Thursday, October 03, 2019

Worst Professional Sports Team: Pirates vs. Redskins

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Sports was definitely a big part of my life growing up and continues to be today. I’ve been fortunate to see both the Penguins and Steelers become champions. I’ve also lived in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington DC, for over 18 years. I’m not as passionate about any of the DC area teams, but I follow how they are doing and regularly watch games of the local teams. Because of my fandom and geography, I think I’m in a unique position (along with thousands of other members of the Pittsburgh diaspora in the DC area) to evaluate who is worse between arguably the two current worst franchises in American professional sports, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Redskins. Let’s start with the Pirates.

- Since reaching the National League Championship Series for the third consecutive year in 1992, the team finished under .500 every year until 2013. The team made the playoffs via the Wild Card game in 2013-2015, but despite finishing over .500 (82-79) in 2018, the team hasn't truly competed for the postseason since 2015 and finished 69-93 in 2019.

- The team fired long-time manager Clint Hurdle, yet it doesn't appear that Pirates General Manager Neal Huntington or President Frank Coonelly are going anywhere. Bob Nutting, the owner, is certainly not going anywhere.

- The Pirates #1 pitcher, Jameson Taillon, recently had elbow (Tommy John) surgery and will likely be out for the 2020 season.

- The team’s best trade asset, Felipe Vazquez, is currently in jail for child sex charges. Yes, it is as awful as it sounds. While people can, should, and do criticize the front office for lots of things, the Vazquez arrest is definitely not on them.

- Speaking of trades, recent blockbuster deals have worked out poorly for the Pirates. The team traded now all-star Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow (who is only starting game one of the American League Division Series) for Chris Archer. They also traded possible Cy Young award winner Gerrit Cole for Joe Musgrove, Jason Martin, Michael Feliz, and Colin Moran. Yeah.

- The team ranked 27th in attendance in 2019 out of 30 MLB teams.

- Bob Nutting is almost uniformly disliked by Pirates fans.

Now, the Washington Redskins:

- Since Dan Snyder took over the team in 1999, the Redskins have two playoff wins in 20 seasons.

- Arguably the team’s best player, offensive tackle Trent Williams, isn’t playing right now. Usually when players hold out, it’s because of money. Not this time. Williams is unhappy with the medical staff and front office in how they treated him last season.

- The team is 0-4 so far in 2019 and might only be favored in one game for the rest of the season.

- The Redskins had an NFL-low 74.4% home capacity during the 2018 season, averaging about 61,028 fans per game. Many of these fans are rooting for the opposing teams.

- FedEx Field is expensive and extremely inconvenient to get to. The team is looking to build a new stadium (though the location is uncertain) when the current lease ends sometime in the next decade.

-Many people consider the team name to be racist which may complicate the team moving back to Washington.

- When the team fired General Manager Scot McCloughan two years ago, they leaked that it was because he had a drinking problem.

- Owner Dan Snider and (to a slightly lesser extent) President Bruce Allen are almost uniformly disliked by Redskins fans.

So who is in a worse situation going into 2020? Your winner (or I guess loser) is the Pirates.

There is really no hope for this team in the next few seasons. Yes, the team has some nice offensive players like Josh Bell, Starling Marte, and Bryan Reynolds, but that’s about it. The only pitching prospect is Mitch Keller, and even if he turns into 2019 Gerrit Cole, that’s not going to get the Pirates into the playoffs. You can rightly justify that the Pirates really can’t compete economically with the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, and Astros. However, poor drafting and development obviously doesn’t help nor does the apparent inability or interest of the team to spend significant money on free agents. Plus those trades mentioned above have been awful for the franchise. You might be thinking, if the team is so bad, maybe they can draft a big-time player. The problem is that the Tigers, Orioles, and Marlins among other teams had even worse records, so the Pirates only have the #7 pick in the 2020 draft, not the #1 or #2 pick.

As for the Redskins, they have a young quarterback with a lot of promise in 2019 1st round draft pick Dwayne Haskins. He certainly gives the team some hope, if not for this year, then the next few years. With the NFL’s salary cap, it seems like teams go from last in its division to first regularly. In addition, a potential franchise quarterback already on the roster should allow the team to score a major prospect with a likely top 5 pick in the 2020 draft after the top few teams select quarterbacks. The Redskins may even be able to trade its draft position and acquire even more picks.

In both cases, the owners aren’t going anywhere. They are making good money and likely live extravagant lives, so why would they sell? They are among a small and prestigious club of American professional sports owners. While we hope they sell and the teams’ results improve, that seems unlikely.

So what do you think? Who is in a worse situation?

Photo from FoB&D Sports.

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