The Scale Of Poor Champions

Ted Williams and many other Hall of Famers never won a World Series. Herb Washington, a bizarre (and ultimately unsuccessful) experimental “designated runner”, did, although he was partially responsible for the A’s only loss in that series by getting picked off at first in the ninth inning.

The largest group of less-than-ideal champion players are simply bench/low-level players who just happened to be on a championship team. Little needs to be said about them except that they got lucky in that circumstance. (Robert Horry is perhaps the king of these players-he managed to win more championships than Michael Jordan while being only a decent journeyman stats-wise.)

Then there are the players in starring roles who, while not absolute flops, are still less than ideal. The king of these players is Trent Dilfer, the man who won a Super Bowl thanks to his team’s defense and then got cut. “Honorable” mentions include all the starting centers on the Bulls and Warriors dynasties and many of the pitchers on the 1920s Yankees.


Four Assists

The career of Yinka Dare is worth noting for one number.


His 100+ game, four season career contained that many assists. A leading soccer player gets that many in one season alone. Now to be fair…

  • Dare played few minutes and almost always only played in blowouts.
  • “Bigs” at the time didn’t have that many assists.

In comparison, Darko Milicic in his rookie season, same general role, same general drawbacks, had… seven assists.

Two Sports Similarities

There are a weird number of coincidences between the 1926 World Series and 2016 NBA Finals.

  • Both were seven games and down to the wire.
  • Both featured the first championships for a Midwestern franchise that had a long-time record of flopping around (Cardinals and Cavaliers).
  • Both featured a defeat of a fledgling mega-dynasty (the “Murderers Row” Yankees and “Death Lineup” Warriors)
  • Both mega-dynasty superstars dropped the ball in some fashion in Game 7. (Babe Ruth controversially tried to steal second with two outs and failed[1], while Steph Curry missed his last two shots.
  • The later successes of the mega-dynasty make those mistakes seem less consequential.

[1]The opinion on how wise this was ranges from “Ruth, while not Rickey Henderson by any means, was faster than a lot of people gave him credit for, and thus it was a justifiable gamble to not have to need two hits with two outs” to “Ruth was statistically the worst base stealer of all time.”

Short Point Guards

It’s weird, when my mind thinks up a fictional basketball player, nearly always it’s a short point guard. I don’t know if it’s because it’s easier to identify with someone of average height than a seven-foot giant or because it’s easier to retrofit past WIP characters as basketball players if they’re short already, but there I have it.

Basketball positions have always been the most arbitrary of any in sports, even without the current NBA fluidity. If you don’t need to pigeonhole someone into a role because of athletic limitations, you don’t. If your “point guard” can shoot baskets, your “forward” can pass well, or your “center” is very fast, all the more power to you.

Still,  I have a lot of short point guards in my mind. Not Muggsy Bogues (5’3″) short, but just 6’0-6’4 short.

Good Offense, Terrible Defense

One of my favorite footnotes in basketball history comes from the 1990-91 NBA season. Not Michael Jordan finally winning a championship. Rather, one team, the Denver Nuggets.

See, the 1990 Nuggets applied the Loyola Run and Gun offense under former university coach Paul Westhead. They scored 119 points per game on average. The Bulls scored 110, and even this regular season’s Bucks and Warriors, in an era of fast paced high scoring basketball only managed around 118.

With this scoring boom, the Nuggets finished-worst in the entire league with a 20-62 record? How? Well, that their opponents scored an average of 130 (!) points may have something to do with it. (For reference, again in a period of high scoring, the current Atlanta Hawks, the worst team in that regard, give their opponents only 119)

The closest baseball equivalent would be the 1930 Phillies, taking place in a monster hitters year. The Phillies that year finished last in the hit-crazy NL, scoring six runs per game on average-and giving up around eight.

Unusual Sports Scores

Take a soccer game that outscored a basketball game.

-In the 2015 Pacific Games, Micronesia scored zero goals and gave up a total of 114, their final crush being a 46-0 loss to Vanuatu. There was a legitimate reason for their opponents to run the score-if it came to goal difference, the margins were so big they needed to crush them-but it cannot have been a good experience (to put it mildly).

Compare this to the lowest point of pre-shot clock basketball-the 19-18 Pistons/Lakers game in 1950.