Monday, April 16, 2012

Worst Player Acquisition Contest

If you are going to write a blog, sometimes you have to stop down your draft preparations to address a fabulous topic that was made specifically for sports talk radio and blogs like this one.

With that in mind... Friday on our radio show, we started discussing the stay of Lamar Odom in DFW. It started on a confusing day in December when the move was announced, and much like the acquisitions of Delonte West and Vince Carter, were treated as items of news that both startled and had some actually thinking that the losses of Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea might not be so bad after all. It ended about 100 days later, with Odom - sent away from the team in humiliating fashion - going through the airport in a Lakers shirt - one of the great "flipping of the bird" moments that any of us could remember.

It was all so absurd, because Odom could be a remarkably dangerous player - assuming his heart was in it. And it was clear that his heart never was in it. He was one of the few professional athletes of modern history that was unable to adjust to leaving one franchise for another in terms of internal happiness. Most players treat trades and player movement as "no big deal" because the money stays the same and it seems most of them feel they are employed by the league, not the franchise. They play in the NBA or NFL or NHL. Which city they are transferred to hardly bothers them for too long. They are still in the league. Not Odom. He operated under the premise that his heart was broken. And now his reputation may forever be broken, too. At least in North Texas, where I would imagine his future reception will rival that of any player that has rolled through town since Kiki Vandeweghe. He didn't want anything to do with this city or franchise, despite Mark Cuban and the franchise rolling out the red carpet constantly for Lamar and his wife. It just didn't work.

So, the question on the show developed into the following: What is the worst acquisition decision by each of the local teams since our show started in 1998? With all due respect to the Harold Baines trade, we wanted to keep it to years where we were present and could feel the effects of such a move. So, let's look at the 4 local teams to see where Lamar sits:

Dallas Stars: When you look at the Stars, they actually have an interesting little list. And both moments of regret happened with Brett Hull's name in the story. First, after the 2001 season, the Stars decided not to activate Hull's $7 million option and instead allowed him to become a free agent where he would sign with Detroit and instantly become one of their Stanley Cup heroes the next summer. But, when the Stars did not keep Hull, they tried to get Jeremy Roenick or John LeClair. And when that failed, they had a ton of money and nowhere to go. So they dumped the ton on Pierre Turgeon (5 years/$25.5 million) and Donald Audette (4 years/$12 million) in the opening days of free agency in July 2001. Turgeon never fit here, but he was a hand in a glove compared to Audette, who signed for 4 years, but received a healthy scratch within the first few games. Audette's role got worse and worse to a point where the Stars were all too happy to trade him just 6 weeks into his new 4 year deal. Turgeon would take a few years to be bought-out, but his stop in Dallas seems like a waste of major amounts of cash. And the GM and Coach who presided over the summer of 2001? Bob Gainey and Ken Hitchcock were not around for the summer of 2002.

But, what takes the cake was the signing of Sean Avery, just 2 months after the Stars went all the way to the Western Conference Finals in 2008. Hull - now the GM in Dallas, who used to allow young Avery to live with him in Detroit, signed the controversial pest to a 4 year/$15.5m deal. It was one of the few times in my life where I have seen players on the team astonished and annoyed at what their bosses just did and not seem interested in really ever giving the move a chance. Avery was a loner from Day 1 (a spot that suited him just fine, it seemed) and the team began to fracture immediately. By December 2, Avery had embarrassed the squad one last time in Calgary, and the run of 23 games in Dallas was over. The Stars may still be trying to recover, Hull's career in personnel seemed irreparably damaged, and Avery continued down that Avery spiral. It was Odom-like in many regards.

Texas Rangers: January 16, 2002, the Rangers decided to go get an ace for their rotation. It was never easy to do so, because at the time, good pitchers did not desire to come to Texas. So, when the moment presented itself, the Rangers pounced - even if Park wasn't an ace, did not have the mentality to do so, was vastly over-paid, and was a product of pitching at cavernous Dodger Stadium. 5 years/$65 million for a player that people knew was likely a failed bit about a week into it. In fact, he took the loss in his first start on April 1, 2002, and then went away and did not take the hill again until May 12. He would never win 10 games as a Ranger in 4 seasons and was finally sent away for Phil Nevin in which the Rangers supplied the Padres with big bucks to take Park. Why? Because Chan Ho would make $16m in his final season of his pact, 2006. By that time, the Rangers are ready to dump $60m more on Kevin Millwood to try to be that ace, but his 16 wins in his first year here completely lapped the Park era in 1 season. He might not have been worth the full $60m, but he was darn solid compared to the other candidates.

Sure, there would be others who rolled through town; The colorful names that did not require a big investment - John Rocker, Hideki Irabu, Ken Caminiti - and some might even say Alex Rodriguez and his 10 year/$250 million deal. But, I think most of us would think that is silly, since A-Rod had 3 of the most prolific seasons in MLB history while he was here and seemed to earn every penny on three lousy baseball teams. All in all, it would appear the John Hart era was particularly awful when it comes to personnel decisions. But, it doesn't seem like anything comes too close to Chan Ho.

