How many of us have played the Armchair GM game at least once in our lives? "If I were running this team, I tell you, there would be a TON of changes." Then we sip our Miller Lites and go back to cheering for Tom Brady to break his ankle.
In reality, though, being the general manager of a professional franchise is hard work. GMs probably get too much credit when the team does well and take too much of the blame when it suffers.
GMs roll the dice with every move they make, but trades are the biggest risks.
Trading players, cash and picks between teams is like playing the lottery. That 18-year-old kid you just picked up for a first-round pick might be the next Michael Jordan...but he also could be the next Kwame Brown.
In hindsight, we can look back on some of these trades and say, "What were they thinking?" but I feel confident saying the GMs who made these trades probably thought they were getting a pretty good deal.
Also, these are not in any particular order. I would be unfair to say who screwed the pooch more than others, so I'll leave those duties to our wonderful comments section.
Why not start with the most famous of them all?
In 1920, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee personally sunk the Red Sox franchise by trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000 plus a $300,000 loan. Frazee was looking to finance the musical No, No, Nanette and decided that selling the greatest player to ever lace up spikes was a good way to do so.
You know the rest of the story, Ruth hits hundreds of home runs (while eating just as many hot dogs), and the Red Sox become the poster boys for being lovable losers. Of course, Boston flushed all that goodwill down the toilet by becoming the single most annoying fanbase in the country after actually winning something.
Anyway, Curse of the Bambino, the House That Ruth Built, the Evil Empire, blah blah blah. Frazee was a bonehead, and whiny Sox fans have never let us forget it.
"Shoeless" Joe Jackson, one of the greatest hitters to ever play baseball, was once a green rookie in the summer of 1910. The Philadelphia Athletics decided after 10 games that this Jackson kid just didn't have what it took and shipped him off to Cleveland (yikes, talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire).
Jackson went on to hit over .350 for his career and become involved in one of the biggest sports scandals of all time: the Black Sox. Even though Jackson hit over .400 and made no errors in the World Series, baseball still banned him from the sport for life, ensuring he will never be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Lord, on the other hand, hit a robust .250 throughout his career but did manage to finish 14th in the 1911 MVP voting (hey, way to go!).
The Charlotte Hornets had just picked high school superstar Kobe Bryant with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft, only there was one problem: There was no way in hell that Bryant was going to play for Charlotte.
What people didn't know is that the Hornets had actually already agreed to trade their draft pick to LA the previous day. The Lakers didn't tell Charlotte who to pick until five minutes before the selection was made.
Looking at the Lakers roster, there really wasn't a whole bunch to pick from. A 36-year-old Magic Johnson came off the bench with a team of Cedric Ceballos, Elden Campbell, Nick Van Exel and Vlade Divac. Not exactly the Showtime Lakers, huh?
So the Hornets did the only thing they could do: They traded away Bryant for Divac and prayed it turned out all right.
SPOILER ALERT: It didn't.
300 touchdown passes. That's all the Baltimore Colts missed out on when they couldn't sign John Elway to a contract after drafting him in 1983. Elway even threatened to go play professional baseball if the Colts did not trade his rights immediately.
So Baltimore unloaded him for QB Mark Herrmann, Chris Hinton (who?) and a first-rounder that ended up being guard Ron Solt (thrilling, huh?).
Herrmann managed to throw 36 interceptions to go along with only 11 touchdown passes while fans around the country wondered if he actually was color-blind.
Elway, on the other hand, went to five Super Bowls, won two of them, orchestrated a ridiculous number of fourth-quarter comebacks and went to the Hall of Fame.
Oh yeah, the Baltimore Colts also moved to Indianapolis shortly thereafter. *Cue sad trombone music*
In one of the most complicated trades in sports history, Walker was shipped from Dallas to Minnesota in a deal that involved six players and 12 draft picks. Coming off two straight Pro Bowl seasons, Walker was at the peak of his career, so the struggling Cowboys decided to strike while the iron was hot.
Dallas ended up receiving five players, a first-round pick AND six other draft choices. This was tantamount to highway robbery. It gets worse when you realize that two of those draft picks were Emmitt Smith and Darren Woodson.
