Robert Parish

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.

6 Responses “Robert Parish”

  1. Ken Houghton says:

    It’s a precipitous decline, all right. He plays every game in 1994-5 and all but seven in 1995-6—but his playing time drops severely (half as much in the last year in Charlotte as the last year in Boston). He’s actually consisted rebounding, but everything else drops badly.

    Of course, by the time he hits Charlotte, he has played about 1,400 regular season games, and another 178 playoff ones. So it ended up being a case of Charlotte paying for value Boston had already received.

  2. themarksmith says:

    I agree that it might be better to just save the money. Lackey could be on the market next year. You could use the money on draft picks. The problem is that the public, and the media for that matter, will crucify the GM for doing so, especially if and when the team loses. “Why didn’t you spend more money? You had it.” That sort of thing. It may not be right to criticize the GM, but you know that’s what will happen. As a Braves fan, I’m excited for this offseason, but I realize that spending $40-45M on 3 free-agents is taking a big risk, especially with so many arbitration-eligible guys in the coming years and few prospects near-ready (Hanson and Schafer seem to be the only “legitimate” ones). I guess we’ll see. Hopefully, Wren will be smart about it, but that remains to be seen.

  3. Mac says:

    I gotta disagree with you here.  If Wren doesn’t spend the money, he doesn’t get to put it in the bank, or spend it on signing bonuses for Latin American and Asian players.  It goes back to Liberty, which then sets the salary scale in the future according to what the Braves spend in 2009.

  4. Ron E. says:

    Fair point in general, but it doesn’t (yet) apply to the Braves. There’s plenty of available free agents who would be great additions to the club that the extra money could be spent on at this point.

  5. JC says:

    If the front office is forced to spend its budget sub-optimally, then this ought to be upsetting to Liberty Media shareholders. I suspect Wren (or whoever is in charge) has significant leeway in choosing when and on what to spend.  But, I can only hypothesize about this.  If this was a government entity, I can see the spend-it-or-lose-it mindset, but I don’t think it survives much in the private market. That would require X-inefficiency, and all economic discussions implode upon the dropping of the X-bomb. 😉

    Don’t jinx it.

  6. ChuckO says:

    Frank Wren is in a tough situation. He has inherited the GM job in what has been one of the best organizations in the game. In his first year at the helm, the Braves were a disappointment. I’m sure that he feels under a lot of pressure to do something to return the team to its status as perennial contenders. I fear that he will thus go out and spend the money in his budget, even if unwisely, just to create the impression that he is doing something.