Out With The Old

The explanation varies from sport to sport and case to case, whether economics or just a desire for a “fresh” start, but one thing is abundantly clear in sports right now. It’s out with the old. Now there seem to be three types of old that are on the way out: 1) Older players, 2) Experienced coaches, and 3) Old Perspectives or ways of doing things.

In baseball the most common example of out with the old are players that are 35 years old and up who may be past their prime but still have some gas left in the tank. When I see the following list of players available it is staggering. Names like Griffey, Pedro, Garrett, Grudzielanek, Durham, Pudge, etc. are all out looking for jobs. Several writers have compiled what a team of currently unemployed 35+ players would look like and it’s hard to believe that the team wouldn’t be in the hunt for a playoff spot. So what has changed? It’s hard to argue that economics are part of the equation. In a shocking turn of events, baseball general managers seem to actually be thinking through some of their decisions before they make them. At least, outside of the Bronx they are. Do I take a $5 million dollar risk or try the 3 cheap minor leaguers and hope one of them work out? That seems to be a gamble that more and more GM’s are willing to take. But are they doing this out of a sense of a desire to win, or out of a desire to make more profit? I’d have to guess that it would have to be evaluated on a case by case basis, but there are likely 3 true motivators: 1) Money is tight and you have to cut where you can, 2) it’s a good excuse to pocket more profit without appearing to be greedy, or 3) the Ray effect. It’s actually surprising that it didn’t catch on sooner, but the success of the Rays last year after building the team from within has to have a far reaching impact on the approach that GM’s take on building an organization. It will be interesting to watch this going forward… (by the way, this also applies to NASCAR, but that’s another column)

The second old on the way out is experienced coaches. This is on display most prominently in the NFL. It used to be in the NFL that if you were a former coach, you were going to be on everyone’s list when they had a coaching vacancy, but that is no longer the case. In fact, not only is the trend to hire first-time coaches, it is to disregard age as a factor at all. Raheem Morris and Josh McDaniels were just hired and neither one has even seen his 33rd birthday yet. Why the shift? Well, it’s likely one of two factors (why yes, I do like multiple choice tests, why do you ask?): Economics or Recent Success. Interestingly, in football, unlike baseball, general managers actually don’t publicly make the economics excuse. In football you always hear “He’s the best man for the job”. But the reality is that it’s hard on a team’s bottom line to have to pay a coach to go away and then have to pay $5+ million dollars to an experienced coach on top of that. So hiring a first time coach can often save $3 million or more per year. And when you compound that with the recent successes of first time coaches such as Mike Smith, Jon Harbaugh, and Tony Sparano, it seems like a risk that many football people are willing to take these days.

The final “old” group that is finding itself on the way out is the most disturbing trend. Teams that are struggling seem to believe that the problem is that the players have tired of hearing the “same old” voice of the coach and the coach just isn’t cutting it. Now, this wouldn’t be as disturbing if it was happening after 5 or 10 years. But today’s headline is that Terry Porter’s routine has grown tired and is ineffective in Phoenix and thus he is being fired. AFTER 4 months!!!!! He barely had a chance to learn everyone’s name! And his roster isn’t exactly well put together nor has it been stable or consistent all year. And in the NHL the Penguins just fired their head coach less than one season after reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. How does a coach go from being brilliant and a winner to fired in less than a year?! Really?! These aren’t the only examples, but they are definitely the most recent. (It’s hard to be more recent than these two examples).

So what am I saying? I really don’t know… that’s why I have a blog and not a column in a sports publication… all I know is that in the world of sports I wouldn’t be playing up any “old” features on my resume.

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Categories: Sports General

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