The hardest team to love

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OK, this is not exactly a baseball post … but I got into a bit of Twitter spat about the hardest team to love in sports.To me: There is one and only one correct answer to this. And it’s really pretty easy.

I grew up in Cleveland, so I can say without question that that hardest PLACE in America to be a sports fan is Cleveland. That’s the collective power of the Indians, Browns and Cavaliers, who all have added to the city’s sports misery the last 50 years.

But if we are talking about one team … there’s no doubt in my mind that the hardest team to love is the Kansas City Royals. I don’t think any other team is even close. Yes, sure, it’s hard to love the San Diego Padres and the New York Mets and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yes, the Cubs have their endless curse and Washington has a football owner who will break your spirit and teams like the Milwaukee Brewers and Phoenix Coyotes and Toronto Raptors and Miami Marlins (or whatever they are called now) are so forgettable that, well, you forget how hard it is to be a fan.

But the Royals … well, let’s put it this way: If you are 35 or younger, you do not have a memory of the Kansas City Royals making the playoffs. I’m not talking about championships here or reaching the World Series. I’m talking simply MAKING THE PLAYOFFS. What’s worse, the Royals have not even CONTENDED for a playoff spot in 25 years. This is something no other fan — not Cubs fans, not Pirates fans, not Clippers fans, not any other fan — can relate to.

To illustrate this, I put together a list of every team in baseball, football, basketball and hockey and how often them made the playoffs. Obviously, it’s easier to make the playoffs in the NBA and NHL than in the NFL and certainly in baseball. The point, however, holds. You will note the only team at the bottom:

Los Angeles Lakers: 26 (7 titles, 4 runner-up)
Detroit Red Wings: 26 (4 Stanley Cups, 2 runner-up)
San Antonio Spurs: 26 (4 titles, 1 runner-up)

Boston Bruins: 23 (1 Stanley Cup, 3 runner-up)
Utah Jazz: 23 (2 runner-up)
St. Louis Blues: 23

Chicago Bulls: 22 (6 titles)
Portland Trail Blazers: 22 (2 runner-up)

New Jersey Devils: 21 (3 Stanley Cups, 2 runner-up)
Montreal Canadiens: 21 (2 Stanley Cups, 1 runner-up)
Philadelphia Flyers: 21 (3 runner-up)
Indiana Pacers: 21 (1 runner-up)
Washington Capitals: 21 (1 runner-up)

Pittsburgh Penguins: 20 (3 Stanley Cups, 1 runner-up)
Houston Rockets: 20 (2 titles, 1 runner-up)

Detroit Pistons: 19 (3 titles, 2 runner-up)
Miami Heat: 19 (3 titles, 1 runner-up)
Boston Celtics: 19 (2 titles, 2 runner-up)
Chicago Blackhawks: 19 (2 Stanley Cups, 1 runner-up)
Phoenix Suns: 19 (1 runner-up)

New York Rangers: 18 (1 Stanley Cup)
New York Knicks: 18 (2 runner-up)
Atlanta Hawks: 18

New York Yankees: 17 (5 World Series, 2 pennants)
San Francisco 49ers: 17 (3 Super Bowls, 1 runner-up)
Atlanta Braves: 17 (1 World Series, 4 pennants)
Dallas Mavericks: 17 (1 title, 1 runner-up)
Vancouver Canucks: 17 (2 runner-up)
Buffalo Sabres: 17 (1 runner-up)
Denver Nuggets: 17
San Jose Sharks: 17

New England Patriots: 16 (3 Super Bowls, 4 runner-up)
Green Bay Packers: 16 (2 Super Bowl, 1 runner-up)
Indianapolis Colts: 16 (1 Super Bowl, 1 runner-up)
Los Angeles Kings: 16 (1 Stanley Cup, 1 runner-up)
Philadelphia Eagles: 16 (1 runner-up)

Denver Broncos: 15 (2 Super Bowls, 4 runner-up)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 15 (2 Super Bowls, 2 runner-up)
Calgary Flames: 15 (1 Stanley Cup, 2 runner-up)
Philadelphia 76ers: 15 (1 runner-up)
Minnesota Vikings: 15
Toronto Maple Leafs: 15

Boston Red Sox: 14 (3 World Series, 1 pennant)
Edmonton Oilers: 14 (3 Stanley Cups, 1 runner-up)
Orlando Magic: 14 (2 runner-up)
Cleveland Cavaliers: 14 (1 runner-up)
Ottawa Senators: 14 (1 runner-up)
Milwaukee Bucks: 14

Colorado Avalanche: 13 (2 Stanley Cups)
Dallas Stars: 13 (1 Stanley Cup, 1 runner-up)

New York Giants: 12 (4 Super Bowls, 1 runner-up)
St. Louis Cardinals: 12 (2 World Series, 3 pennants)
Kansas City Chiefs: 12

