For most fans of a sports team, the fact that the general manager has a large free agent budget is a good thing. The Braves supposedly have $40 million of payroll to add free agents. I agree that bigger budgets are better than smaller ones, but this offseason I’m feeling a sense of anxiety that I haven’t felt in 14 years.
I used to be a huge basketball fan. I devoured college and NBA games. I find the game a bit boring these days, but my passion for the Charlotte Hornets was once strong. I actually skipped class to wait in line for playoff tickets, and was disappointed when I didn’t get any.
Before the 1994-1995 season, the Hornets were on the edge of something great; or at least, fans of the team felt that they were. The team needed another big man, and the front office let the fans know that they would be in the market for the best big-men in the league. That year, Horace Grant and Danny Manning were considered to be the prizes of the big-men free agents. But it seemed that before the free agent signing period had even started, Grant had signed with Orlando and Manning with Phoenix. What were the Hornets to do?
The team seemed to be on the verge of success after advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 1992-1993. The 1993-1994 team didn’t make the playoffs, and my memory is fuzzy as to what exactly went wrong. But, the nucleus of the team was still in tact, and the front office promised that they would fix the problems and make the team into a contender. With Grant and Manning off the market, there was nowhere else left for the Hornets to turn…. Or, so we thought.
The Hornets weren’t going to leave the market empty-handed, and so they signed 41-year-old Robert Parish. Robert Parish was once a good player, but not from 1994-1996. How devastating. I remember sitting with a friend at a game later that season and he turned to me and said, “Robert Parish is the worst player in the entire league.” He would also embarrass the team off the court with allegations of spouse and drug abuse.
My impressions of his play are probably exaggerated, and maybe Parish wasn’t as bad as I remember. But, the point is that sometimes GMs spend money because they can, and the results aren’t always good. Though more money is preferred to less, sometimes the best strategy is not to spend. Don’t be afraid to put that money in the bank and earn some interest. What you get in return could be a lot better than zero—think double-zero.