As the dust settles from the Josh Sitton fallout and ultimate release from the Green Bay Packers, and armchair Football GM’s continue to spew criticism at Ted Thompson without ever watching one play an Offensive Guard has ever made it got me thinking…..what have been some of the actual worst Management moves by our Wisconsin pro sports teams, let’s say the 3 worst for each Wisconsin team since Y2K (mainly because I could write a book on the 90’s Bucks and Brewers alone).
Packers- all came on the Defensive side of the football, mainly due to the fact Rodgers and Favre helped sugar coat most of the mistakes on the Offensive Side. However, looking back these 3 moves left Packer Nation shaking their head.
2001- Draft 10th Overall- DE Jamal Reynolds- a Mike Sherman (incoming GM)/Ron Wolf (handled draft duty, officially retiring in June of 2001) combo pick that the Packers traded up to get. To make matters worse the Packers traded both August MVP QB Matt Hasselbeck the 17th Overall Selection (which would end up being 5-time First Team All-Pro GUARD Steve Hutchinson) to the Seattle Seahawks to move up to the 10th spot. The resume of Jamal Reynolds was mighty impressive, winning a National Championship (1998), Unanimous All-American (2000) and the Lombardi Award (2000), which is awarded to the best lineman or linebacker in college football (side note: AJ Hawk won the award in 2005). However, the collegiate resume did not match the performance in the professional ranks as Reynolds played in 18 games over 3 seasons, making 16 tackles and collecting 3 sacks. After the 2003 season Sherman tried jettisoning Reynolds to the Indianapolis Colts, however the trade was void after Reynolds failed his physical examination. The Packers subsequently released Reynolds 10 days later.
Reynolds never played another NFL Down, being claimed and released by the Cleveland Browns before the 2004 season. Yup, he couldn’t even hack it on the Browns….Oh by the way, the Seahawks found themselves in the Super Bowl following the 2005 season, while Sherman found himself unemployed. Screw You Seattle.
2002- Signed Free-Agent DE Joe Johnson– Mike Sherman broke the bank to sign this former Saints Defensive end to a 6 year, $33 million contract which included a $6.5 million signing bonus. Johnson spent 7 years in New Orleans and after a Career Year and Pro Bowl appearance in 1998, Johnson missed all of 1999 with a knee injury but rebounded to capture NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors and another Pro Bowl nomination in 2000 and ended his Saints tenure with a solid 2001 campaign. Thus baiting GM Mike Sherman, hook, line and sinker. After posting career season averages of 7 sacks and 43 tackles, Johnson came to Green Bay and laid an egg. Instead of forming a menacing tandem with fellow Defensive End Vonnie Holiday, Johnson only played a total of 11 games in Green and Gold, and collected 6 total tackles and 2 sacks. Luckily, Wolf’s 5th Round steal from the 2000 Draft, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, helped soften the blow to the Packers’ Defensive Line.
2007- Drafted 16th overall DT Justin Harrell – Who the F*&% is Justin Harrell was the common comment uttered across Packer nation the moment Roger Goodell announced Justin Harrell as the Packers’ First Round selection. After appearing in only 3 games his Senior year at the University of Tennessee due to injury the Packers’ hoped Harrell could rekindle some of the potential he flashed his Junior year when he earned Second-team All-Southeastern Conference honors and the Cotton Bowl MVP performance his Sophomore season.. Harrell somehow clung onto the Packers roster for 4 seasons while participating in just 14 regular season games. Totaling 28 career combined tackles, period.
The 2007 Draft Class featured 34 players who would appear in at least 1 Pro Bowl. Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Joe Thomas, Patrick Willis, Darrelle Revis, Marshawn Lynch, Ryan Kalil and Marshall Yanda (for all of your GUARD lovers out there) were just some of the names whose NFL Dream was made a reality on April 28th, 2007. It’s just too bad Harrell’s dream was made at the Packers’ expense. Ironically, Harrell also ended the NFL career of fan favorite Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila who was released on November 1, 2008 when Harrell was activated from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
Dishonorable Mention: Drafted CB Ahmad Carroll 25th Overall in 2004, Drafted OT Derek Sherrod 32nd Overall in 2011,
Bucks- excuse me while I wipe the tears from angry laughter and sheer disappointment…
10/25/2001- Signed Free-Agent Anthony Mason- after the Bucks came up 1 game short of an NBA Finals berth, Mason was looked upon as the missing piece to get them over the top in the East. What was supposed to be a dynamite core of Sam Cassell, Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, Tim Thomas and Mason ended up imploding and many point to the signing of Mason as one of the main reasons of the Bucks great, albeit short, run came to an abrupt end. Mason arrived in Milwaukee coming off an All-Star season with Miami (the only All-Star nod of his career) averaging 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds, but also came in at 34 years old, overweight and at a price of 4 years and $21 million.
