The Top 11: Seattle draft busts of the past 25 years, #11-7

There have been plenty of draft busts in Seattle sports history, which is why we had to limit our findings to the past 25 years. Whether it was the Sonics, Seahawks, or Mariners making the selection, our local scouting departments seemingly had a knack for unearthing untalented players. By the way, do you know how hard it was to find images of some of these players? Especially live-action images, near impossible. Anyways, here’s our list of the Top 11 people you can’t help but shake your head at. Enjoy.

11. The Trifecta (Robert Swift, Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene). Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times, I must be the Sonics front office staff on draft night. 2004: Robert Swift. 2005: Johan Petro. 2006: Mouhamed Sene. What do these three names have in common? Let’s see:

  • All three are former Seattle Sonics first-round draft picks.
  • All three are centers.
  • All three are over 7′ tall.
  • All three spend more time on the bench than they do playing.
  • All three are now Oklahoma City’s curse of a problem, and yet we’d take them back in a heartbeat.

Let’s start at the beginning with Robert Swift, class of 2004. Right away there were problems with Swift. I remember watching the ’04 Draft and hearing Swift’s name announced by David Stern, then immediately thinking, Who? Swift wasn’t present at the venue, so there was no visual of the guy the Sonics had selected. Quick cut to the studio analysis. Usually you have the consensus “great pick/really fills a need” garbage from the overpaid talking heads, but this one was a stretch even for the eternal optimists. I remember someone labeling him a “project,” which in draft-speak is a nice way of saying “you’re doomed.” And they were right, Swifty was one hell of a project.

To top it off, Swift is a non-European white guy, which is a horrible, horrible sign. Try to think of five really good non-European white guys in the NBA right now……..it’s difficult, I know, but keep trying………Steve Nash, yes……Brad Miller, but that’s a stretch………Mike Dunleavy, Jr., also a stretch……..ok, so the consensus is you can’t fill out an All-Star roster with non-European white guys, which basically begs the question why draft one in the first place unless he’s the next Larry Bird? Oh wait, hold on a second. Apparently the next Larry Bird was already drafted, and has yet to pan out so far in his third season. Goes by the name of Adam Morrison. Whoops, never mind then, I guess even the next Larry Bird isn’t a draftable non-European white guy. Moving on.

So here comes the 2005 draft and the prospect of improving from a year ago. Stuck with the 27th overall pick after the Sonics’ one playoff season in the past decade, the team drafts French center Johan Petro. There are about a million things wrong with drafting French center Johan Petro, but why go into it? Let’s just move on to 2006 (although it should be noted that of the three big men, Petro has shown the most promise thus far).

Mouhamed Saer Sene. If you are (or were, I guess, at this point) a Sonics fan and hear this name, chances are you cringe. Sene was the epitome of a mistake the moment he was selected and everyone knew it. At least you could pin the “project” label on Swift and Petro. Sene wasn’t a “project,” he was “raw.” “Raw” is the draft equivalent of “this guy isn’t American, isn’t European, and isn’t Yao Ming, so what the hell is he?” “Raw” means that you, the player, aren’t even on anyone’s draft board. The Sonics made this raw pick because, in layman’s terms, another team baited them into it. They claimed they “had to” pick Sene because they couldn’t afford to let him drop to an opponent lower in the draft, who supposedly would have selected Sene and used him against the Sonics in some way…I guess.

So here we were with the 7-footer from Senegal, a young Dikembe Mutombo, soon-to-be-fired experts said. Sene’s biggest claim to fame was a 7’8″ wingspan which allowed him to touch the rim standing flat-footed. Interestingly enough, he carried that flat-footed approach into games which made him quite useless on either end of the floor. Naturally, he blocked a few shots here and there, but so did Shawn Bradley and Georghe Muresan back in the day. Long story short, in his two years on the job in Seattle, Sene just didn’t play, and when he did it was for the minor league Idaho Stampede of the NBDL and not the Sonics.

Time for a side note. When Sene was selected, did anyone else immediately think of the movie “The Air Up There?” Because I did, and I could picture Kevin Bacon going to Africa to find Sene and bring him to America to play for a team here, just like in the movie. And not only that, but dominating alongside Sene on a dirt basketball court after having his lower abdomen sliced open in a tribal ritual to indoctrinate him into the group. Maybe it’s just me.

Of course, we don’t have to worry about The Trifecta anymore. Now they languish on the bench of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

10. Ryan Christianson. Realizing the clock was ticking on catcher Dan Wilson, the Mariners used their 1999 first-round draft pick on a high school catcher by the name of Ryan Christianson. The #11 overall pick in a draft that produced the likes of Josh Beckett and Josh Hamilton, among many others, Christianson was labeled the catcher of the future for the big club and set on the fast track to the Major Leagues. Unfortunately, Christianson’s fast track wasn’t very fast at all, and he derailed almost immediately, spending three years in Single-A ball at the outset of his career.