Dallas Mavericks: Let's not act like Odom was the first time the Mavericks had something blow up on them. Nothing quite like Odom, but certainly, when you consider the entire Cuban run, there were high hopes/little delivery starting with the pre-Cuban Shawn Bradley investment, Juwan Howard, Raef Lafrentz, and Erick Dampier. Combined, you will find hundreds of millions invested with very small delivery. That doesn't include Antoine Walker or the Michael Finley contracts that the Mavericks paid out totaling $144 million dollars (nice player, but $144 million?). Finley's deals were so bad that when they wanted to bid him farewell, they still owed him $51 million. Who says Cuban hasn't written a lot of checks and that Donnie Nelson has a perfect record along the way?

As far as the Odom category of just not wanting to play, Tariq Abdul Wahad and Doug Christie have both had very odd and short tenures with the team, but to compare either to Odom and his trojan horse routine here in the last 4 months would be insulting on pretty much every level.

Dallas Cowboys: I imagine that Jerry Jones enjoys going last for once, as he receives far and away the most criticism of any GM for his track record. No one is saying he doesn't deserve it, but hopefully this list shows that he is not alone. It is difficult to get these moves right and it you are going to screw up, it likely is better to do it with the Stars where most media folks aren't keeping track.

But, the Cowboys are center stage, and the moves are plentiful to pick apart. There are countless draft day debacles that haunt this team, but they don't quite rate high enough for this debate. Nor, do speculative moves like the Drew Henson deal or the Chad Hutchinson deal where the Cowboys were hunting for their next QB and he showed them that he wasn't it. As we go down the list, there are many failures along the way, but I think you could boil things down to just WR moves if you want to question the last 15 years or so. After Michael Irvin's career ended in Philadelphia, the Cowboys have consistently gotten into more trouble with the WR spot than anywhere else.

Joey Galloway's trade of February 12, 2000 was one that still makes locals shake their heads. The Cowboys sent their 2000 and 2001 first rounders to Seattle for Galloway and then paid him 7 years/$42 million to make him happy. He was 29 years old and lasted about 3 quarters before blowing out his ACL in his first game. By the time he returned, Troy Aikman had been retired by Lavar Arrington, and Galloway would spend the final 3 seasons with Quincy Carter, Clint Stoerner, Anthony Wright, Chad Hutchinson, and Ryan Leaf throwing him ducks. He would ultimately be traded for Keyshawn Johnson in March of 2004 and go on to be productive again in Tampa Bay for several more years. But, his time in Dallas was very, very forgettable.

Then, there is Roy Williams, the WR from Texas. On October 14, 2008, the Cowboys traded basically their 2009 draft; a 1st, 3rd, and 6th to get Roy Williams out of Detroit. On the same day, they slapped a giant 5 year/$45 million deal on him, making him exceedingly overpaid. In 10 games that season, he totaled 19 catches for 198 yards - about what you might hope a great game would be for a guy you just paid $45 million. But, from the day he arrived, the excuses were everywhere. Romo was hurt. Romo didn't like him. Roy wasn't being put in a proper spot. And on and on it went. In 2009, he went up for a pass in Week 4 in Denver and was knocked silly by Broncos LB DJ Williams. This made a space for Miles Austin who took the spot and then caught 10 passes for 250 yards the next week and has held the position down ever since. But, to Roy apologists, that was the bad luck that destroyed his stay here - even though he missed only one game with the injury and played in the other 15 that season - totaling just 38 catches for 596 yards. His 2010 was another forgettable, excuse-laden season which was his last in Dallas, 37 catches for 537 yards, and the Cowboys were out a bunch of picks, money, and Roy was off to Chicago. There is no question that this move is at the top of the Cowboys list. With Galloway and Williams, we wouldn't even suggest Terrell Owens signing is in this class.

So, argue amongst yourself if Sean Avery is worse than Lamar Odom. Or if Chan Ho Park is worse than Roy Williams. Lamar is the freshest in our memories, but Avery did not want to be here either like everyone on the list besides Lamar had a long deal that soaked millions out of the owners. Williams and Park were likely miscast as superstars who just weren't. Paying a player to be a superstar doesn't make him a superstar.

I would say it is a fun debate, but it actually induces headaches of the highest order.

But, it is a trip down "nightmare memory lane". Putting a team together is never as easy as it looks. All 4 teams have demonstrated that loud and clear. And history tells us that the next bad move is right around the corner for one of them.


Unknown said...


Great article. You might want to change the wording regarding Chan Ho Park in the first paragraph. I had no idea who you were talking about when just saying Park... But I'm young and don't really remember that era. So yeah... I'm a great nitpicker. You dont have to approve this comment, just wanted to say.

ET8231FAN said...

Roy Eilliams % Joey Galloway were some superbly screwed up deals.

Hadn't heard Chuch's name in a while!

Damn Jerry/GM su ks