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

Marlins, Giants get into heated beanball war

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You may have heard that Giants closer Hunter Strickland broke his hand punching a door in frustration after Monday night’s subpar performance. He’ll miss six to eight weeks as a result. Strickland came in to protect a 4-2 lead but ended up giving up three runs. The tying run was knocked in by Lewis Brinson on a single to right field. Brinson moved to third base on a go-ahead single by Miguel Rojas, which prompted manager Bruce Bochy to take Strickland out of the game.

On his way to the dugout, Strickland started chirping at Brinson. Much like Bryce Harper and Strickland, Brinson and Strickland have a bit of a history. Last Thursday, Brinson handed Strickland a blown save with a sacrifice fly to deep center field. Brinson was happy to help his team tie the game, pumping his fast and saying, “Let’s go” at no one in particular. That rubbed Strickland the wrong way. Everything seems to rub Strickland the wrong way.

During Tuesday night’s game, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez threw at Brinson with the first pitch, a 92 MPH fastball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher issued warnings to both benches. Manager Don Mattingly came out to argue, suggesting that his team hadn’t done anything wrong so it was unfair to essentially take the inside part of the plate away from his pitchers. On his way back to the dugout, Mattingly could be seen saying, “You’re next” to catcher Buster Posey.

The Giants scored twice in the bottom of the second against Dan Straily to extend their lead to 3-0. Posey came to the plate with a runner on first base and one out. Straily hit Posey with a 91 MPH fastball on the first pitch, prompting ejections of both Straily and Mattingly. Posey was hit on the arm. If the pitch had come in a bit lower and hit Posey on the wrist or hand, Posey might have had to go on the disabled list for a couple months. Or if the pitch had hit Posey a couple of inches higher, in the head, then who knows what would have happened.

Things calmed down from there, thankfully. The two clubs have one more game against each other in San Francisco on Wednesday and that will be the final time they meet this season. If anything further is going to happen — and hopefully, nothing happens — then it will come tomorrow.

Straily will almost certainly be facing a suspension and a fine, as will Mattingly. It’s less clear if Rodriguez and/or Bochy will be reprimanded for throwing at Brinson, even though it was fairly obvious the pitch was intentional. Regardless, the punishments amount to just one missed start for the pitchers, which isn’t nearly enough of a detriment to deter beanball wars.