Sports Stars Who Suddenly Lost Their Mojo
Some players get injured a lot and thus go from being All-Stars to awful very quickly.
But what about the guys who don't get injured? What's their excuse?
The world of sports can be a cruel world, and there's no room for inconsistency. As an athlete, you can either maintain your highest level of excellence, or you can get cut. That's pretty much how it works. Mediocrity isn't an option.
Nobody said it was fair, but that's the reality. The guys who suddenly flame out for no apparent reason may just be simply unlucky. Or maybe the height of their excellence was just a fluke.
It's still annoying, though, when they decide to lose their mojos after you sign them to multiyear, multi-million contracts.
Dishonorable Mention: Alex Rodriguez
How, exactly, do you pinpoint the moment when Alex Rodriguez lost his mojo?
Was it when the stoic, even-keeled Jason Varitek decked him? Was it when he slapped Bronson Arroyo? Was it when the world discovered he possessed a centaur portrait of himself and proudly displayed it in his home?
The All-Star and legend once known as Alex Rodriguez has experienced a slow, debilitating crumble over the years, most recently capped off by his 211-game suspension from Major League Baseball (which, of course, he is appealing). A-Rod was once the beloved poster boy of everything that was right about baseball; now, he is more akin to a disgraced sociopath who refuses to take responsibility for anything.
Don't blink because before you know it, he could be Jose Canseco. That's how far he has fallen.
Maybe it was too much pressure. Maybe heralding Jason Bay as a player who might possibly be able to become a Manny Ramirez-esque cleanup hitter was just too much.
At first, Bay lived up to the idea. When he was shipped to Boston from Pittsburgh in a blockbuster deal at the 2008 trade deadline, he became a star. He hit 293 in 49 games with the Red Sox, knocking in 37 runs with nine homers.
The next season—his first full season with a major-market team—was more of the same. He hit 36 homers with 119 RBI, made the All-Star team for the first time since 2006 and finished seventh in MVP voting.
Then, when he became a free agent, the Red Sox refused to give him the money he wanted. In a familiar refrain, the New York Mets did, and he proceeded to become terrible. In three seasons with the Mets, Bay hit a woeful .234 with just 26 homers and 124 RBI—five more than he hit in just one season with Boston.
It got so bad that in November 2012, the Mets and Bay mutually agreed to terminate his contract a year early, just so they wouldn't have to deal with each other anymore.
Though Bay signed a one-year deal with the Mariners a month later, things haven't gotten better: He hit .204 through 68 games with Seattle and was DFA'd in late July before being released this week.
Circa 2005, the Boston Red Sox discovered their secret weapon. His name was Jonathan Papelbon.
Two years later, their AL East rival discovered their answer to Papelbon, or so they thought. His name was Joba Chamberlain.
The moral of this story is that there was a point in time where Chamberlain was expected to become one of the elite set-up men in the major leagues. That time, however, never came.
From 2008-09, Chamberlain was awesome for the Yankees. He logged 257.2 innings with 251 strikeouts, and he seemed to epitomize the ultra-competitive, winning-is-everything Yankees attitude.
Then, as it so often happens, his club toyed with the idea of converting him into a starter and everything went awry. First, Phil Hughes beat him out for the fifth spot in the rotation. That was the first chink in his mojo.
The next season, he was replaced as the setup man by Rafael Soriano. That was another chink. In the 2012 offseason, he suffered what has been described by some as a career-threatening injury while jumping on a trampoline.
That sealed the deal.
In the last two seasons, Chamberlain has thrown 49.0 innings with a 4.59 ERA.
Before the Johnny Manziel accusations, there was Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor is most well-known not for being a stellar college quarterback, but for being the college quarterback who allegedly took money for autographed memorabilia, subsequently withdrew from Ohio State and then was banned by the university.
Though he turned the Buckeyes into a repeat Big Ten champion, won a Rose Bowl and was named Rose Bowl MVP, Pryor's legacy was cut short and tainted by scandal. That's more than enough to rob you of your mojo, right?
Apparently, yes. Pryor was selected by the Raiders in the third round of the Supplemental Draft in 2011. To date, he has appeared in four total games and has thrown for 155 yards. He remains in Oakland to this day, where he will allegedly compete for the starting job alongside Tyler Wilson and Matt Flynn.
