What If?? 11 Moves that Changed Sports History

Every fan, regardless of city or team affiliation, has bitter memories about the “guy that got away.”  He is that once in a lifetime player who, for one reason or another, slipped through a franchise’s fingers.  The fallout from losing said guy is enough to convince fans not even an entire crate of whiskey can help ease their pain.  Here at 4HT, we have compiled a list of 11 transactions that altered the landscape of professional sports, bringing fame and fortune to one party, and despair mixed with regret to another.  So  grab a box of tissues, enjoy, and feel free to submit your own ideas. 

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        What If??????

11. The Twins hadn’t released David Ortiz?

What happened: In December 2002, the Minnesota Twins released Big Papi.  He was signed by the Boston Red Sox a month later, and has since been the primary offensive contributor to a pair of Red Sox titles, played in the All-Star Game, and has been an MVP candidate. 

What COULD have happened:

The Twinkies have that extra pop to get over the hump, and celebrate a World Series of their own fueled by Papi’s MVP 50 home run, 145 RBI season.  Boston never gets by the Yankees, and Red Sox Nation is still breathlessly waiting to end their World Series drought, making Cub fans feel much better.

The Cubs just can’t get that Goat off their back….

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10. John Elway agreed to play for the Colts?

What happened:

Hot shot Stanford quarterback John Elway is drafted #1 overall by the horrendous Baltimore Colts.  Instead of graciously embracing the organization, he refuses to suit up, and threatens to play professional baseball instead if they don’t trade him.  The Colts wimp out, and ship his rights to the Denver Broncos for a bag of Chili Cheese Fritos and All-Pro lineman Chris Hinton.  Baltimore moves to Indianapolis, and fades into deeper obscurity as Elway leads the Broncs to 5 Super Bowls, wins two of them, and is now enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame.

What COULD have happened:

Johnny shows class, signs with the Colts, and works his magic, leading Indianapolis to numerous Super Bowl blowouts at the hands of the NFC (Denver was just as bad when Elway arrived, so this is entirely plausible).  The Broncos, without Elway, never reach the main stage, sparing us all of the infamous and disturbing in game screen-shots of Denver’s Barrelman.  The Colts, a legitimate playoff team, can’t draft Peyton Manning, sparing us all once again of something horrible, commercials.  This is of course hoping “California Peyton” would be too cool for that sort of self-deprecating humiliation.

9. The Sonics didn’t trade Scottie Pippen?

What happened:

In 1987, the Seattle Supersonics drafted Pip #5 overall, and immediately sent him packing to the Chicago Bulls for Olden Polynice.  Pippen goes on to win a Gold Medal in the ’92 Olympics, 6 NBA championships with the Bulls, and is named one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all-time.  Polynice lasted only 4 seasons in Seattle, never averaged more than 8 points a game, was arrested in 2000 for “impersonating a police officer,” and the costume wasn’t for bachelorette party purposes……ouch.

What COULD have happened:

Scottie plays well, but Seattle struggles for a few seasons before drafting Gary Payton.  The two become a feared tandem, and other pieces are added to the puzzle.  Seattle celebrates an NBA championship in 1996, and Pippen wins the MVP award as the team’s leader and top player.  The Bulls get close in the early 90’s, but don’t break through the Pistons or Knicks until 1993, and go on to win their first NBA title.  Chicago adds two more trophies, and Michael Jordan retires with only 3 rings due to his career lacking a reliable sidekick.

8. Goldberg and The Rock  did not suffer injuries that ended their football careers?

What happened:

Bill Goldberg and Dwayne Johnson are borderline talents aspiring to play football in the NFL, but suffer career threatening/ending injuries.  They turn to professional wrestling, and become THE face for their respective organizations in the late 90’s and early 00’s.  With Stone Cold Steve Austin drunk/injured, the WWF is led by The Rock, and the WCW is carried by the unstoppable Goldberg.  Professional wrestling becomes relevant again, and the fan base explodes to 80’s style proportions.

What COULD have happened:

Goldberg and Johnson hump out mediocre football careers that take them to the CFL and Arena League before retiring virtually unbeknownst to the public eye.  Ratings for  professional wrestling continues to dwindle, and Vince McMahon pulls the plug permanently on the WWF in 2001 to concentrate on his brainchild, the XFL.

 A glimpse of what might be on instead of Monday Night Raw……

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7. Lou Holtz didn’t leave Notre Dame?

