WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, SQUEEZE THEM OVER YOUR OPEN SORES: Ever since the Knickerbockers wised up and canned Isiah Thomas, there's been tight competition for the coveted DirecTV Second Worst-Run Franchise in Professional Sports* title. It looks like a three-horse race right now. Your candidates:
Seattle Mariners. The case in favor: Will be first team in history to lose 100 games with a $100MM payroll. Traded Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman (the #1 minor-league prospect in baseball) and two others for an injury-prone Erik Bedard, who shockingly got injured and will finish his Mariners career with 15 mediocre starts. Declined offers by two teams to trade for Jarrod Washburn in straight $16MM salary dump. Instructed Felix Hernandez to throw nothing but fastballs for first three innings despite evidence that teams tee off on him when he throws only fastballs. Committed to valuing veteran-ness, clubhouse leadership, aggressiveness, and grit over plate discipline and statistical analysis. Incapable of learning from either successes or mistakes. Threw gay couple out of the stadium for a chaste peck. The case against: Ichiro; Felix; Morrow; Beltre until they idiotically trade him for pennies on the dollar.
Detroit Lions. The case for: This team's GM (a) was deemed by other NFL executives to have made more bad draft decisions than any other executive in NFL history; (b) who accused fans of being ignorant because they were focusing too much on the team's performance in games and not taking account how well the team is practicing; (c) is the second-highest-paid executive in the league as a result of a five-year extension given despite a record he agreed was "absolutely horrid"; and (d) was told, through an on-the-record newspaper interview by the Lions' Vice-Chairman, that if the Vice-Chairman had the power to fire him he would do it. The case against: Some of the 35 WRs the team drafted in the first round are good. 41-28 shootouts are always fun. Bill Junior seems like he's not an idiot.
Oakland Raiders. The case for: The majority owner, a noted, um, colorful character, makes a series of terrible free-agent personnel decisions with which the coach disagrees, strips the coach of any responsibility for the defense (effectively creating a dual-head-coach situation), nonetheless blames the coach for losses clearly attributable to the defense, plants repeated stories about the coach's imminent firing, allegedly has executives distribute stories critical of the coach to the beat writers (thus causing an ugly one-sided near-altercation between the accused executive and a beat writer, caught on camera), and wants to fire coach, but hesitates because he doesn't want to pay two-and-a-half years of the coach's salary for nothing. Meanwhile, two of the best three players on the team play the same position. Also, riding a BART train full of Raider fans can be a harrowing experience. The case against: Darren McFadden is enjoyable. Minority owners cannot be blamed.
I'd give it to the Mariners -- their problems truly are organizational, not just personality-driven -- but I'm biased.
*To be eligible for the US Airways Worst-Run Franchise in Professional Sports title, you have to deliberately and spitefully lose as many games as possible as a fuck-you going-away gift to the fans who supported you for 40 years.