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Wednesday, May 1, 2002
Updated: May 6, 1:26 PM ET
Readers: Worst championship teams

From the Page 2 mailbag

Earlier this week, Page 2 listed our worst 10 team champions in sports history, and we asked you to send us your choices.

Tom Brady
Brady's Patriots have won 11 straight going back to last year.
After going through more than 850 e-mails, here is how Page 2 readers ranked their picks. Be sure to vote in the poll at right to crown the No. 1 worst team champion of all time.

1. 2001-02 New England Patriots (147 letters)
Look at how they advanced in the playoffs. They beat the Oakland Raiders in a blizzard and on a referee's call. Oakland was by far the better team and just happened to be beaten by the elements and a rule that needs to be changed. Charles Woodson's sack on Brady was correctly called an incomplete pass, but the rule needs to be altered to call such a tuck a fumble. If the rule is as it should be, the Raiders advance and the Pats go home.

Their win against Pittsburgh came because of a huge letdown by the Steelers. Pittsburgh had just manhandled the defending champion Baltimore Ravens and had used all their energy in that game. Pittsburgh was a much better team than New England this season and just suffered an immaculate emotional letdown. Kordell Stewart had an off day and was the main reason for the loss.

Although I give New England tons of credit for playing the perfect game, St. Louis was by far the superior team. For the way the teams played, to need a game-ending field goal shows that St. Louis was the better team. If that game was played 100 times, I am confident that St. Louis would have won 98 times.

Additionally, I am not sold on all this Tom Brady hype. He did a great job turning around the Patriots, but I consider him the worst player ever to be labeled Super Bowl MVP.

We'll see how he does this season against a tough schedule.
Andrew Tarkowski
Syracuse, N.Y.

Tom Brady was the third, and maybe fourth (possibly fifth) best quarterback in the building that night, and he was not the MVP of that game, not after failing to move the ball through most of the second half and giving the Rams the opportunity to come back. This team was pretty much stupid enough to not realize how bad it was.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still celebrating. But as a NE sports fan (Bruins in the first round, perennially doomed Sox, centerless Celtics), I'm bracing myself for next year's 6-10 season, and for these words to happen over and over: "Brady throws over the middle ... picked off again!"
Jeff Bickford
Plymouth, N.H.

One word: "Tuck!"
Johnny the Boy
East Lansing, Mich.

2. 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens (118 letters)
Yes, defense wins championships, and yes, the Ravens had a darn good one. But they went more than a month straight without scoring an offensive touchdown! By Week 10, the offensive strategy was: "You don't have to score, our defense will do that. Just don't mess up." And they barely even managed that!

To this day, I still cringe when I read the winning Super Bowl QBs of the last decade: Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Brett Favre, John Elway, Kurt Warner, and ... Trent Dilfer?
Brian Schwartz
Sunnyvale, Calif.

A team that, during the regular season, went 4 games without scoring and offensive touchdown, led by a mediocre quarterback at best, and beat a fluke New York Giants in one of the most boring Super Bowls ever. Two seasons later, the championship team constructed with millions of dollars was reduced to Chris Redman as starting QB and Todd Heap as their go-to receiver.
Tuck Williamson
Chicago

They won the Super Bowl with an offense where a three-and-out was considered a good possession.
Andrew Hutchinson
Princeton, N.J.

Diamondbacks celebrate
Where's the charm in a rag-tag collection of old castoffs -- and two aces?
3. 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks (52 letters)
Here's a hint. Craig Counsell. Tony Womack. Junior Spivey. Rod Barajas. Damian Miller. Miguel Batista. Greg Colbrunn. I can go on and on. Has a team ever been carried to a championship more than the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. No disrespect to Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, who are legitimate studs. No disrespect to Luis Gonzalez, who had a horrendous series except for the winning hit in Game 7.

But I think they are the worst team to win a championship ever for this reason: These weren't even young up-and-comers. That would be perfectly tolerable, maybe even interesting. These were a bunch of old never-were's, guys not traded but cut from teams like the Cubs, Marlins and Pirates, beating the mighty Yankees, going for their fourth straight World Series win after demolishing the 116-46 Mariners. Arizona didn't and still doesn't even belong on the same field, yet somehow they did it. If not the worst team ever to win a championship, they are certainly the most overmatched team to win a championship, not counting Super Bowls. The Super Bowl is one game, really anything can happen in one game in any sport. This team won a seven-game series against a team it had no business playing.
Thomas D. Sattie
Brooklyn, N.Y.

OK, maybe I'm biased and bitter, but I pick the 2001 Diamondbacks. Remember, this is a team that bolstered its rotation with Albie Lopez. Even with their two aces, they still only won the Series because of an error, and the guy who scored the winning run was only on base because his sac bunt failed.
Jenny
New York

They had two players -- Schilling and Johnson -- and rode them all the way to the title. Not only that, but they had the worst manager in playoff history in Bob Brenly. He single-handedly lost Games 4 and 5 with decisions to go with Kim, and then left Schilling in too long in Game 7 (Soriano's homer). Throw a couple of freak errors and bloops in the ninth inning of Game 7, and the team with the second-lowest batting average in World Series history wins the title.

If that isn't enough, the sight of Wayne Huizenga II (Jerry Colangelo), jumping up and down like he was having a seizure, makes me puke.
Andrew
Short Hills, N.J.

