Big Apple Blunders: The Top 10 Athletes Who Couldn't Make It In New York
In regards to New York City, Frank Sinatra famously sang "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere". This is an unequivocally true lyric; the key word in the lyric being "IF".
As a professional athlete, making it in NYC is not an easy task. Playing for a New York team puts an athlete in the spotlight more so than any other city, and as the biggest and most relentless media market in the world, NYC demands results.
Numerous players have ended up in New York and expected to succeed based on stellar performances with other franchises or on the collegiate level. Some have done it, and others... New York had chewed up and spit out.
Here are ten athletes (in no specific order) who couldn't cut it in the Big Apple.
10. Eric Lindros
The NY Rangers may have the worst luck when it comes to free agents. They have had so many busts that I could've probably made this entire list full of Rangers.
Lindros was not a free agent pick up (although he was a restricted free agent at the time), but he might as well have been. After a series of concussions and clashing with Flyers GM, Bobby Clarke, he demanded to have his rights dealt Toronto. When the Flyers would not accommodate his wishes to play for the Maple Leafs, he agreed to be traded to the Rangers .
After a hot start to the 2001/02 season, he suffered yet another concussion which steadily declined his play for the rest of the year. His hot start was enough to get him on the All Star team, but the Rangers failed to make the playoffs.
His second season with the Rangers is the only full, injury free season he had in his career. But it was a dismal year as he managed to score only 19 goals and a meager 53 points.
Disgruntled Ranger fans took notice.
Lindros' last year as a Ranger lasted only 39 games. Another concussion (the eighth of his career) sidelined him for the season. At the end of the season he was a free agent again and bailed for Toronto.
Ranger fans rejoiced.
9. Blair Thomas
At Penn State, Blair Thomas was a National Champion, the second leading rusher in PSU history and the first Nittany Lion to run for more than 1400 yards in consecutive season.
The Jets chose Thomas as the second overall pick of the 1990 draft.
Thomas proved to be another of the Jets long time draft day busts. In four seasons he managed to rush for only 2009 yards and 5 TDs. He was plagued with injuries and the Jets released him after the 1993 season.
Jet fans rejoiced.
8 Stephon Marbury
When Stephon Marbury was traded to the Knicks in the middle of the 2004 season, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Marbury was a native New Yorker and a lifelong Knicks fan.
Unfortunately, public altercations with head coaches Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas resulted in Marbury becoming less than an fan favorite. The Knicks losing record didn't help Marbury either. The New York Times even dubbed him "the most reviled athlete in New York".
The Knicks tried to trade Marbury, but the two years and 42 million left on his contract deterred any takers.
Marbury underwent season ending ankle surgery in 2008; the Knicks signed Chris Duhon as a possible replacement to Marbury. Duhon was named starting PG over Marbury.
Marbury was listed as inactive and a spat with head coach Mike D'Antoni led to Marbury being banned from practice and games.
The Knicks agreed to buy out his contract to make him a free agent and be done with him.
Knicks fans rejoiced.
7. Theoren Fleury
Theo Fleury came to the Rangers after impressive years with the Calgary Flames and a brief stint with the Colorado Avalanche.
Fleury's first season with the Rangers was utterly terrible. While he managed 49 assists, his goals were anorexic at 15. He then checked himself into a substance abuse rehab facility. Fleury claimed that he couldn't handle the pressure placed on him to perform in Madison Square Garden and he couldn't handle life in NYC.
A freshly rehabbed Fleury went into his next season as a Ranger with more success. He scored 30 goals and had 74 points after 62 games. But alas, he had to admit himself into rehab again, cutting his season short. Life in the "Big Apple" was still too difficult for him since he grew up in a little hick Canadian town.
In his final year as a Ranger, Fleury managed to play the entire season with no trips to rehab. But the drug use and New York took its toll on him and he was erratic. In a game against the cross-town rival Islanders, he flipped the Islander fans the finger as they jeered him. When he was charged with a penalty in another game, he chose to exit the arena instead of reporting to the penalty box.
