Almost all of them could be justified at that time. That’s how every bad decision usually starts, right? The Washington Wizards did not agree to give John Wall more than $150 million to sit in street clothes. They did this because he was undoubtedly their best player and had a great season.
When Stephen Strasburg signed his seven-year, $245 million contract in December 2019, chants of “Stephen! Stephan!” at the Nationals championship parade were still relatively fresh. After all, he was the World Series MVP. And for a man whose debut was nicknamed “Strasmas,” that contract was the ace pitcher’s greatest gift ever. The deal was largely hailed as a win, even with bat Anthony Rendon running free.
However, like Wall, Strasburg’s contract hasn’t aged well – to say the least.
With another injury last week, Strasburg was sidelined indefinitely – meaning he has pitched just 311/3 innings overall in eight games since signing that deal more than three years ago. The deal – which is on the books for $35 million a year – is on track to be among the worst in DC esports history, right alongside Wall, Albert Haynesworth and a handful of others whose deals fans are now asking flinch when spoken to.
An investment in Strasbourg was also associated with many warning signs. Even before his most recent bout of illness – which was due to thoracic outlet syndrome, a nerve disorder – Strasburg’s injury history was extensive. Strains, pain and surgeries caused seemingly yearly trips to the injured list. The three-time 2019 All-Star’s – in which he led the National League by 209 innings – is more of an outlier than the standard.
Still, the fans wanted Strasbourg to stay. The Nationals had already lost Bryce Harper to free agency the year before, and it’s not like Rendon played at a high level with the Los Angeles Angels. The thug was also seriously injured. “For me, he deserves this contract,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez told reporters last week, referring to Strasbourg. “He really has. Look what he did, we don’t win a World Cup without him. Nobody could have predicted what would happen.”
However, the same could be said about other terrible contracts. Haynesworth had two consecutive Pro Bowl appearances under his belt when he signed a seven-year, $100 million contract in 2010. He was considered one of the best defenders in football.
Even so, it wasn’t long before Haynesworth quickly clashed with coaches. He was out of form, appearing in just 20 games over two seasons with 6 ½ sacks. The tenure was so poor that the NFL Network called the signing its worst in a decade. Haynesworth wrote in The Players’ Tribune that he would never have left the Tennesee Titans if he had to do it again.
Wall? His career was changed forever when he slipped out of the shower and tore his Achilles tendon. The injury eventually led to the Wizards parting ways with the guard, trading him for former MVP Russell Westbrook. Wall’s career has not recovered. He reportedly sat out last season because he and the Houston Rockets couldn’t agree on a role. He has played a total of 40 games since beginning his four-year, $170 million contract at the start of the 2019-20 season.
The wizards and burgundy and gold have a long history of unfortunate dealings. Forget Wall and Haynesworth. There are many other terrible deals in hindsight. For the Commanders, Deion Sanders (seven years, $56m), Adam Archuleta (seven years, $35m) and Jeremiah Trotter (seven years, $36m) all fit so perfectly with the eye-popping signings in backfired in the early years of owner Dan Snyder.
The Wizards roster is just as ugly: Juwan Howard (seven years, $105 million), Gilbert Arenas (seven years, $122 million) and Ian Mahinmi (four years, $64 million). The latter was immediately recognized as a confusing decision, despite Mahinmi’s reputation as a rim protector.
Make no mistake, the Washington Capitals haven’t been completely free when it comes to bad deals either. Jaromir Jagr helped the Capitals reach the playoffs, but he didn’t fulfill the seven-year, $77 million contract Washington gave him when he took him over from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Nicklas Backstrom, who has penned a five-year, $46 million deal, could soon be on his list depending on the status of his nagging hip injury.
As for Strasbourg, nobody broods over injuries. There are many in the district — including in the Nationals clubhouse — who are hoping for the pitcher (Ripps) to make a full recovery. And they also hope that the 33-year-old will remain healthy afterwards.
But when Strasburg is done for the season, perhaps it’s best not to look up what he’s done per innings.