The Most Disappointing Teams of Recent Sports History
A disappointing season happens all of the time. We see it in every sport, every year. Fans and the media hype up the team, saying that it cannot lose and that the championship is theirs for the taking. Some of the players begin to listen to the hype and believe it. This causes overconfidence, arrogance, and—the worst of all—pressure to win.
As a sports writer but most of all as a sports fan, I wonder what it was about that team that it couldn't finish the job. The players had the talent and they had the coaching, but they just didn’t have enough to win it all.
It seems like some teams get the disappointing tag worse than others.
Perhaps what's worse than having a disappointing season is having multiple disappointing seasons. The agony of continuing heartbreaks must be torture for the players, coaches and fans.
I define “disappointing” in the following way: a team has/had the talent, coaching, advantages (ex: home field advantage, financial capability to sign quality players, etc.) and expectation to win a championship only to fall short, thus disappointing not only players, coaches and the organization but fans and the cities they represent.
Here are my 5 most disappointing teams of recent memory (multiple seasons edition).
Please comment and let us know which are your most disappointing teams of recent memory (teams do not have to be from this list). Thanks.
The Cleveland Indians (1995 – 2001)
While the late 90s belonged to the New York Yankees, let’s not forget that there was one of the most talented and balanced teams in recent baseball history playing as well—the Cleveland Indians. It began in 1994 with the opening of Jacobs Field, a ballpark that would end up becoming the sellout king of baseball and a new GM in John Hart.
1995 saw the team reach 100 wins. The Tribe also introduced us to their talented lineup that included Manny Ramirez (before Manny was “being Manny”), Jim Thome and Albert Belle. The infield and outfield were great; they included Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel and Sandy Alomar Jr. The pitching balanced the team with guys like Charles Nagy, Orel Hershiser and Dennis Martinez. Let’s not forget Jose Mesa, the best closer in the game prior to Mariano Rivera.
The Indians made it to the World Series but ran into the best starting pitching of the 90s with Atlanta's Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine.
If the Braves did not win that World Series, they would be on this list and not the Indians.
1996 was another AL Central championship, but their season ended prematurely as they lost to the Orioles in the divisional series.
1997 was the Indians’ best chance to win a title. After eliminating the champion Yankees in the divisional series and beating the Orioles in the ALCS, Cleveland took on the Florida Marlins. After winning Game 6 to stay alive, Game 7 was one of the great games in MLB history. Cleveland carried a 2-1 lead into the 9th inning with Mesa ready to seal the title.
Mesa got one out and the Indians were two outs away—the closest the city of Cleveland has been to a world championship in any sport in years.
Like so many moments in Cleveland sports history, it ended in disappointment.
Mesa blew the lead, allowing the game going to extras. In the 11th inning, Edgar Renteria got the hit of his career, passing a ball above the glove of Nagy and scoring the winning run.
The game still haunts all Clevelanders.
After ‘97, the Indians’ chances began to fade even more. The Yankees came back and dominated in ’98, eliminating the Indians in the LCS in six games and on their way to another title.
In ‘99, the Tribe added Roberto Alomar to the team. They won their division again but ended in disappointment when they lost to the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS, which saw Mike Hargrove fired after the season. 2000 was the last season of Manny Ramirez in Cleveland. The team went 90-72 that year and missed the playoffs.
2001 officially saw the end of the team as we knew it. Cleveland returned to the postseason but was ousted by the 116-win Seattle Mariners team. John Hart resigned as GM and the team was broken up.
Given that the Yankee dynasty has overshadowed the Indians of the late 90s, this team was very competitive for six years and most baseball experts say this team should have won a title, especially in ’97.
Then again, isn’t “should have won” just loser talk?
The Philadelphia Eagles (2002 – present)
I’ll give credit where credit is due: the Eagles have been the most consistently winning NFC team of the past 10 years. But, they have only been the best NFC team once in these past ten years.
Five NFC Championship Game appearances in eight years, only one victory. Philly fans have been disappointed to see the great play of Donovan McNabb and the rest of the team fall short of a ring. The Eagles have had the talent, the great coaching of Andy Reid and home field advantage in three out of the five conference title games.
The first two NFC title games were lost to the St. Louis Rams in 2002 and Tampa Bay Bucs in 2003 (the last game at Veterans Stadium). 2004 was a tough loss to John Fox and the Carolina Panthers at the then-new Lincoln Financial Field.
Finally, in 2005, the Eagles won the NFC. With the addition of Terrell Owens, it seemed that he was the missing piece of the puzzle. Owens went down in the middle of the season, but the Eagles continued on and eliminated their current QB Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC title game to reach the Super Bowl.
Disappointment came in Jacksonville.
In the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXXIX, McNabb was not able to come through as he was fatigued and fell ill, even throwing up on the field. A spectacular performance from Owens was not enough as Philly fell to the Patriots.
In 2009, Philadelphia made it back to the NFC title game. In one of the best title games of recent memory, the Eagles were defeat by Arizona Cardinals in a shootout. McNabb was traded the following year.
Now with Vick at the helm, the Eagles are looking to get rid of their disappointing label and win a championship. “The Dream Team” of 2011 has not lived up to expectation with a 3-5 record, causing more fans to speculate if this franchise will ever win the Lombardi trophy.
At least Philadelphia has the Phillies.
San Jose Sharks (2007 – present)
The Sharks can still be considered one of the best teams in the NHL. However, the fact that they have been the best team of the past few years still has fans disappointed that they have not hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Sharks have been on top of the Pacific Division the past four years and in six of the last nine seasons. Superstar Joe Thornton and his squad can’t seem to continue their regular season play into the postseason.
In 2007-08, the Sharks enjoyed a regular season where they were great on the road, had an incredible March (13-0-2) and finished second in the Western Conference. The disappointment of previous seasons continued as they fell in Round 2 to the Dallas Stars in six games.