The Rangers chose not to exercise the 4th year option on his contract and traded away his playing rights.
Ranger fans rejoiced.
6. Bobby Bonilla
In 1992, after some very productive years with the Pirates (where he was part of one of the greatest outfield tandems in baseball history along with Barry Bonds and Andy van Slyke), the Mets signed Bobby Bonilla to a five year, 29 million dollar contract.
But without the great support of the of his former Pirate teammates, his productivity at the plate declined, angering Met fans.
His time in New York was also riddled erratic behavior. During a game, he called the press box to refute an error he was charged with. He had also threatened sports-writers after they made deroggatory comments about him.
In 1996, after four seasons of less than stellar productivity, the Mets traded Bonilla to the Orioles... where he helped them get to the ALCS. In 1997, he left Baltimore as a free agent and went to the Marlins... where he helped them win a World Series.
In 1999, the Mets decided to reacquire Bonilla. Again, his productivity was lackluster. He butted heads with manager Bobby Valentine and it was rumored that he wore earplugs during his at-bats so he wouldn't hear the Met fans booing him.
The last straw for the Mets and their fans was during game six of the NLCS. While the Mets were being eliminated in a hard fought 11 inning game against the Braves, Bonilla was in the Mets clubhouse playing cards with Rickey Henderson.
The Mets put him on unconditional waivers in 2000 and he spent this season playing for the Braves.
Met fans rejoiced... but it was Bonilla who had the last laugh!
In what's probably the worst settlement in baseball history, the Mets agreed to pay out the remainder of Bonilla's contract by deferring the $5.9 million that he was due. But to avoid having to hand him the cash at the time, the Mets got Bonilla to agree to take the money later, collecting interest on it at 8 percent until the Mets had to begin paying it back. Therefore, the Mets will pay him 25 equal payments of about 1.2 million dollars every year from 2011 until 2035.
5. Carl Pavano
Let's face it, the Yankees have the money and power to pretty much sign any free-agent they want. And when Carl Pavano became a free-agent in 2004, the Yankees wanted him, and got him signing him to a four year, 40 million dollar contract.
Pavano started the 2005 season with promise, going 4-2 in his first 10 starts with 3.69 ERA. but in June, he suffered a shoulder injury and went on his first of many stints on the DL. He started only seven more games, losing four and getting six no-decisions. He finished the season 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA.
The Yankees expected a healthy Pavano in 2006. After bruising his buttocks... yes, his buttocks... in a spring training game, he began the season on the DL. He was scheduled to come off the DL in late August, but he broke two ribs in a car wreck and didn't tell Yankees officals about it until the day he was supposed to return to the active list. Pavano didn't pitch at all in 2006.
His weak and questionable injuries and extended time on the DL in his first two season in pinstripes resulted in distancing himself from the rest of the team. Many teammates and coaches openly questioned his toughness and dedication. Yankee fans were losing their patience.
In 2007 Pavano made only 2 starts before he went on the DL with an elbow injury. He then elected to have Tommy John surgery which, again, ended his season. Yankee fans now officially hated Pavano.
In 2008, Pavano managed 7 starts between extensive DL stints. During one start, after giving up three runs and five hits in five innings, Pavano left the game with a hip injury. He was serenaded with boos from the sell out Yankee Stadium crowd.
In four years with the Yankees, Pavano made 26 starts with a 9-8 record, thus stealing 40 million from the Yankees.
In 2009, Pavano was again a free agent and left for Cleveland.
Yankees fans rejoiced.
4. Ron Dayne
Ron Dayne was a beast in college! Playing for the Wisconsin Badgers, he won the Heisman, was the 1999 AP player of the year, he's a two-time Rose Bowl MVP, and currently holds the Division I-A career rushing record with 6,397 yard.
The Giants chose Dayne with the 11th overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft.
Dayne's first season with Big Blue was fairly successful. Sharing caries with Tiki Barber, their combo of power and speed runshing took them all the way to Super Bowl XXXV (a loss to the Ravens).