Jeff Francoeur was once the Bryce Harper of his time. He was once the Mike Trout of his time. How crazy is that?
Following his rookie season with the Braves in 2005, the former first-rounder finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .300 with 14 homers and 45 RBI in 70 games. His 1.067 OPS and .360 average in his first 37 games led Sports Illustrated to declare him "The Natural."
He retained his excellence, at least for a couple more seasons: From 2006-07, he didn't miss a game and hit .276 with 48 homers and 208 RBI.
Then, in 2008, The Slump hit. He was optioned to Double-A after posting a .234 average. He was recalled because there were too many injuries for the Braves to deal with, but he continued to struggle and was traded in July 2009 to the Mets. Since 2009, Francoeur—currently a member of the Giants—has hit .258 with a .301 on-base percentage and a .407 slugging percentage.
Just think. A few years from now, Bryce Harper could be Jeff Francoeur. Anything is possible.
When the Red Sox agreed to shell out over $100 million for the right to bring Daisuke Matsuzaka to Boston, they expected to get something out of it. At first, they did: They got a World Series in Dice-K's first season in the majors.
And after that, they got nothing.
Dice-K, despite the superhuman hype that surrounded his arrival in the major leagues, ended up being one of the biggest busts in the history of baseball. At first, he was promising: From 2007-08, he went a combined 33-15 with a 3.72 ERA.
Since then, it's been crickets. Over the last four seasons, Dice-K's record stands at 17-22, his ERA at 5.53. The Red Sox gave up on him after he finally became a free agent post-2012—a season in which he went a disgusting 1-7.
The saddest part, however, is looking at the numbers: Boston.com's Gary Dzen offers a depressing breakdown of how much the Red Sox paid per Dice-K win ($2.06 million) and how much they paid per complete game ($103.11 million).
When Tim Lincecum first started heating up, it seemed impossible that he would achieve long-term success. All you had to do was look at his build and look at his delivery. There was no way his body was going to hold up for long, right?
When Lincecum blew up, he was fun to root for. He was an unlikely hero. From 2008-10, he compiled a rather stunning 49-22 record that featured a 2.83 ERA, 757 strikeouts, two consecutive Cy Young awards and a World Series ring.
Since then, Lincecum has gone 28-40. In the first half of the 2012 season, he was the proud proprietor of a 3-10 record and a league-worst 6.42 ERA. During that year's World Series—which the Giants would, in fact, win—he was a relative non-factor, having been demoted to the bullpen for the playoffs.
And yet, after all of those struggles, Lincecum managed to throw a no-hitter last month. Since then, though, his mojo has disappeared once again: He's gone 0-3 with a bloated 5.60 ERA in 17.2 innings.
It's so easy to reach great heights and then subsequently fall from them in baseball, more so than in any other sport. There are so many pitchers who seemed like they could be the next Randy Johnson one season, only to look like the next Carl Pavano mere months later.
Exhibit A: Mark Prior.
It all started out so well for him. Once the Chicago Cubs' top prospect, he went 18-6 as a 22-year-old in 2003, finishing third in the Cy Young voting. With him and Kerry Wood leading the charge, the Cubs won the division and seemed destined for the World Series.
But it was Prior, after all, who was on the mound for the Steve Bartman incident. So should we be surprised by the way everything unraveled for him after that?
Post-Bartman, the injuries cropped up. Prior was an unimpressive 6-4 in an injury-riddled 2004. In 2005, he got hit in the elbow with a line drive. In 2006, he suffered from a strained shoulder, an oblique injury and tendonitis. And that would mark the end of his major-league career.
Though he's still trying to come back and currently finds himself a member of the Cincinnati Reds' Triple-A affiliate, he hasn't pitched in a big league game since 2006.
The storyline that accompanied Jake Delhomme into Super Bowl XXXVIII made it sound like he was the second coming of Tom Brady—who, incidentally, was his counterpart in that very Super Bowl.
In the Panthers' first game of 2003, Delhomme took over at QB at halftime and, facing a 17-0 hole, led his team to a Brady-esque comeback win. It was history from there. Delhomme was named the starter from there on out and led Carolina to a record eight game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime that season, including in the playoffs.
