Every Manning for Himself: The Decade's 10 Most Disheartening Departures

Tim Karan@timkaranContributor IIFebruary 23, 2012

Every Manning for Himself: The Decade's 10 Most Disheartening Departures

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    If Peyton Manning and the Colts—the Ozzie and Harriet of professional American football—can't stay together forever, what hope is there for the rest of us?

    Although owner Jim Irsay says Manning will be the one to make the decision, it sure looks like Peyton will choose to wear a different uniform next year.

    If that happens, fans in Indianapolis will be forced to end their own 14-year love affair with No. 18.

    Jerseys are gonna burn.

    But it's a harsh reality in today's modern sports-industrial complex that your favorite player likely won't remain with only one team—whether it's his choice or not. Just ask hometown fans who had to stop rooting for these guys:

2002: Jim Thome to the Phillies

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    Sure, Manny Ramirez and Albert Belle left town years earlier, but there was no way the most popular Cleveland Indian since Bob Feller could scorn fans, too.

    Could he?

    The Phillies and $85 million proved he sure could.

    Jim Thome turned down a five-year deal worth $60 million with the Indians and became the highest-paid player in Phillies history.

    The Twins did trade Thome back to the Tribe last August, but Thome was back in a Phillies uniform three months later.

2003: Emmitt Smith to the Cardinals

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    With Bill Parcells lured out of retirement by Jerry Jones, there was less room to rebuild the struggling Cowboys with a 33-year-old running back slipping into mediocrity—even if he was the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. 

    Smith was released shortly after the 2002 season.

    Then the Cardinals swooped in. 

    But after two injury-plagued years in the desert (and after Arizona dropped him, too), Jones offered closure.

    He signed Smith to a one-day contract in 2005, and Emmitt retired a Cowboy.

2004: Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees

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    This wasn’t necessarily all that disheartening to Rangers fans, but it was to baseball fans in general (outside the Bronx, of course).

    When the Yankees convinced Texas to send them A-Rod and pay $67 million to do so, it signaled something sinister: With enough cash, there really wasn't anything to prevent big-market teams from assembling a squad of All-Stars the likes of which had only previously been possible in video games. 

    And the Yankees already had a shortstop.

2005: Josh Beckett to the Red Sox

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    If any team in pro sports takes the phrase "rebuilding year" seriously, it's the Miami (nee Florida) Marlins.

    Young Josh Beckett was among a crop of increasingly talented and increasingly expensive players that helped dethrone the Yankees in the 2003 World Series. 

    But two years later (and on Thanksgiving Day), the Marlins sent Beckett, catcher Guillermo Mota and then-stagnant third baseman Mike Lowell to Boston for prospects as part of the team's "market correction" fire sale.

    The upside for Florida?

    One of those prospects turned out to be Hanley Ramirez.

     

2006: Drew Brees to the Saints

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    The writing was on the wall in San Diego for Drew Brees.

    He had a career year in 2005 going into free agency, but that was before sustaining a shoulder injury that looked so serious the Dolphins (who were in the market for a QB) traded for Daunte Culpepper instead.

    Still, the Chargers saw themselves in Super Bowl contention and offered Brees a $50 million, incentive-heavy contract.

    But Brees knew the Chargers wouldn't pay Philip Rivers $40.5 million to hold a clipboard much longer. Although he seemed like the everyman by comparison, Brees spurned the Bolts in lieu of a fresh start in New Orleans.

    The shoulder healed up nicely.

2007: Kevin Garnett to the Celtics

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    After an eight-year playoff run, the temperature in Minnesota dropped significantly.

    Although Garnett was the Timberwolves' all-time leader in basically every recordable statistic, the Wolves tried to send Garnett to the Celtics before the 2007 draft, but Garnett—who signed with Minnesota straight out of high school—nixed it.

    That was, however, before Boston brought in Ray Allen.

    Garnett packed his things, the Celtics packed half their team, and the league's first 7-for-1 swap came to pass.

2008: Brett Favre to the Jets

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    He could have just disappeared into the sunset with his Wrangler jeans.

    But no.

    Although drafted by Atlanta, Favre was legitimate royalty (if not divinity) in Green Bay for 16 years.

    He retired in the spring of 2008 and asked for his old job back by summer.

    When the team said his position had already been filled, Favre demanded his freedom, and the Packers gave him to the Jets for a fourth-round draft pick.

    A year later, he signed with Green Bay's rival Vikings. But by then he was already dead to many a cheesehead.

2009: Roy Halladay to the Phillies

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    Blue Jays fans had been through a lot with Roy Halladay.

    A former No. 1 draft pick, he was outright miserable his first two years in the bigs.

    But a demotion to the Single-A team was apparently just what the doctor ordered, and he became one of the most dominant pitchers of his generation.

    When Halladay became too expensive for the Jays nearly a decade later, the Phillies mentioned they were shopping their own Cy Young winner (Cliff Lee).

    But Lee was shipped to Seattle, the Athletics got involved and the Blue Jays ended up with prospects in a four-team deal. 

2010: LeBron James to the Heat

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    Within a 24-hour period, LeBron James went from the king of Cleveland to the biggest villain since Voldemort.

    After single-handedly turning the Cavaliers into perennial playoff contenders, a string of disappointing finishes made it less of a certainty that James would re-sign with his hometown team in 2010.

    Sure enough, he didn't (and Chris Bosh didn't stay with the Raptors).

    In hindsight, maybe that prime-time announcement special was't the best idea ever.

2011: Albert Pujols to the Angels

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    As records were annihilated and then asterisked by controversial contemporaries, Pujols was a trustworthy throwback for a decade.

    He was the poster boy for everything good and true about baseball when there was definitely a lot wrong.

    But two rings later, when he became a free-agent for the first time following the 2010 season, he took the Angels' $254 million offer (along with the shattered dreams of Midwesterners) with him to Anaheim.

    Because, like everyone else on this list (except maybe A-Rod), Pujols is a human being. 

    We're talking about $254 million here.