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The Readers' List:
Worst free-agent signings

From the Page2 mailbag

Poll Results

Here's how the Page 2 staff ranked the worst free-agent signings in history:

1. Raiders sign Larry Brown
2. Sonics sign Jim McIlvaine
3. Indians sign Wayne Garland
4. Orioles sign Albert Belle
5. New York Jets sign Neil O'Donnell
6. Philadelphia Blazers sign Derek Sanderson
7. Royals sign Mark Davis
8. Seahawks sign Nate Odomes
9. Hawks sign Jon Koncak
10. Redskins sign Deion Sanders

Dishonorable mentions: Nets re-sign Jayson Williams; Phillies sign Danny Tartabull; 49ers sign Gabe Wilkins; Raiders sign Desmond Howard; Bucs sign Alvin Harper; Celtics sign Travis Knight; Buccaneers sign Bert Emanuel; White Sox sign Jaime Navarro; Padres sign Oscar Gamble; Dodgers sign Don Stanhouse.

On Monday, Page 2 ran its list of the worst free-agent signings in history. We asked for your take, and you filled our mailbag with plenty of disgruntled opinions about the worst deals.

After going through more than 1,000 letters, we've listed a complete rundown of the Top 10 vote-getters, along with some of the best letters about each awful acquisition. Be sure to cast your vote in the poll at left to choose the worst free-agent signing in history.

1. Mets sign Bobby Bonilla (52 letters)
One of many bad signings in the early 90's by Al Harazin, "Bobby Boo" was the worst. Little did the Mets know his five-year, $25 million contract would include such incentives as telling a newspaper reporter he would "show him the Bronx" and calling the press box to complain about an error that he was charged with (only to explain the call by saying he was checking up on the PR director's cold ... in the middle of the game?!!). These incidents were only topped by his lack of production and overall surly attitude. Making it more amazing and pathetic, the Mets reacquired him in 1999, only to have him play badly, fight with Bobby V and take part in the card-playing incident with Rickey Henderson during the NLCS. Now the Mets will be paying him off for the next 20 years or so, making the Bobby Bonilla in New York experiment an almost 30-year disaster.
Robert Kotick
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Bobby Bonilla
Bobby Bonilla has had two tours of duty with the Mets.
"Bobby Bonilla Comes Home." The Mets signed Bonilla, fresh off of some great seasons with the Pirates, in the winter after the 1991 season. The deal made Bobby the highest player in baseball at the time...While Mets' brass had envisioned full stadiums and playoff appearances, what Bonilla brought was five years as the laughingstock. Now please tell me how in the world he was allowed back on the Mets for a second tour??
Tim Izzo
Mount Sinai, N.Y.

In an effort to strengthen their team offensively and at the same time weaken the Pirates, who were on top of the Mets in the previous years' standings, New York signed Bobby. Bonilla struggled mightily, battled the N.Y. media, and after all that, the Pirates still won the NL East without him, only to send the Mets into a funk that lasted until 1999.
Tony Toliferro
Trenton, N.J.

2. Pirates sign Derek Bell (36 letters)
Usually when you think of bad free agent signings, you have to think Pirates. This year they signed Derek Bell to a two-year, $9.75 million contract. So far this season he hasn't hit his weight -- in fact, he hasn't even hit better than .200. He has a half a dozen base hits, half as many HR's as Mike Hampton, and has landed on the DL twice this season. They sent him down to AAA Nashville on a rehab assignment, and he batted .130 with eight strikeouts in seven games!
D.J. Peckens
Yorkville, Ohio

Derek Bell
The Pirates can't be happy with what they've gotten from Derek Bell this season.
The Pirates go from the stingiest team in the league, letting go of Bonds, Bonilla, Jeff King, Jay Bell, Tim Wakefield, and then give the unproven Derek Bell a two-year, $9.75 million contract? You've got to be kidding me! And you wonder why the Pirates are in the cellar, year in, year out.
Tucker Williamson
Chicago, Ill.

Pirates' classified ad that fits Derek like a glove:
Small-market baseball team moving to new-fangled, old-fashioned ballpark seeks outfielder on downside of career for injury-filled, weak-hitting romance. Ballplayers in demand need not apply; we'd rather negotiate against ourselves to waste the concession, luxury-box and ticket money we've spent the last five years waiting for.
John Federico
Pittsburgh, Penn.

