidently the modus operandi of the 8-8 Bengals of 2006.

    Chris Henry (R.I.P.) headlined the plethora of players who were arrested or suspended for their off-the-field activities.

    The controversial, albeit talented wide receiver faced marijuana charges, speeding and drunken driving charges and was charged with providing alcohol to minors.

    Linebacker Odell Thurman faced drug-test suspensions after he skipped a test, and drunken driving charges, which seemed to be a given on that team.

    Frostee Rucker was charged with spousal abuse, A.J. Nicholson with burglary, Eric Steinbach with boating under the influence, Reggie McNeal with resisting arrest and drug possession and Deltha O'Neal with driving while intoxicated.

    Matthias Askew was even tasered for allegedly refusing to move his car, which was supposedly parked illegally.

    It was a sad, albeit baffling, time for Bengals fans.