Given what happened the other night, there’s a lot of superlatives being bandied about…while the Red Sox and Braves both managed a serious dose of “epic fail,” neither of them are the worst choke job in pennant race history. So, before you let anybody tell you the Red Sox pulled off the worst collapse in history, compare it to some of the truly titanic throat-closers of all time.
10) 1987 Toronto Blue Jays
The favorite American League sons of the Great White North were 96-59 and had a 3.5-game over the Detroit Tigers with seven games to play. On the second-to-last Sunday of the season, Toronto had a one-run lead over the Tigers headed into the ninth inning, until Kirk Gibson’s solo shot tied the game. The Tigers went on to win in 13 innings; the Blue Jays didn’t win again that season. Toronto ended the 1987 season at 96-66, which allowed the Tigers to snatch the AL East with a sweep of the Blue Jays on the final weekend of the season.
9) 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers
It’s hard to paint a team that posted a 26-22 record down stretch with the “collapse” brush, but it’s also hard to say a team that gagged away a 13.5 game lead and lost a playoff didn’t fold. Trouble is, the New York Giants got crazy hot; they won 37 out of their final 44 games and tied Brooklyn on the final day of the season. The Dodgers lost the three-game playoff, thanks to Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round The World.”
8 ) 2011 Atlanta Braves
This was like the “stealth” collapse; nobody really seemed to understand this was a choke job until the Braves were only leading the Cardinals by three games with five to play. St. Louis trailed the Braves by 10.5 games in late August, and the lead only shrank to 8.5 games by the first week in September, which is largely why this went unnoticed until the last weekend of the season. The Braves forgot how to hit, posted a record of 9-18 in September, and lost the wild-card on the last day of the season.
7) 2011 Boston Red Sox
The power of the present makes people want to think this tank-job rates higher on the list, especially those wacky Red Sox fans who want to believe they didn’t beat their wives and/or blow their brains out over #7 on the list. Granted, this is the worst collapse that happened entirely in September, but it genesis lies throughout the season. The Sox stumbled out of the gate, but recovered to lead the AL East for most of the second half. But they fell behind the Yankees early in September, and the free-fall continued. In short, what killed this team in April simply resurfaced in September.
The Sox figured they could always win the wild-card, as they led the Rays by nine games on Labor Day. However, since the Red Sox only won seven games the rest of the way, Tampa Bay ran them down on the second-to-last day of the season, which led to the dramatic Wednesday night finish, which saw the Sox blow a 3-2 lead with two outs in the ninth against last-place Baltimore, while at the same time the Rays rallied from a 7-0 early pasting to beat the Yankees 8-7 in extra innings to claim the AL Wild Card.
6) 2007 New York Mets
In 2007, the Phillies had not yet emerged as the current uber-squad they are perceived to be today. In fact, they trailed the Mets by seven games on September 12th, but since the Shea crew had Pedro Martinez back on the mound after surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, the Mets were the favorite in what was considered to be a weak National League field. That was before the Flushing Nine went down the stretch to finish the season one game behind the surging Phillies.
5) 1969 Chicago Cubs
The Amazin’ Mets of 1969 would have never been if it weren’t for this Chicago fold. 1969 was the first season in which there was divisional play, and for the entirety of the season, the Cubs had led the newly-formed NL East.
However, this was before the Cubs swallowed their own tongue. Chicago held a solid 9.5-game lead on August 14th, but within two weeks, the Mets had closed the gap to two games. The Cubs collapse continued as they dropped 14 of their final 20 games, and New York won the division by eight full games.
4) 2009 Detroit Tigers
From May 10th until the final day of the 2009 season – a total of 164 days – the Detroit Tigers enjoyed the driver’s seat in the AL Central. The problem was they let the Minnesota Twins hang around, so much so the Twins were able to sweep the last three games of the season against the Tigers to force a one-game playoff. The Twins won 6-5 in a classic 12-inning affair, leaving the Tigers as the only team to blow a three-game lead with four to play.
3) 1978 Boston Red Sox
Three words: Bucky F–king Dent. Yes, this is the scenario which forever immortalized in the loathe-zone of Red Sox faithful from Falmouth to Fort Lauderdale a man whose name sounds more like a tooth-care product for beavers.
July 1978 saw the Sox with a 14-game lead over the defending world champion Yankees. But, the Bronx Bombers chipped away at that deficit until it was down to a still-formidable 7.5-game lead with only 32 games to play. However, the Red Sox gagged 14 of 17 games which allowed the Yanks to pull into the left lane and pass Boston.
However, the Sox won their final eight which forced a one-game playoff at Fenway Park. That’s the last day Bucky Dent’s name was ever uttered in Sox Nation without the extra frigative, as the Yankees’ light-hitting shortstop hit a 7th-inning game winning homer (his 5th of the season) to send the Yankees eventually to their second consecutive World Series title.
2) 1995 California Angels
Just like the ’78 Red Sox, the Angels blew a huge lead, only to make a late rally, only to choke in a one-game playoff. California held a lead of 11.5 games in Mid-August, but went 12-27 in their final 39 games (including winning their last five games) which allowed the Seattle Mariners to force a one-game playoff. However, in that game, Seattle ace Randy Johnson mowed the Angels like they were his back yard to the tune of a 9-1 shellacking.
1) 1964 Philadelphia Phillies
It’s hard for many baseball fans born after 1985 to understand that for nearly a century, the Phillies were even more of a hard-luck franchise than the Cubs. The Phillies were the last original National League team win a pennant when they finally did so after nearly 70 years of existence in 1950. They went 30 more years before they became the last original member of the senior circuit to win a World Series in 1980. That’s why 1964 is such a big deal.
Nobody had a greater streak of futility than the Phillies. From 1919 to 1947, the Phillies finished in last place a total of 17 times, and next to last seven times. This is why the Phils were the first major league franchise to post 10,000 losses. They spent the 1950’s oscillating between decent and deplorable, but they seemed to turn the corner in the early 1960’s. 1962 and 1963 found the Phillies climbing back to respectability, and throughout the 1964 season, they seemed destined to make it to the World Series. Philadelphia boasted a stocked line-up, featuring stars like rookie third baseman Dick Allen, outfielders Johnny Callison and Cookie Rojas, catcher Gus Triandos, and pitchers Jim Bunning and Chris Short.
1964 seemed to be the Phillies year for the taking. The first indicator that the Phils were the team of destiny came on Father’s Day, when future U.S. Senator and Hall-of-Famer Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game. This was the first National League perfecto since 1880, and even the Shea Stadium faithful found themselves cheering for the visiting hurler given the rarity of the event.
T.S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month; had he been a Phillies fan, he would have saved that designation for September 1964. The Phils held a 6.5 game lead over the Cardinals and Reds with 12 games to go that month. Then, thanks to the “managerial genius” of Gene Mauch, Philadelphia lost 10 games in a row and ended up one game behind St. Louis in a tie for second place with Cincinnati.
Other collapses worthy of consideration:
- 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers: Blew a 4 game lead with 7 left to play
- 1938 Pittsburgh Pirates: Lost a September 1st lead of 7 games
- 1993 San Francisco Giants: Dropped a Mid-August lead of 9 games
- 1983 Atlanta Braves: Gagged away a 6.5 game lead in under 30 games
- 1942 Brooklyn Dodgers: Blew a 7.5 game in under 25 games
- 2005 Cleveland Indians: Dropped 6 of their final 7 after taking lead in Wild Card race
First, let me define the concept of Cubsism. Named for the Chicago Cubs, Cubsism is an ideaology that permeates a sports franchise. It is characterized by the ability to be essentially viable while remaining an exercise in futulity on the field. It is named for the Cubs because no other franchise in sports embodies it nearly as much as the Chicago North Siders do.
A microcosm of most recent century of futility of this franchise lies in the last eighteen months. Look at what has happened before and after the sudden retirement of Lou Piniella last summer.
Usually, when a team makes a change at manager, the idea is to change the culture of the clubhouse by changing the leadership. Sometimes, when you make a change, the team doesn’t respond. That’s what happened last year at this time. Why? Because Lou Piniella was a respected “baseball guy.”
Just a few weeks ago, the rumors began circulating that new manager Mike Quade and general manager Jim Hendry will return next season in their respective positions. The logic is that Hendry is the guy who made the decision to hire Quade, knowing that Quade was never intended to be a long-term solution. The thought was Quade would be a bridge until the Cubs found an established manager when the team is ready to contend.
The problem is Quade should have never been the Cubs manager in the first place. There’s so many reasons why, and they all illustrate the concept of Cubsism.
Go back to the day Piniella pulled the plug. Not the day he walked for good; rather go back to the day he said he was leaving at the end of the year. While every sports writer rejoiced at the thought of not having to write another “fire Lou Piniella” column, they all missed the main point.