3. Red Sox sign Matt Young (25 letters)
The Red Sox (go figure) go out and sign 18-game loser Matt Young to a multimillion-dollar deal. True to form, he goes 3-11 over parts of two years with an ERA hovering around 5.00. Fittingly, he's remembered for one of those losses -- a no-hitter! Only in Boston.
A. Clendennen
St Louis, MO

How about the Red Sox' Class of 1991 trifecta of Matt Young, Jack Clark and Danny Darwin? Sox GM Lou Gorman paid millions to these aging "stars," none of whom were with the Sox past 1994. Matt "Sigh" Young continued with his control problems, eventually even unable to throw to first base. Jack "The Wiffer" Clark was a complete bust, striking out with abandon. And Danny "Dr. Death" Darwin was, at best, ineffective, a shadow of the deadly control he had in Houston and Texas. What a deal.
Gaithersburg, Md.

The man was so wild he couldn't make a safe pickoff throw to first. He was such a loser he threw a no-hitter and lost the game because he was so wild -- the no-hitter was later disqualified by Major League Baseball.
Scott Shuster
Boston, Mass.

4. Raiders sign Larry Brown (23 letters)
Larry Brown
Cornerback Larry Brown went from Cowboys' Super Bowl hero to obscurity with the Raiders.
It seems the season of the conspiracy theory, so here we go. The Larry Brown and Neil O'Donnell MVP Conspiracy. I admit I was pumped about the signing when I first heard. I saw him pick those two passes in the Super Bowl, and I was a believer. After seeing him get burned by NFL bench-warmers, I had to go back and see what happened. I popped in the tape of the previous Super Bowl and then I realized that O'Donnell was actually throwing the ball to Larry Brown. There was really nothing Brown could do but catch it. It was more of a self-defense tactic than an MVP-caliber play. They probably split that Super Bowl MVP contract money 50/50. Now where is Brown? Probably surfing eBay trying to buy up every video of that Super Bowl that is left so he can burn them. He wouldn't want any evidence coming out. As for O'Donnell, he got greedy and had to rip off the Jets, too. Both of them are thieves.
St. Louis

It's gotta be Larry Brown. I'll never understand how anyone in football could have been fooled by a no-name guy who got hit in the chest by two Neil O'Donnell "hot-read" miscues. Well, anyone except the Raiders, that is. I think his most memorable act in silver and black was keeping Charles Woodson's jersey number warm for him.
Chuck Tetreault
Brooklyn, N.Y.

5. Redskins sign Deion Sanders (22 letters)
Deion Sanders
Deion Sanders took the Redskins' money and ran away.
The Washington Redskins' signing of Deion Sanders has to rank as the worst signing of all time. Not only did "Prime Time" set the wrong tone in the Redskins' locker room during the entire season, but his performance on the field came nowhere near justifying the money they spent on him. His brash behavior and foolish on-field antics were an insult to all Redskin fans who had grown accustomed to Darrell Green's reserved brilliance at cornerback. As an added kick in the teeth, his signing necessitated the release of Brian Mitchell, a team leader and loyal Redskin during some of the dark years. If I were Deion, not only would I not want to come back to DC, I would be afraid to come back.
Eric Bruskin
Arlington, Va.

What sets Deion apart from the other Skins on the list is that, as far as we know, every other player listed, whether he be injured or just untalented, actually wants to play. Deion dared the Skins to cut him and said that when they do, he will "jump up and click his heels together because they'll be paying him for doing nothing." The other players are on the list for lack of production, but Deion is simply stealing paychecks.
Tristan Harter
Potomac, Md.

6. Orioles sign Albert Belle (21 letters)
Albert Belle
A bad hip ended Albert Belle's career early.
Albert Belle -- five years, $65 million. No contest. The others on your list don't even come close. Sure, from a talent standpoint, there was a clear upside to signing Belle. However, looking at how badly Belle fit with the Orioles, Belle's talent as a slugger just couldn't possibly have outweighed his detraction from the O's persona. Belle was surly and ultimately unproductive. His attitude and behavior with fans were the antithesis of "The Oriole Way," and a most unfortunate contrast with the consummate class act, Cal Ripken, who had to play on the same team as Belle. Belle's career-ending disability is unfortunate, and perhaps unpredictable. However, the $13 million per year spent on Belle would have gone a long way toward signing Robby Alomar and Raffy Palmeiro, both of whom have gone on to be productive (with continuing All-Star performances) in Cleveland and Texas, respectively. Belle's signing, and the signings of Mike Timlin, Delino DeShields and Will Clark, coupled with the failure to retain Alomar, Palmeiro and Mussina (not to mention Pat Gillick, who has gone from creating back-to-back World Series champions as the GM in Toronto, to the start of a repeat performance in Seattle) all should have placed the estimable Mr. Angelos on your top 10 worst owners' list as well. Don't get me started on Mr. Angelos....
Frank Bernstein
Palo Alto, Calif.

