You might want to mark it on your calendar. April 19. That was the day when Jeff Suppan reemerged as an actual big league pitcher.
And hell, who knows—perhaps it was only for a day. After all, there’s no doubt that at least some of his success can be attributed to the fact that he was pitching in a ballpark that doesn’t have a power alley, but rather, has a par five. Carlos Delgado’s first inning double would have landed somewhere in the Brewers bullpen had Suppan served up the same pitch at Miller Park. But they weren’t playing that game in Milwaukee, and so…it was a win. It was a win that Jeff Suppan really, really needed. But more importantly, it was a win that Ken Macha, Doug Melvin and Mark Antanasio really, really, REALLY needed.
Say what they will, but there is no doubt in my mind that the Brewers brain trust was facing the very real possibility that a $12.5 million pitcher was heading for the bullpen. Had Suppan been rocked like he was in San Francisco or lacked control like he did on that depressing Easter Sunday night against the Cubbies, they would have had no choice. The hole being dug is getting far too deep, and the fans in Milwaukee deserve better than to watch their team stand no chance every fifth game. At this point, the pitcher’s salary should not matter. The point is: three million fans deserve better than that.
And as I watched the game Sunday afternoon, holding my breath on every Suppan delivery, I couldn’t help but think of the ramifications if Suppan does continue his spot-on mound impersonation of Ben Hendrickson. I started wondering just where he would stand in regards to the worst free agent signings in Wisconsin history. So, of course, the only thing to do was to make up a list of the worst free agent signings in Wisconsin history…
As you take a gander at my rankings of ineptitude, please note that this list does not include players that were re-signed to new contracts. Therefore, you will not see the likes of Danny Gadzuric or KGB or Derrick Turnbow. No. These are the guys that our beloved teams plucked from their competitors. And these are the players that we fans wished they would have quikly given back…
10. Marquand Manuel
See Marquand play.
See Marquand take a horrible *#*!ing angle.
Run, Marquand, run.
See the opposing team celebrate.
Boo, Marquand. Boo.
The fact is Manuel’s contract was not that lofty, so he did not cause the same fiscal challenges as the other guys on this list. But when you couple Ted Thompson’s unwillingness to dabble in free agency with the departure of a fan-favorite safety like Darren Sharper, and Manuel’s fate with Packers fan was sealed after the first forty-two or forty-three times he looked completely lost on the field. It also did not help that he somehow managed to start all sixteen games with only one interception.
9. Eric Gagne
I know some Brewer fans will want to see Gagne much higher up on the list. Certainly, the steroids revelation coming out the day after he was signed left a foul taste in fans’ mouths. Not nearly as foul, however, as when he actually started trying to save games. But the fact is, Gagne was only a one year mistake, and therefore his signing was not crippling to the team’s long-term payroll. After all, they were still able to go out and sign CC. Torres emergence as the team’s closer also cushioned the blow of Gagne’s failures. The story almost took a positive turn when Gagne agreed to a minor league deal this spring, but an injury derailed any chance of a make-good season.
8. Bobby Simmons
Admittedly, I was pretty excited when I got the news of this signing. I was at the Tessmer’s housewarming barbecue when my friend Brent asked what I thought of the Simmons signing. I distinctly remember nearly choking on one of Chad’s delicious wieners, out of excitement that the Bucks had gone out and nabbed the league’s most-improved player. And why wouldn’t I have been excited? The last four most improved players included Jermaine O’Neal, Zach Randolph, Gilbert Arenas and Tracy McGrady. Hmmm. If only I had known what was to become of O’Neal, Arenas, Randolph and McGrady. I guarantee I would have chewed my wiener much, much more slowly.
7. Tom Brunansky
Even though they were our rivals, I always kind of liked that old Twins team with Puckett, Hrbek, Gaeti and Brunansky. So when the Crew went out and signed one of those offensive juggernauts, I couldn’t help but get a little bit excited. Unfortunately, Mr. Brunansky forgot to pack his bat. In 1993 he hit a whopping .183 with 6HRs and 29 RBIs. In ’94 he played in 16 games and after hitting no home runs and NO RBIs, he was traded for back-up catcher Dave Valle. Let me just type that again…
He was traded for a back-up catcher. Enough said.
