Cramer Sorts Through the 3Com Debacle - TheStreet

Can we go back to calling it Candlestick Park now?

The thumping that

3COM

took yesterday shouldn't have surprised anybody. We had six straight previous sessions of deterioration and a whole host of number trims leading up to the carnage.

As I have seen countless times, however, there is always somebody--in this case many people--who didn't think that the number cuts required action.

The holders of 3COM going into yesterday's bloody session aren't dopes. In fact, they are some of the smartest guys in my business. Many of them had probably already trimmed their positions back but owned too much to get out clean. Others might have thought that with the stock going from the $70s to $48 the implosion was complete.

Still others simply couldn't believe that 3COM could have succumbed that fast to the competitive pressures. While we owned no 3COM at my shop we fell into that the latter camp. We met with 3COM at the end of last year, after the company had its best single quarter in history, and determined that this networker was going to assume the mantle of leadership in this much-loved group. They told a great story and they were -- and still are -- stand up guys.

But things declined so rapidly that the believers of December couldn't turn into the skeptics of February fast enough to save themselves.

What do you do if you are long 3COM? I put it in the too-late-to-sell camp, but I certainly wouldn't want to lug it around if I had a trading mentality. No sense going up against

Cisco

and

Intel

, particularly when the latter wants to give away a competitive product in order to boost microprocessor sales.

I used to buy all the guilt-by-association names, after a collapse like 3COM, eagerly scooping up the three and four point losers that sound a lot like 3COM but of course have different business models, customers and products.

I didn't do that yesterday, in part because on 3COM's conference call management indicated that North America, which is the only engine in the world hitting on all cylinders, has slowed appreciably. That could mean anything from a slow down in personal computers purchased by corporations to a change in attitude by corporations which want to stay on the sidelines until the right technologies come to the fore.

In either case it was too dicey to walk along the battlefield trying to decide which are the survivors and which are next to go. I'm not a triage stock picker and the shelling was just too hard to risk approaching most of the casualties.

In other words, yesterday I bought

Bristol Myers

. The only thing Bristol has to do with networks is it advertises a lot on them. That's close enough for me right now.

James Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-chairman of

The Street.

His fund holds a position in Bristol Myers. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes your feedback, emailed to

Jjcramerco@aol.com.