What happened:

Legendary college football strategist Lou Holtz steps down as head coach of Notre Dame in 1996, amidst rumors of being forced out.  Since Lou’s tenure, the Fighting Irish have had 3 coaches in about that same time, and they have won a combined 0 bowl games.  The program is in complete shambles after this year’s embarrassing 3-9 campaign. 

What COULD have happened:

Holtz stays at the helm in South Bend, and the Irish continue to compete at the high level their fans are accustomed to.  Notre Dame posts winning season after season, and, even though they don’t win any National Championships, they celebrate a Top 3 finish along the way.  Holtz retires in 2004, and hands over the keys of a winning program to Charlie Weis….(still gotta have faith in the big guy)

6. The Expos kept their ridiculous amount of young talent?

What happened:

The Montreal Expos became the MLB’s first farm team to play in the actual Major League.  They would nurture and develop young promising talent, then sell them to the highest bidder.  Stars such as Larry Walker, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Cliff Floyd, Moises Alou and Vladimir Guerrero once called Montreal home.  The Expos continued to lose due to lack of talent, fans quit caring, and the franchise relocated to D.C., where they are currently hailed as the Washington Nationals. 

What COULD have happened:

The Expos make a commitment to their young players, and do what it takes to keep them happy and Canadian (considering in a perfect world, a baseball player would be just as happy in Montreal as New York).  Olympic Stadium is packed every night, as the division leading Expos relentlessly hammer opponents.  Montreal wins a few National League Pennants down the road, and moving the team is NEVER brought up once.  The players are happy, and the city is very happy.

74-40….6 games up….Damn you 1994 strike!!! (cricket….cricket)

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5. Drew Bledsoe didn’t get injured?

What happened:

In a game against the New York Jets in 2001, Bledsoe suffered internal bleeding after linebacker Mo Lewis was nice enough to greet him head on.  A young Tom Brady was vaulted into the starting role, and, as pundits say, the rest is “history.”  Tommy Boy has led the New England Patriots to 3 Super Bowl titles, won the league MVP award, and has dated a slew of gorgeous models/actresses.  Miraculously, he has only managed to knock up one of these uber-babes.  Some guys aren’t as lucky.

What COULD have happened:

Bledsoe doesn’t get his egg scrambled, and stays healthy the rest of the season.  In a snow covered playoff showdown against the Oakland Raiders, Drew fumbles away the Pats last chance for victory.  He comes back in 2002 as the man, and leads NE to a 7 win campaign.  New England sticks with Bledsoe, and Brady is released in 2003.  The Chicago Bears pick up Brady off the wire, and he leads them to 5 consecutive Super Bowl titles (wishful thinking of course), while New England is still looking for that X-Factor that will take them to the promised land.

4. Wayne Gretzky wasn’t traded to the Kings?

What happened:

On August 9, 1988 the Edmonton Oilers trade Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings for $15 million and a few stale donuts.  The Oilers, who hoisted 4 Stanley Cups with “The Great One,” fall apart and win just one since the ill-fated deal.  Wayne’s World hits L.A., and hockey becomes the new it thing, even trumping the Lakers in popularity for a short time.  Gretzky leads the Kings to the Cup Finals, but sadly never lifts another Cup in victory.

What COULD have happened:

The Oilers owner isn’t a financial dipshit and doesn’t sell Gretzky like the Red Sox supposedly sold Babe Ruth.  Edmonton remains the most feared team in all the land, and the franchise celebrates numerous Stanley Cup triumphs.  The Kings fall on hard times, and the team folds.  Cities that don’t deserve hockey teams aren’t mentioned in expansion talks, and we don’t have to experience colossal travesties like a team moving from Minnesota to Texas, or Winnipeg to Freakin’ Arizona.

This looks like the perfect spot to move the Jets.  Snakes, cacti, and dirt love hockey…..

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3. Eli Manning signed with the Chargers?

What happened:

On draft day 2004, the San Diego Chargers used their first overall selection on Manning, who made it abundantly clear he would not play there before the pick was even turned in.  The Chargers are forced to trade Eli for #4 pick Philip Rivers, and a package of draft selections.  Rivers has been shaky at best in San Diego, and Manning was the same until his clutch playoff run in 2007 that culminated with a Super Bowl victory over the undefeated New England Patriots.  Eli’s stock is currently soaring, and Rivers is still stuck in neutral.  Luckily, the Chargers did attain All-Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman in the deal.

What COULD have happened:

Eli shows class, and signs with the Chargers.  The potent San Diego offense has a consistent enough quarterback to defeat the Patriots, and the Merriman-less defense is still tough enough to win the Super Bowl.  Rivers, not one to take media critcism lightly, flounders in New York under the massive pressure, and the Giants are still reveling in the days of the “Tuna.”