Why let a manager appoint himself into a “lame-duck” status? To that point, the team was certainly going nowhere; they were lifeless and unmotivated, and now they are playing for a manager who has decided to fall on his own sword. There was nothing left to inspire the team to play hard; to not look they rolled over and died. What is to be gained by that?
The answer is absolutely nothing. There’s one thing the Cubs have seemingly forgotten about their fans is that they live on hope. They have little other option; the Cubs have given them nothing else in over a century.
Flash forward one year, and the Cubs find themselves in essentially the same position. The Cubs collapsed early, fingers were pointed, and it looks like another change is coming somewhere in the leadership chain of the Cubs.
I don’t know how much hope that inspires in Cub fans, because I don’t know what the changes are going to be. Suffice it to say the Cubs are likely to make what I call a “Cubs-Type Decision (CTD).”
CTDs are the heart of Cubsism, and Cubsism is caused by four contributing factors, all of which have a long association with the Cubs.
1) Leadership and a fan base that doesn’t understand the difference between “good” and “great.”
This point is exemplified by Quade. He was a terrible hire not because he is a terrible manager, rather there was a much better and completely obvious hire, and he was already in your organization.
Face it, Chicago. Mike Quade was the “good” hire; Ryne Sandberg was the “great” hire. He was perfect for the job; let’s review why.
Sandberg became a Cub hero in the 1980′s being the best second baseman of that decade and arguably one of the top five at that position ever. Sandberg became the Wrigley fixture Cub fans latched onto as a transition in to the Harry Caray-less days after 1998. Sandberg was one of the smartest players in the game, and few played the truly complete game he did. Not only that, but Sandberg is not some Hall-of-Fame guy who thinks he should be able to blow into town and get the manager’s job on his name alone. Whether in his playing days or in his managerial career in the bus leagues, Sandberg has never been a guy to trade on marquee value, although he clearly could.
But instead of waltzing into the Cubs front office and saying “The fans that you need to keep want me in the dugout; I will be by before the Winter Meetings to pick the keys to my office,” Sandberg had spent the past four seasons prior to last year managing in the Cubs’ farm system. In fact, few managers in the minor leagues have built the reputation Sandberg has, and due to his humility, most of that has happened well beneath the radar. Sandberg has clearly “paid his dues” all while showing himself to be a cerebral skipper who can get his players to think before they act (Carlos Zambrano, I’m looking at you…)
In other words, he was the perfect man for the Cubs’ managerial job. How could the Cubs possibly entertain the idea of doing anything other than hiring the perfect candidate to end all perfect candidates? Because they are the Cubs, and they make Cubs-Type Decisions.
2) Terrible player/personnel decisions
In case you need a refresher, let’s review a few of my favorite CTDs:
- Trading Lou Brock to the Cardinals for Ernie Broglio (future Hall-of-Famer for washed-up pitcher)
- Trading Rafael Palmeiro to Texas for Mitch Williams (3,000 hit/500 home run guy for a relief pitcher whose stay in Chicago wasn’t as long as some people who change planes at O’Hare Airport)
- Drafting Josh Hamilton as a Rule 5 player, then promptly trading him to Cincinnati for a small amount of cash (3-time All-Star and reigning American League MVP for a few dollars when the Cubs were one of the richest teams in the league)
- Trading Sergio Mitre and Ricky Nolasco for Juan Pierre (one serviceable starting pitcher and one on the verge of becoming an ace for a “legitimate leadoff hitter” for a guy who in his ONE season as a Cub got caught stealing 20 times in 78 attempts).
- Letting Greg Maddox go to free agency (deciding a guy who would go on to win 355 games and 4 Cy Young awards wasn’t “the kind of pitcher who could help us long-term”)
- Trading Dennis Eckersley for three minor-leaguers (Once in Oakland, Eckersley becomes the dominant closer of his era)
- Trading Bill Madlock for Bobby Murcer (a solid defensive third-baseman who also would win four batting titles for a slugging outfielder whose career decline began immediately after this trade)
- Trading Bruce Sutter for Leon Durham and Ken Reitz (another dominant closer for two “bags of magic beans”)
- Trading Lee Smith for Calvin Schraldi and Al Nipper (another dominant closer for two “bags of magic beans”)
- Trading Manny Trillo for Barry Foote and Ted Sizemore (a second baseman who still holds the record for most consecutive chances without an error for one of the great mustaches of all-time )
3) Belief in the “quick fix” for decades of problems
Just in the past dozen or so years, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard (insert new phenom and/or big free-agent signing) will change the fortunes of Cub nation…Kerry Wood, Todd Hundley, LaTroy Hawkins (even if he was only supposed to save the bullpen, I still can’t believe I just wrote that), Mark Prior, Nomar Garciaparra, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Milton Bradley, blah, blah, blah…Look at the knob-slobbing happening for Tyler Colvin, Darwin Barney, and Starlin Castro. How much you want to bet at least two of those names are on this list in five years? Doubt that? Just look back at what Cubs fans were bleating about Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot…
This is the same reason Cubs’ fans always love deals like Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley. Remember, they loved Ernie Broglio for Lou Brock, too…
4) A fan base ignorant of the fundamentals of the game
Picture it…Chicago, sometime in the late 90’s. I’m at Wrigley taking in a summer afternoon affair against the Dodgers. It’s the top of the ninth inning, the score is tied and the Dodgers have a runner on third with one out. The Dodgers hit a long fly ball into left field, and the family seated in front me (resplendent in their Cubs gear) is wildly cheering the out, completely unaware the Dodgers had just scored what would prove to be the winning run on the sacrifice.
That family is the Cubs fanbase in a nutshell.
Having said all that, the next time you are looking to explain a franchise’s long term dysfunction, refer back to the four points of Cubsism. It runs rampant in professional sports; it takes little to see it.
Now for the fun part – here are ten franchises we have identified as having a very high Cubsism rating. Remember that Cubsism is not a short-term affliction; to be on this list a franchise must have shown a track record of futility for decades or have a generally dismal record with only the fleetingest glimpses of non-suck.
Editor’s Note: This article is a collaborative effort between Dubsism and Ryan Meehan from First Order Historians. Ryan also has his own blog, East End Philadelphia, which is featured in our BlogRoll and it well worth the read.
There’s many things wrong in the world, which is why some of the things that should be right can offer temporary solace from those that aren’t. This is exactly why we here at First Order Historians are teaming up with J-Dub from Dubsism to offer a treatise on what needs to be fixed in the world of sports and the way it is being broadcast.
Make no mistake, we are in no way pretending we wouldn’t fuck up a lot of stuff too, but at least we’d be able to eliminate some of the really egregious shit which is happening now.
1) Spelling Bees
I can’t decide which is more disturbing, those little kid pageants where we sexualize nine-year olds or the thought process behind this. First of all, did you notice the winners are never American kids anymore? I don’t really need ESPN to remind me that our public schools have become little more than idiot factories because American parents have let them do so. The foreign parents still do things like (gasp) spend quality time with their kids so that they don’t grow up to be some vapor-brained sideline reporter (see #2).
Worse yet, take a close look at the concept…”OK, little (insert unpronounceable foreign kid name here), you are our best and brightest, so let’s put you in a contest where we can magnify the insignificance of not being able to spell a word nobody ever heard of into a pressure-packed nationally televised failure festival guaranteed to emotionally scar you for life.” Every kid (with the sole exception of the winner) in this intellectual “Bataan Death March” gets to have the greatest failure in his life up until that point happen on live television.
Don’t be surprised when the local police finds one of these with a freezer full of girl scout parts later on in life, because it will be our doing for making him spell “dismemberment” on national TV before he turned eight.
2) In-game interviews with players and/or coaches
This shit has to stop. Stop and think for a minute what an utterly fucking ridiculous concept this is. Imagine if we did this in other areas; take war for example.
ANNOYING SIDELINE REPORTER: “Excuse me General, but do you have any thoughts on why this surprise invasion isn’t going according to your plan?”
GENERAL: “Maybe because someone keeps telling the goddamned enemy our every move…until now (pulls pistol and shoots reporter in the face.)”
Since when does anybody think it is a good idea for sideline reporters to become purveyors of espionage? Does anybody think any coach or manager with any fucking brains is going say anything at all useful to the opposing team? That’s why I keep waiting for one of these stupid exchanges to go something like this:
ANNOYING SIDELINE REPORTER: “What are you guys going to do differently in the second quarter to prevent their smothering defense?”
COACH: “Well, what we are going to do is make some serious adjustments, but if you think I’m going to tell you what those are so you can waltz your soon-to-be-sagging ass over to the other bench and tell those cocksuckers, you’re out of your fucking mind (pulls pistol and shoots reporter in the face.)”