With expectations running at an all-time high around Bucks basketball the Bucks got off to a hot start and were 10 games over .500 as late as March 6th but injuries, chemistry and a series of disappointments led to a 41-41 record. The Bucks once again were on the outside looking in as the Playoffs began. Mason finished the season with 9.6 PPG and 7.9 RPG and then proceeded go through the motions during the 2002-2003 averaging 7.2 PPG and 6.4 RPG before being waived by the Bucks and shortly thereafter retiring. To top it off, Mason climbed to the #2 spot on the list of the highest Wisconsin delinquent taxpayers in 2012. RIP Anthony Mason, I hope you aren’t remembered for your time in a Bucks uniform.
2/20/2003 Traded Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie, Flip Murray AND a 2013 1st Round Draft Pick (Luke Ridnour) to the Seattle Supersonics in exchange for Gary Payton and Desmond Mason.
A sad, sad day occurred in Milwaukee on a chilly winter afternoon in 2003 when former UCONN great Kevin Ollie was traded away from Brew City. Who am I kidding; the Ray Allen trade still boils my blood and don’t think I can ever get over it. Gary Payton was in the last year of his contract and going on the backend of his Hall of Fame career, but truly had no intentions of ever staying in Milwaukee any longer than the remainder of the 2002-2003 season. Desmond Mason provided some highlight reel dunks and posted a career high 17.2 PPG in 2004-2005 while on a dismal 30-52 Bucks team. Mason was then flipped in 2005 along with a 2006 First-Round Pick (thanks again Larry Harris) for Jamaal Magloire, who lasted one season in a Bucks uniform. The Bucks who were 2 years removed from being one of the top teams in the NBA ended 2002-2003 getting bounced in 6 games by the Jason Kidd led New Jersey Nets. The Bucks would then find themselves for the next several seasons floating around NBA Purgatory and playing each year just hoping to sneak in the playoffs as an 8 seed.
Ray Allen would go on to play 12 more seasons between the Supersonics, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat gathering 2 NBA Championships, 7 more NBA All Star appearances (to go with the 3 he earned in Milwaukee) and became the NBA’s all-time leader in three-pointers made.
While we may never know the full details of the drama behind the scenes, George Karl was noted as saying “Ray Allen was nothing but trouble,” and added “We had no choice but to get rid of him.” So what Karl did was trade a Franchise player in order to rent one of his personal favorites for 28 games to pair with Sam Cassell and form the most prolific trash talking backcourt in NBA history. Karl (fired), Payton (Free Agent, signed with the Los Angeles Lakers) and Cassell (traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves with Ervin Johnson for Joe Smith and Anthony Peeler) were not in Milwaukee’s plans and yet another rebuild began.
2007- Drafted Yi Jianlian 6th Overall- Yi didn’t want to come to Milwaukee to begin with and declined to sign with Milwaukee for several months before agreeing to a contract about a month before training camp. During his brief time in the Cream City he looked like a deer in headlights who was out of his element as a 20 year old thousands of miles from home (Yi’s age was also highly debated as many scouts and sources tabbed him as 24). Following the season, after witnessing that Yi was a not a fit for the Bucks, GM Larry Harris quickly shipped Yi and Bobby Simmons to New Jersey in exchange for Richard Jefferson. YI finished his Bucks career with an 8.6 PPG and 5.2 RPG. The fact that Harris made the move in the first place even when Yi’s handlers were heavily against Milwaukee being the landing destination was another example of Harris’ inept ability to build an NBA winner. None the less, the move briefly exposed Milwaukee to the largest market on the planet and Yi’s Bucks jersey became in heavy demand on the opposite side of the world. Yi would find himself bouncing from the Nets, to the Wizards, back to China, to the Dallas Mavericks, to the NBA Development League, back to China and just recently signed with the Los Angeles Lakers looking to get back into the NBA for the first time since 2012.
Dishonorable Mention- Drafted Joe Alexander with the 8th Pick in 2008; 8/13/2005 Re-Signed Dan Gadzuric for 6 year, $36 million, 8/8/2005 Signed Free Agent Bobby Simmons 5 years, $47million; 2013- Traded Tobias Harris to the Orlando Magic for the short term rental of JJ Redick which ended in a Playoff Sweep; Drafted Rashad Vaughn with the 17th Pick in 2015, just ahead of Sam Dekker. While this is still up in the in, as of right now I personally have no faith in Vaughn becoming a useful NBA player.
Brewers- as the title of this article states, hindsight is always 20/20, but in a small market like Milwaukee in a sport where a salary cap does not exist, every move is crucial and every dollar matters. The sad news for Brewers’ fans is that this list was difficult to narrow to 3…but here it goes.
