We all like to think that parity is spread throughout each respective professional sports league and that every team has a fighting chance. Well, that's simply not the case. You do not have teams like the Los Angeles Lakers appearing in thirty title games without someone getting screwed on the other end (foreshadowing?).
Some cities like Boston have had terrific runs of late—three Super Bowls, two World Series, the 2008 NBA Title, and a hockey team that makes the postseason regularly.
Contrast this success with a city like San Diego, who has never even won a professional sports title in it's existence.
Picking one team from the NBA, MLB, and NFL, let's look at the three most pathetic sports franchises disgracing our nation.
Los Angeles Clippers, NBA
Show me one team who has had only one winning record in the last eighteen years and I will gladly remove the Clippers from the list.
The franchise has almost double the losses (2020) than they have wins (1146)—that should speak for itself. In addition to their poor record, they have been poorly run from the front office.
Hopefully the selection of Oklahoma F Blake Griffin will take the sting out of blowing it in 1998 when they last had the No. 1 pick and selected C Michael Olowokandi.
In addition to that, they have never kept players who turn out to be half decent. Then they try to cover that up with high priced free agent flops.
Some notable Clippers draft picks
F Lamar Odom: He is now on the other side of town, playing in the NBA Finals.
Tyson Chandler: A talented C who currently plays with a great team in New Orleans alongside stud G Chris Paul.
Now the list may only have a few players who have made a true impact. Let's turn it around and see some of the first round busts they had high hopes on:
G Darius Miles: Now a reserve player for the Memphis Grizzlies; they won 24 games last year.
F Chris Wilcox: He has averaged a mediocre 9.3 PPG and 5.3 RPG for his career.
C Melvin Ely: Now Tyson Chandler's backup in New Orleans; ironic, isn't it? He has averaged 5.6 PPG and 3.3 RPG a game in his career.
G Shaun Livingston: Now a reserve player for the Oklahoma Thunder, the former No. 4 pick has averaged 7.3 PPG as a PG, generally a high scoring position.
F Yaroslav Korolev: The former No. 12 pick played a total of 34 games for the Clippers and averaged 1.1 PPG for the team.
C Paul Davis: In his two years with the team, he averaged 2.0 PPG. He has returned for a second stint but has not seen the floor all too much.
That many draft mistakes warrants their pathetic history of late. The three notable draft picks they have managed to hang onto are C Chris Kaman, and recent first rounders G Eric Gordon, and F Al Thornton.
In addition to their unpalatable draft day busts, they also have signed ineffective high priced free agents in attempts to field a mediocre team:
Cuttino Mobley: signed a five year, $42 million dollar contract, and averaged a mediocre 14.6 PPG.
Tim Thomas: For six million dollars a year the Clippers got 10.3 PPG and 4.7 RPG.
Baron Davis: Replacing star F Elton Brand as the team's franchise player, Davis has gotten off to a decent start, though the 14.9 PPG have not come close to justifying his five year, $65 million dollar contract.
Even with their dismal past, the future is getting somewhat brighter. In 2008 they did some purging by letting Elton Brand and Cory Maggette walk in free agency. They brought in defensive stud C Marcus Camby for a $10 million dollar trade exception.
They grabbed former Heat G Ricky Davis with a one year deal to help ease the loss of Maggette. The aforementioned picks of Eric Gordon and Al Thornton have panned out for the better thus far.
A lineup of Marcus Camby, Ricky Davis, Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Zach Randolph, Al Thornton, and Chris Kaman should prove to be competitive if they can all stay healthy.
If the team does not pan out as the usual motus operandi, who cares? Los Angeles is the Lakers' town anyways.
Pittsburgh Pirates, MLB
The Pirates also share a dubious honor with the Clippers; one winning record in the last 18 seasons.
In the last 17 years they have placed third or higher in their division only twice. Their highest win total in that span for a single season is 78.
The Nationals are definitely a candidate for worst MLB team, but they at least have the excuse of being a relocated team, if that even counts.
What makes matters worse for the Pirates is that they are well known for their amazing minor league system and all of the great prospects they churn out. With their poor drafts, this puzzles me, but their minor league systems are a known commodity. To the delight of other teams they generally give away their best prospects in exchange for rags.
Notable bust transactions the past decade
OF Jose Guillen, and P Jeff Sparks to the Tampa Bay Rays for Joe Oliver and Humberto Cota.
OF Kenny Lofton and 3B Aramis Ramirez and cash to the Chicago Cubs for P Jose Hernandez, OF Matt Bruback, and P Bobby Hill.
RP Damaso Marte and OF Edwin Yan to the Chicago White Sox for P Matt Guerrier.
OF Nate McLouth for prospects OF Gorkys Hernandez, P Jeff Locke, and P Charlie Morton.
In addition to some head scratching trades they have not done well with first round picks recently. Some first round duds include:
P Bryan Bullington: The former 2002 No. 1 overall pick has never won a professional game and has a ERA of 5.45.
P Sean Burnett: Since his debut in 2004 the former 19th overall selection has a career record of 7-7 with a 4.59 ERA.
P John Van Benschoten: He has a career 2-3 record with a 9.20 ERA, hardly worthy of his eighth overall selection.