Well, maybe not the pistol thing, but you get the idea.
3) Televised Poker
This has to be the only “sport” in the world where the announcers are way more excited about the competition than the competitors are. They scream and yell constantly, which is crazy because they aren’t the ones who have hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake. and as for the players themselves, they don’t even seem to care. And if they don’t even care, then what’s with all of the sixty thousand dollar cameras recording everything like it’s the Super Bowl? Another thing that pisses me off is they call it the “World Series” of poker which is a complete ripoff. You’d think Major League Baseball would have had that trademarked, but if they didn’t I wouldn’t be shocked. (Insert joke about Bud Selig dying here).
That being said, any competition where you can show up wasted in sunglasses is likely fixed. It might not be, but the odds that it could be are very high. And for everyone who is gambling on this, you are wagering on how “semi-pros” are gambling, which is a recipe for a mess. Gambling on other people gambling is like letting somebody take advantage of you sexually while you’re in therapy for being molested in the first place.
Worse yet, thanks to televised poker, every shithead in America with two cards in front of him thinks poker couldn’t exist without his vast knowledge of it. First of all, Texas Hold ‘em is the “skim milk” version of poker. Pretending to be an “expert” at this game is like pretending to be a gastroenterologist because you guessed what color your morning turd would be. Not to mention, thinking you can beat guys who play poker all the time because A) you can beat your buddies from work and B) you watch TV is just taking the express train to Empty Wallet City. Just you because you punched a drunk in a bar once doesn’t mean you could take on an MMA fighter and not get your balls handed to you. Not to mention, betting gets a lot tougher when the guy on TV isn’t telling you which cards everybody is holding.
4) Outside The Lines
Everyday for a half hour in the afternoon, my ESPN turns into absolute dogshit. (I mean, more so than it already is…) For those of you who aren’t aware, Outside the Lines is a show where they do all of these in depth profiles on athletes and former athletes, and issues that are hot topics but not necessarily a part of the daily news feed. If you want to check it out, it’s on Monday through Friday at 2PM Central. Monday they’ll be discussing the issue of concussions in the NFL. Then Tuesday, they’ll have an ex-NFL player who suffered from a concussion talk about how he had no idea football was such a violent sport when he was drafted and handed millions of dollars to put on a helmet and run headfirst into other people wearing helmets. Wednesday’s show will just be a video mix of the clips from Monday and Tuesday’s show. Thursday brings yet another tearful interview with Garret Webster about the tragic death of his father, and then on Friday Bob Ley will just show up in a diaper high as shit on painkillers and piss himself until they cut to commercial.
Of course, this is a bit of an exaggeration. And for the record I’m not unsympathetic towards players who have suffered from concussions, I’m just using this as an example to show how the producers of this show just recycle the same seven topics over and over again. How many times can they discuss the rampant corruption in college athletics that we all know goes on anyway? How about another show dedicated to Title Nine? Or perhaps the subject of hazing that takes place on high school football teams? We can never talk about teabagging enough can we?
5) Danica Patrick
Hating Danica Patrick is easy. It has nothing to do with the fact that she’s finished a lot of races in the top ten in the Indy car series. It has nothing to do with the fact that the talk about her switching to NASCAR full time from IndyCar has taken up way too much of the sports broadcasting landscape. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the fact that as a “hot babe,” she is monstrously over-rated. Sure, she’s good looking, but if you went into one of the good bars near a big college campus on a Saturday night, you will find at least 20 chicks you’d rather fuck than her. Danica is only “hot” because any chick is going to look better when you surround her with nothing but fat, sweaty, 50-year old guys.
The real reason to hate Danica Partick can be summed in one web address: Godaddy.com. The miserable ass-loafs that run that company subjected all of us to one of the worst advertising campaigns in American history. Somehow, they thought that giving teenage boys across the nation a crippling case of blueballs was a perfect approach for marketing a company that sells domain name hosting and web programming.
It’s an approach I like to call “Cinemax goes to Pre-school.” It’s a classic bait-and-switch deal that works like this: They hook you with a television commercial featuring Danica or any number of other perfectly fuckable bimbos which brings “suggestive” to the “trouser button popping” level, then they tell you to go to their website to view “unrated content” (wink, nudge). Just about the time you are looking for a tube sock in which to fire some knuckle children, you realize you would find better wacking material on Barney the Dinosaur’s website. Don’t pump up the tires if you ain’t gonna drive the car, Danica.
(Editor’s Note: During the completion of this article, Barney the Dinosaur was killed in a less-than-tragic bus accident. He will not be missed…)
6) The NFL Lockout
Since the NFL is my favorite sport, it’s hard for me to not put this one on the list. A lot of people say that sports is just a game, and that’s true, but trust me: When you get up the first Sunday in September and you realize that there’s no Sunday NFL Countdown, no pregame shows, and FOX is showing the television edit of “Scarface” for the eight thousandth time, you’ll want to gut your eardrums with a tomato corer WAY before you hear Sosa say “YOU (freaked) ME!!! YOU (freaking) LITTLE MONKEY!!!” I’m not sure how many people realize how serious this really is just yet.
That being said, the NFL lockout hinges on the millionaires versus billionaires argument, which is silly because Coors has signed a contract for the next 5 years making them the official beer sponsor of the NFL. So, basically, it’s up to Pete Coors and when all is said and done both sides are fighting about how much money they will make, they have to be able to get both sides of the argument on the table and admit they can’t figure it out. I’m sure both sides will argue that there’s too much money to be lost if they cancel the season, but as long as they both argue that said money is theirs we’re not going anywhere. Fucking bullshit.
7) Less Reporting on the Economics of Sports
The current primary example is this whole “Mets/Dodgers” saga. Who the fuck cares…honestly, does anybody care about management fighting with each other about shit that everyday sports fans don’t understand? All I know about the Mets is that Bernie Maddoff’s name has been mentioned a lot lately in that circle, and that can’t be good. Fine with me, the Mets are never going to be the most popular baseball team in NYC, so I say “good riddance” The Mets will always be the second biggest baseball draw in that market. Fuck them. Don’t care. Let CNBC cover the financials.
At least with the Dodgers I can pray for an earthquake. I heard a radio host describe it best: It’s almost as if there’s this family of confused children that are the Los Angeles Dodgers and their parents got divorced, so uncle Bud has shown up to try and fix everything and it hasn’t worked. And of course he couldn’t fix shit, because he’s Bud and is scared to make a major move. Fuck the Dodgers too.
8 ) Skip Bayless
If you’ve ever worked in a non-union business which reduced its workforce, then you know who are the first people to get laid-off or pushed into early retirement. The people who get clipped aren’t just the ones who don’t add any value, they are the also the loudmouth, pain-in-the-ass types who exist only piss off everybody around them. If Skip Bayless worked in a factory, his ass would have been shown the door long ago.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the power of saying controversial things for purposes of drawing attention; that’s the model upon which the entire media revolves. But there’s a big difference between controversial and simply being a contrarian ass-burger. Skip, we all know you hate LeBron James, and we all know this week is like Mardi Gras week for LeBron James’ haters, but your petulant “I told you so” festival is going to cause me to give you to a 5-gallon Napalm enema, then fire a flare gun down your throat.
Bonus helpful hint to everybody who is over sixty years of age: We can tell when you’ve had plastic surgery done. It’s really, really obvious. If Skip Bayless were in the same room with Kathie Lee Gifford and you cracked both of their skulls together (And if you were in that situation, you’d better…) there would be enough embalming fluid on the floor to run a funeral home for half of a decade. You guys aren’t fooling anyone.
9) More People Who Actually Know About Sports
This should be the biggest “no-brainer” on the list. If you are paid to talk about a particular sport, then perhaps you should know something about it. I don’t mean that every baseball announcer should be able to name the starting line-up of the 1987 Minnesota Twins from memory, but they should be able to explain a simple concept like why you don’t fucking swing at a 3-0 pitch.
While we are at it, there is no exemption for ex-jocks in this department. Just because one played a game doesn’t exempt them from becoming a complete dead-skull once somebody puts a microphone in front of them. (If you’ve ever seen any footage of Jerry Rice or Emmitt Smith’s TV work, I’m sure you know what we’re talking about.)
Oh, and one more thing…no more “Ken and Barbie” types either. I can get that on absolutely every other network. Sports channels should only be populated with people who can talk intelligently about sports. If I want a smoking hot blonde who is so obnoxious I want to shove my dick in her mouth solely because it will shut her stupid ass up, that’s why I have Fox News.