Oakland A’s: 11 (1 World Series, 2 pennants)
Seattle Seahawks: 11 (1 Super Bowl, 1 runner-up)
New York Islanders: 11

Anaheim Ducks: 10 (1 Stanley Cup, 1 runner-up)
New Orleans Saints 10 (1 Super Bowl)
Buffalo Bills: 10 (4 runner-up)
Chicago Bears: 10 (1 runner-up)
Miami Dolphins: 10
Sacramento Kings: 10

Baltimore Ravens: 9 (2 Super Bowls)
Washington Hogs: 9 (2 Super Bowls)
Atlanta Falcons: 9 (1 runner-up)
San Diego Chargers: 9 (1 runner-up)
New York Jets: 9
Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats: 9
Washington Wizards/Bullets: 9

San Francisco Giants: 8 (2 World Series, 2 pennants)
Minnesota Twins: 8 (2 World Series)
Cleveland Indians: 8 (2 pennants)
Los Angeles Dodgers: 8 (1 World Series)
Golden State Warriors: 8
Minnesota Timberwolves: 8
Phoenix Coyotes: 8

Los Angeles Angels: 7 (1 World Series)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7 (1 Super Bowl)
Tampa Bay Lightning: 7 (1 Stanley Cup)
Cincinnati Bengals: 8 (1 runner-up)
Houston Astros: 7 (1 pennant)
Detroit Lions: 7
Los Angeles Clippers: 7
Memphis Grizzlies: 7
Nashville Predators: 7
Winnipeg Jets: 7 (none so far as NEW Jets)

Philadelphia Phillies: 6 (1 World Series, 1 pennant)
Texas Rangers: 6 (2 pennants)
Tennessee Titans: 6 (1 runner-up)
Oakland Raiders: 6 (1 runner-up)
Cleveland Browns: 6
Jacksonville Jaguars: 6
Toronto Raptors: 6

New York Mets: 5 (1 World Series, 1 pennant)
Carolina Hurricanes: 5 (1 Stanley Cup, 1 runner-up)
Cincinnati Reds: 5 (1 World Series, 1 pennant)
St. Louis Rams: 5 (1 Super Bowl, 1 runner-up)
Arizona Diamondbacks: 5 (1 World Series)
Detroit Tigers: 5 (2 pennants)
Carolina Panthers: 5 (1 runner-up)
Oklahoma City Thunder: 5 (1 runner-up)
Chicago Cubs: 5
Minnesota Wild: 5 (North Stars 5 more including 1 runner-up)
New Orleans Pelicans/Hornets: 5

Toronto Blue Jays: 4 (2 World Series)
Chicago White Sox: 4 (1 World Series)
Florida Panthers: 4 (1 runner-up)
San Diego Padres: 4 (1 pennant)
Tampa Bay Rays: 4
Seattle Mariners: 4
Pittsburgh Pirates: 4

Colorado Rockies: 3 (1 pennant)
Arizona Cardinals: 3 (1 runner-up)
Baltimore Orioles: 3

Miami Marlins: 2 (2 World Series)
Houston Texans: 2 (Houston Oilers another 7)
Brooklyn Nets: 2 (New Jersey Nets another 11 including 2 runner-up)
Columbus Blue Jackets: 2
Milwaukee Brewers: 2

Washington Nationals: 1

Kansas City Royals: 0

Yasiel Puig is still a free agent

Yasiel Puig
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Around this time last year, the ink was drying on Manny Machado‘s 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres and Bryce Harper was about to put the finishing touches on his 13-year, $330 million deal with the Phillies. We had gotten used to premier free agents hanging out in limbo until late February and even into March. This past offseason, however, was a return to normal. The top three free agents — Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, and Stephen Strasburg — all signed in December. Once the big names are off the board, the lesser free agents subsequently tend to find homes. There were a handful of noteworthy signings in January, but pretty much everyone was off the board when February began.

There are a handful of free agents remaining as I write this, with one name really sticking out: Yasiel Puig. Last season, between the Reds and Indians, Puig hit .267/.327/.458 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, 76 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases in 611 plate appearances. He was one of only seven players in the league last year to hit at least 24 home runs and swipe at least 19 bases. While Puig has had some problems over the years, he still possesses a rare blend of power and speed that would seem useful.

The Marlins, White Sox, and Rockies have been linked to Puig this offseason. His market has been otherwise quiet since he became a free agent. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden suggests Puig will have to settle for a “pillow contract” — a one-year deal with which Puig reestablishes his market value, aiming to pursue a multi-year deal the following offseason. Along with the aforementioned three teams, Bowden suggests the Mariners, Indians, Pirates, Giants, Red Sox, and Cardinals as other teams that could potentially fit with Puig, which is not to be confused with teams having expressed interest in his services.