A couple of weeks ago, the PBA announced the approval of a trade that sent Doug Kramer from Powerade to Barako Bull in exchange for Jondan Salvador and a first round draft pick. In only his fifth season in the PBA, Kramer will be joining his fifth team. By all accounts, the bullstrong Kramer is a journeyman.
At Barako Bull, Kramer will be reunited with teammate Celino Cruz, who will be joining his seventh team in eight seasons in the league. A solid backup point guard, Cruz is a valuable piece in any team’s rotation — but not valuable enough to be part of the team’s core. So while he’s often serviceable, he’s never indispensable, making Cruz the prototype journeyman.
Today, player movement is very common. Coaches and officials are always actively negotiating to try to shore up their team’s weak spots. But trades can also be counter-productive, as it lengthens teams’ period of adjustment to develop chemistry. Talk ‘N Text, the league’s most successful franchise for the past two seasons, has had very minor personnel changes — which is why they are perhaps the most cohesive squad in the PBA today.
Trades weren’t exactly commonplace in the PBA’s early days. In fact, the very first trade in league history happened in the league’s third season in 1977. U/Tex coach Tommy Manatoco shipped superstar guard Danny Florencio and Jimmy Otazu to the 7-Up Uncolas for Cristino Reynoso — Big Boy’s younger brother — and Carlos Rodriguez. Florencio was already a household name then, having starred for several national teams and being one of the top players in the MICAA. The trade allowed him to set an all-time high season average of 32.3 points per game for his new team.
Trades can be very controversial, especially with fans hanging on to every piece of news and rumor. It has always worked that way in the PBA. In fact, one of the most ballyhooed player swaps in league history involved two of its greatest centers, Ramon Fernandez and Abet Guidaben, who were traded for each other, not once, but twice!
Curiously, even though he won two Most Valuable Player awards and is second in the league’s all-time scoring and rebounding list, Guidaben is also tied for the record for having played for most PBA teams — making him a true journeyman. He suited up for Crispa, Tanduay, Manila Beer, San Miguel Beer, Purefoods, Alaska, Shell and Pepsi over the course of his 22-season career.
The only other player to have played for eight different PBA teams may come as a surprise: Bong Alvarez, the PBA’s “Mr. Excitement”, who donned the jerseys of Alaska, Sta. Lucia, Shell, San Miguel, Ginebra, Talk ‘N Text, Air 21, and Red Bull over his career that spanned 16 years.
Indeed, in the PBA, journeymen aren’t necessarily role players. Fernandez, a four-time MVP winner and the league’s all-time leader in scoring and rebounding, played for five teams: Toyota, Beer Hausen, Tanduay, Purefoods, and San Miguel — although his transfer from Toyota to Beer Hausen and Tanduay to Purefoods was a result of the franchise folding up, and not because he was traded.
Another all-time great, three-time MVP Bogs Adornado, could also be considered a journeyman, having carried the colors of Crispa, U/Tex, Great Taste, Shell, and Alaska.
More recently, Vergel Meneses, the league’s MVP in 1995, saw action for seven teams: Presto, Sta. Lucia, Swift/Sunkist/Pop Cola, Ginebra, FedEx, Red Bull, and Talk ‘N Text. And Willie Miller, a two-time MVP, is on his fifth squad, having seen action for Red Bull, Talk ‘N Text, Alaska, Ginebra, and Barako Bull.
With trades and player movement happening more and more often in the PBA today, don’t be surprised if the record shared by Guidaben and Alvarez ends up getting toppled.
And while getting traded and moving teams may not be ideal for players, it’s up to them to make the most out of their situation. After all, even some of the greatest players to ever play in the PBA were themselves journeymen.
Jay P. Mercado is a highly-regarded PBA amateur historian. He serves as a consultant for the PBA Greatest Games broadcast on Pinoy X-treme.