by Rob Joyce
The Red Sox paid David Price an awful lot of money ($217 million to be exact) to be their ace. Under that title, one assumes that Price is expected to be a stud in the biggest of games, especially in the postseason. But after allowing five runs on six hits in just 3.1 innings in Game 2 of the ALDS, Price’s postseason numbers continue to be vastly underwhelming for someone with his talent.
Deservedly or not, there are athletes and programs in every sport who have all the talent in the world, but don’t win titles over a number of years and gain the stigma of being unable to “win the big one”. Whether it’s based in 100 percent fact or not, these descriptions stick with athletes for a long time – usually far longer than it’s merited (see: James, LeBron). Going through each of the four major sports, plus college football and basketball, here are the biggest names who have the demarcation of being underperformers in the postseason:
MLB – David Price:
Friday’s loss drops Price’s postseason numbers as a starter to 0-8, with a 5.74 earned run average in nine starts. It’s the longest losing streak by a starter in baseball history. Though he insists his postseason dominance will come, patience in Boston is notoriously thin, especially when the struggling Price is making $31 million a year. Red Sox fans don’t like waiting – they want to see it now.
NFL – Andy Dalton:
All of the best quarterbacks in the league have one thing in common: Super Bowl rings. Tom Brady has four, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger all have two, while Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson all have one. If you don’t have postseason wins, you won’t be in the upper echelon of quarterbacks. Enter Dalton, who in five years with the Bengals has made four playoff appearances (he was hurt for last year’s loss to Pittsburgh). In those four games, he’s 0-4 with a 1-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Cincinnati signed him as their long-term starter, but there will always be question marks about the Bengals’ ability to compete for a Super Bowl until Dalton proves he can bring it in January.
NBA – Kevin Durant & Russell Westbrook:
It’s impossible to separate these two former teammates, because in their years together in Oklahoma City their reputations were so closely linked. And as a result, they share equal “blame” for the fact that the Thunder only made one NBA Finals appearance in their time. Now separated, Durant will skyrocket atop this list if the Warriors don’t win a championship this season, a la LeBron James after Year 1 with the Heat.
NHL – Alex Ovechkin:
In his 11 NHL seasons, Ovechkin has been the most prolific goal scorer in the league. He’s scored 50+ goals seven times, led the league in scoring six times and has won three Hart Trophies as league MVP. Still, in those nearly dozen years, his Capitals have never even reached the Eastern Conference Final, despite finishing in first place six times. That includes last season, when Washington ran away with the Presidents’ Trophy, but were ousted in the East semis by the eventual-Cup champion Penguins. Though Ovi’s playoff numbers aren’t awful by any stretch (41 goals, 82 points in 84 career games), his team’s lack of success has given him the unfortunate stigma.
College football – Clemson:
“Clemsoning” is a term that comes up when a highly-ranked team has an incredibly disappointing loss in a bad moment. For the Tigers, it blew up in 2014, when Florida State rallied for an overtime win sans Jameis Winston to beat Clemson. For all of the success of the program, it has just one national title to its name (1981), but things are turning around. Head coach Dabo Swinney denounced the idea of “Clemsoning” last season, and the Tigers’ loss in the national title game was by no means a blown effort – it was a historic game. With Clemson unbeaten so far this year, they have a chance to rid themselves of the Clemsoning stink for good.
College basketball – Gonzaga:
No one has been as consistent in college basketball as Gonzaga in the last two decades. Since their Elite 8 appearance in 1999, the Zags have made the NCAA Tournament every year, been to seven Sweet 16s and a pair of Elite 8s. Though they are a mid-major, they’ve been a national power under Mark Few. Despite their successes, with all the WCC championships, 28 wins over top-25 teams, six times being seeded 1-3 in the NCAA Tourney, they’ve never been able to get over the hump and make a Final Four. In fact, in those six years in which they were highly seeded, they only made it out of the Round of 32 twice.