10) Sports Programming in General
This is for those networks who forgot they actually have the word “sports” in their titles. Half the time, you would be hard-pressed to guess that’s what the “S” stood for in “ESPN.” The point referenced in #4 on this list only scratches the surface of this problem., See while some neck-tied shitwad is wasting my time blathering about a problem we are never going to fix, this “sports” network could be showing me, oh maybe a FUCKING SPORTING EVENT! They are never called the “Uselessly Blabbing About Sports Networks,” they are called SPORTS NETWORKS!!!
Here’s some specific suggestions for starters:
- No more nine-hour marathons of the same taped episode of (insert sports news show here). There are entire networks dedicated to that, and they do it live.
- No more radio shows on television. Whoever thought of that idea should be tried as a war criminal. The sole exception is the Dan Patrick Show, and even that should just be turned into a television show. (Editor’s note: Anybody in Chicago or the Quad-Cities, this program is available on Comcast SportsNet Monday through Friday)
- More actual sporting events – you can tape-delay the less popular ones for those dead time slots. People who really want to see them can set their DVRs. But at least they could see them, unlike now. But just show sports, period.
- Stop pretending sports are popular just because the network has an agreement to cover them…I’m looking at you, ESPN and WNBA…
- And last but not least, no more of the strongman competitions.
That shit is so ridiculous simply describing it in print seems fake, but here’s an example of how stupid this is: Several years back, I was flipping channels and I ran across this guy screaming at the top of his lungs. It wasn’t a shot of his whole body, just his face. I said to myself “He has to be in the middle of a deadlift or something like that.” Then they panned out to the whole shot and he was holding these huge axes up so that they were touching these metal bars on each side of him that were level with his head, and I almost died laughing. What fucking practical purpose would this ever serve?
First off, the likely reason why we haven’t seen this lately is because there’s no way it could be safe, and I’d hate to be the one guy standing next to him that gets an ax dropped on his foot. Second, as mentioned earlier, we don’t need another competition where we are reminded of how inferior Americans are. We get it: The Scandanavians can lift weights better than we can.
Additionally, if you are in a situation where you would be holding double edged axes, you probably won’t need to be worried about how long you can hold them above your man-tits, you’ll be throwing them at whoever invented the time machine that sent you back to the age where you would fight with such prehistoric weapons. Neither the surviving members of Mayhem nor the programmers of the original Castlevania would find this even somewhat amusing. And plus, this isn’t a major organized sport, and we already have major organized sport where a bunch of steroid goons compete for attention, it’s called baseball.
Remember, not only are the bullet points just “for starters,” the same can be said for the entirety of this list. I get that there are a lot of improvements to be made, but Confucius once said “even a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” If I don’t see a step toward a solution, my first step might be putting one of my size 12s so far up your collective sports network ass you will be flossing with my shoelaces.
Meehan & J-Dub
#10) Minnesota Vikings
What can I say about the Vikings that I haven’t already said? Go over to the tag cloud on the right, click on the “Minnesota Vikings” tag, and you will see that I’ve written the Vikings’ football miasma time and time again. But that’s because there’s so much to write about. Even in their heyday in the first half of the Bud Grant era, this team simply couldn’t push the sled over the hill. Over the past half-century, this team has had more talent and more opportunities and has less to show for them than any other franchise in the history of professional football.
There’s a simple reason for this. Pro football is a quarterback driven league, and the Vikings historically have had no idea how to handle that position. In 1967, the Vikings traded future Hall-of-Famer Fran Tarkenton to the New York Giants for a bag of magic beans. In 1969, Joe Kapp led them to an NFL Championship, threw 7 touchdown passes in one game, and the Vikes let him walk after that season. There’s Tommy Kramer, who earned the nickname “Two Minute Tommy” for many late game come-from-behind victories. Kramer, who was the first quarterback to throw for over 450 yards in a game twice, also ended up with a drinking problem. The Viking’s ham-fisted handling of the situation led to the demise of his career.
If those three were the bricks in their quarterback wall, the Vikings’ mortar in that wall has been an amalgam of over-rated talent (Daunte Culpepper, Brad Johnson, Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon, Jeff George), somebody’s else cast-offs (Gary Cuozzo, Bob Berry, Gus Frerotte, Bob Lee, Norm Snead) and a bouquet of faded roses from days gone by (Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Jim McMahon, Brett Favre).
#9) Chicago Cubs
This past winter illustrates the Cubs quite nicely. If Major League Baseball were the block you grew up on as a kid, the Cubs would be that rich, childless older couple who always had a new Cadillac in the driveway and a lawn covered in dog shit. The Cubs go out and look for a landscaper who can clean up the mess that is their lawn, their nephew Ryne Sandberg shows up as member of the family who is the perfect candidate and wanting the job, and the Cubs give the job to the paperboy because as child little Ryno farted in their house once 30 years ago.
#8 ) Oakland Raiders
Let’s face facts. The Raiders have become the North Korea of the NFL and Al Davis it’s Kim Jong-Il. Davis has sunk into some sort of self-deluded alternate reality that has him believing he can get a coach better than Tom Cable and that JaMarcus Russell was an NFL quarterback. Finally they stopped drinking the Kool-Aid, or Purple Drank in the Russell case, but there have been so many other bizarre tales emanating from Oakland that all have one thing in common: Al Davis has total control of this organization, as it clearly mirrors his dysfunctional personality. This is why Cable is no longer the head coach, and why they had to promote from within; nobody else will take the job.
#7) New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets seem to have all the characteristics of franchises on this list. Some teams are owned by morons, failed in more than one city, failed in cities where a team in the same sport already failed, are on the verge of being assumed by the league, have a history of making terrible player personnel decisions, or have just plain sucked forever. The Hornets have it all.
#6) Atlanta Thrashers
The Thrashers are dangerously close to being the second Atlanta-based NHL team to head for Canada. Thirty years ago, the Flames ditched Dixie for Calgary, and now the rumors are swirling the Thrashers may be heading to the garden spot known as Winnipeg. Honestly, this may be more of a reflection of the city of the city that its teams; Atlanta is a shitty sports town. The only franchise in that city that has ever drawn a reasonable number of fans are the Falcons (don’t talk to me about the Braves, I’ve seen playoff games at Turner Field with less than 15,00 people in the ballpark), but in the last decade you could have put an NFL franchise in Bettendorf, Iowa and it would fill a 65,000 seat stadium. But on the other hand, the Thrashers have never done anything of consequence.
#5) Los Angeles Dodgers
Thanks to their ownership of the Dodgers and their divorce which is threatening to become the ugliest in the history of California, we have to care about Frank and Jamie McCourt. Their dysfunction has totally spilled over into the operation of the team; they are hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while clinging to a grasp on ownership which is becoming ever so tenuous, especially now that Major League Baseball has cut them off from any new lenders. This is only going to get worse, stay tuned if you get off on train wrecks.
#4) Cincinnati Bengals
Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life? Does a city imitate a franchise, or does a franchise imitate a city. Cincinnati is a city that takes every good thing about it and totally fucks it up somehow. Take a deep breath while I list the examples….
First there’s the food. I love chili, but that shit they call chili in Cincinnati…well, I don’t know what the fuck it really is, but I know what it isn’t. Chili. Want to know how I know that? Ask any real American whether chili has cocoa, cinnamon, and allspice in it. Know what they are going to say? FUCK NO! More importantly, it doesn’t even taste like chili. It tastes more like a fetal cow that before it was brutally aborted was stuffed full of the world’s worst gingerbread cookies.
Then there’s the only show about Cincinnati that ever mattered; WKRP in Cincinnati. I didn’t get what a great show this was when I was younger; it wasn’t until my adult years when I realized that this show ruled because it had characters that you worked with every day. Look at the list:
- Mr. Carlson: the “boss” who only is the boss because he’s “juiced in;” in his case, Mommy owned the damn station.
- Herb Tarlek: Who doesn’t work with an idiotic sales guy?
- Venus Flytrap: The prototypical “smoove brotha.”
- Dr. Johnny Fever: The stoner.
- Bailey Quarters: Every office has that one chick who you know could be totally hot if you could get rid of her big, dorky glasses and “tomboy” wardrobe, more importantly, you know she might be a freak in the sack if the time was right.
But then they fucked everything up with Jennifer Marlowe. Leave it to Cincinnati to get a big-titted, blond character all wrong. First of all, they are always leaving the viewer with the impression that she is either independently wealthy, or has some big-time connections, yet she’s answering phones at the 14th-ranked radio station in a shithole like Cincinnati.
Then there’s the whole matter of her hair. Look at that shit; theres so much industrial strength hair spray in that mess it has become some sort of razor-sharp, rock-hard, bleached cotton-candy winged beehive of death. Like if that woman were giving you a “trouser-friendly kiss” and she suddenly jerked her head in the wrong direction, that hair could slice through your junk like a fucking light saber.