Over the next couple of seasons, Dayne's perfromance declined due to clashes with head coaches over his weight, ability, stamina and an enigmatic benching.
Wikipedia states: "Dayne's carries slowly diminished, with head coach Jim Fassel growing increasingly upset with Dayne's lack of commitment to lose weight. Fassel also did not like Dayne's initial running style, that of a halfback, and instead tried to make him a goal line back. After Fassel was fired, Dayne received a second chance under new head coach Tom Coughlin and shed 40 lbs. Despite having a good 2004 preseason, Dayne was once again sidelined by Coughlin for unknown reasons. Some critics have speculated it was due to his inability to break tackles. Others say he wasn't breaking long runs like he did in college."
He only had 52 carries for 179 yard and 1 TD in 2004.
The Giants chose not to re-sign Dayne in 2005.
Giants fans rejoiced.
3. Neil O'Donnell
While playing for the Steelers, Neil O'Donnell led them to the playoffs four years in a row, and won the AFC title in 1995. After a poor showing in Super Bowl XXX, the Jets signed him to a five-year, $25 million deal in 1996.
In his first Jets season he separated his shoulder, and started only six games; the Jets went 1-15.
In 1997, the Jets hired head coach Bill Parcells to get the team back in order. With O'Donnell returning from injury, the season has some promise.
But after some seriously poor performances, Parcells benched him in the middle of several games and O'Donnell sat and watched as his backup, Glenn Foley, turned those games around. The Jets finished the season 9-7 thanks mostly to the big plays of Glenn Foley.
O'Donnell and Parcells never hit it off, and the Jets let O'Donnell go in1998.
Jet fans rejoiced.
2. Roberto Alomar
When the Mets traded for Roberto Alomar before the 2002 season, he was arguably the best second baseman in baseball.
After the Mets 2000 World Series loss, the team fumbled missing the playoffs in 2001. Plagued by injuries and poor offense (save Mike Piazza), the Mets scored the least amount of runs in the NL . The Alomar trade was GM Steve Phillips brain-child to turn the team around. Mets fans were excited with the idea of Alomar in a Mets uniform,
The signs of this being a bad idea showed from Alomar's first press conference. He said, “I was kind of disappointed…I was real happy in Cleveland and thought I did a great job.” This is not what Met fans wanted to hear, and the last thing any NY athlete wants to do is give the NY media ammo.
Things further escalated when in a spring training game against Cleveland. Alomar called out Indians GM Mark Shapiro, saying that he had guaranteed he wouldn’t be traded.
The Met fans shrugged it off and looked forward to Alomar being the force he had been in Cleveland and Baltimore.
No one would have ever expected his dismal .266/.331/.376 performance.
The NY media and Met fans goaded Alomar and he took with the sensitivity of a 12 year old girl whining that the media and fans were too hard on him.
Midway through the 2003 season, Alomar was traded to the Diamondbacks.
Mets fan rejoiced.
1. Kenny Rogers
When the Yankees signed free-agent Kenny Rogers in 1996, they were hoping to get that guy who had respectable numbers with the Rangers and a perfect game to his resume.
They got anything but.
In two season in pinstripes he amassed a dreadful 18-15 record with a 5.11 ERA.
While Rogers was up and down during the regular season, his biggest downfall was in post-season play.
In three post season starts in 1996, he failed to go longer than three innings and got creamed for a 14.48 ERA.
After the 1997 season, the Yankees and Rogers parted ways.
Yankee fans rejoiced... but his NY woes do not end here.
In 1999, the Mets traded for Rogers who had won 16 games for the A's in 1998 and had 10 wins by the time trade went down.
For the remainder of regular season, Rogers did fairly well for the Mets going 5-1 win a 4.03 ERA.
Again, the post-season was his downfall.
After losing both his NLDS and NLCS starts, Rogers found himself coming in as a relief pitcher in the bottom of the 11th inning of NLCS game 6.
Rogers sealed his NY legacy by loading the bases and walking in the winning and NLCS ending run for the Braves.
In 2000, he went back to the Rangers.
Mets fans rejoiced.