Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The No-Stars

Think of your favourite professional sports league?

Got it? Good! Can you name all 30ish teams? Probably not off the top of your head. You were able to name your favourite team, their rivals, the historically good teams and maybe a few ones who have one championships recently...but a lot of you will get to about 25 and get stuck....and frankly, I can't blame you...some teams are just forgettable.

Now look up the teams you couldn't remember. Does any player on their roster really jump out at you as interesting? Probably not!

The sport where I see this happen the most is baseball. To be fair, baseball has teams split up over 2 leagues and it can be almost a decade before some teams play each other. The average Blue Jays fan won't know who's on the Miami Marlins or Colorado Rockies off the top of their heads? But would any baseball fan really know that?

Think of the '10/11 Florida Panthers; a team mainly made up of salary dumps and AHLers, no stars, nothing memorable. What about the Carolina Hurricanes? Colorado Rockies? San Diego Padres? Minnesota Twins? Cincinnati Reds? Atlanta Braves? Miami Dolphins? St. Louis Rams? Columbus Blue Jackets? Orlando Magic? Minnesota TimberWolves? Sacramento Kings?

Unless they have all star rookies, most of the players on those teams that came to mind, aren't there anymore....and notice anything about those teams? These are teams that have been mediocre at best for years now, and in smaller markets (or at least current smaller markets). Which is sad, since without their local fans, the team would have nothing if they can't expand a base outside their market. This leads to a lot of teams being relocated to new smaller markets to try to make it work (Hartford to Carolina, Montréal to DC).

What's a team to do? Star players aren't going to drop everything in their current cities to come play for a team that can't have a winning season on a regular basis, and likely can't afford to keep them around. Star players can only be stars if there's a base to work with, most if not all are not miracle workers. Mike Trout or Bryce Harper won't save the Rockies from a 90 loss season out of the goodness of their hearts.

Many teams could have a good base that lacks experience, so they'll bring in players with experience to help the rookies. This has worked with the Florida Panthers and bringing Jagr/Luongo, but it certainly isn't the only thing a team needs. Teams need to be careful in not bringing dead weight onto the team. Remember when the Leafs had Ron Francis & Brian Leetch, two of the biggest names in the early to mid least 6 years past their primes? Or when the Brooklyn Nets traded way too much in draft picks to get the downward trending Kevin Garnett & Paul Pierce? Giving up your future to try to save the present never works!

A team can draft well, and know when to trade draft picks. While I'll save it for another post, the Oilers/Sixers are learning this the hard way; it's easier said than done. Players can peak later (Alex Steen, Tim Thomas & Victor Hedman come to mind) than a GM can wait, and sometimes, unpredictable busts and injuries can occur (Bryan Berard & Brian Lawton?). Most draft busts are not Ryan Leafs, Jonny Manziels or Alexander Daigles; aka, pure trash; Most have the injury bug. Greg Oden, the two previously mentioned Br(i/y)ans, Brandon Roy, Rick DiPietro and many more had promising careers shortened by injuries and became hated when bad GMs couldn't let them go. Making another team over pay in a mediocre draft for a high pick for your team to get young pieces is the best way to build a team outside of the obvious "draft the next Gretzky".

Good marketing also helps. Making your team memorable to local and out of market fans will help people go "Oh shit, they still exist". The Sacramento Kings are a good example of this, ditching their 20 year old logo for a semi-throwback and beautiful new jerseys...on top of that, gave out free tattoos of their new logo. Many mediocre teams put out good redesigns (keyword GOOD) to refresh their brand. Bucks, Jazz, Raptors, Florida Panthers, Detroit Lions and others have done this, usually after the team begins to get better or after the team sinks to rock bottom.

Sure, teams have done this and failed, but a new logo wasn't the reason for that, sometimes, it's just polishing a turd and other times, bad redesigns are exactly that...BAD! Furthermore, teams with classic looks that fans have grown attached to (Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Reds come to mind) and if the team were to change that look, it'd be ditching many years of history. Fans don't want to let go of said logos, even if the previous logo wasn't that great. Of course you can just modernize like the Twins did in 2011 & Dolphins also did, with mixed results at best for the Dolphins and sighs of "meh" for the Twins. However generally speaking, new logos in the 4 major leagues are rarely worse than the previous logos.

In short, if your team wants publicity outside of your city and wants to get better; there is no one fix! Good drafting/trading go hand in hand, and different strategies are going to work in different scenarios. However, making your players wear bland jerseys and ugly logos certainly won't help. Furthermore, if you cannot get a winning team in a few years, stars aren't going to want to come. Money can buy you any player, but it can't help you keep a player. Don't take mediocre players as a way to fill out the ranks.

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