Let’s take this back to sports, and let’s start with basketball. Remember the Cincinnati Royals? They are the most-moved franchise in professional sports. They began as the Rochester Royals, who moved to the Queen City in 1957. In 1972, the shipped off to the midwest for nearly ten years of splitting time between Kansas City and Omaha being known as the Kings. Then came the 80’s, the decade when the Kings headed west for the greener pastures of Sacramento. Six months from now, they will probably be in domicile #6, Anaheim. This franchise is drawn to crappy cities for sports, and there’s a reason why Cincinnati is on the list.
Then’s there’s baseball. Forget about the “Big Red Machine,” forget about the current young crop of promising Reds. Cincinnati is where Joe Morgan made enough of a name for himself that he was able to spend over two decades torturing our ears as a broadcaster and for that crime against humanity, there is no forgiveness.
But let’s get this back to the Bengals. Some people in Cincinnati are fans of the Cincinnati Bengals. But many, many more are not. It is really hard not to understand why. Take the currently unfolding Carson Palmer situation for example. No wonder the guy wants out; he’s stuck in the only NFL hell for quarterbacks worse than Minnesota. The Bengals share many characteristics with the Vikings in this area; namely you can drop all their signal-callers into a few distinct buckets. There’s the over-rated talent (Akili Smith, David Klingler, Virgil Carter, Greg Cook, Jack Thompson, John Reaves), somebody else’s cast-offs (Jay Schroeder, Jon Kitna, Gus Frerotte, Scott Mitchell, Neil O’Donnell), B-students they tried to move to the head of the class (John Stofa, Dewey Warren, Sam Wyche, Wayne Clark, Turk Schonert, Jeff Blake, Ryan Fitzpatrick), and legitimate, top-flight NFL quarterbacks (Ken Anderson, Boomer Esaison).
In 2005, Palmer was on the verge of ending up in that last bucket. Four years ago, Palmer was primed to join Peyton Manning and Tom Brady at the top of the NFL quarterback list. He was remarkably poised; his downfield touch was perfect, he led the Bengals to their first winning season in fifteen years. He had that moment in time where he could effortlessly slip the rush and flick the ball downfield at 30 yards. He was oozing confidence, he was getting the ball to nine or ten different receivers a game. It seemed as if this was the the dawn of a new era of Bengal football; the vision of Palmer leading the Bengals 10+ wins a year suddenly didn’t seem ridiculous.
Then came that knee injury against the Steelers in the playoffs. I watched that moment (while recovering from a major leg injury of my own) and I wanted to puke. Not just because at the time I had a heightened sensitivity to that sort of thing, but because I knew that was the beginning of the end. It had to be, you don’t stay that snake-bit as a franchise without having those course-defining moments. The football gods really want to forgive the Bengals for shit like the “Ickey Shuffle,” but then they draft Akili Smith. This is why bad shit always happens in Cincinnati. Chad “Ocho” Johnson went batshit crazy, Marvin Lewis’ balls fell off, Palmer’s elbow turned into tapioca pudding, and Chris Henry learned the hard way the beds of pickup trucks don’t have seat belts.
By education, I’m an engineer, which means I have a big background in risk management and failure analysis, which is just a nice way of saying “recreating the scene of the crash.” In that field, the first thing you learn is that all disasters are not the result of one cataclysmic event; rather the are the culmination of a series of small events that link together. Take one link out of that chain, and the disaster is likely averted. But the Bengals can’t figure that out; in fact, they keep adding links thinking the longer the chain, the further away they are from that one link on which they blame all their troubles.
#3) Phoenix Coyotes
How bad do you have to be when a even a small Canadian city that has done nothing but bitch for for fifteen years about losing the NHL doesn’t want this franchise?
Point the finger anyway you like — at the City of Glendale, the NHL, Matthew Hulsizer or the Goldwater Institute — but the bottom line is no one wants the Phoenix Coyotes. Or more to the point, no one wants to pay for them. Hulsizer wants to own the Coyotes but he either can’t or won’t fork over the US$170 million the NHL wants for the franchise it bought out of bankruptcy over a year ago.
Dissect this. The Coyotes were led by Wayne Gretzky, the most mythic figure in hockey, and they still couldn’t turn out fans in a city crammed with northern transplants. To understand what that really means, imagine a baseball team owned by Babe Ruth in 1940 that drew sixty thousand fans a year. Epic fail.
#2) New York Mets
What else can you say? New York hasn’t seen a mess like this since Ground Zero; an economic terrorist like Bernie Madoff is on the verge of turning one of the “big-money” franchises into a pauper for the next quarter-century, and it couldn’t happen to a better organization. The Mets have pissed away every advantage they’ve had in baseball thanks to a couple of greedy mental pygmys like Wilpon and Saul Katz. Not only did these guys get caught with their hands in the Ponzi Scheme cookie jar, they have the unmitigated balls to somehow get Bud Selig, Major League Baseball commissioner, to buy that bullshit “too big to fail” argument that got us into that fucking Bush/Obama bailout. This is exactly why Big Brother Bud (who also happens to be drinking buddies with Wilpon) just gave the Mets’ owners $25 million to help the team with financial woes.
Yeah, that doesn’t totally smell like the Bush/Obama two-stage bailout in which drinking buddies/cronies/contributors weren’t bailed out of their bad decisions courtesy of the public coffers. These buttloafs make a series of bad decisions, and every person who has ever aimed a buck at Major League Baseball gets to pay for it. Nothing says dysfunctional like rewarding bad decisions.
Here’s the best part; Selig is pumping money into a liability that ranges anywhere from $400 million to over a billion, depending on who you talk to and who decides to file a lawsuit. Wilpon and Katz could be deep-sixed financially if a lawsuit filed from victims of the Bernard Madoff rules in victims favor. According to the New York Times, the victims are seeking upward of $1 billion from the Mets and related business partners through trustee Irving H. Picard. The victims claim that Wilpon and Katz ignored warnings about investments made with Madoff and acted only through self-interest. The Times also has reported that the Mets are in over $400 million in debt, so even if they get hit on the lawsuit, they won’t be able to pay the tab. That means Major League Baseball gets stuck with it. Wilpon and Katz already have blown through the $75 million allocated as general credit to teams in need of financial assistance, but their cratering situation threatens to take an even bigger bite. Selig should have cut these guys off a long time ago.
In the meantime, until Selig grows a pair and starves these guys out like he is doing with the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership situation, the fact is the Mets will remain a financial dumpster fire. The proof will be evident on the field; this team can’t sign new players considering they sucked more than the new girl at the Tijuana donkey show last year. It ain’t easy getting players to come to a team with no money that consistently fails to make the playoffs. This will lead to the Mets ballpark looking levery year ike the Sahara Desert by the time August rolls around.
#1) Los Angeles Clippers
This is just a team that gets to be on the list for sheer shitty. They’ve only had 4 playoff berths in a nearly 30-year history in the best basketball market in America. They might have good players, and a star like Blake Griffin, but their management and coaching just flat out sucks, and it always has. Not to mention owner Donald Sterling celebrating Black history in March should tell you all you need to know.
If you are of my ethnic construct and age, you likely know the term “Paper Bag Test.” Sports has a “paper bag test” all its own, and it is just as unflattering. In this case, the paper bag was used to hide being a fan of a dreadful organization. The following is a list of the great “paper bag” teams of all time.
Granted, the Saints won the Super Bowl last year, but it’s impossible to create a list of “Paper Bag Franchises” without including the team whose fans invented the idea of using the bag to show their disgust. The rumor is that a Saints’ fan was inspired by The Gong Show’s Unknown Comic, and used the shtick to protest the Saints’ 1-15 season by adorning a bag.
10) Detroit Lions
Where do you start with the epic failure known as the Lions? Other than the Barry Sanders era (in which they were supremely mediocre), they have largely defined failure for a half-century. After going a decade without making a playoff appearance, the Lions sank to an 0-16 mark in 2008. Frankly, the whole city ought to wear a bag.
This another team that doesn’t stink right this minute (wait, let me check the standings…), but that’s largely because they don’t have Isiah Thomas and Stephon Marbury repeatedly captaining the HMS Knick-tanic into the iceberg. Don’t forget it was just a few short years ago the Knicks were so bad often started booing before the end of the first quarter. Boy they did boo…they booed players, coaches, referees, performers, the other team’s players…after the game they went to the closest hospital and booed surgeries.
8 ) New York Mets
The Mets are the rich guy who keeps marrying the “gold digger” woman as therefore keeps himself in a consistent state of Pathetic. Just look at the amount of money the Mets have spent on free agents in the past 20 years, and look the amount of success they’ve had in that time. The highlight: September 2007, when the Mets held a seven-game division lead over the Philadelphia Phillies with just 17 games to play, which led to one of the most epic collapses in baseball history. How did that happen? Because they are the Mets.
