Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Philadelphia General Managers' Money Issues

ESPN the Magazine recently released its money issue. In said issue, the staff used a bunch of newfangled statistics to calculate Surplus Value, figuring out what a player is worth and comparing it to his actual salary. They used this information to determine the most overpaid and underpaid players in sports, as well as to calculate a Surplus Value for each team, which were then ranked best to worst. If you are a Philadelphia fan, the results were not pretty.

According to the numbers, our GMs are among the worst in all of sports at evaluating talent and attaching appropriate value to the players they evaluate. Of the 13 markets with at least four major sports franchises, Philly ranked dead last with a combined Surplus Value of negative $354,728. That's $100,000 worse than the next worst city, Miami, and more than twice as bad as the third worst, Minneapolis. And that was just the beginning of the bad news.

They then ranked the 122 franchises that make up the four major sports. The Philadelphia franchise that fared best in those rankings, your Philadelphia Flyers, only managed to be number 90. So of 122 franchises, our four Philadelphia teams all managed to be in the bottom 32. They also ranked the five best and worst teams in each sport, as well as the five best and worst contracts in each sport, and yeah, there were plenty of mentions of Philadelphia in those rankings as well. Let's take a look at each team individually.

Philadelphia Phillies
Overall rank: 120/122. Yes, third worst. They have the worst cumulative Surplus Value in Major League Baseball. Of the five worst contracts in baseball based on Surplus Value, the Phillies are paying two of them, Ryan Howard (-$22.3 mil SV) and Michael Young (-$20.5 mil SV).

Of the 50 best-paid athletes in the WORLD, not country, world, the Phillies are paying four of those contracts. This has ballooned them to the 11th best paying sports team in the world. This for a team that failed to reach the postseason last year and is on its way to repeating that this season.

Some of the Phils' SV numbers may be somewhat distorted because a lot of the big-money players they are paying have been injured and haven't been their usual selves (Howard, Halladay). Also, the Phillies were in the middle of a period of unprecedented success, more money was coming in, and extra money was spent to try to keep the run going. Regardless, Ruben Amaro Jr. has slowly led the Phillies from their pinnacle as a franchise back to a middle-of-the-pack team.

Amaro has failed to address blatant weaknesses on his team, has completely disregarded age as he has watched his roster approach geriatric status, and has demonstrated an inability to properly value players, consistently overpaying his stars and failing to find value players at other positions or to fill the bench (although Ben Revere is now playing the way a lot of people expected him to).

Philadelphia Eagles 
Rank: 100/122. They have the fifth worst cumulative Surplus Value in the NFL. At least they don't hold any of the five worst contracts in the sport. I don't really have much to say about the Birds on the subject. Their draft record under Andy Reid was putrid, but I'm ready to just sit back and see what the Chip Kelly era does.

Philadelphia 76ers
Rank: 105/122. They managed to avoid being in the bottom five in cumulative Surplus Value in the NBA, but Andrew Bynum's contract landed them on the worst contracts list. The Sixers have developed a lineage of piss-poor contracts and player evaluation. From passing on players such as Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki in the draft, trading for a depleted Chris Webber, giving an aging, shell-of-his-former-self Elton Brand a max contract, or drastically overvaluing players like Samuel Dalembert and Spencer Hawes, the Sixers' front office has been frustrating and angering fans of this fair city for years.

However, there is good news here. Finally there is light at the end of the tunnel for a franchise that has been mired in mediocrity and irrelevance since a 6-foot guard from Georgetown was shipped out of town. The team hired Sam Hinkie as its new GM, and he immediately made a splash by trading fan favorite and the team's best player, Jrue Holiday, on draft night.

My immediate reaction to the trade was anger. Jrue was the lone reason to watch the Sixers last season, and now he was gone. But after the emotion wore off, I realized it was the best move for the franchise. They received the No. 6 pick Nerlens Noel and got to keep their No. 11 pick, which they used on Michael Carter-Williams. They received a first-round pick next year (top-5 protected) and still have their own pick, which should be somewhere in the top five or at worst top 10.

With one gutsy, stunning move, Sam Hinkie put this team on the right track. He is starting to load up on young players with a lot of upside, potentially got his team two top 10 draft picks in what is being called the best draft in a decade, and got his team out of the mire that is finishing 7-10 in your conference. The Sixers have a lot of work to do, but there is finally hope and a person steering the ship who knows what he is doing. Final note on Hinkie: He was hired from the Houston Rockets' front office, where he worked under Daryl Morey. Last season Morey added Jeremy Lin and James Harden and is about to add Dwight Howard. Oh, and the Rockets were ranked eighth out of 122 in the team SV rankings.

Philadelphia Flyers
Rank: 90/122. The best of a bad bunch, the Flyers avoided being in the five worst in the NHL but were responsible for the second worst contract, and we all know whose contract that was. That contract has since been bought out, so at least we can move forward from it. Anyway, when it comes to posting on this here site, I usually defer the hockey stuff to the Rev, and will do so here as he discussed the team's seeming lack of direction.

Most of us around these parts have known for a while that our GMs haven't been getting the job done. Thanks to ESPN the Magazine for really bringing the point home, showing me just how frivolous they are being with my hard-earned money that I spend on supporting these teams, and how poor they are doing with both talent evaluation and putting a monetary value on the talent.

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