3B Neil Walker: He has no professional stats recorded. That should say enough.
OF Andrew McCutchen: The former No. 12 pick has one career RBI.
Brad Lincoln: The former No. 4 pick has been decimated by injuries and is currently battling for a spot in the rotation for the class AA Altoona Curve minor league team.
Unlike the Clippers, the Pirates seem destined for poor play with their cheap budget and failure to make any impact signings. At least the Clippers now possess a young team with some diverse talents. The Pirates have a small, decent nucleus of players headlined by 1B Adam LaRoche, 3B Andy LaRoche, SS Freddy Sanchez, and C Ryan Doumit.
Their two best pitchers are SP Paul Maholm and closer Matt Capps. Beyond that, the cupboard is thin besides No. 2 pitcher Zach Duke.
If they can generate some depth by refusing to sell their promising prospects, or All Star OF's (Jason Bay, Nate McClouth), they could slowly start to turn things around by improving they can attract some much needed impact free agent acquisitions.
Luckily the city of Pittsburgh has the Steelers, who just wrapped up their second title in four seasons. The Penguins are also currently playing in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Cincinnati Bengals, NFL
What a coincidence—the third team on the list also has only one winning record in the past eighteen years.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the rap sheet is over ten pags long in regards to Bengals' players who have been arrested in the past two seasons.
The fact that the Bengals were sub-par with the prolific passing trio of Carson Palmer, TJ Houshmandzadeh, and Chad Johnson makes matters even worse. The Arizona Cardinals went to the Super Bowl due to their passing game, and their defense was no worse, so what's the excuse?
2008 was injury riddled, but that only accounts for one losing season out of many.
They have hit home runs on some of their recent draft picks this decade, such as QB Carson Palmer and CB Leon Hall. Other than that, the picks have either busted or the team has failed to hang onto the ones who panned out:
The Ones Who Got Away
DE Justin Smith: The 2001 No. 4 pick had a solid career with the Bengals, averaging 66 tackles and 6.5 sacks per season. He had an untimely off year, only recording two sacks before he was set to be a FA. After he signed with the 49ers he tallied seven sacks, while his replacement, Antwan Odom, got half that total for the Bengals in 2008.
T Levi Jones: He was a solid starter in his Bengals' tenure. His knack for being bitten by the injury big was the reason for his release this past offseason. Another club is going to pick him up and he well most likely remain a starter.
RB Chris Perry: In five seasons he has amassed a grand total of 606 yards and two TD's.
LB David Pollack: Not the team's fault, but Pollack suffered a career ending neck injury on September 17th, 2006. He started six games and tallied only 29 tackles for Cincinnati.
CB Jonathan Joseph: I might take some heat for putting him here, but in 39 games he has averaged only four tackles per game and averages 1.6 INT's per season.
The Bengals' free agent acquisitions have not panned out as of late, and they have let some of their big ticket players walk for nothing on the open market.
Here are some notable players that failed to stick around:
WR TJ Houshmandzadeh: a five year, $40 million dollar contract with the Seattle Seahawks. What puzzled me was that they handed the exact same contract to Laveranues Coles to replace him. He is a good WR, but not of Houshmandzadeh caliber.
T Levi Jones: He is an oft-injured player, but why would you cut a guy who could have paired with rookie Andre Smith to make a formidable T tandem? They could have at least taken a look to see if he would restructure his five year, $30 million dollar contract.
DE Justin Smith: A smart move to not retain him, as he was not worth the six year, $45 million dollar whopper the 49ers handed him. The fact remains they have not replaced him, and with their sagging defense, they will eventually need to over-pay to get some help anyways.
S Madieu Williams: He is now a starter on a playoff team and appears to have made a wise jump to the other North division. Grabbing hard hitting S Roy Williams was a good move, and he could be a better fit in their defense, but that remains to be seen.
T Stacy Andrews: Now part of a revamped Philadelphia Eagles OL that is one of the best in the NFL. If he is good enough to start for the runner-up to the NFC Title, why isn't he good enough for the Bengals?
To get to the Super Bowl, you need to form a nucleus and keep it together for a good amount of time. This is not a formula the Bengals have used recently, which is in large part of why they are as bad as they are.
Letting your No. 1 WR walk is not a great move. Re-tooling the coaching staff and changing the scheme around would give them a needed breath of fresh air.
Like the Clippers, this team has some decent pieces in place as it stands. Carson Palmer has two good WR's to throw to in Coles and Johnson (Ochocinco, whatever). If RB Cedric Benson can be at least mediocre it will give the passing game a necessary complement to be effective.
The defense has less to be desired. With some young players like LBs Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga, and CBs Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph, they do have some blocks to build around.
All of these teams have nowhere to go but up. Fortunately for the Clippers and Pirates, their pathetic outputs are covered up by the Lakers/Dodgers/Ducks, and the Steelers/Penguins.
Maybe the Bengals should give Bill Parcells a call—it wouldn't hurt talking to someone who turned a 1-15 team into the AFC East Champions in one year.
In my next article, the tides will turn and I will examine the three best teams in professional sports.