How frustrating must it be as a Browns’ fan? Your original team gets spirited off to Baltimore only to become a top-flight NFL organization. Meanwhile, you get a replacement team that has spent the better part of the last decade looking like a fraternity touch football team deep into its third keg of beer. Browns fans got so frustrated with their franchise they used an appearance on Monday Night Football to try and get the attention of team owner Randy Lerner. It worked and two fans got face time with him to discuss the future of the team. Let’s just hope they took their bags off when they did it.
6) Milwaukee Bucks
What can you say about a team that hasn’t won a playoff series in a decade in a league where even teams that aren’t in the damn league can get into the playoffs? It can be summed nicely in the picture above, a fan was wearing a paper bag and a jersey of a player who had departed the team a season earlier. Fear the Deer, my ass.
Here’s a team that looks like it may have a non-suck future, and has won a Super Bowl in the not-all-that-distant past. But since then, it has ejected its superstar players and its marquee head coach since that championship in 2003. Before that win, this team was best known for its “creamsicle” colored uniforms, its 0-26 start as an NFL franchise, and some of the best sports quotes ever.
4) Atlanta Falcons
Much like the Buccaneers, this team has a possible non-suck future, but definitely has a suck past. You likely remember their lone Super Bowl appearance in 1999 more for Eugene Robinson turning it into his own personal Hooker-palooza. More recently, this teams failure bona fides include head coach Bobby Petrino skipping out on the team halfway through the season in 2007, followed by Michael Vick going to jail in 2008.
3) Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are like a woman that was hot thirty years ago, but still thinks she’s “got it” despite the fact her breasts are now in asynchronous orbit around her knees. Len Dawson and Hank Stram was a long time ago; there’s a reason the Chiefs are now the proud owner of the NFL’s longest playoff losing streak. If that weren’t enough, note the securing system this fan has rigged, likely figuring that bag may need to be in place for a while.
2) Cincinnati Bengals
The only thing more frustrating than being a Detroit Lions’ fan is being a Cincinnati Bengals fan. Why? Because the Bengals every once in a while look like a real football team, but then give you the “Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown” treatment. And just like Charlie Brown, those suckers that fill Paul Brown Stadium fall for it every fucking time. But these guys know who the Bungles really are.
1) Washington Nationals
The poor Nationals…they really are the team nobody wanted. Born as the Montreal Expos in1969, they consistently drew about 9 fans per game despite the fact many of those Expos teams sported several top-notch players (Hall of Famers Gary Carter and Andre Dawson for openers). Since moving to D.C. in 2005, the Gnats have finished higher than last place just once.
Doesn’t it just seem right that since we are roughly a third of the way through the baseball season, we would release our third set of team-by team rankings? With each team having approximately 57 games under their belts, there should by now be a fairly clear picture of who the contenders and the pretenders are. Granted, guessing in the first week in June who will still be standing at the end of September is a bit like playing a hand of 7-card stud with only two cards on the table, but you should at least have a solid idea who has an “ace in the hole” and who is holding a big bag of bluff.
The Rockies clearly have an ace showing in Ubaldo Jimenez. With all the perfect game hullabaloo flying about, Jimenez’ 11-1 record and microscopic ERA haven’t been getting the attention they deserve. The problem: that ace has no kicker; the next best pitcher on the Rockies’ staff is arguably either the injured Jorge De La Rosa or the nearly anonymous Jhoulys Chacin.
It’s probably that lack of “Aces Up” that led us to be so wrong on the Padres and Blue Jays. Don’t look now, but the Padres have quietly strung together more wins than another team in the last calendar year. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays are in the thick of the race in the AL East, having just taken two of three from the Yankees and have a big series in Tampa this week.
The Giants are loaded with aces like Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, but unlike poker, baseball is a game in which you need a few clubs in order to win, and the bat rack in San Francisco just doesn’t have any thump in it. On the other hand, the Cincinnati Reds are getting plenty of thump out of the likes of Jonny Gomes, Joey Votto and the suddenly resurgent Scott Rolen. They also are working on their own collection of solid young pitchers, such as Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Aroldis Chapman (the phenom still fine-tuning at AAA Louisville), and if Edinson Volquez can regain his 200+ strikeout from following elbow surgery, this team may hold more than one surprise down the stretch.
But, there are still a lot of cards to come. Peruse the full rankings and draw your own conclusions. The numbers behind each team indicate change from the previous ranking. Teams with the biggest changes from the last ranking are in are in bold. The teams with the biggest difference between their preseason ranking and their current position are in italics.
- Tampa Bay Rays ↑ 3 (Pre-season Rank – #4)
- New York Yankees ↓ 1 (Pre-season Rank – #2)
- Minnesota Twins ↔ (Pre-season Rank – #10)
- Atlanta Braves ↑ 6 (Pre-season Rank – #8)
- Philadelphia Phillies ↓ 3 (Pre-season Rank – #1)
- San Diego Padres ↑ 10 (Pre-season Rank – #25)
- Toronto Blue Jays ↑ 12 (Pre-season Rank – #28)
- St. Louis Cardinals ↓3 (Pre-season Rank – #6)
- Cincinnati Reds ↑ 14 (Pre-season Rank – #18)
- Los Angeles Angels ↑ 3 (Pre-season Rank – #15)
- Los Angeles Dodgers ↑ 3 (Pre-season Rank – #13)
- Detroit Tigers ↓ 1 (Pre-season Rank – #14)
- Boston Red Sox ↑ 6 (Pre-season Rank – #3)
- San Francisco Giants ↓ 8 (Pre-season Rank – #17)
- Florida Marlins ↓ 8 (Pre-season Rank – #12)
- Oakland A’s ↓ 8 (Pre-season Rank – #21)
- Texas Rangers ↑ 4 (Pre-season Rank – #11)
- Colorado Rockies ↓ 9 (Pre-season Rank – #5)
- New York Mets* ↑ 9 (Pre-season Rank – #23)
- Washington Nationals ↓ 3 (Pre-season Rank – #24)
- Chicago White Sox ↓ 6 (Pre-season Rank – #9)
- Chicago Cubs ↑ 2 (Pre-season Rank – #22)
- Milwaukee Brewers ↓ 2 (Pre-season Rank – #20)
- Kansas City Royals ↑ 2 (Pre-season Rank – #29)
- Seattle Mariners ↓ 13 (Pre-season Rank – #7)
- Houston Astros ↑ 3 (Pre-season Rank – #26)
- Arizona Diamondbacks ↓ 5 (Pre-season Rank – #16)
- Pittsburgh Pirates ↓ 3 (Pre-season Rank – #27)
- Cleveland Indians ↓ 2 (Pre-season Rank – #30)
- Baltimore Orioles ↔ (Pre-season Rank – #19)
* Before you ask why the Mets and their 33 wins are ranked so low, it’s because they are the definition of “Blue smoke and mirrors.” The Oliver Perez debacle is just a harbinger of things to come in Queens.
Rankings By Division:
1) New York Yankees
Upside: The Bombers easily could have turned on the money-hose and flooded out free-agents like Jason Bay or Matt Holliday, or they could have wasted some serious dough by resigning an over-valued Johnny Damon. But, instead of having their usual explosive cash-gasm, they realized their in-house options are just fine. They finally seem to understand that you don’t necessarily need a 30-homer guy in the ninth spot in the batting order. Rather, the Pinstripes traded away a bunch of Grade B prospects for the more budget-friendly likes of Curtis Granderson and Javier Vazquez. After all, what do you really need to do when you are the defending World Series champs yet another goddamn time…
Downside: Yankee Stadium is getting suspiciously close to looking like an assisted-living facility. The Yankees roster contains so many “seasoned veterans” that it’s a good bet there will be more than one pair of support hose under those pinstripes. Oh and somebody really needs to find a way to keep A.J. Burnett from having the “Hindenburg” inning that tends to flame out his starts.
2) Boston Red Sox
Upside: The Red Sox will field a very complete and deep squad, one that will be better than everybody except the one team they desperately want to beat. The Sawwwx offer three starters who would be aces on more rotations than not, their defense doesn’t have it’s usual Bahhh-ston Hahhh-bahhh sized hole in it, and despite what Sawwwx fans want to believe, the offense should be just fine. Of course, math doesn’t rank high in the skill sets of most Sawwwx fans, which explains why last year’s allegedly non-steroid-enhanced lineup accounted for a mere 10 homers less than allegedly juiced 2004 edition.