2008-09 saw Todd McLellan as the new head coach and the addition of Rob Blake. The Sharks won the Presidents’ Trophy that year and had a record of 53-16-11. It was the best season in Sharks history.
It was also the most disappointing ending in Sharks history. The Sharks were upset by the No. 8 seed Anaheim Ducks in six games.
The next season was another crushing season as the Sharks were eliminated by the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks. The most disappointing part of the series? Getting swept.
Last season, the Sharks signed Blackhawks winning goaltender Antti Niemi to help the squad. San Jose won their division for the third straight year. The Sharks were able to take out the Detroit Red Wings in the conference semis, but they were eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks. It was their third straight defeat in Round 3.
New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella recently said Joe Thornton may end up being one of the better players in our league never to win anything (Tortorella said many other things too). Joe is one of the best players in the league and every Sharks disappoint also makes Thornton’s career a bit more disappointing.
For Joe and for the Sharks’ sake, let’s hope Tortorella’s words don’t come true.
Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League (2005 – present)
This falls under the “money can’t always buy a championship” category.
Real Madrid has always bought the best players in the world to its squad. The disappointment of not winning a UEFA Champions League (UCL) title since 2002 has been difficult for Madrid fans as their efforts—both on the field and with their checkbook—to win Europe’s biggest title have fallen short.
From 2005 till 2010, Madrid where eliminated in the first round of the tournament. Madridistas are not happy with this.
When you’re named the FIFA Club of the 20th Century, an amazing history of great players and having won a record nine UCL titles, anything else than a title is unacceptable.
The tactic of winning with the best talent money can buy has worked for Los Blancos in the past, but it all began to crumble in 2005. The Galácticos (Ronaldo, Luis Fígo, Zinédine Zidane, Roberto Carlos and David Beckham) were not as successful as expected by most and the team was broken up. Madrid rebuilt with talent like Robinho, Arjen Robben, Fabio Cannavaro and Wesley Sneijder. These very expensive additions did not bring any Champions League luck to the Bernabeu and all were eventually out of the team.
The rise of FC Barcelona—both in league play and UCL play—has also brought more disappointment and frustration to Madrid and their fans.
Since 2005, Barça has won three UCL titles, every Liga title since 2009 while Real has only reached the UCL semifinals once since then (2010-11).
Did I mention they lost to Barcelona in that lone semifinal appearance?
Having your arch rival win almost every title in Europe these past few years must make it even more frustrating and adds to the disappointment in the city of Madrid.
The lack of quality play in Champions League play has led to criticism of Mardid’s mentality of buying the top players and expecting to win European championships.
Lack of chemistry, individual play and selfishness are some of the words that been used these past few years. While Manchester United, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Liverpool and Barcelona have bought expensive players these past few years, there is a perception that they play “team football” and have team chemistry. The use of players from the teams’ youth squads, something Real Madrid have not exercised very much of in the past few years, has also contributed to the criticism.
Madrid continues to try and buy a winner. Bringing in players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso has not been the winning formula in UCL play. Jose Mourniho, a two-time UCL winning coach, was brought in last year to try and stop the Madrid drought. So far, Real’s efforts to buy a European winner have been disappointing for Madrid fans.
With such high expectations from fans, the Madrid media, and from the team’s history, Real Madrid has been disappointing in Champions League play. A UCL title is the thing Madridistas are longing for.
We’ll see how long it will take for their investments to finally pay off.
The San Diego Chargers (2004 – present)
We all know the most talented team doesn’t always mean the best team. The Chargers of these last few years have proven that to the sports world. They have given us several images throughout the years—all of them disappointing.
The Chargers began their run in 2004 when they went 12-4 under Marty Schottenheimer. Marty Ball would be their downfall that year, as their conservative play calling in the last minutes of the AFC Wild Card game as the Nate Kaeding missed a 35-yard field goal, the image we remember about that game. The Chargers went on to lose to the New York Jets in overtime 20-17.
2005 was a down year, but 2006 was supposed to be their year. San Diego went 14-2, and it was LaDainian Tomlinson’s best statistical season. Disappointment came in the end as the Bolts blew a fourth quarter lead and lost to the New England Patriots. The game's most remembered image is the Patriots players doing the Shawn Merriman “lights out” dance in the middle of the field.
2007 was another “this is their year” season. It turned out to be another 14-2 season down the drain. Albeit a courageous effort by Philip Rivers, playing with a torn ACL, it was the image of LT sitting on the bench with his helmet on as they were eliminated by the Pats again.
2008 was another rough season as the Bolts were eliminated by the Steelers in the divisional round. 2009 saw the great comeback by the Chargers as they won the AFC West after the Broncos’ historic choke. Again, more disappointment came as they were eliminated by the Jets again (Kaeding again being the image of the game, missing three field goals).
2010 was a frustrating year as they had the No. 1 ranked offense and overall defense. They became the second team in NFL history to hold these regular reason rankings and miss the playoffs.
Again, more disappointing images.
Perhaps the most disappointing statistic is this: not one Super Bowl appearance.
Recently, Jets head coach Rex Ryan said if he coached the Chargers, he’d have rings. While this was an unnecessary comment, it is not unrealistic. Questionable coaching decisions have been an issue for the Bolts in their recent history.
Some people have called the Chargers the Buffalo Bills of the 2000s. This is not fair to the Bills.
The Bills couldn’t win in four consecutive Super Bowls but at least they won their conference and had at least a shot at winning Lombardi trophy.
We’ll see if within the next few years the Chargers can give us an image that is not disappointing. If they don’t, the Chargers may very well take the crown as the most disappointing team – not just of recent memory – but of all-time.