Major League 4: Which Team Would Star In A Modern Remake
A look at the most hopeless franchises in sports
If you follow current baseball (and I barely do at this point), you might have caught a glimpse of *this* play last week.
The Cubs were kind enough to throw a positive spin on this play by crediting Javier Baez with smart baserunning, but the truth is far more left-handed… I mean sinister. If you peak over in the corner of the screen, you will notice a little infographic that indicates there are 2 outs. For those of you unfamiliar with the finer points of the MLB rule book, this means that no matter what else happens (even a player getting to home), if the batter doesn’t get to first base, he is out, and the run doesn’t count. Even Baez momentarily forgets this, and celebrates the run scoring, even though he himself still hasn’t gotten to first. At ANY point in this video, if the Pirates had simply tossed the ball to first base (or walked back and stepped on it) Baez would have been out, the inning over, and no run scored. Not completing this simple play is sort of a Bizzaro Magnum Opus. It took multiple players not understanding the rule book, game situation, proper positioning, and consequences (they lost by the two runs this play eventually lead to) to fulfill it’s destiny. This is not a huge surprise coming out of Pittsburgh, where their cheap, useless ownership group has refused to field a competitive team for the better part of 30 years now.
All of this has caused me to reflect. If they were to redo Major League (the best sports movie in my opinion), which team would they pick now? At the time, the Indians were a great choice. Their stadium was a cavernous joke, the ownership was totally checked out, and they hadn’t won anything in almost 30 years. The Pirates immediately jumped to mind, partially because of this play, but also because I can’t remember the last time they were a serious threat to win the World Series. I know at some point in the last 15 years they snuck into the playoffs thanks to the Wild Card (upon research it was 3 times), but I don’t think anyone was worried. I also wondered what team in each of the other sports would be a contender. At the time Major League came out, baseball was the top of the heap as far as American sports. Now, however, football is tops in America, and basketball is nipping at baseball’s heels (and I would argue has passed baseball in relevance, even if it has less revenue). After that, there is a big gulf before we get to hockey and soccer. So let’s stick to the big 3, and find the most hopeless team for our reboot.
Baseball: The original Major League focused on a truly hopeless franchise, not just in the immediate past, but for an extended period. That means that any team that has been to, or won the World Series (or Super Bowl or NBA title) in the last 20 or so years is immediately out. Second, teams that have good ownership are out (if you have been trying really hard to win, you aren’t really a candidate). Finally, the less relevant you are, the better, meaning no big name players, coaches or signings). Here are my final five picks.
5: Miami Marlins (saved by a 2003 World Series win just inside the window, their constantly low payroll, embarrassing snafus, bad ownership and disinterested fans keep them at the bottom. They have never managed to keep ANY player into their second professional contract.)
4: New York Mets (They are saved by a 2015 World Series appearance. Their ownership has spent heavily to build a winner in recent years, but previous years saw a disinterest by the Wilpons as they struggled to recover from the Bernie Madoff scandal. They also are probably best known for the Bobby Bonilla contract which is it’s own embarrassment every year. There have been countless scandals, with the current season highlighted by a rat controversy.)
3: Baltimore Orioles (Saved by a solid run of play under Buck Showalter in the early 2010s, the Orioles haven’t done much since the 90s. Peter Angelos is one of the cheapest owners in the sport. He has wasted what is probably the best ballpark in baseball. Since the appearance of the Washington Nationals caused revenue to dip, Angelos has been pocketing the revenue sharing money and refused to spend… out of protest?)
2: Seattle Mariners (Despite having 13 winning seasons since 1995, the post Ichiro Suzuki period has seen the Mariners tumble downhill out of competitiveness and into obscurity. They are currently in the middle of a rebuild of unknown duration that shows no signs of stopping. The ownership is completely disinterested in the team and does almost nothing. Meanwhile, the team decision-makers sit back and cash their checks.)
1: Pittsburgh Pirates (4 winning seasons since 1995. Outside of a short run a few years ago that peaked with a division series appearance, the Pirates have been totally uncompetitive for the last 30 years. Their ownership is notoriously cheap, and unlike teams like the Rays, they have refused to embrace analytics or pursue the sort of short cuts most low-income teams use (like the Indians just a few hours away).
