It has been a tumultuous decade for Philadelphia sports fans, a boiling cauldron of questionable play calling, trademark crossovers and polarizing signings. If there is one thing that the Phillies' World Series championship has done for this city’s psyche, it's that it has helped ease the pain of all the disappointments over the past ten years. But never fear, Pattison Ave. is here with a friendly reminder of darker times.
When a Philly team drafts or signs a potential star player it can set the city on fire, but when that player becomes a bust it can burn it to the ground. Just in case you've gotten a little too used to Philly's newfound winning ways, here's our list of the Top 5 Big-Ticket Busts of the Decade, just to keep you grounded.
5. Adam Eaton
The Phillies' first mistake occurred in 1996 when they drafted Eaton in the first round, 11th overall. Now, this is a forgivable offense, especially considering the fact that in 1999 he was traded away to the Padres. But then they went and brought him back -- signing Eaton as a free agent in 2006 to a 3-year, $24 million contract. In the two seasons before coming back to the Phillies, Eaton’s earned run average was 4.27 and 5.12. It would be generous to call those numbers pedestrian let alone worthy of $24 million. In his two maddening years pitching for the Phillies he posted an ERA of over 6.00.
Eaton makes the list not for any potential he might have once had, but for just how terrible he was in comparison to the contract he signed. Eaton's presence at the Phillies' World Series ring ceremony only served to rub that fact right in the fans’ faces.
4. Samuel Dalembert
Often out of position and chucking up bricks well out of his range, Dalembert consistently comes up short despite his impressive stature. If he would have starred in a remake of Space Jam he would have been the Shawn Bradley of the 2000s.
Drafted in the first round in 2001, Dalembert came to the Sixers with great promise and expectations. In 2005, Dalembert signed a 6-year, $58 million dollar contract which won't expire until after the 2010-11 season.
For his career, Dalembert is averaging a staggering eight points per game. Last season his scoring dipped to an average of just 6.4 points per game. His poor performance on the court is frustrating enough, but the fact that his high-paying contract makes him virtually untradeable is simply unbearable.
3. Peter Forsberg
Forsberg is another player on this list originally drafted by Philadelphia and traded away, only to return years later to disappoint. Forsberg was dealt to the Quebec Nordiques along with Mike Ricci, Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Kerry Huffman, Steve Duchesne and two first-round picks in the 1992 mega-trade for Eric Lindros. Forsberg went on to a Hall of Fame caliber career that included leading the Colorado Avalanche to two Stanley Cup titles. Along the way he was named an All Star three times and claimed the Hart Trophy (league MVP) and Art Ross Trophy (point leader) in 2003.
Forsberg returned to the Flyers as a free agent in 2005, signing a 2-year, $11.5 million contract. But he failed to live up to expectations, often succumbing to injury. In two seasons with the Flyers he played in only 61 percent of the possible games. In the 2006-2007 season he had only 11 goals in 40 games as the Flyers finished with a season total of 56 points -- good enough for dead last in the NHL. Forsberg brought Stanley Cup aspirations with him to Philly but didn’t get the Flyers anywhere close to tasting a championship.
2. Chris Webber
The Chris Webber trade had the potential to place the Sixers in the upper echelon of the NBA. In 2005 they traded away an underachiever in Kenny Thomas and locked up a 5-time All-Star to complement Allen Iverson. However, the Sixers failed to get past the Pistons in the first round of the playoffs. The following year, in his only full season with the team, Webber's numbers took a steep decline. Webber's points per game were almost cut in half from 20.2 down to 11.
Plagued by achy knees, Webber only played in 18 out of a possible 35 games for the Sixers in 2005-06 before agreeing to a $25 million contract buyout. If his on-court performance wasn't enough to earn him the illustrious No. 2 spot on this list, Webber's role in the infamous Fan Appreciation Night fiasco -- when he and Iverson thumbed their noses at the Sixers' fan base by failing to show up on time for the final home game of the season -- provided the clincher.
1. Freddie Mitchell
Some call him FredEx. He calls himself the People’s Champ. But to his true fans he will always be Fourth-Down Freddie and we can thank his hands for that.
Mitchell was selected in the first round, 25th overall by the Eagles in the 2001 NFL Draft. Mitchell’s disappointing career only serves to make Eagles fans wonder what might have been, considering the fact that Reggie Wayne, Chad Ochocinco (nee Johnson), T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Carolina’s Steve Smith were all still available when the Birds snagged Mitchell. Over his four-year career, FredEx delivered only five touchdowns and averaged only 1.4 receptions per game while his fellow draft counterparts have all made the Pro Bowl. His paltry stats and his large ego, combined with the quality receivers drafted after him, make Freddie Mitchell Pattison Ave.'s No. 1 Big-Ticket Bust of the Decade.
For better or worse, Mitchell will always be remembered for one play and one catch: Fourth-and-26.
On January 11, 2004, the Eagles faced the Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs. With 1:12 remaining in the game and the Eagles down by three, the Birds faced fourth down and 26 -- and an almost certain defeat. That is until the People's Champ arose to make his first reception of the game, leaping over the middle to snag a bullet of a throw from Donovan McNabb to pick up the first down. The catch helped set up a David Akers field goal to send the game to overtime, where the Eagles would eventually go on to win.
In case you've forgotten the drama of that play, you can hear it summed up by Fourth-Down Freddie himself in the YouTube clip below.
Freddy Garcia (Phillies)
David Bell (Phillies)
L.J. Smith (Eagles)
Jerome McDougle (Eagles)
Danny Briere (Flyers)
Jevon Kearse (Eagles)