By 2005, Christianson was in his second stint with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, on the cusp of making the big show, when he tested positive for steroids. That effectively ended his Mariners career and Christianson was released prior to the end of the season.

Christianson was last spotted as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A affiliate in 2007.

9. Sherell Ford. Where the heck is Sherell Ford? Honestly. Does anyone know? If you know, please tell me, because I’ve been Googling Ford for an hour and he’s disappeared off the face of the earth. I can at least break down what we do know about Sherell Ford, international man of mystery.

Ford, out of the University of Illinois-Chicago, was the 26th overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. At that point in the draft, there aren’t hugely outrageous expectations placed on players. You just kind of hope for the best and assume you’ll get a two- or three-year rookie contract out of whomever you select. In Ford’s case, 28 games was all the Sonics got, good for 90 total points, most coming in garbage time.

A 6’7″ swingman expected to fill a void at the shooting guard/small forward positions, Ford essentially just filled a void on the payroll. He didn’t even last on the bench after a season, and beyond that rookie year, Ford never played in the NBA again.

According to his Wikipedia page, Ford was last spotted in 2006 when a Chicago ABA franchise invited him to take part in a tryout for their expansion team. The franchise has since folded. No word on whether Ford made the team or not.

8. Rick Mirer. You would think Mirer would be higher up on this list, but he’s here at #8 for two reasons: 1) the Seahawks actually managed to get four semi-productive seasons out of him and 2) when they finally gave up on Mirer, they managed to get a first-round pick in return for him, which is pretty amazing in and of itself. Mirer did try his hardest to become the very best bust he could be though, there’s no denying that.

The second overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, right after Washington State quarterback Drew Bledsoe, Mirer was supposed to be a franchise savior for whichever team ended up with his services. Hyped as the next Joe Montana, Mirer more closely resembled Hannah Montana during his tenure with the club. The only thing he possessed similar to that of Joe Montana’s was a strong arm…which he used to deposit balls into the hands of cornerbacks and safeties. In his four years in Seattle, Mirer amassed 56 interceptions to just 41 touchdown passes.

Luckily for the Hawks, the 1997 Chicago Bears were a passer-desperate team willing to do anything for a starting quarterback, which Mirer technically was. Packaged with a fourth-round pick, Mirer was on his way to Chicago with a first-rounder coming West to Seattle. With their two 1997 first-round picks, the Hawks selected cornerback Shawn Springs and left tackle Walter Jones, making Mirer a pretty valuable bargaining chip.

Mirer remained on NFL rosters until 2005, when he unofficially retired. He hasn’t played since.

7. Patrick Lennon. In evaluating Major League draft prospects, scouts will always tell you to avoid guys who have “slow” skills. Slow skills are those which don’t lend themselves to athleticism, per se, but are rather baseball-specific skills that tend to decline rapidly once a player ages or makes the leap to the next level of competition. Examples of slow skills are proficient power but low contact ability; lack of speed on the basepaths; and the inability to play the middle positions on the field (shortstop, second base, center field). Patrick Lennon was a slow-skilled player. And yet somehow, the Mariners found it in their hearts to draft him eighth overall in the 1986 June amateur draft.

It should be noted that Lennon didn’t appear in a Major League uniform until 1991, five years after he was drafted. That he even appeared in a big-league clubhouse is pretty remarkable considering the fact that he just wasn’t any good at baseball. In the nine games Lennon was a part of in ’91, five came as the DH, which is a ridiculously bad omen for a young player. He recorded one hit, a double, in eight at-bats that season, posting a .125 batting average.

In 1992, Lennon spent the majority of the year in Triple-A before earning another late-season call-up. He appeared in one game, recording two at-bats and going hitless. Unfortunately for trickLe (I like to call him trickLe, it’s a hybrid of Patrick and Lennon, it’s like A-Rod, and is used to exemplify how out of control the hybrid nickname has become), that was the last time he’d ever appear in uniform as a Seattle Mariner. As soon as the season was over the M’s released their one-time first-round selection and he was quickly signed by the expansion Colorado Rockies. Interestingly enough, Lennon was released by the Rockies before the team ever played a game and he wouldn’t appear in the Majors again until 1996 with Kansas City.

Lennon managed to appear in 81 more big-league games in his post-Mariner career before hanging it up at the age of 31 following the 1999 season.

4 responses

  1. [...] has had some epic draft busts over the years, which, once upon a time, we chronicled in three parts here, here, and [...]

  2. [...] annual first-year player draft hasn’t always been kind to your Seattle Mariners (Point of Evidence #1, Point of Evidence [...]

  3. [...] annual first-year player draft hasn’t always been kind to your Seattle Mariners (Point of Evidence #1, Point of Evidence [...]

  4. Ford is my next door neighbor!

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