6. Jeff Suppan
Yep. This is where I currently have Soup simmering (I had to). He still has two years left on his contract, however, so there’s still plenty of time to make a push for #1!
The Suppan supporters will tell you that his .500 winning percentage is exactly what we should have expected from him on the mound. Most Brewer fans, however, will not forget that this man was signed because he had postseason experience. Experience that meant absolutely nothing after Jimmy Rollins launched his first pitch of game 4 towards the Dew Deck. Had he not had a stellar August, I might have put him up in the top five.
5. Sean Berry.
For all those people who like to take cheap shots at Prince, I offer you exhibit A of the Brewers post-Cooper years. Please stay tuned for exhibit B.
4. Jeffrey Hammonds
Two monumental things happened in the winter of 2000. I finally got my first personal computer, and the Brewers signed Jeffrey Hammonds. This new gadget was a real treat, as I began searching in this fantastic world-wide web. Suddenly, I had hot stove information available each and every day. Brewers season could now last a full twelve months. The new-found joy came to a screeching halt, however, when every single site I stumbled upon talked about how the Brewers signing of Hammonds was the biggest mistake of the winter. I mean every website. Yahoo, ESPN, CBSsports—they all said the same thing: Hammonds had one all-star season in Colorado, and it was purely due to the Rocky Mountain air. Apparently, Dean Taylor had never heard of this theory. And obviously, neither did manager Davey Lopes who said he didn't think Coors was a factor in Hammonds' success. "Jeffrey and I go back a long way," said Lopes, "I see his production last season as a guy getting to play every day for the first time in his career. I think Jeffrey is just now tapping into what he is capable of doing in the major leagues."
Needless to say, my relationship with computers has been tumultuous ever since.
3. Joe Johnson
When you think about it, the Packers probably deserved a horrible defensive line signing, given that White, Dotson and Jones might have been the best three free-agents to ever have been signed to one d-line. The simple fact is—you can’t rush the quarterback if you can’t get on the field. Be honest. If Joe Johnson walked into your office right now, would you know who he was? Neither would anyone in the Packers offices.
2. Franklin Stubbs.
Introducing exhibit B of the post-Cooper years. The truth is Berry actually had worse numbers than Stubbs.
Stubbs .213 11HR 38 RBI
Berry .228 2 HR 23 RB!
Stubbs .229 9 HR 42 RBI
Berry .140 1HR 2 RBI
Both men made over $1 mil in year one and $2 mil in year two, and Berry was released in June. But the reason Stubbs is so much higher in the ranking, however, is because his contract was signed 8 years earlier. And believe me; a $2 million contract was significant in 1990. Especially for the Milwaukee Brewers. And when you consider that for the past two decades I’ve referred to any worthless scrub of a ballplayer as a “Stubbs,” then you should understand why Franklin comes in at #2.
It isn’t just that Anthony Mason completely disrupted the chemistry of a team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals. It isn’t just that his crappy attitude helped widen the divide between Ray and Big Dog and between Ray and Coach Karl. It isn’t just that the Bucks completely ignored the fact that Scott Williams was a key part of their previous success. It isn’t just that they traded Williams to Denver simply to clear salary space to sign Mason. It isn’t just that, in order to take Williams, the Bucks also had to give Denver a 1st round pick for Radjovec and Kevin Willis (who they then traded for a second round pick). It isn’t just that the 1st round pick they gave up later became (via trades from Denver to Detroit and then Detroit to Atlanta) the unbelievably athletic Josh Smith. It isn’t just that Mason believed in pounding the ball into submission with his butt rubbing on an opponent, thereby completely bringing an otherwise high-powered offense to a screeching halt.
But when you add all of those things together, you should see why Anthony Mason and his $5 million per year salary ranks number one. He sat out all training camp waiting for the contract he thought he deserved. Because of that, the Bucks are still waiting for him to get in shape.
Brewer fans just hope Soup never gets that chunky (again, I had to). Because the number one spot might only be a couple shellackings away. Thank heavens, therefore, for April 19…