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The 10 worst franchises in pro sports now

1. Pittsburgh Pirates

No pro team has a longer streak of losing seasons now. The Buccos haven't had a winning season since Barry Bonds last was a Pirate, in 1992. They haven't won more than 70 games in a season since 2004, and they show little sign of getting better, losing 99 games in 2009. Their biggest move so far this offseason — a move that was actually a cause for excitement in Pittsburgh — was acquiring Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura, who is better than what they have but won't be confused with Chase Utley. Despite having perhaps the nicest ballpark in the majors, the Pirates finished third from the bottom in attendance this year, and their payroll continues to be near the bottom of the league year after year. Whenever they do draft and develop a star, they end up trading him. They've become almost a farm system for the big-market teams such as the Yankees and Red Sox. They've gone 17 seasons without a winning record, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them go at least another 17.

2. Oakland Raiders

Just win, baby. That battle cry has turned into begging: Please win … please? Owner Al Davis, left, has gone from being one of the shrewdest owners in sports to an embarrassment. After having two coaches from 1969 to 1987, Davis has gone through nine coaches in the past 20 years, including Art Shell twice and Lane Kiffin, who ended up in a lawsuit with the kooky owner. Coach Tom Cable has been accused of punching a coach and slapping around an ex-wife and an ex-girlfriend. Through all this, the Raiders have gone from one of the best franchises in sports to one of the worst. Since meeting the Bucs in the Super Bowl in January 2003, the Raiders have gone 4-12, 5-11, 4-12, 2-14, 4-12 and 5-11. This season they are 3-8.

3. Phoenix Coyotes

How bad do you have to be to tarnish the hockey reputation of Wayne Gretzky, left? Even the Great One couldn't salvage this franchise as its coach. The team went bankrupt and had to be taken over by the league. It's even possible the team will have to move eventually, though it has a swanky arena. The Coyotes aren't horrible this season, yet they are averaging fewer than 15,000 in attendance at home, mostly because the locals are so fed up with the daily business stories on the future of the franchise. On the ice, the Coyotes haven't won a playoff series since moving to Phoenix from Winnipeg in 1996. They haven't even qualified for the postseason in the past six seasons.

4. Tampa Bay Bucs

When the best thing about a franchise is its breaking out of Creamsicle-colored uniforms that bring back memories of a 26-game losing streak, it has problems. The Bucs have had more offensive coordinators than wins this season. They've also had more defensive coordinators than wins. Ownership spent last season clearing salary cap space for a player (Albert Haynesworth) it couldn't sign. And major questions remain about the two men — general manager Mark Dominik, top left, and coach Raheem Morris — in charge of putting the pieces back together. The Bucs' rookie quarterback, Josh Freeman, shows flashes of being decent, but awful drafts have left the cupboard bare. How many Bucs could start right now on a decent NFL team? Three? Four? Five at the most?

5. Los Angeles Clippers

Whenever lists like this are put together, the Clippers are always near the top because of skinflint owner Donald Sterling. Yet Sterling has upped the payroll in recent seasons, and that hasn't made them better. Maybe fate just dictates that the Clippers are supposed to be a punch line. Check out these numbers: no playoff appearances in the past three seasons, one playoff appearance in the past 12, two playoff appearances in the past 16. This franchise has bounced from Buffalo to San Diego to Los Angeles and in 39 season has made the postseason only seven times. And three were in the Buffalo days in the 1970s. The Clippers have won two playoff series ever.

6. Washington Nationals

They're not really an expansion team. They just play like one on television. Let's not forget the Nationals used to be the Expos and moved from Montreal in 2005. Their best season was their first in Washington, 81-81. Since then, they have had four consecutive losing seasons, including 59-102 in 2008 and 59-103 this year. Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon this year called the Nats the "worst franchise in all four sports." Help is on the way, one would guess, with back-to-back first overall draft picks, including 100-mph pitcher Stephen Strasburg.

7. New York Knicks

The Knicks are still trying to recover from the Isiah Thomas era. (And, by the way, any franchise remotely associated with Thomas automatically was considered for this list because he might be the top franchise-wrecker in sports history. Heck, Thomas once wrecked the entire CBA.) The Knicks won't make the playoffs this season, bringing their nonpostseason string to six seasons. They haven't had a winning season since 2000-01. The Knicks' plan all along has been to clear salary cap space to sign LeBron James next offseason. But what if LeBron doesn't come? Even if they get LeBron, the Knicks have a long way to go. Quick, name a player who plays for the Knicks. Can't do it, can you?

8. Kansas City Royals

We almost feel bad putting the Royals on the list because they're small market and have a Cy Young winner in Zack Greinke and were a model franchise in the 1970s and 1980s. They seem like more a victim of circumstance than a franchise that has been mismanaged like, say, the Pirates. But you can't ignore that the last time the Royals made the playoffs was when George Brett and crew won the World Series in 1985. In the 24 years since, the Royals have finished last or next to last in their division 14 times, including each of the past six seasons. In the past six seasons, they've lost 100 games three times and at least 93 twice. And they did this despite playing in arguably the weakest division in baseball.

9. New Jersey Nets

It's hard to believe that just a few years ago, the Nets were one of the better teams in the NBA. They appeared in the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003, and they won a playoff series two years ago. But when Jason Kidd and Vince Carter didn't produce a championship, the Nets decided to tear up their blueprint and start over. And when we say "start over," we mean back at square one. The Nets make our list based on potential. They entered the weekend 0-16. The franchise record for fewest wins in a full 82-game season is 17, and we're betting they don't get there. Look at it this way: Entering the weekend, the Timberwolves had won one game and the Knicks had won three, and both beat the Nets.

10. Cleveland Browns

It came down to putting the Lions or Browns at No. 10. Only five franchises have never appeared in a Super Bowl, and two of them — the Texans and Jaguars — are relatively new teams. A third, New Orleans, might get there this season. That leaves the Lions and Browns. The Lions went 0-16 last season and have won only two of their past 26 games. They've won one playoff game since 1958. The Browns have won one playoff game in the past 16 seasons and are 1-9 this season after going 4-12 last season. But if we're talking right now, we'd rather be the Lions than the Browns. Detroit has won more games this season, and its quarterback, Matt Stafford, looks like a keeper. The Browns are looking to throw back their franchise quarterback, Brady Quinn.

Our list of the 10 worst franchises in the four major North American pro leagues now.

The 10 worst franchises in pro sports now 11/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 28, 2009 8:06pm]

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