I don't wish a degenerative hip condition on anyone, but I was (like most Orioles fans) glad when Belle was forced to retire. Don't forget that the day the O's signed Belle, they lost Rafael Palmeiro to the Rangers. Raffy had the three best years of any Orioles hitter ever -- yes, better than Frank Robinson and Eddie Murray. The O's never made a serious offer to resign him (a scenario played out again last year with Mike Mussina), because they were busy wooing MLB's No. 1 head case. The O's front office pathetic attempts to put a happy face on Belle's deal were appalling. We kept hearing over and over that Belle was going to hit 70 homers a year in hitter-friendly Camden Yards, but by that time, his awesome stats from Cleveland were long gone.
Jeffrey Staggs
Baltimore, MD

7. Lions sign Scott Mitchell (20 letters)
The world has never seen one player do less. Glad he made $11 million or so to do it. Really, leave it to the Lions (my favorite team, and, yes, I seek professional counseling for this) to sign a guy to a multimillion dollar contract who only saw playing time in Miami when Marino was hurt. The capper is, a healthy Mitchell was busy setting interception records. Not to badmouth the guy, but for the sake of the NFL, I hope he has retired.
Brian J. Desmond
Valparaiso, Ind.

One of the NFL free-agent moves that started the whole salary fiasco was the 1994 signing of quarterback Scott Mitchell. He never developed into the player the Lions were hoping for when they signed him away at three years, $11 million. He started a trend of teams overpaying for unproven backups, and after one decent season for the Lions, he now can't even start for the Bengals.
Dave Valenzuela
Buffalo, N.Y.

8. Sonics sign Jim McIlvaine (18 letters)
The most bone-headed and idiotic free-agent signing in history is without a doubt the Seattle SuperSonics signing Jim McIlvaine. This move backfired for 2 reasons. 1.)The obvious reason was that Jim was a lousy player. 2.) This move angered team stars Kemp and Payton and caused a rift that the team has never recovered from. Way to go, SuperSuckers!
John J. Anania
Orlando, Fla.

Jim McIlvaine killed the spirit and momentum of the Seattle SuperSonics and thus is the foulest free-agent acquisition of recent times. After his signing, team chemistry turmoil arose- Kemp would go on to balloon into half (twice his size) the player he once was, George Karl would be asked to leave the Emerald City, and the team would never again be close to the level of play they once possessed.
Jason G. Stec
Central Point, Ore.

9. Browns sign Andre Rison (17 letters)
Art Modell had to beg, borrow and steal every penny he gave to "Bad Moon". After all that, Andre did nothing on the field and Art ended up moving the franchise because he said he was "financially strapped"! P.S. I also agree with your honorable mention of WR Alvin Harper!
Tom Brennan
Cleveland, Ohio

10. Hawks sign Jon Koncak (16 letters)
Jon Koncak with the Hawks, without question -- but for reasons beyond Koncak's limited on-court contribution. Unbelievably, Koncak was offerred more money than Michael Jordan was earning. That single signing help throw the entire NBA salary scale out of whack, and through raised ticket prices and salary cap debacles, NBA fans have been suffering ever since.
M. Cocchi
Astoria, N.Y.

Jon Kontract was by far and away the worst free agent signing ever. The Kak did nothing for the Hawks but roam the perimiter looking for a shot that wasn't even his. Please don't make me mention his defense or rebounding either. Just mentioning his name can make a Hawks fan cringe. On the upside, he did pave the way for legendary white stiffs like Matt Geiger, Jim McIllvaine, Shawn Bradley, and now Todd MacColluch to recieve contacts they should only dream about.
Joe Arthur
Tucker, Ga.

Close behind: Celtics sign Travis Knight, Mets sign Vince Coleman, Dodgers sign Darryl Strawberry, Yankees sign Ed Whitson, Red Sox sign Jack Clark, Raiders sign Desmond Howard, Phillies sign Danny Tartabull.

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