4. 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers (41 letters)
I'll go with the 1988 Dodgers, though I can watch the Kirk Gibson home run off Eck over and over again. One of the best sports moments of all time. Why were they bad? Look at this lineup:

C - Scioscia (.257)
1B - Franklin Stubbs (.223)
2B - Steve Sax (.277 with no power)
3B - Jeff Hamilton (.236)
SS - Alfredo Griffin (.199)
OF - Gibson (.290 with 25 HR)
OF - John Shelby (.263)
OF - Mike Marshall (.277)

How unintimidating is that? Team batting average was .248!!

Of course, they had Orel Hershiser and his 23 wins and a team ERA under 3, but that lineup ... if they're pitching was just average, you could probably reverse their 94-67 record.
Jimmy Sorrentino
Staten Island, N.Y.

In the middle of the season, they made themselves worse by trading their second-best hitter, Pedro Guerrero, to get nine starts and arm trouble out of John Tudor. If it wasn't for Orel Hershiser pitching like the second coming of Sandy Koufax for two months, that team would've gone nowhere.

At least with the '97 Marlins, you could make a case that they could've won another championship if the team had stayed together. The '89 Dodgers were arguably about as good as the '88 Dodgers (while Kirk Gibson became a shell of his former self, they still brought in Eddie Murray and Mike Morgan and gave up Mike Devereaux and a bunch of nothing to get them, Willie Randolph was an offensive and defensive improvement over Steve Sax, and Mike Scioscia, Jeff Hamilton, Alfredo Griffin, Mike Davis, and Mickey Hatcher had better years than in '88) and they finished 77-83.
Alex McKenzie
Las Vegas

5. 1985 Villanova men's basketball (35 letters)
Sure they shot 78.6 percent from the field and the incomparable Harold Jensen goes 5-5 from the field, but MVP Ed Pinkney and Company flat-out were an extremely mediocre team that got hot at the right time. Play that tournament nine more times, and they don't make to the Sweet 16.
Mark Bragg
Los Angeles

The team barely deserved to be in the tournament, let alone national champions. The only true explanation is that God wanted them to win. How else do you explain 79 percent shooting against Patrick Ewing and one of the best defenses in the nation?
Johnny Beerhalter
Philadelphia

6. 1997 Florida Marlins (33 letters)
Florida Marlins
The 1997 Marlins -- everything that's wrong with baseball.
After reading the list and seeing that I wasn't even alive for some of these, I'm gonna have to go with the 1997 Florida Marlins as the obvious worst championship team ever. They were so bad that the next year apparently no one wanted to play for them again and they traded their "famous veteran players." Apparently Craig Counsell is a fluke-season magnet -- he got one then and one last year.
Craig
Southington, Conn.

In 25 years, people are going to look back and say, "The Marlins won a World Series?!" There you have it, everything that's wrong with baseball. Any team that finishes nine games back in its own division has no business being in the playoffs.
Jeffrey Staggs
Baltimore

7. 1999 San Antonio Spurs (24 letters)
Benefiting from a lockout shortened season, this team of un-charasmatic choir boys got hot at the right time, faced only disorganized resistance at best in the Western Conference playoffs (is there any doubt that, had the Zen Master been in charge of the Lakers that year, the Spurs would have been sent packing?), and then got to play the Knicks in the finals (which should say it all right there).

In five painful games, the Knicks (who, because of the shortened season, hadn't had time to take their usual plunge into mediocrity before the playoffs started) managed to out-lose the Spurs. Jordan's Bulls would have stomped the Spurs into the ground, as Kobe and Shaq's Lakers did just two years later.
Dan Collins-Cavanaugh
Washington

Tim Duncan
In a season lacking MJ, Zen Master and 32 regular-season games, some don't give Tim Duncan's Spurs any credit.
How could you guys leave off the 1999 San Antonio Spurs? Did that season even happen? "Winning" a title by beating the Knicks after a 50-game season interrupted by lockout in between the Jordan Era and the Kobe-Shaq Regime has to be one of the most dubious honors in the history of organized sports. NBA television ratings that year were in the dreaded "NHL zone." If a team wins a so-called championship and no one's watching, do they deserve the rings?

The only way a championship team could be worse is if Allan Houston, Marcus Camby and the rest of those paycheck-collectors in New York had beaten the Spurs. You would have to disband the league on general principle if that had occurred.
Matt Pensinger
Gaithersburg, Md.

8. 1987 Minnesota Twins (22 letters)
Not only the worst World Series winners ever, but one of the worst teams in baseball that year! They had a huge home-field advantage because of the Metrodome (Walt Weiss lost a grounder in the lights once), so judge them based on their awful road record: 29-52. A truly bad team that won only because no one else could play in the dome.
Dennis Stambaugh
Snohomish, Wash.

9. 1983 N.C. State men's basketball (18 letters)
How could you not include the N.C. State team led by Jim Valvano? The only reason they were even in the Big Dance was because they won the ACC tournament; a highly improbable feat in itself that year. Then, they went on to beat Phi Slamma Jamma on the last-second tip-in.

As a Tar Heel, I can only conclude that they were the luckiest team ever, and the worst team to win a championship. I refuse to acknowledge any claims that they were the best team ever by knocking off so many heavyweights on their way to winning the ACC and then the NCAA.
Rudy
San Francisco

10. 1984 BYU football (14 letters)
In your preoccupation with professional sports, you overlooked the worst example of the madness that was pre-BCS college football: the 1984 Brigham Young University Cougars. Running the table through a weak conference and beating an unranked Michigan team evidently entitled BYU to be crowned as the national champions. (The BCS is screwy, but this was far worse.)
David Dirgo
Omaha, Neb.