Sports Outside the Beltway

Eli Manning the Todd Van Poppel of Football?

I guess it’s too early to call Eli Manning the Todd Van Poppel of football, but watching the San Diego-Kansas City game yesterday, I couldn’t help getting that feeling.

In the 1990 amateur baseball draft, high school pitcher, Todd Van Poppel was considered the crown jewel. Van Poppel though made it clear that he wouldn’t play for Atlanta and that his asking price would be high. The Braves, suffering through a terrible run, had the number 1 pick that year. But they decided the risk of not signing him was too great so they held off signing him.

Van Poppel, though, was offered enough by Oakland, then one of the best teams in the big leagues to sign with them. There’s little doubt that part of Van Poppel’s choice was that he wanted to go with a winner not a loser.

But success on the field can be a fleeting thing. The Athletics were coming off of their third consecutive trip to the World Series, though they were swept by Cincinatti. The returned to the playoffs in 1992, but haven’t returned to the Series since.

The Braves in 1990 were completing their fifth year of rebuilding under then GM, the underappreciated, Bobby Cox. The next year he would step down to manage the team and John Schuerholz would take over the reins as GM and the Braves started a string of 14 consecutive trips to the playoffs (except for 1994 when a strike cancelled the end of the season).

Todd van Poppel? He ended up with an ERA in the high 5′s and never attained the success his fastball was thought to portend. Who did the Braves draft as their consolation prize? Chipper Jones – a big part of those successful seasons in Atlanta.

Looking at the success San Diego is having, I wonder if Eli Manning made the same mistake that Van Poppel made. Did he look at San Diego and assume that there was no way the Chargers would be competitive in the near future? With the Giants struggling does Manning regret forcing the trade? I don’t think that the Chargers are.

(Forcing a bad team not to draft you or not to keep you, doesn’t always work out badly. John Elway managed a very nice career in Denver, after refusing to play for the Baltimore Colts.)

Crossposted at Soccer Dad and OTB Sports.

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