The magic lasted all the way up to the Super Bowl, which the Panthers lost on a last-minute field goal by New England's Adam Vinatieri. And then Delhomme turned back into a pumpkin.
Since 2003, Delhomme has finished a season with an over-.500 record just three times. Since the beginning of 2009, he is a combined 6-9 as a starter, and he hasn't played in a game since 2011.
But at least he has pep talks like this to keep him going.
Brian Wilson was once one of the most feared closers in baseball, and not only because of his psychotic-looking beard. From 2008-11, he racked up an average of slightly more than 40 saves per season. During the 2010 postseason, he had an ERA of zero in 10 appearances as the San Francisco Giants won the World Series.
And then… nothing.
Just a couple of weeks into the 2012 season, Wilson injured his elbow, and Tommy John surgery has kept him out ever since. He became a free agent and didn't sign with anyone because he wanted to be totally recovered when he was ready to come back. Finally, in July, he inked a contract with the Dodgers that will last through the end of the 2013 season.
Wilson is currently toiling away in Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Detroit fans thought they had something to look forward to when former No. 1 draft pick Matthew Stafford led the Lions to a magical 10-6 campaign in 2011, the team's first winning season since 1995, just three years removed from that humiliating 0-16 debacle.
Stafford looked like the real deal. He was one of just three quarterbacks to throw for 5,000 yards that season, joining the elite company of Tom Brady and Drew Brees. He made the Pro Bowl and was named the 2011 AP Comeback Player of the Year.
And best of all, he had Calvin Johnson at his disposal—one of the most dynamic receivers in football—which suggested plenty more success was to come.
Not so fast.
The Lions went 1-3 to start 2012 and ended the season on an eight-game losing streak. Stafford threw half the number of TDs he had thrown just one year before, and the Lions crashed back down to earth.
Barry Zito does not seem to have recovered his mojo since it escaped him way back in 2002, but somehow, he's still managed to win two World Series since then. Now that is skill.
That year, Zito—as part of Oakland's stellar Big Three that also featured Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder—improved on his previous season, in which he'd gone 17-8, to post a 23-5 record with a 2.75 ERA. That was good enough to win him the Cy Young over a very distraught Pedro Martinez.
And that is where the magic ended.
Since 2002, Zito has never won more than 16 games in a season. His overall record stands at an unimpressive 117-123, which is certainly not what the San Francisco Giants were expecting when they foolishly agreed to pay him $126 million over seven years. To add insult to injury, he's been demoted to the bullpen.
But even if he never finds his mojo, he'll always have those two rings.
Nobody has perfected the art of finding his mojo, then losing it, then finding it again, then losing it again quite like Rory McIlroy.
At times, McIlroy has been lauded as the second coming of Tiger Woods. He has also been criticized for being perhaps one of the most overrated members of the PGA Tour. It's because consistency has never been his friend. McIlroy seems to waver between two extremes: spectacular and earth-shatteringly awful.
McIlroy's first major victory came at the 2011 U.S. Open, where his record-setting 16-under finish earned him an eight-stroke victory. But that same year, at the Masters, he had become a part of some less-desirable history, relinquishing a four-shot lead in the final round.
In 2012, McIlroy once again went from terrible to spectacular in a matter of weeks: he won the PGA Championship by a record eight strokes. Since then, he's been mired in mediocrity, having registered just one top-three finish in 2013 and tying for 41st place and missing the cut at the U.S. Open and the British Open, respectively.
There is one sure-fire way to guarantee you lose your mojo. It's by deciding you'd rather party than focus on the postseason. Or by cluttering your living quarters with so much hoarded garbage that you can't find your mojo amongst the wreckage.
The Boston Bruins gave up a lot for the opportunity to draft Tyler Seguin in 2010. At first, it seemed to pay off: Seguin developed extremely quickly into a viable NHL talent, debuting in October 2010 and, later that year, he became the first teenager to score four points in a playoff game since 1989. The Bruins won the Cup, the Seguin move seemed to have paid off and all was well.
Then, suddenly, it wasn't.
Quite simply, Seguin stopped being good. Or maybe he stopped living up to the monstrous expectations. In any case, a series of PR blunders and a perceived lack of commitment to the team led to his ouster: on July 4, he was traded to Dallas, where he proceeded to pick up right where he left off in Boston.
