10. Los Angeles Clippers
|Go ahead and clap, Donald Sterling. Your Clippers used to be a lot higher on this list. (Noah Graham / Getty Images)|
Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is a man of many adjectives. We'll start with thrifty. Not only does he have a multi-page resume of skimping on talent, but he also once asked head coach Paul Silas to film the players himself to cut video expenses. Most of the Clippers' struggles can be traced to Sterling. Their .365 franchise winning percentage is the third-worst in the NBA and the Clippers have only had two winning seasons since Sterling bought the team in 1981.
Puzzling personnel plays: Drafting Michael Olowokandi, Lamond Murray, Darius Miles, Melvin Ely and failing to re-sign Lamar Odom
Remember ... 1986-87: The Clippers posted one of the ugliest NBA seasons in 1986-87 when they finished 12-70, which was the second-lowest winning record in NBA history. All-Star Norm Nixon missed the entire season after being injured in a celebrity softball game. His team started the season 3-3, but went on a 9-67 run to make them one of the worst sports franchises.
9. Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies
The Vancouver Grizzlies were embarrassing in Canada and they haven't been much better since the move to Memphis. Vancouver compiled 56 wins throughout its first four seasons — a total that serious contenders top annually — and the team's downfall has been nightmarish draft days. From drafting role players and busts instead of superstars to drafting franchise players who don't want to play for their team, the Grizzlies have done exactly what's needed to become one of the worst sports franchises. Vancouver's draft-day trade of Steve Francis netted the team several players of no significance. Thankfully, drafting has improved since moving to Memphis.
Puzzling personnel plays: Trading Pau Gasol, Mike Bibby and Steve Francis, and drafting Bryant Reeves, Antonio Daniels and Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
Remember ... 1998-99: The thrill of reeling in Mike Bibby quickly died down, especially after Bryant Reeves suffered a season-ending knee injury 25 games in. A lockout shortened the season and the Grizzlies finished with eight wins.
8. Atlanta Hawks
The Atlanta Hawks, averaging 28 wins per season between 1999-00 and 2007-08, were the Eastern Conference's whipping boy until the Charlotte Bobcats entered the league. The good news is that the Hawks are chock-full of upside since they've been selecting at the top of virtually every draft over the last decade. On paper, the Hawks have more potential than most teams, but they haven't learned to win or remove themselves from the worst sports franchises list.
Puzzling personnel plays: Passing on Chris Paul and Deron Williams while trading for Antoine Walker, J.R. Rider and Pau Gasol.
Remember ... 2005: The Hawks, desperate for a point guard, spent their second-pick overall on Marvin Williams. The good news: Williams was filled with upside. The bad news: he played the same position as the Hawks' last two first-round picks, Josh Smith and Josh Childress. The worst news was that the Hawks passed on Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Raymond Felton, two of whom will be All-Star point guards for the next 10 years.
7. Minnesota Twins
"Moneyball" is to baseball what frugal is to cheap; it's a creative way of saying, "we're not going to pay for our stars or reward our veterans who have earned their keep." Sabermetrics and scientific stats are used to evaluate players and give a better indication of their worth, but teams like the Minnesota Twins use this strategy to kiss their superstars goodbye at the trade deadline or the first day of free agency. The Twins constantly sell proven veterans for prospects and draft picks, but when those youngsters finally develop, they get shipped away to start the cycle again. The Twins incessantly look to the future and winning now is not a priority. Translation: the Twins care more about the dollars than about winning.
|Ahh, to be young and innocent enough to believe the Twins have a shot. (David Sherman / Getty Images)|
Puzzling personnel plays: Trading Johan Santana and failing to re-sign Torii Hunter.
Remember ... 2002: A year removed from a contraction battle, the Minnesota Twins (under first-year manager Ron Gardenhire) make it to the American League Championship Series. With a solid roster and a light payroll, 2002 would have been the perfect season to sacrifice some future players to add some veteran players at the trade deadline and make a serious run. Instead, the Twins entered the playoffs with the youngest roster in the league and never stood a chance in the ALCS after beating fellow cheapskates, the Oakland Athletics, in the first round.
6. Boston Bruins
To be blunt, owner Jeremy Jacobs seems to be stingy and only cares about profits. The Bruins are an Original Six team in one of the biggest American markets, but ownership only allows the front office to make enough moves to tease the fans into believing there is hope. Up until 1997, the Bruins made the playoffs in 30 consecutive seasons, but have zero Stanley Cups since Jacobs took over 33 years ago. That might be because Jacobs is more focused on making money outside of hockey: He owns the TD Banknorth Garden, running the concession stands and charging rent to the Boston Celtics (among others).
Puzzling personnel plays: Signing Martin Lapointe and failing to hang on to Joe Thornton, Jason Allison and Bill Guerin.
