I was doing a little talk-show moonlighting on 103.3 ESPN the other night with Jean-Jacques Taylor when he posed a fascinating theory that I believe is dead on: Our four major sports franchises are in the midst of a front office Golden Age. Let’s take a look.
After two decades of to and fro. Of listing in the waters from one side to the other. Of wandering through the wilderness, the Cowboys have found themselves. Have found an identity. Almost everyone believed the Cowboys wouldn’t again be relevant unless Jerry Jones was removed from the football picture. Well, it’s happened. Just not with trumpets. Jerry isn’t as involved in football day to day.
The triumvirate of Stephen Jones, Will McClay and Jason Garrett has taken on the building of this team in a brick-by-brick fashion of smart drafting, free agency player development, and yes, a little luck. No one is laughing at how the Cowboys do business anymore. No one doesn’t think they aren’t a legitimate playoff team with realistic Super Bowl dreams. From a personnel standpoint, everything is in place. Is it perfect? Of course not, No NFL team in a salary cap era can be perfect (Especially when QB’s are paid such a huge percentage of the cap), but few teams have the combination of power and flash.
Given the expectations of the Rangers entering this season, and especially when Yu Darvish was lost to Tommy John surgery, that they are not only in the playoff picture, but perhaps in line to win the A.L. West is nothing short of astounding, and GM Jon Daniels is the reason for it. From the hiring of Jeff Banister as his manager (A manager who has had some rocky moments handling his bullpen, but who otherwise has shown the right combination of enthusiasm and tough love), to the most recent acquisition of Will Venable, Daniels has GM’d his way to Executive of the Year status. A GM’s first job (And some would say ONLY job) is to acquire players, thus giving his manager the best chance to deploy the best team he can. Daniels has done that magnificently, whether it’s revamping the bullpen on the fly, or bringing back Josh Hamilton as a low risk option, or swinging for the fences with the Cole Hamels trade that not only helps now but will help for the next three years. Sure there have been failures, in Daniels now ten years (That’s astonishing isn’t it?), but he does have a keen eye for talent, and does know (to quote a certain presidential contender) the art of the deal.
The Mavericks take a lot of heat for their inability to acquire “The Big Fish,” and for their lack of attention and belief in the draft, but the Mark Cuban-Donnie Nelson do have a philosophy of trying to find hidden gems; the complementary pieces that every team must have around it’s star. That they’ve been able to do that, even as Dirk Nowitzki enters his basketball Golden Years have allowed the Mavericks to remain relevant in the ultra competitive Western Conference. Like the Rangers, their trades (Rajon Rondo) haven’t always worked, but fans should be thankful that the Mavericks haven’t taken a scorched earth policy \ because as we’ve seen in Minnesota, Sacramento and Philadelphia, tearing it all down, automatically thinking you will build it back up with high draft picks is NOT a recipe for success. But drafting is important, and the plans for this year’s pick, Virginia’s Justin Anderson are pretty substantial.
And then there are the Stars, whose GM Jim Nill, is in the process of building something big. In three years he has brought in Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp through trades, and Jason Spezza, Johnny Oduya and Antii Niemi in free agency. All six have played in the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s incredible to think but it’s been 15 years since the Stars were last there. Nill wants people who’ve been there, so they can show the young burgeoning stars like John Klingberg, Jyrki Jokipakka, and Val Nichushkin how it’s done. Like the Rangers, he seems to have an almost endless supply of young talent that is rapidly pushing it’s way toward the big club. There’s a plan, and it’s being executed brilliantly. Bob Gainey had a plan and it produced fantastic results. Nill is doing the same thing here.
Four teams, all slightly different in their approach, but all very much on top of their games. Suffice to say, we’re lucky around here. JJT, you were right on.