Downside: The astonishing lack of obvious holes on which their inevitable August slide can be attributed. Sure, the line-up still contains the light-bending sucking black hole known as the un-Ramirez-protected David Ortiz and nearly every pitching staff gets as shaky as Haitian construction techniques at the fifth spot in the rotation, which means we just have to wait to see what will bring this year’s “Bucky Dent” moment.
3) Tampa Bay Rays
Upside: They are the anti-Yankees, meaning they have a shitload of young talent and they have a payroll more suggestive migrant farm workers than the caviar-encrusted platinum jock straps of the Bronx Bombers. Whether or not the Rays sucker-punch their way past the Yanks or the Sawwwx for the promised land of October baseball, this team will give fits of apoplexy to veteran-fueled opponents with their raw athleticism. The odds of this increase significantly if the Rays next wave of prospects (particularly Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson) pan out as some “experts” expect.
Downside: If this team hits the trade deadline looking like it is out of reach to throw that October sucker-punch, the Rays could be parted out like a Chinese prisoner “volunteered” for organ donation. Case in point: the pending free agency of Carl Crawford who is already rumored to be on Yankee manager Joe Girardi’s line-up card for Opening Day 2011.
4) Baltimore Orioles
Upside: The O’s are another AL East squad resplendent with young talent, especially catcher Matt Wieters, who could prove to be a discount-store version of Joe Mauer at the plate (maybe not average wise, but Wieters does have 25 -homer potential). Plus, the trio of Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis may very well be the best young outfield in the league.
Downside: The youth of the pitching staff, which is stocked with a talented stable of potential, most notably Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman, and Brad Bergesen. But with that youth comes inexperience and the ever-present threat they don’t develop.
5) Toronto Blue Jays
Upside: A well-spring of young arms; hill-wise all the Blue Jays need is for two of the cruise-ship full of pitchers they brought to camp to show the potential to toss 200 innings. Behind those young hurlers, the Blue Jays will field a defensively solid squad, with the glaring exception of third baseman Edwin “Hands of Stone” Encarnacion. This should allow those young moundsmen to put the pill over the plate with a reasonable expectation their ERA’s won’t rocket toward the stratosphere.
Downside: This team is at least a few years away from contention, and even then they likely will need the Red Sox to get back to their historic “shooting themselves in both feet” tendencies and for the Yankees to set the Wayback Machine to 1984.
1-Tie) Chicago White Sox
Upside: The quartet of Mark Buerhle, Jake “No, Really, I’m Pretty Sure I’m OK…this time” Peavy, John Danks, and Gavin Floyd forms the backbone of the best starting rotation in the division. The South Siders should be able to stay in front of the Twins if there is they can squeeze the last bit of toothpaste out of the tubes that are the careers of Paul Konerko, Andruw Jones, and A.J. Pierzynski. Forgive me now for saying I will believe that when I see it.
Downside: The amazing number of shitty hitters the Whiteys will field. Granted, Juan Pierre and Alex Rios should allow the White Sox to play in their usual Ozzie Guillen-influenced style; in other words, swinging wildly and generally running amok, then wringing just enough out of an aging bat or two. As a recipe, it is clearly riskier than a good, old-fashioned game of Russian Roulette, but don’t forget the White Sox managed somehow not to blow their brains out in 2005.
1-Tie) Minnesota Twins
Upside: Carl “Scrooge McDuck” Pohlad is dead, and along with the anticipated revenue from the new ball park, the Twins have managed to jam a crowbar into their change purse. With the expected signing of Joe Mauer to a hefty-yet-deserved contract extension and the signing bonus that likely will accompany it, the Twins just might finally hurdle the $100 million salary threshold. The Pohlad family still owns the team, but at least the new billionaire-in-charge seems willing to spend when needed.
Downside: The pitching staff, which was suspect before the loss of Joe Nathan, is now officially mediocre. Scott Baker may need to hire a stand-in if he is to convince anybody he is an ace and Carl Pavano is, well, Carl Pavano. Not to mention the Twins are drawing to an inside straight on whether Francisco Liriano can be effective after the “Tommy John” surgery and the loss of confidence he put on display last season.
3) Detroit Tigers
Upside: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello might be the most interesting trio from Michigan since Grand Funk Railroad.
Downside: The front office, which embarked on a cost-cutting exercise until they were reminded that they have a slough of veterans being hampered in their duties by their walkers. Their solution to this? Signing the 68-year old Johnny Damon. This means if you want to see elderly DH’s with more chins than a Shanghai phone book (Is Greg Luzinski still in the league?) chug home from second on one-hop singles, just wait for Damon in left field.
4) Kansas City Royals
Upside: Fuck everything else, to find something in print that says the Royals don’t finish last in this division may require an archealogical expedition. If for no other reason, the elevation from the cellar is due largely to the fact that no matter what else happens, Zach Grienke and Joakin Soria will pitch the Royals past the unbelievably fetid Indians.
Downside: The shockingly large number of at-bats that will be twirled unproductively into the Twilight Zone at the hands of Scott Podsednik, Jason Kendall, Jose Guillen, Brayan Pena and Yuniesky Betancourt.
5) Cleveland Indians
Upside: As soon as we here at Dubsism find one, we’ll let you know. Wait, we’ve got one: Shin-Soo Choo hasn’t been inducted into the South Korean army…yet.
Downside: This is likely the first of many seasons to come with the Indians making reservations for the bottom of the standings.
1) Seattle Mariners
Upside: How can you not love a one-two punch of Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee in front of a team that shits horseshoes? Seriously, this team personifies luck, as was demonstrated by the 2009 campaign that saw the M’s win 85 games even though they were outscored by 52 runs. Luck isn’t a strategy, but luckily it probably won’t take much to win this division.
Downside: The festival of mediocrity the starting rotation becomes after the aforementioned one-two punch. Plus, the wheel of karma spun by the baseball gods will not look favorably on lead-pipe cinch Hall-of-Famer, greatest player ever in the history of the franchise, and deliciously banned-substance-free Ken Griffey, Jr. being exiled from the lineup for the final time by ‘roid-rage expert and colossal asshole Milton Bradley.
2) Texas Rangers
Upside: Don’t look now, but for the first time in EVER, the Rangers have pitching depth…I’ll wait for a minute so you can let that sink in. Seriously, they’ve got eight legitimate contenders for the five rotation spots, which means they have eight more than than they’ve ever had before. It goes without saying this assumes Rich Harden doesn’t rack up seven bazillion more frequent-flyer miles on MRI Airlines.
Downside: And now for your Bizzaro world moment of the day: the Rangers can pitch and play defense, but they can’t hit! Again, I’ll wait for a minute so you can let that sink in. With suspects like Chris Davis, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden, and/or Elvis Andrus likely populating the bottom of the order, you can expect the Rangers’ team on-base percentage to hurtle over the cliff faster than Thelma and Louise. The wild-card in all of this: Josh Hamilton and his ever-present overcoming of his “obstacle du jour.” This time it is rumored to be hangnails and a persistent fear of sock puppets.
3) Los Angeles Angels
Upside: Even though he Dodger Blue during his playing days, and even though he looks more and more like Rush Limbaugh every day, you have to love Mike Scioscia. He is one of a rare breed of managers who understand tactics, strategy and how to develop and handle people.
Downside: Will the last one left in Anaheim please turn out the lights? The Halos wont miss Vladimir Guerrero, but the departures of John Lackey and Chone Figgins significantly downgrades the rotation and the lineup. This is really a concern for the pitching staff, which needs to prove itself more durable, especially Scott “Opening Soon at a Disabled List Near You” Kazmir.
Upside: The performance of A’s bullpen has historically fluctuated more than Oprah’s weight, but now they boast a rare mix of quantity and quality. Andrew Bailey, Brad Ziegler, Michael Wuertz, Joey Devine, Jerry Blevins, Craig Breslow and Brad Kilby together compose a solid group of young relievers who collectively will earn about $482 in 2010.
Downside: The $10 million pipe-dream known as Ben Sheets, and the crumbled Greek column once known as Eric Chavez’ spine. If Sheets actually manages to stay out of intensive care come the trade deadline, the A’s will likely deal him for yet another cavalcade of prospects. More likely is that Sheets’ arm falls completely off and Oakland gets to watch $10 million swirl down the shitter. Plus, the A’s may be holding open tryouts in May to find anybody who can actually hit the damn ball.
1) Philadelphia Phillies
Upside: Flash to the scene in “Bull Durham” is teaching Nuke Laloosh about the importance of clichés. The Phillies have no need of this lesson; they are a veritable textbook. They’re “gamers.” They “play ‘em one game at a time.” They’ve “been there before.” They “know how to finish.” Of course, the only way to get such a string of positive verbal fossils is to be the best team in baseball. Yes, you read that right, especially you Yankee fans whose blood-pressure just took a geyser-like upshot. In fact I will say it again: As of right now, the Philadelphia Phillies are the best team in baseball; fuck you, New York. Man, that felt good.
