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Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Detour: Bailouts for Pro Teams

Welcome again to the Friday Detour. The weekly entry that diverts away from recreational sports to discuss happenings in other areas of the sporting world.

Big news recently has been the bailouts of the Big Three automakers. It got me thinking about bailouts for professional teams. In each league what three teams are in the most need of a bailout of some sort?

Detroit Lions – Where have you gone Barry Sanders? Barry never won a Super Bowl, but he at least made watching the Lions game palpable. Not so much any more. The Detroit Lions are probably the biggest mockery in professional sports these days and are on the fast track to NFL immortality, a perfect 0-16 defeated season. Matt Millen may be the scapegoat in all this, and very well could be the reason for their ineptitude, but it takes an entire team effort to accomplish this feat. Just think, we go from 16-0 Patriots last year to a potential 0-16 Lions squad this year. We are witnessing history all over the board. And, yes, it is a coincidence that the automakers and Lions are all based out of Detroit.

Cincinnati Bengals - Where have you gone 2005? The Bengals were one of the hottest teams in 2005. They had a young, stud QB, talented receivers, a solid running game… but 3 years is a lifetime in the NFL. Their stud QB tore his ACL, their talented receivers like court rooms and name changes more than end zones, their running game is gone. The one-year blip that was 2005 is the Bengals sole winning season since 1990. 1 winning season in 18 seasons. Multiple #1 overall draft picks. 1 playoff appearance (2005). There is a reason they are affectionately referred to as the Bungals.

Oakland Raiders – Where have you gone Silver and Black? The once proud Raider nation, once famed for wearing silver and black face paint and shoulder pads with spikes, is now known for wearing brown bags over their heads to keep their identities a secret. The most intimidating team in the history of the NFL is now a shell of their former self. They used to march into stadiums with confidence and create fear in opposing fans. They now shuffle into stadium with heads hung low and create cheap tickets prices from scalpers. Part of the problem is Al Davis’ quick trigger finger. Since 2000, the Raiders have seen 6 head coaches roam the sidelines, and average of less than 2 years per head coach. The transition from one scheme to another and the rebuilding that needs to be done to perfect the new coaches ideas just cannot get done in two years or less.

Washington Nationals - Where have you gone farm system? The franchise, which resided in Montreal prior to its move to the Beltway in 2005, was a hot bed for up and coming prospects, but never capitalized on their talents. Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker, Randy Johnson, Vlad Guerrero, Andres Galarage, Andre Dawson… all of these All-Stars began their careers north of the border, but all made names for themselves in other uniforms. The Nationals/Expos franchise hasn’t tasted the playoffs since the 1981 season (although, to their credit they were leading the NL East in 1994 when the season was called due to a strike). With their move to a bigger market, and therefore more revenue to spend on players, you hear their names a lot in free agent talks, but big name players just don’t want to play for this franchise and opt to go to contenders instead.

Kansas City Royals – Where have you gone Dirk Denkinger? The year was 1985. The setting was Game 6 of the World Series. The teams were cross-state rivals. The call was horrible. The Royals won the 1985 World Series, thanks in large part to a terrible call by umpire Dirk Denkinger in Game 6 of the series, which the Royals won in 7. That was the last time the Royals tasted the postseason. The last time the Royals smelled the other side of .500 was the strike shortened 1994 season. Like many small market teams, the Royals may not be completely to blame, pure economics are, but that is why the Royals need the bailout.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Where have you gone Killer B’s? In the early 90’s the Pirates had one of the most dangerous line-ups in the NL. Bobbie Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke, some guy named Barry Bonds. This team was stacked from head to toe. But 1992 was a long time ago. Since the 1992 season the Pirates haven’t finished north of .500 and have 9 times been over 20 games out of the division lead. For a franchise that dates back to 1882 and has suited up names like Stargell, Clemente, Wagner, these guys need to bring th epride back to the Steel City.

New York Knicks – Where have you gone Walt Frazier? The largest TV market in the country, and the least desirable team to watch. Not fun for Knick fans. The New York Knicks, haven’t won a playoff series since the 1999-2000 season and haven’t been above .500 since the following year. In a sports were half of the teams make the playoffs, the Knicks haven’t even qualified since the 2003-2004 season. (In your best Stephen A. Smith voice, please scream) The New York Knickerbockers are a disgrace to the NBA.

Washington Wizards – Where have you gone Bernard King? Another Washington DC based team to make the list, the Washington franchise has but one playoff series win sine the 1981-1982 season. Their .461 lifetime winning percentage and .401 lifetime playoff winning percentage makes them eligible for a bailout. Their owner should mosey on down the street to the Capital and beg and plead with the Senators for extra players to help right this wrong.

Memphis Grizzlies – Since joining the league as the Vancouver Grizzlies in the 1995-1996 season, the Grizzlies have made the playoffs only 3 times, never even winning a game, much less a series. Their lifetime .329 winning percentage ranks them as one of the all time worst franchises in pro sports history.

There are others who need a bailout? Who is on the top of your list? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Keep sporting!
- Who’s In First

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