2. Kobe Bryant sign with the Hornets

What happened:

The Charlotte Hornets select Kobe with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft.  Little do they know, Bryant refused to play for any team other than the Los Angeles Lakers.  The Hornets ship Kobe to the Lakers in exchange for aging ashtray Vlade Divac, and Kobe piggybacks Shaquille O’Neal for 3 NBA titles.  Divac lasted only two seasons with the Hornets, and it will go down as one of the most lopsided trades in NBA history.

What COULD have happened:

Bryant showing class isn’t even a possibility in bizarro world, so the only scenario that could have happened is the Hornets shelf their pick, not granting the selfish gunner his ticket to L.A.  Kobe spends the next 3 years pouting and refusing to play, exuding a stubborn demeanor that would make a mule jealous.  The world rejoices in this, and the Hornets are canonized as the martyr that saves professional basketball.

1. Brett Favre wasn’t traded to the Packers?

What happened:

After only one season in Atlanta, the Falcons trade Favre to the Green Bay Packers for the 19th pick in the 1992 draft.  Jery Glanville lauded the selection of Favre, and happily sent him packing.  “The Old Gunslinger” thrives in Green Bay, winning a Super Bowl, and going down in history as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time.  During Favre’s reign in Wisconsin, the Falcons starting quarterbacks are Chris Miller, Bobby Hebert, Jeff George, Chris Chandler, Michael Vick, Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, and Chris Redman.  Falcon fans now know what it feels like to be burned alive.

What COULD have happened:

Glanville warms up to Favre, and gives him a chance.  The Falcons offense improves under Brett, and the playoffs become a conclusion every pre-season.  Atlanta celebrates their first Super Bowl victory in 1999.  Green Bay doesn’t have the leader a state of rednecks can rally around, and the Packers continue their free fall into mediocrity.  Us Bear fans are saved from countless highlights of Walt Harris and John Mangum getting burned for 6 by a Packer receiver, and life is good in the 90’s. 

That’s all for now…..send comments on your personal accounts of heartache imposed by the one that got away.  We can start a support group.

3 Comments

  1. Comment by Josh on July 2, 2008 1:28 pm

    I know it’s all just a laugh, but for the record, Goldberg NEVER carried WCW. They would have been fine without him. Nash, Hall, Hogan, and the rest of nWo were the main attraction, while the hardcore and light heavyweights played out the rest of the lineup. Goldberg did nothing innovative and other wrestlers hated him because he’s a wad and was hard to work with in the ring. He played nicely into the storylines with the other big guys, but to say he carried WCW is nonsense.

    And also, The Rock would have ended up in WWE if his football career was anything less than spectacular. He’d never settle long term for CFL or AFL. His father and grandfather were in the business, and he had all the right ingredients to make it to the top (and beyond).

  2. Comment by DiaperDandy on July 7, 2008 7:54 pm

    “With the second pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, the Portland Trailblazers select ‘Sam Bowie’ from the University of Kentucky.”

  3. Comment by John on August 3, 2008 1:56 am

    If the Colts didn’t trade Elway, he probably wouldn’t have played there, even though I have heard that Ernie Accorsi, the Colt GM at the time, made it sound like he was trying to get it worked out and that the owner, Robert Irsay, traded him behind his back. But, Elway hated Frank Kush, the Colt Head Coach, and he would never play with him. Kush is why Elway didn’t go to ASU when he graduated from high school. If Accorsi could have gotten it worked out, which he claims, then Elway probably would have stayed there a few years before demanding a trade. But, I have a feeling that he wouldn’t have played there if we didn’t get him. He probably would have played baseball for 2 years and re-entered the 85 draft because the Colts wouldn’t have had his rights by then. The Bills probably would have drafted him and then traded Jim Kelly’s rights to the Steelers, his hometown team, for the Steeler’s #1 in 85 and 86. As for Denver, if they didn’t get Elway, Hinton would have been our starting LG. Then, in 84, we would have drafted Boomer Esiason with our first rounder with a chance to get Rice in 85 since I don’t think that we would have been 13-3 without Elway in 84. After that, who knows, except that, if we would have gotten Jerry in this alternate universe, the Niners might not have won more SB’s.

    Speaking of what if’s, here is a doozy: What if Arvydas Sabonis comes over to the Blazers in 88 instead of 95? Well, MJ, Pippen, and Phil the whiner would have less jewelry on their fingers for starters.

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