Walker never had a 1,000-yard rushing season for Minnesota and also never won a playoff game with his new Vikings teammates. In fact, losing all those draft picks kind of stalled the Vikings out until the late 1990s.
The 1990s Cowboys did about above-average, though.
Before he became a late night show punch line, Brett Favre was the man. There wasn't a lead that was safe with him on the other team, and no cornerback could defend all of his passes. Favre was almost the perfect NFL quarterback, although you would never know that from his rookie season in Atlanta.
Favre was drafted in the second round out of college, and Falcons coach Jerry Glanville was, shall we say, less than pleased to have him on the team. Glanville was quoted as saying it would take a plane crash for Favre to see snaps in a real game. Favre attempted a grand total of four passes in his rookie season, completing none of them, and took a sack for an 11-yard loss.
This might shock you, but it seems Jerry Glanville didn't know what he was talking about. Favre was the MVP of the league only four years later, while Glanville can't even get a job on an NFL pregame show (and we know they hire ANYONE for those jobs).
In one swoop, the Boston Celtics almost guaranteed themselves a dynasty by acquiring Robert Parish and a draft choice from Golden State for the first overall selection and the 13th overall pick.
Boston used their pick to select Kevin McHale (you might have heard of him), and the two new Celtics teamed up with legend Larry Bird to form Boston's Big Three.
Golden State, on the other hand, used their first overall choice on Joe Barry Carroll and their 13th pick on Rickey Brown. Now, I'm no Jerry West here, but I think Parish and McHale might have been better basketball players.
Not hating...just saying.
Imagine if Jeff Bagwell had remained with the Boston Red Sox. They could have vilified him as they did Bill Buckner!
All kidding aside, Bagwell was traded for veteran pitcher Larry Andersen in 1990 because Boston felt Andersen would strengthen their bullpen, and Bagwell was viewed as expendable.
Andersen ended up pitching a grand total of 22 innings for the Red Sox during their stretch run, while Bagwell won Rookie of the Year in 1991.
He went on to an MVP season in 1994, was a 30-30 guy twice and became one of the most feared hitters of his era.
The Long Island-based Nets were not doing well financially. Without much of a choice, owner Roy Boe sold his star player, Julius Erving, to Philadelphia for $3 million. Dr. J took the 76ers to the finals four times, won a championship and went to the All-Star Game 11 times.
Fans of the Nets, however, were less than pleased. Not only did they sue the team for the season tickets they purchased, they also won. Selling Dr. J ended up not being the solution to the team's problems, and the Nets were forced to move to New Jersey.
Are you kidding me? Possibly the greatest pass-catching running back of all time was shipped out of town for a second round and fifth-round pick? Was St. Louis wearing a mask and holding a gun when it made this deal?
For fairness' sake, Faulk was missing practices and was probably going to hold out for a new contract, but how do you let this guy go? Faulk went on to become a key member of "The Greatest Show on Turf" offense and gained 2,429 yards from scrimmage in 2000.
In fact, from 1999-2001, Faulk had 59 total TDs, 6,765 total yards of offense and was the MVP of the league.
Apparently, that's worth a second-round pick.
All right, let's get this out of the way. Eric Lindros may have been great if concussions hadn't ruined his career. Heck, he may have been all-time great...but he wasn't.
Before being drafted by Quebec in 1991, Lindros made it clear he would never play for the franchise (basically because it was far away and he didn't want to speak French). Quebec said "screw you" and drafted him anyway, promising they would never trade him and he could sit his whiny backside at home until he signed the contract.
Eventually, Quebec worked out a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers (reportedly with NHL pressure) to ship the future superstar to the City of Brotherly Love.
Quebec received Peter Forsberg (future Hart Trophy winner), Ron Hextall, Chris Simon, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman, Steve Duchesne, two first-round picks AND $15 million.
Quebec went on to win two Stanley Cups after moving to Colorado and adding Patrick Roy to the fold.
The Flyers went on to win nothing, while Lindros set a record for concussions in a season. At one point, a soft pretzel thrown from 15 rows back put him on the shelf for six weeks.
Seriously, looking back now, would you even trade Forsberg for Lindros straight up?