Downside: I’ll never understand what the rationale was behind the Cliff Lee/Roy Halladay swap meet. The Phillies revenue has sky-rocketed in the past five years, given their success and the resultant boost in attendance, TV ratings, jersey sales and everything else associated with the Phillies. Hell, even the Jamie Moyer Geritol is flying off the shelves. The point is the Phils easily have the dough to have kept both aces, then restocked the farm with the compensatory picks when Lee signed elsewhere this year. Speaking of pitchers, which version of Brad “Sybil” Lidge shows up this year? Is it the lights-out, shutdown closer or do we get another episode of “Meltdown Man?”
2) Atlanta Braves
Upside: While the Bravos may be lacking after dealing away its pitching depth for a prospect and a case of urinal cakes, they also don’t really show an Achilles heel. Not to mention, this is finally the last year of the Bobby Cox regime, and Jason Heyward might be the first guy to hit a home run that crosses and entire time zone.
Downside: All the bullshit we will have to live through on what will prove to be the Bobby Cox’s farewell tour. For one, I can’t wait for next year when Cox is getting kicked out of bingo games at the senior center. Here’s a little known fact: Did you know that “Jair Jurrjens” is actually an old Dutch term meaning “he who is destined to spend as much time in an MRI machine as Rich Harden?” That can’t be good.
3) Florida Marlins
Upside: The Players’ Union and how they forced world-class skinflint Jeffrey Loria to actually pony up some cash for a long-term deal for ace Josh Johnson and getting second baseman Dan Uggla to return. Stop and think about what kind of an asshole you would have to be to make the gravy-sucking pigs from the Players’ Union look like a bastion of righteousness and moral certainty; Loria is every bit that cretin.
Downside: The aforementioned pinch-those-pennies-so-hard-Abe-Lincoln-bleeds-internally mentality of Loria. Follow that up with all the bullshit going on over the new-stadium, the 40 inches of rain that comes from the heavens in ten minutes like God’s doped-up racehorse pissing on your head every afternoon at 4 p.m. sharp, and the scatter-shot approach to the bullpen, and it isn’t hard to see this franchise is literally 50 bucks away from being the Pirates.
4) New York Mets
Upside: Manager Jerry Manuel’s sense of humor will come in handy sometime right around Memorial Day when he will be joking about “having time to play some golf” the day before the press conference announcing his firing.
Downside: The Mets’ are like the rich family on a daytime soap opera. Their front office is furnished with, amongst other amenities, hot and cold running cash. But, if you are the Mets, with wealth comes a Dr. Phil level of dysfunction. In this past off-season, the Mets couldn’t seem to figure out if they actually had an operating budget; nobody in the organization seemed to know if anybody actually knew about the star center fielder’s knees (which are dissolving like an Alka-Seltzer as we speak) and nobody can say if the team futzed with Citi Field’s dimensions in response to the whining that the park suppresses offense. Want to know a secret, Mets fans? It ain’t the ball park…
5) Washington Nationals
Upside: How can you not have a man-crush on a heart of the order featuring Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, Josh Willingham, and Elijah Dukes? So what if the Nats’ occasionally misspell their own uniforms (the photo below is not the only example of the Gnats Nats need of “spell check. “? Don’t look know, but the Mets can easily see this team in their rear-view mirror, and if they aren’t careful, they may just start seeing the Nats’ tail-lights.
Downside: Is there something in the water in the greater Baltimore-Washington metroplex that makes sports franchise owners unconscionable assholes? An area that features Redskins’ owner and probable live-puppy eater Daniel Snyder and the Orioles’ Peter Angelos, who as a child must have wanted to be Snidely Whiplash form a vortex of ownership evil that threatens to suck in the Nats’ Theodore Lerner.
1) St. Louis Cardinals
Upside: Every other team in this division sucks. If the Redbirds can stay healthy, they should be on cruise control by mid-August. The cash-flooded Cubs and Astros have spent stupidly, and the Reds and Pirates can’t find anybody that still takes S&H Green Stamps, and the Brewers only have three players.
Downside: The supporting cast beneath their dwindling number of star players is dangerously thin. However, a lot of this can be cured if Colby Rasmus finally emerges.
2) Cincinnati Reds
Upside: Pure balls. What are the odds that a prospect who happens to be a left-handed pitcher toting a 100-mph fastball ends up in Cincinnati? Of course, this assumes Dusty Baker method of handling pitchers doesn’t have Aroldis Chapman’s elbow in pieces by August.
Downside: In five years, most of their roster won’t be in baseball. The cast of Scott Rolen, Orlando Cabrera, Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, Francisco Cordero are all in the sunset years of thier careers. Oh, and Dusty Baker is an idiot.
3) Milwaukee Brewers
Upside: They have Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Yovani Gallardo.
Downside: Ryan and Fielder can’t take all the at-bats, and Gallardo can’t pitch every inning.
4) Chicago Cubs
Upside: The inevitable Lou Pinella meltdown. It generally happens when Lou has heard enough questions about (insert reason du jour why the Cubs suck here). This usually happens around August 1st, and treats us all to a profanity-filled tirade as only Lou can do.
Downside: All the money the Cubs have tied up in flame-outs like Alfonso Soriano and pitcher-turned-planet Carlos Zambrano.
5) Houston Astros
Upside: They have a deeper roster than the Brewers.
Downside: That isn’t saying much. The Astros field three great players and the three other solid ones. The other 19 could barely impact a Triple-A Roster. Owner Drayton McLane gives all the signs of a billionaire preparing to back away from this investment by selling the team.
6) Pittsburgh Pirates
Upside: Steve Pearce certainly shows all the signs of being the real deal.
Downside: Even when they trade Pearce, they’ll get another bag of magic beans (I’m looking at you, Lastings Milledge). What does it says about you when you get screwed in a trade with the Natinals Nationals? It says you are the kind of organization that can have neartly twenty years of top ten draft picks and nothing to show for it.
1) Colorado Rockies
Upside: The Rockies are the only team in the West with decent depth. With the everyday players including Seth Smith, Ryan Spilborghs, and Melvin Mora and a bullpen including Matt Daley, and Esmil Rogers.
Downside: The alarmingly high number of at-bats that will be sacrificed in the belief that Clint Barmes is anything more than a utility player.
2) Los Angeles Dodgers
Upside: Despite the facts that every left-handed pitcher in the world is issued a Certificate of Ownerhship at birth for Andre Ethier, and Manny Ramirez plays left field like he is in a bar-league softball tournament, the trio of Ethier, Ramirez and Matt Kemp are the best outfield in baseball.
Downside: The shaky, flaky nature of the pitching staff. Letting Randy Wolf leave means the Dodgers are dependent on the inconsistent Clayton Kershaw and a Chad Billingsley who spent the end of last season crying in the fetal position.
3) Arizona Diamondbacks
Upside: Justin Upton, who just makes you want to believe.
Downside: Trading Max Scherzer for another shot at Edwin Jackson, who is due for another good month any day now…after all, in his seven years in the league, he’s already had two of them. Their next best pitcher is the post-aneurysm surgery slop artist Ian Kennedy has become.
4) San Francisco Giants
Upside: The starting rotation: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, the catastrophe formerly known as Barry Zito, and Jonathan Sanchez. Is there a better foursome out there?
Downside: The Giants hit like a T-ball team. This team was batting Bengie Molina (20 HR, 80 RBI .265 avg.) in the four-spot last year in an attempt to protect Pablo Sandoval, the only respectable bat they have. To improve on that, the Giants are turning to the suspiciously-close-to-finished Aubrey Huff (15 HR, 85 RBI, and .241 avg).
5) San Diego Padres
Upside: GM Kevin Towers always seems to find players whose skills play well in that airport spacious park they have.
Downside: Towers is lucky he has this ability, otherwise the trade deadline would be no fun for him. Look for Adrian Gonzalez, Heath Bell, and Jon Garland to all be on a plane by July 31st.
Overall Team-by-Team Ranking
- Philadelphia Phillies
- New York Yankees
- Boston Red Sox
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Colorado Rockies
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Seattle Mariners
- Atlanta Braves
- Chicago White Sox
- Minnesota Twins
- Texas Rangers
- Florida Marlins
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Detroit Tigers
- Los Angeles Angels
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- San Francisco Giants
- Cincinnati Reds
- Baltimore Orioles
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Oakland A’s
- Chicago Cubs
- New York Mets
- Washington Nationals
- San Diego Padres
- Houston Astros
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Kansas City Royals
- Cleveland Indians