This was a VERY close call between the Pirates, Mariners and Orioles, which I was not expecting. The Mariners have not made the playoffs at all since 2001 (exactly 20 years ago) and they are the only MLB team to have NEVER made the World Series. In 2001 they won 116 games though, and they have had numerous winning seasons in those last 20 years. Overall, their franchise has had more success in the last 25 years. They have also been far more relevant with great players like Ichiro Suzuki and Feliz Hernandez. While the ownership has made a lot of mistakes in Seattle, it hasn’t been for lack of trying. They have spent a lot of money in last 30 years trying to build a winner, but it has not been money well spent. Let’s not forget the Orioles either, who barely escaped this bottom two behind a strong 5 year period under Buck Showalter, but have the same amount of winning seasons as the Pirates in the 2000s. Their peak was a little higher, and they had some solid late 90’s success as well. So I am giving it to the Pirates, but barely. Since Barry Bonds left, they have not had any real marquee players. They routinely refuse to re-sign anyone of value. On the plus side, they have already started filming.
Football: This one is actually going to be really easy, even though it SHOULD have been hard. In a salary cap league, everyone should be finding success every 5-10 years. Unfortunately, this has not been true. Let’s go through the bottom 5.
5: Miami Dolphins (only 4 winning records in the last 20 years, with two playoff appearances and a division win. However, the team is on the upswing, has solid ownership now, and they had a lot of success through the 90s.)
4: Cincinnati Bengals (Have not won a playoff game in 30 years. While they did perform well for a solid 7 year stretch under Marvin Lewis, it has been mostly losing seasons. Add in a notoriously cheap ownership group that is not really interested in winning and a dearth of interesting players and you can make the list despite 5 playoff appearances in the last decade)
3: Washington Football Team (only 5 winning seasons out of 25, no farther than the divisional round in 6 playoff tries. And yes they just made the playoffs with a losing record. This team has also embarrassed itself repeatedly in the last 5 years and has grossly incompetent ownership)
2: Cleveland Browns (only 3 winning records in the last 30 years. Didn’t exist for 4 years thanks to bad ownership, and were even worse with the new owners. The problem here is they are currently good. Ownership has stabilized a bit. They would have been a near lock for number 1 only 2 years ago. Plus you would have had that Cleveland connection. Poor Cleveland.)
1: Detroit Lions (This is easy. They have won one playoff game in 60 years. Despite a meh effort with Matt Stafford as QB, they only have 4 winning records in 20 years. The Barry Sanders era kept them relevant for a while, as did the Calvin Johnson/Matt Stafford era, but that already feels like 100 years ago. Now they are headed into a long, bleak rebuild that should keep them on top for another 5 years.)
Basketball: This one will be a little tougher. There is less help in the form of salary restrictions and teams are at much more of the mercy of players. Very few players are great, and if you don’t have at least 2, you aren’t really in the mix.
5: New York Knicks (The Knicks went from one of the most successful and popular teams in the 90s to an afterthought in the 2000s. Just three winning records and one series win in the last 20 years means they make the list. They are still relevant on account of being the Knicks, but their ownership is a disaster and they have humiliated themselves repeatedly in the last 20 years. They did sneak into the playoffs this year however.)
4: Washington Wizards/Bullets (With just 4 playoff wins in the last 30 years and no 50 win seasons, the Wizards haven’t been a serious contender in recent history. They have had some success with famous players including Michael Jordan, Gilbert Arenas, John Wall and Bradley Beal. Their owner has found success with the Capitals of the NHL, so we know he can do it. They also made the playoffs this year. Still… it’s the Wizards.)
3: Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats (This iteration of the franchise has only been in existence since 2005 and, technically, the previous one left for New Orleans and took the records with it. This group has never won a playoff round and only has 3 winning seasons in the last 15, none over 50 wins. They do not appear to be on track to suddenly start winning either. Michael Jordan has never built a winner, and they have no significant star players worth mentioning (although Lamelo Ball might end up being one. The main issue here is that they haven’t been around long enough unless you want to count their first version, which was actually fairly successful).
2: Sacramento Kings (any basketball fan can remember how great the Chris Webber Kings were in the early 2000s, with their fun loving style getting them so close to a title it might have LITERALLY been stolen from them. Since those halcyon days, however, the Kings have not had a winning season, and are mired in a very incompetent ownership situation, but it might have been worth it, because they otherwise might have moved to Las Vegas).
1: Minnesota Timberwolves (The Timberwolves had decent success in the early 2000s with Kevin Garnett, but since 2005, they have only had one winning season (a first round playoff exit in 2018). Outside of this aberration, they have been pretty consistently terrible. That’s not the main reason they are here though. They are currently in a Major League style situation where the ownership was trying to quietly sell the team, allowing the new group to move the team out of Minnesota. Sound familiar?)