But Then Something Got In The Way

Eric Urbanowicz
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Sometimes the best stories aren’t those that brought a team together, but rather prevented it. Throughout the years, there have been stories in sports of moves that were nearly made but something got in the way. We’ve checked out a few of these stories, including the Ted Williams-Joe DiMaggio near trade or the Memphis Grizzlies nearly drafting LeBron James, in our “What If” series, but today we’re going to focus on some that we’re just about done until an outside factor or bizarre circumstance happened.

While similar, something getting in the way can be more crushing than a “what if” because it’s out of one’s control. Sometimes it’s Murphy’s Law, other times it’s a blessing in disguise. Whatever the case, it’s fun to talk about.


“That’s A Fax, Jack”

In 2012, the Denver Broncos started to morph into the powerhouse that they would become until the mid-to-late 2010s. However, even the best aren’t immune to circumstance. In this instance, it would cost them one of the brightest talents.

Outside linebacker and defensive end Elvis Dumervil, 28-years old at the time, was coming off an 11 sack season with six forced fumbles. Denver needed cap space and made the decision to cut players like running back Willis McGahee, linebacker D.J. Williams, quarterback Caleb Hanie and Dumervil.

The thing is, Dumervil had agreed to a restructure with the team to reduce his cap hit. It’s too bad his agent didn’t get signed work to the team until 2:06 PM mountain time when the deadline was 2:00 PM. Because of that, Dumervil would be released and eventually sign with the Baltimore Ravens. He also would fire his agent because of the incident.

If that’s not crazy enough, it happened a second time as well. This time, at the trade deadline and involving the Cleveland Browns, the Cincinnati Bengals and an email.

In 2016, the Cleveland was in the midst of their infamous 0-17 season. In an attempt to turn things around, Cleveland had negotiated a trade with their in-state rivals, the Cincinnati Bengals. In exchange for a second and third-round pick, Cincinnati would send quarterback A.J. McCarron to Cleveland.

Eventually the trade was agreed to at about 3:55 PM, with Cincinnati sending over their part of the agreement and the league signing off on it. The 4:00 PM deadline would pass and Cleveland still hadn’t sent anything, meaning the trade was null-and-void. The next day, it turned out that Cleveland had sent over their part of the agreement to Cincinnati to send as a complete package, but Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin didn’t see it because it came from an unrecognized email: Cleveland’s director of football administration, Chris Cooper.

Cleveland would ultimately go winless, but it worked out. That second round pick that would have gone to Cincinnati would have likely cost the Browns the chance to draft running back Nick Chubb. So Cleveland would have thrown away a second-team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl running back for a quarterback who’s now starting in the XFL.


“Block(ed) Buster”

The 2003–2004 MLB offseason was a wild one to say the least, especially for the Boston Red Sox. Starting in November, Boston had acquired pitcher Curt Schilling from Arizona for a package of players as well pitcher Keith Foulke from free agency. While they definitely landed two good sized fish, they nearly landed their own marlin, and we’re not talking about the team.

Boston had been in talks with the Texas Rangers throughout the offseason about a trade that would send shortstop Alex Rodriguez to Boston in exchange for outfielder Manny Ramirez and pitcher Jon Lester (who was a prospect at the time). A follow up move would have seen Boston ship shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and pitcher Scott Williamson to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Magglio Ordonez and pitching prospect Brandon McCarthy. The only thing standing in the way of the trade would be approval from the both MLB and the Players Association.

The MLBPA stepped in and rejected the trade under the premise of refusing to let a player take a lower salary on an existing contract, even if they wanted to play for that team. The trade was scrapped and a few months later Rodriguez was shipped to the New York Yankees.

Over the next decade plus, Rodriguez and Boston would be intertwined through the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, including the fight between him and Jason Varitek, him slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in the playoffs and the time he left a gentlemen’s club with a blonde woman right before a series between the two. It would ultimate become known Boston didn’t need A-Rod, as they won the World Series in 2004, and two more times in his career. Still, you can’t help but wonder what would happen if the MLBPA accepted the trade.


