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The 7 Worst Seasons by Athletes Signing Big Contracts

November 30, 2012

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Professional athletes always seem to be playing for that next big contract. The good ones outperform their current deal in a season or two and ask for a pay raise. More times than not, the front office obliges. But the old adage "be careful what you wish for" certainly applies in these situations. With huge contracts come impossible expectations, and some players have found the pressure overwhelming. Here is a list of athletes who have wilted under the pressure of signing a big contract.

1. Carl Crawford

Carl Crawford

Photo: AP Images

Contract: Seven years, $142 million, with the Boston Red Sox (2010)
2011 Stats: .255 average, 56 RBIs, 18 stolen bases, .289 OBP

Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez were the coups of the 2010 offseason for the Boston Red Sox. Two All-Stars to fill two major needs. What could be better? In Crawford’s case, a lot. After signing his gigantic seven-year deal, he had his worst year in the majors. His batting average dropped 52 points from the previous year, and his RBIs dropped by 34. But the most glaring drop came in the category that Crawford was best known for: stolen bases. During his career with the Tampa Bay Rays, he averaged nearly 50 swipes per year. His total with the Red Sox in 2011? Just 18. It was a complete fall from grace for the perennial All-Star, who lasted just two seasons on the Sox before being traded.

2. Barry Zito

Barry Zito

Photo: Daily Record

Contract: Seven years, $126 million, with the San Francisco Giants (2006)
2007 Stats: 11-13, 4.53 ERA

After Zito won the AL Cy Young award in 2002 and compiled a 102-63 record in seven seasons with the Oakland A’s, the San Francisco Giants swooped in during the 2006 offseason and inked Zito to a ginormous contract, one that he would never live up to. The following season, Zito posted the highest ERA and first losing season of his career. In fact, he would not have another winning season until 2012.

3. Albert Haynesworth

Albert Haynesworth

Photo: AP Images

Contract: Seven years, $100 million, with the Washington Redskins (2009)
2009 Stats: 12 games played, 37 tackles, 4 sacks

After signing what was then the biggest NFL contract ever, Haynesworth caused the Redskins a headache twice that size. Big Albert missed four games with injuries, and he appeared out of shape and performed poorly when he did get on the field. He recorded just four sacks, half of his output in Tennessee the year before. He continued to feud with coaches and management until being traded to New England in 2011.

4. Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson

Photo: AP Images

Contract: Four years, $53 million, extension with the Tennessee Titans (2011)
2011 Stats: 1,047 yards, 4 touchdowns, 4 yards per carry average

For the second straight year, Chris Johnson held out of training camp as he poked and prodded the Titans to give him a hefty contract extension. He finally got his wish in 2011, then proceeded to have his worst season on the field. Just two years removed from rushing for more than 2,000 yards and 14 touchdowns, Johnson barely reached 1,000 yards and found the endzone just four times. He also had some horrific performances, like 21 yards against Denver and 18 yards against Houston. It was a shockingly average year for a guy considered to be the best, and Johnson lashed out against fans who taunted him on Twitter.

5. Mike Hampton

Mike Hampton

Photo: AP Images

Contract: Eight years, $121 million, with the Colorado Rockies (2000)
2001 Stats: 14-13, 5.41 ERA

Hampton was one of the most sought after pitchers during the 2000 offseason, having just been named MVP of the 2000 NLCS with the Mets. It is always dangerous for a pitcher to choose Colorado as a destination, due to its high altitude and hitter-friendly park; but the money Colorado threw at Hampton was too good to refuse. Big mistake. Hampton’s ERA ballooned from 3.14 the previous season to 5.41; and just two seasons removed from his 22-4 season, he lost 13 games. By 2003, Hampton had been shipped off to the Atlanta Braves.

6. Mike James

Mike James

Photo: NY Times

Contract: Four years, $23.5 million, with the Minnesota Timberwolves (2006)
2006/2007 Stats: 10.1 points per game, 3.6 assists, 42 percent shooting

Sure, this wasn’t the biggest contract in the world. But for Mike James, a guy who had played for six teams and was coming off the only season in which he had scored more than 12 points a game, it was a lot. The ’Wolves took a chance with James, who had just spent a season in Toronto averaging 20 points a game and dishing out almost six assists per night. Kevin Garnett even contacted James to tell him how much he wanted him on the team. What happened was not pretty. James turned back into the average player he’d been during his first nine seasons, with his scoring averaging dipping 10 points. James lasted one season in Minnesota before being traded.

7. Hedo Turkoglu

Hedo Turkoglu

Photo: AP Images

Contract: Five years, $53 million, with the Toronto Raptors (2009)
2010 Stats: 11.3 points per game, 40% shooting from the field, 37% shooting on 3s

Not only is Turkoglu still hanging on to one of the worst contracts in the league, but his production since his ill-fated signing with Toronto has plummeted. A hot commodity as a free agent because of his immense success playing off of Dwight Howard in Orlando, Turkoglu was exposed in Toronto as a streaky shooter who couldn’t create his own opportunities. Making just 40 percent of his shots from the field and averaging a measly 11.3 points, Turkoglu had a short stay in Toronto. He lasted one year before being shipped back to Orlando.

Jordan Zirm
- Jordan Zirm is an Associate Content Director for STACK. After earning his BS in Journalism from the University of Missouri, he spent time writing for...
Jordan Zirm
- Jordan Zirm is an Associate Content Director for STACK. After earning his BS in Journalism from the University of Missouri, he spent time writing for...
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