2001- Signed OF Jeffrey Hammonds- flash in a pan and injury riddled is the best way to describe Jeffrey Hammonds MLB career. He came up as a top prospect in the Orioles farm system before being dealt to the Cincinnati Reds. After one average season in Cincinnati, Hammonds found himself being traded again, this time to the Colorado Rockies for former Brewers’ slugger Dante Bichette. Hammonds played only one year in Colorado, 2000, which also turned out to be a breakout one as he hit .335 good for 4th in the NL, 20 Home Runs and 106 RBIs and his lone All-Star appearance. However, concerns about his injury plagued past and the fact he missed 40 games in 2000 alone led the Rockies to decline his salary arbitration and Hammonds found himself as a 30 year old on the open market. Luckily for Hammonds, he found a team to take on his 3 yr. $21 million request, the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers, who recently opened beautiful Miller Park and were looking for an immediate impact signing and handed the franchise’s largest contract offer to date to Hammonds, who promptly, for lack of a better word, sucked. A shoulder injury in his first season with the Brewers led to him only playing 49 games. The following year a hot start (.324 from April-May) was followed by a downward spiral as a recurrence of the shoulder injury reared its ugly head and the team succumbed to a franchise record of futility finishing 56-106. Hammonds started the 2003 season on the Disabled List with a high ankle sprain and was released by Milwaukee on June 4th. Over his 13 years in the Big Leagues Hammonds finished his career with a stat line of .272 to go with 110 Home Runs which also included a $21 million highway robbery of the Milwaukee Brewers.
2005- Trading OF Carlos Lee and OF Prospect Nelson Cruz to the Texas Rangers for RHP Closer Francisco Cordero, Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix.
While Closer Francisco “CoCo” Cordero will be most remembered for his great entrance music (Click, Click, Boom” by Saliva) he also posted 2 good seasons with the Brewers which included 44 saves in 2007 and an All Star appearance alongside Prince Fielder, JJ Hardy and Ben Sheets. Mench had a lackluster 2 years with the Crew and Nix spent his time in the Brewers Organization at the Minor League level while being hampered by injuries. However, after the 2007 season Cordero got himself an at the time MLB Record Contract offer for a relief pitcher (4 yrs. $46 million) from the Division Rival Reds, Mench was out of Milwaukee after 2007 and found himself as a baseball nomad with brief stops in Toronto and then Japan and Nix would find himself back in the Rangers organization.
Carlos “El Caballo” Lee only spent one and a half seasons as a Brewers, but quickly became a fan favorite after being acquired in exchange for previous Milwaukee favorite, Scott Podsednik. Lee belted 32 HR’s en route to earning a spot on the NL All Star team in 2005, but high hopes quickly faded as Lee turned down the Brewers 4 yr. $48 million contract extension offer. The real gem of this trade was Nelson Cruz who went from a relative unknown with the Brewers to blossoming for the Texas Rangers for 8 seasons before also enjoying success with the Baltimore Orioles and presently with the Seattle Mariners. Just last season Cruz hit .302 with 44 Home Runs and to date has a career .275 BA to go along with 278 Home Runs and 782 RBIs.
2007- Signed Starting RHP Jeff Suppan- Outside of when he faced the Brewers (13-2, 3.20 ERA career against the Brewers), Jeff Suppan was regarded as a mostly pedestrian pitcher with a 4.60 career ERA in 12 seasons prior to coming to Milwaukee. However, Suppan was able to dramatically jump his stock price after a stellar performance in the 2006 NLCS with St. Louis which Suppan pitched 15 innings and recorded a 0.60 ERA and took NLCS MVP Honors as the Cardinals would move on to win the World Series 4 games to 1 over the heavily favored Detroit Tigers. Brewers GM Doug Melvin proceeded to go out and make arguably the biggest boneheaded mistake of his tenure when he went out and signed Suppan the following offseason to a ridiculous 4 year $44 million deal as the Brewers were looking to make the next jump and end their 25 year playoff drought.
“Soup pitched great” was a phrase that was made by former manager Ned Yost but somehow this “greatness” was rarely, if ever, displayed on the mound. While I will say that Suppan was a standout citizen, and heavily involved in Milwaukee community activities and charities, his work on the pitching mound did absolutely nothing to warrant the $44 million contract he received from the Brewers. Suppan finished his time as Brewer with a 29-36 record in 110 games, and a 5.08 ERA or approximately $1.5 million per win.
Dishonorable Mention: 2/5/2007 Signed Bill Hall to a 4 year $24 million contract extension, 10/30/2008 hired Ken Macha as Manager, 12/10/2007 signed Eric Gagne for 1 yr. $10 Million, 1/26/2014 signed Matt Garza for 4 yrs. $50 million + 1 yr. vesting option for $13 million.
Even though it happened in 1992 it still holds true…..Screw You Gary Sheffield!!