Another New York Nightmare Courtesy Of Tinseltown

We’re not entirely sure what grudge Hollywood has on New York City, but it’s the most destroyed city in cinema. King Kong, Godzilla, The Avengers, Cloverfield…even Sharknado are just a couple of movies that taken a bite out of the Big Apple. When life imitates fiction, especially in the sports world, it’s even crazier.

Back in 1997, the New York Rangers watched as their captain, center Mark Messier, departed for the Vancouver Canucks. Wanting another star center to pair with the legendary Wayne Gretzky, New York made a serious push to sign long-time Colorado Avalanche center Joe Sakic.

New York would ultimately sign Sakic to a three-year, $21 million offer sheet with a $15 million signing bonus. The Rangers were positive that Colorado wouldn’t be able to afford to match the offer sheet, and that Sakic was theirs.

Then “Air Force One” starring Harrison Ford came out. One of the production companies involved with the film, Beacon Productions, was part of the group that owned the Colorado Avalanche, Communications Satellite Corporation. The movie would do gangbusters, taking home $68.1 million from the box office.

Armed with more money, Colorado would then make two moves. The first was to fund construction of a new stadium, the Pepsi Arena. Second: match the Rangers offer sheet to Joe Sakic, keeping him in the Mile High City.

As for New York, their playoff drought would continue for nine more seasons. In his book “Ranger Killers,” hockey historian Sean McCaffrey wrote that “had Air Force One not been a hit then who knows what would’ve happened, perhaps the Rangers would’ve won another Stanley Cup.” It’s not hard to argue that one Sean, not hard to argue at all.


A Diagnosis Keeps A Future Yankee Captain

One of the most beloved people in New York City is whoever dons the title of captain for the Yankees. Names like Derek Jeter, Thurman Munson, Aaron Judge and Willie Randolph are just some of the names that are fondly remembered as being a captain of the Bronx Bombers. What if we were to tell you that one of their captains was nearly traded three years before he was named? Could you guess who?

The answer, somewhat shockingly, is former first baseman Don Mattingly.

In 1988, Mattingly was told that owner George Steinbrenner had traded him and pitcher Rick Rhoden to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for first baseman Will Clark and pitchers Atlee Hammaker and Craig Lefferts. It would take something serious to stop the trade.

Around that time, pitcher Dave Dravecky was diagnosed with a tumor in his pitching arm. With Dravecky undergoing treatments to have it removed, San Francisco didn’t want to lose anymore left handed pitchers and backed out of the trade. Dravecky would return in 1989 only to have doctors find another lump, forcing him to retire. He would eventually have his left arm amputated after cancer returned again following multiple arm surgeries.

Meanwhile, Mattingly would go onto become the leader of the Yankees, being officially named captain in 1991. The team would also retire his famed number 23 in 1997, making him the first Yankees player to have his number retired despite never winning a World Series.


God’s Plan

“The Lord works in mysterious ways” is an old saying that basically equates to things happen for a reason. However, one NFL draft prospect took this saying to a whole different level.

Eli Herring was seen as one of the best offensive tackles in the country in 1995, and was projected to go as early as the first round in the 1995 NFL Draft. That would be if his religion didn’t take priority.

Herring, a devout Mormon, had written letters to every NFL team, asking them not to draft him so he could avoid working on Sundays. Every team would respect his request except for one. Believing he could get Herring to change his mind, Oakland Raiders senior executive Bruce Allen would take Herring with the team’s sixth-round pick.

Herring wouldn’t budge, despite multiple efforts by Oakland. He would reject a three-year, $1.5 million contract offer, even saying no after some of his fellow Mormons were asked to talk to him. In the end, Herring would go onto become a school teacher who made $22,000 a year while raising seven kids…and regretted nothing.

Oakland would ultimately miss out on some good players because of this. Later in the round, the Denver Broncos would select running back Terrell Davis and the Detroit Lions would pick up full back Cory Schlesinger. The next round would see Denver strike again with wide receiver Byron Chamberlain and the Green Bay Packers snagging Adam Timmerman. Oakland probably does have some regret.

Eric Urbanowicz


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