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The Readers' List:
Worst free-agent signings
From the Page2 mailbag
1. Mets sign Bobby Bonilla (52 letters)
One of many bad signings in the early 90's by Al Harazin, "Bobby Boo" was the worst. Little did the Mets know his five-year, $25 million contract would include such incentives as telling a newspaper reporter he would "show him the Bronx" and calling the press box to complain about an error that he was charged with (only to explain the call by saying he was checking up on the PR director's cold ... in the middle of the game?!!). These incidents were only topped by his lack of production and overall surly attitude. Making it more amazing and pathetic, the Mets reacquired him in 1999, only to have him play badly, fight with Bobby V and take part in the card-playing incident with Rickey Henderson during the NLCS. Now the Mets will be paying him off for the next 20 years or so, making the Bobby Bonilla in New York experiment an almost 30-year disaster.
Mount Sinai, N.Y. In an effort to strengthen their team offensively and at the same time weaken the Pirates, who were on top of the Mets in the previous years' standings, New York signed Bobby. Bonilla struggled mightily, battled the N.Y. media, and after all that, the Pirates still won the NL East without him, only to send the Mets into a funk that lasted until 1999.
2. Pirates sign Derek Bell (36 letters)
Usually when you think of bad free agent signings, you have to think Pirates. This year they signed Derek Bell to a two-year, $9.75 million contract. So far this season he hasn't hit his weight -- in fact, he hasn't even hit better than .200. He has a half a dozen base hits, half as many HR's as Mike Hampton, and has landed on the DL twice this season. They sent him down to AAA Nashville on a rehab assignment, and he batted .130 with eight strikeouts in seven games!
Chicago, Ill. Pirates' classified ad that fits Derek like a glove:
Small-market baseball team moving to new-fangled, old-fashioned ballpark seeks outfielder on downside of career for injury-filled, weak-hitting romance. Ballplayers in demand need not apply; we'd rather negotiate against ourselves to waste the concession, luxury-box and ticket money we've spent the last five years waiting for.
3. Red Sox sign Matt Young (25 letters)
The Red Sox (go figure) go out and sign 18-game loser Matt Young to a multimillion-dollar deal. True to form, he goes 3-11 over parts of two years with an ERA hovering around 5.00. Fittingly, he's remembered for one of those losses -- a no-hitter! Only in Boston.
St Louis, MO How about the Red Sox' Class of 1991 trifecta of Matt Young, Jack Clark and Danny Darwin? Sox GM Lou Gorman paid millions to these aging "stars," none of whom were with the Sox past 1994. Matt "Sigh" Young continued with his control problems, eventually even unable to throw to first base. Jack "The Wiffer" Clark was a complete bust, striking out with abandon. And Danny "Dr. Death" Darwin was, at best, ineffective, a shadow of the deadly control he had in Houston and Texas. What a deal.
Gaithersburg, Md. The man was so wild he couldn't make a safe pickoff throw to first. He was such a loser he threw a no-hitter and lost the game because he was so wild -- the no-hitter was later disqualified by Major League Baseball.
4. Raiders sign Larry Brown (23 letters)
St. Louis It's gotta be Larry Brown. I'll never understand how anyone in football could have been fooled by a no-name guy who got hit in the chest by two Neil O'Donnell "hot-read" miscues. Well, anyone except the Raiders, that is. I think his most memorable act in silver and black was keeping Charles Woodson's jersey number warm for him.
5. Redskins sign Deion Sanders (22 letters)
Arlington, Va. What sets Deion apart from the other Skins on the list is that, as far as we know, every other player listed, whether he be injured or just untalented, actually wants to play. Deion dared the Skins to cut him and said that when they do, he will "jump up and click his heels together because they'll be paying him for doing nothing." The other players are on the list for lack of production, but Deion is simply stealing paychecks.
Potomac, Md. 6. Orioles sign Albert Belle (21 letters)
Palo Alto, Calif. I don't wish a degenerative hip condition on anyone, but I was (like most Orioles fans) glad when Belle was forced to retire. Don't forget that the day the O's signed Belle, they lost Rafael Palmeiro to the Rangers. Raffy had the three best years of any Orioles hitter ever -- yes, better than Frank Robinson and Eddie Murray. The O's never made a serious offer to resign him (a scenario played out again last year with Mike Mussina), because they were busy wooing MLB's No. 1 head case. The O's front office pathetic attempts to put a happy face on Belle's deal were appalling. We kept hearing over and over that Belle was going to hit 70 homers a year in hitter-friendly Camden Yards, but by that time, his awesome stats from Cleveland were long gone.
7. Lions sign Scott Mitchell (20 letters)
The world has never seen one player do less. Glad he made $11 million or so to do it. Really, leave it to the Lions (my favorite team, and, yes, I seek professional counseling for this) to sign a guy to a multimillion dollar contract who only saw playing time in Miami when Marino was hurt. The capper is, a healthy Mitchell was busy setting interception records. Not to badmouth the guy, but for the sake of the NFL, I hope he has retired.
Brian J. Desmond
Valparaiso, Ind. One of the NFL free-agent moves that started the whole salary fiasco was the 1994 signing of quarterback Scott Mitchell. He never developed into the player the Lions were hoping for when they signed him away at three years, $11 million. He started a trend of teams overpaying for unproven backups, and after one decent season for the Lions, he now can't even start for the Bengals.
8. Sonics sign Jim McIlvaine (18 letters)
The most bone-headed and idiotic free-agent signing in history is without a doubt the Seattle SuperSonics signing Jim McIlvaine. This move backfired for 2 reasons. 1.)The obvious reason was that Jim was a lousy player. 2.) This move angered team stars Kemp and Payton and caused a rift that the team has never recovered from. Way to go, SuperSuckers!
John J. Anania
Orlando, Fla. Jim McIlvaine killed the spirit and momentum of the Seattle SuperSonics and thus is the foulest free-agent acquisition of recent times. After his signing, team chemistry turmoil arose- Kemp would go on to balloon into half (twice his size) the player he once was, George Karl would be asked to leave the Emerald City, and the team would never again be close to the level of play they once possessed.
Jason G. Stec
Central Point, Ore.
9. Browns sign Andre Rison (17 letters)
Art Modell had to beg, borrow and steal every penny he gave to "Bad Moon". After all that, Andre did nothing on the field and Art ended up moving the franchise because he said he was "financially strapped"! P.S. I also agree with your honorable mention of WR Alvin Harper!
10. Hawks sign Jon Koncak (16 letters)
Jon Koncak with the Hawks, without question -- but for reasons beyond Koncak's limited on-court contribution. Unbelievably, Koncak was offerred more money than Michael Jordan was earning. That single signing help throw the entire NBA salary scale out of whack, and through raised ticket prices and salary cap debacles, NBA fans have been suffering ever since.
Astoria, N.Y. Jon Kontract was by far and away the worst free agent signing ever. The Kak did nothing for the Hawks but roam the perimiter looking for a shot that wasn't even his. Please don't make me mention his defense or rebounding either. Just mentioning his name can make a Hawks fan cringe. On the upside, he did pave the way for legendary white stiffs like Matt Geiger, Jim McIllvaine, Shawn Bradley, and now Todd MacColluch to recieve contacts they should only dream about.
Close behind: Celtics sign Travis Knight, Mets sign Vince Coleman, Dodgers sign Darryl Strawberry, Yankees sign Ed Whitson, Red Sox sign Jack Clark, Raiders sign Desmond Howard, Phillies sign Danny Tartabull. Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
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