When Bernard Pollard happened to Tom Brady during the first game of the 2008 season, it was a foregone conclusion that the New England Patriots were going to be terrible.
But in a shocking development, Matt Cassel stepped into the spotlight and…wasn't terrible. In fact, he was far removed from terrible. In his first season ever as a starting quarterback, he went a miraculous 10-5 and almost got the Patriots into the playoffs in a suddenly competitive year for the AFC East.
Cassel wasn't a one-trick pony, either. When he got traded to Kansas City after having proven himself as a starting-caliber quarterback, he had one bad year before going 10-5 again, making the postseason and even playing in the Pro Bowl.
Since then, Cassel has gone a combined 5-12 and has thrown 21 picks in two seasons. He no longer has the interest of the Chiefs, and he's no longer a starting quarterback. How the mighty have fallen.
Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez
Once upon a time, there was a Cleveland Indians pitcher named Fausto Carmona, and everyone expected him and CC Sabathia to lead the Indians to the World Series.
Before Drew's Grand Slam Heard 'Round the World, Carmona was excellent. In 2007, he went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA as the Indians' No. 2 starter. He finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. Then, everything went awry.
Post-2007, Carmona has gone a combined 39-62 with a 5.01 ERA. Also, his name is no longer Fausto Carmona: he is now known as Roberto Hernandez because in early 2012, he was arrested and accused of using a false identity to get a visa to play in the U.S.
So he lost his mojo and his former self. Double-whammy.
What happens when Kobe Bryant decides he doesn't want you around anymore? You lose your mojo. It happens.
Technically, it wasn't Kobe who banished Bynum from Lakerville in favor of Dwight Howard. But after years of questions about his work ethic and commitment, L.A. decided in the summer of 2012 that it was done developing the young center.
And so, after posting his best season ever—averaging 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game—Bynum was shipped off to Philadelphia in the blockbuster trade of the summer and he hasn't stepped foot on the court since, due to knee injuries.
He still has a chance to redeem himself as a member of the Cavaliers, but the jury's out on whether he'll ever get his mojo back.
At the beginning of the 2013 season, things were looking up for the Boston Red Sox. Like, really looking up. The tandem of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz at the top of their pitching rotation had rendered them virtually unbeatable.
Throughout his first five starts of the season, Lester was 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA. Small sample size, true—and it's always dangerous to throw a guy into the Cy Young discussion after a mere month—but it wasn't like Lester came out of nowhere. He was projected to be Boston's top gun, and he seemed to be living up to that.
Until he wasn't. Since that excellent start, Lester has gone 6-6 with an ERA of 5.16. Is he injured? Nope. Is he unfocused? Maybe. Whatever's going on with him, he better solve it by the time October rolls around, now that Clay Buchholz is apparently crazy again and the Tampa Bay Rays are hotter than ever.
There was once a time when it looked like Mark Sanchez could possibly usurp Tom Brady as the top quarterback in the AFC East.
Now, that notion is laughable. But it wasn't when Sanchez and the New York Jets trumped the big, bad Patriots in 2011 to advance to the AFC Championship.
Sanchez used to be that good. In the season prior to that epic win over New England, he led the Jets to an 11-5 record and instilled in his fans the hope that he might make New York an actual Super Bowl contender.
Oh, how he deceived them.
First came the three-game losing streak to end the 2011 season, which successfully backed the Jets right out of the playoffs. Then came the disaster that was 2012, when Tim Tebow came to town, scared Sanchez into thinking his job was in jeopardy and turned him to a bumbling, butt-fumbling fool.
But at least the haters don't bother him, right?
How do you go from being the bona fide best player in baseball to someone who struggles to hit .275?
I don't know. Ask Albert Pujols.
The world was in a tizzy when Pujols finally hit the free agent market following the 2011 season. The possibilities were endless. He was the best player in baseball! General managers salivated over the idea of signing him, a three-time MVP who usually hit at least 40 homers and usually drove in at least 115 runs per season.
Then, the L.A. Angels signed him. Pujols spent his first year in the City of Angels hitting .285, which isn't that bad unless you're Albert Pujols, your career average up to that point was .328 and you're being paid $240 million.