Over the past 10 years, one of baseball's biggest storylines has been the ever-widening competitive gap between the sport's large- and small-market teams. If you're a baseball fan in Kansas City and Pittsburgh, your hopes of watching good baseball have long been buried.
But just as there are small-market teams that have adapted — Tampa Bay or San Diego, for instance — there are large-market squads that prove that overflowing cash registers aren't the cure for everything. Through a special blend of organizational dysfunction and big contract ineptitude, these teams have made their fans throw up their hands in a different type of exasperated hopelessness.
It all led me to wonder which fans of the big-market teams had the most cause to ask for the most sympathy right now. Let's consider the candidates (in alphabetical order):
Chicago Cubs: They're the clear historical winners, as a World Series title hasn't called the North Side home since before Wrigley Field was a glimmer in Charles Weeghman's eye. But more recently, they've had to watch as Sam Zell tried to fatten the franchise's value with bad contracts in an impulsive and ill-advised quick grab at a World Series winner. Now they're owned by the wide-eyed Ricketts, a family that initially seems more interested in spit-shining the Friendly Confines than improving the product on the field. The 2010 edition has an outside shot at hitting 100 losses and many more overpaid years of Alfonso Soriano(notes) and Carlos Zambrano(notes) to look forward to.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The mystery of why the Dodgers haven't been able to turn themselves into a Yankees West-type powerhouse immediately ends once you become familiar with owners Frank and Jamie McCourt. The team is their heavily leveraged vanity toy, but they're unwilling, unable and maybe just plain uninterested in spending the money that could turn their great young core into a real contender. It's kind of hard to believe that they've appeared in the NLCS the past two seasons because all the turmoil from the impending McCourt divorce has cast a lot of negativity over the whole franchise. They're currently nine games out of first in the NL West while the other two California NL teams battle at the top.
New York Mets: Oh, where do you start? With the recent legal troubles that Francisco Rodriguez and Johan Santana(notes) have run into? With the owner's relationship with Bernie Madoff or the two years remaining on general manager Omar Minaya's contract? How about the new ballpark that has completely denuded the team's sluggers of their powers or the ever-present reminder across town that the Yankees somehow always get it done? Ever since the collapses in 2007 and '08, it seems that no Mets headline can ever contain a single ray of sunshine, and I would bet a lot of Madoff money that they win our poll below.
Other: Most of the other big-market teams are in contention this season, but if anyone from Seattle, Houston or Detroit wants to get on the steppy-stool to make their case, the comment section is open for business below.
So have at it, Stewies. Which team's fans are currently the worst off? Why?