'Could be worse' countdown: Nos. 8-5

Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Our countdown of the teams that put their fans through the most painful calendar year continues with Nos. 8-5.

Over the next few days, we are counting down the 16 fanbases that suffered the most pain during the 2012 calendar year. For more on how this countdown works, click here. Saturday: teams 8-5.

INTRODUCTION | 16-13 | 12-9 | 8-5 (HERE) | 4-1 (COMING MONDAY) | ALL POSTS

8. WASHINGTON WIZARDS

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Opening statement, by Mike Prada

I root for this franchise. The motto of those like me who invest so much time in it comes from former coach Flip Saunders. After a particularly difficult loss several years back, he went up for a press conference and declared, "Don't ever think it can get any worse, because it can." Truer words have never been spoken.

Because this is too depressing to recount, let's just get to the evidence.

The evidence, by Mike Prada

  • Began the calendar year as the laughingstock of the league. Traded away all the players deemed responsible for said honor at the time. Still ended the calendar year as the laughingstock of the league.
  • Saw the team's star player and centerpiece of the rebuild miss several months (and counting) with a mysterious knee injury.
  • The general manager that presided over the laughingstock of the league still received a contract extension. He promptly squandered the team's cap space by trading for two players the lowly Hornets were trying to give away. He (or, more specifically, his boss) also reportedly passed on the chance to trade for James Harden. These two things may be related.
  • The head coach, retained despite never winning more than 32 games in a season, is openly campaigning for referees to throw him out of games so he doesn't have to watch his terrible team.

Expert Witness: Derek Barrows, Bullets Forever

A Wizards fan describes the difficulty of rooting for their team in 2012.

The worst part of the Wizards' season? That the season isn't over yet. In 2009, general manager Ernie Grunfeld traded the lottery pick that would become Ricky Rubio in a win-now move for a team that won the draft lottery. Of course, there's more to Grunny's story and new owner Ted Leonsis chose to retain his services in the 2012 off-season. Ernie traded over $20 million worth of cap space for when the ultra-punitive cap measures kick in next season in a win-now move for a team on pace for the best odds to win the draft lottery.

We Wizards fans are quietly terrified that with the pressure of a bottom-three finish mounting, Grunfeld will be itching to pull the trade trigger and we'll have to watch Ernie Grunfeld happen to us. All. Over. Again.

7. MIAMI MARLINS

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Opening statement, by Mike Prada

The Marlins have torn their fans a new one before, selling off all major pieces of two championship teams just so the owner could save a few bucks. By now, if you're a Marlins fan, you understand that this organization could very well have done it again.

But still, 2012's con job was more conniving than most. The Marlins ushered in what seemed like a new era, opening up a brand-new stadium in one of the area's more downtrodden burrows. The new facility, much like several in urban areas before it, was supposed to lift up the town by giving them a product everyone could enjoy. Sure, the stadium was financed by the Miami taxpayers, but that's par for the course these days. If the Marlins could actually put together a consistent product that made serious attempts to win for years to come, it all would have been worth it.

Of course, that's not what ended up happening. The Marlins went on a ridiculous spending spree in an attempt to drum up the necessary interest to initially fill the ballpark, but once things started to go south, they sold off every key piece ... again. Once again, Marlins fans were caught in the ruse.

Only this time, they had to foot the bill for an expensive new ballpark, put up with a manager that publicly supported the biggest villain of so many residents and watch a disappointing on-field product.

The evidence, by Rob Neyer

  • The year began with such promise, as the Marlins signed premier free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell.
  • They also hired star manager Ozzie Guillen, and moved into a shiny new postmodern ballpark, financed mostly by the local taxpayers (of course).
  • After a lousy start -- highlighted by Guillen's pro-Castro comment and a few bullpen meltdowns -- the Marlins went on a hot streak and actually grabbed a share of first place in early June.
  • Three weeks later, they were nine games out of first place, and would ultimately finish 29 games behind.
  • But the worst was to come. In November, the Marlins traded Reyes, Buehrle, and Josh Johnson to the Blue Jays, signaling that their serious efforts to compete would end after just one season.

Expert witness: Michael Jong, Fish Stripes

A Marlins fan describes the difficulty of rooting for their team in 2012.

The Miami Marlins have long been considered a yearly disappointment, but the scale of disappointment was often small. In previous years, the Marlins would fail to compete in NL East or fall just short, but they were not expected to do all that well thanks to financial constraints. But the 2012 season was supposed to be different. The team loaded up on pricey free agent pickups, dramatically increased payroll and fielded a team that appeared to be capable of winning a Wild Card spot or division title. However, instead of having a competitive year with playoff aspirations, the Marlins were sunk early and had the most disappointing season in team history given the high expectations.

The year was capped off by the most outlandish fire sale trade in the team's history, a deal that sent shock waves through an already downtrodden fanbase and sent the entirely wrong message about how the team would be run. Not only did the Marlins fail to meet their lofty 2012 expectations, but they ended the year by bailing on their long-term plans and seemingly reverting back to their old ways. That makes the 2012 year a major disappointment on both the management and on-field fronts, and the depressing double-whammy makes it the worst year for a fanbase in 2012.

6. ARKANSAS FOOTBALL

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Opening statement, by Mike Prada

At a certain point, the downfall of Arkansas football in 2012 was so sad, even fans had to laugh. They entered the year expecting to compete with the very best football teams in all the land for a national title. Then, their coach was fired in one of the more bizarre scandals in NCAA history. Then, they replaced him with a man who was, to be kind, completely under-qualified for the job. Then, they lost to Louisiana-Monroe and fell from the top-10 to unranked.