Remember ... 2000: The Boston Bruins trade the heart and soul of the franchise, Ray Bourque, at his request. On March 6, Bourque was sent to Cup-contender Colorado, which suddenly inherited a slew of Boston fans who wanted to see Bourque hoist the Cup.
5. Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions are perpetually in a three-to-five year rebuilding plan, but they rarely get out of year one. The Lions have never played in the Super Bowl and have had just one playoff win since 1957. Part of the problem has been thrifty ownership, but don't discount their ability to make some of the worst personnel decisions in the NFL.
Puzzling personnel plays: Drafting Reggie Rogers, Andre Ware, Aaron Gibson, Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, and Mike Williams.
Remember ... 2001: Head Coach Marty Mornhinweg benched starting quarterback Charlie Batch after he was sacked seven times in the season opener. Mornhinweg then put in Ty Detmer, who proceeded to throw seven interceptions against the team from which he was acquired, the Cleveland Browns — and Mornhinweg stuck with Detmer the next game. The Lions finished the season with only two wins.
4. Tampa Bay Rays
Expansion teams are typically a laughingstock for a few years, but in the Rays' case it's been permanent. In fact, a perennial assumption is that the Rays will finish fifth in their division. The Rays' best finish was in 2004, when they climbed to fourth in the American League East. They have finished fifth every other season and have never won more than 70 games.
Puzzling personnel plays: Signing Jose Canseco and Hideo Nomo, and acquiring Vinny Castilla and Greg Vaughn.
Remember ... 2002: The Rays were going to have Jason Tyner bobble-head doll night on June 2, but there was one problem: the outfielder was demoted to the Triple-A team. On Sept. 8, it was supposed to be Toby Hall bobble-head night, but he was also sent down. Good thing his weren't fully built and the heads were reconfigured in time for Steve Cox bobble-head night.
3. Arizona Cardinals
|So Bill Bidwill -- the guy sporting a bowtie here -- is ill-equipped to run an NFL franchise? Who would have imagined? (Gary Williams / Getty Images)|
The Cardinals logo appears next to "loser" in the NFL dictionary. The Cardinals have made just four playoff appearances in 45 years since Bill Bidwill got his hands on the team. Bidwill is known as a cheapo, which explains why the Cardinals are always short on star power and talent. The closest they've come to success was when Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Rod Tidwell, in the movie "Jerry McGuire," wore a Cardinals jersey.
Puzzling personnel plays: Signing Emmitt Smith, and drafting Andre Wadsworth and Kelly Stouffer (when the team was in St. Louis).
Remember ... 2003: The Arizona Cardinals were abysmal, and it was head coach Dave McGinnis' second and last season. At 3-12, the Cardinals had the first pick overall in sight, but instead decided to play spoiler in Week 17 to the Minnesota Vikings. Cardinals' quarterback Josh McCown found Nathan Poole falling out of the end zone on the last play of the game to ruin the Vikings' playoff hopes and keep the Cardinals out of the first slot in the draft, which was Super Bowl XLII MVP Eli Manning.
2. Kansas City Royals
Having a cheap owner is a shortcut to getting on this list. Royals owner David Glass plays the small-market victim card as frequently as possible, but he's always first in line to receive revenue sharing or any other type of financial aid that MLB is happy to toss into his beggar's cap. And if Glass plays the role, his team's roster looks like a charity case. They never re-sign their stars, opting to use unproven youngsters and expired veterans to compose a team. Under Glass, the Royals have averaged 96 losses per season.
Puzzling personnel plays: Trading Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran and Jermaine Dye; and signing Juan Gonzalez.
Remember ... 2004: The Royals were fresh off an 83-79 season, which was their first winning season since 1994, and finally entered a season with high expectations. After notching 17 wins in 31 games, it was time to blow it up. It seemed like the Royals might become respectable again, but then a quick fire sale in a span of about a week, which included the trade of Beltran, sent the Royals back to the AL Central cellar. 2004 marked the first of three consecutive 100-loss seasons.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates
Never mind championships, pennants or division titles, the Pittsburgh Pirates haven't even had a winning season in 15 years. One more losing season and the Pirates will tie the record for most consecutive losing seasons among the four major sports. They continually field one of the youngest and most inexperienced rosters in the league and are always rebuilding. The black and yellow team colors fit their plan of constantly being under construction.
Puzzling personnel plays: Signing Derek Bell, Jeromy Burnitz and Tony Armas, Jr.; and trading Aramis Ramirez.
Remember ... 1997: The closest the Pirates have come to 82 wins (otherwise known as a winning season) in the last 15 years was in 1997. They were expected to push 90 to 100 losses, but ended up as one of the league's irrelevant surprises when they finished with 79 wins. The entire team salary was $9 million, which was less than what Albert Belle made that season.