There were teams with worse records this year, but how many fell as ridiculously and far as Arkansas? Ultimately, we decided the disappointment of expectations is stronger than the disappointment of just cheering for an awful team. That's why Arkansas rises this high.

The evidence, by Jason Kirk

Arkansas: From top-10 to mentioned only in police reports.

  • Motorcycle. Coach. Mistress. Replaced Bobby Petrino by stealing John L. Smith (author of three-straight losing Michigan State seasons) from Big Sky middleweight Weber State.
  • Arguably the most disappointing college football team of all time. Fell from No. 10 to unranked, the second-worst single-week poll drop ever -- but that 2007 Michigan team, which fell further, ended up with a winning record. The Hogs went 4-8.
  • Lost to a Sun Belt team. The Sun Belt's third-best team.
  • Lost to a Big East team. Even more shameful, a Big East team that became a Big Ten team.
  • Zero certainty of a bright future, with new coach Bret Bielema in unfamiliar and FOIA-strewn waters.

Expert witness: Doc Harper, Arkansas Expats

An Arkansas football fan describes the difficulty of rooting for their team in 2012.

Arkansas fans never thought we'd see anything surpass the absurdity of the Houston Nutt/Mitch Mustain saga, but Bobby Petrino saw that hurdle, took out his motorcycle and jumped over it like Evil Knievel jumping over a stack of cars. The image of Petrino with scrapes over his face, a Darth Vader neck brace, and a Sugar Bowl cap is ingrained in Razorback lore. People can't mention the on-campus recruiting coordinator position or the Razorback volleyball team without making a Jessica Dorrell joke.

It only became worse when bankrupt John L. Smith was hired for the season, promptly leading Arkansas to two of the worst losses in program history in his first three games, spawning mass hysteria and a lady taping up her nose to look like a pig snout while making motivational Razorback YouTube videos. Our preseason top ten program finished 4-8 and fans spent the last month of Tyler Wilson and Cobi Hamilton's career coming up with crazy coaching search rumors.

Smile!

5. VILLARREAL CF

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(Via Getty Images)

Opening statement, by Mike Prada

There were many international soccer teams that we could have selected for this countdown, but we settled on Villarreal because they experienced the perfect storm of disappointment. Come into the year with high expectations? Check. Lose one of their best players to injury? Check. Sell off their top star? Check. Get knocked out of their league in heartbreaking fashion? Check. Experience a horrible tragedy? Check. Perhaps the only bad thing that didn't happen to Villarreal this year was a relocation.

The evidence, by Kevin McCauley

  • The team's biggest star, attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla, was sold to Malaga for €19 million at the beginning of the season.
  • Giuseppe Rossi, the team's best striker, tore his ACL twice in the same year. He went down for the first time on October 26, then while training to return to action, tore it again on April 13. He still hasn't played for them since the first injury. The team once rejected a bid for Rossi bigger than Cazorla's sale price, and would now struggle to find a buyer at half of what he was valued at before his injury.
  • Considered a solid dark horse to get out of their very difficult Champions League group, Villarreal finished group play with zero wins and zero draws from six games, and they exited European competition with a negative-12 goal differential.
  • Without Rossi and Cazorla, Villarreal still should have comfortably finished middle of the pack in La Liga. They were considered locks for a top-seven finish and a trip to either the Champions League or Europa League in the 2012-13 season. Instead, they never recovered from their early-season injuries and departures, stayed near the bottom of the league for the entire season, and were relegated to the second division of Spanish football.
  • Following their poor season, Villarreal made a managerial change, appointing Manuel Preciado Rebolledo to the post on June 6. He tragically died of a heart attack later that day.
  • Villarreal's promotion campaign has been a struggle so far. They sit in fifth place in the Segunda, which will get them into a promotion playoff, but they're six points behind the final automatic promotion spot and 14 points behind first place.

Expert witness: Allen Dodson, Villarreal USA

A Villarreal CF fan describes the difficulty of rooting for their team in 2012.

Villarreal fell from fourth in La Liga the year before to 18th and relegation to the Spanish second division last season, but that only begins to hint at the agony the Yellow Submarine fanbase suffered.

If games had ended after 80 minutes, we would have been in the top six in la Liga, but we leaked goals in the last minutes of matches to put us in relegation danger as we entered April 2012. Not to worry, though, because Giuseppe Rossi was coming back from his knee injury to help us ... except that he tore up his knee again just before returning. So that ship sailed.

Still, we only needed one point from our last two games. What happened? We lost the first to an injury-time goal and the second to a goal in the last two minutes of regulation. That, combined with an injury-time goal in another match, conspired (I use the term deliberately) to send us down.

The 2012 bad luck still wasn't done. We had to sell some excellent players (doing well in Italy, Spain, and the EPL this season) and cut our budget by over half in the off-season. We hired a coach everyone agreed was the perfect choice to lead us back to the first division -- Manolo Preciado -- but he tragically passed away from a heart attack the day after being introduced as our coach.

In the first half of the Segunda season, we have been underwhelming. We're in the playoff hunt, but far from the juggernaut we hoped we'd be. Rossi still hasn't returned, our new coach hasn't impressed us and we are losing to teams our B team used to beat last year.

2012, please be over!!!!

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