Thursday, October 31, 2013

Washington Post Sports Watch: Anyone Want To Talk About the Marcin Gortat Trade?

On Friday afternoon, the Wizards traded Emeka Okafor and a 2014 first round pick for Marcin Gortat. On Monday afternoon, the national sports site Grantland had extensive analysis of the trade posted. First, they had a lengthy piece by their NBA writer Zach Lowe which argued that it made sense for the Wizards to make this deal because making the playoffs this year might help them attract a top free agent next year, but wondering whether giving up a first round pick was too high a price to pay for it. And then, there was a piece by Wizards fan and Grantland writer Andrew Sharp, which linked to a number of Wizards fan blogs criticizing the trade as desperate, but then argued that even though that was true, the trade would help John Wall and Bradley Beal become better players.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post, besides the article reporting the trade, ran this informative blog post by Wizards beat writer Michael Lee explaining the Wizards' thinking in making the trade and...well, that was it. The Post sports section has five columnists and none of them found the time to ask any questions about whether trading a future draft pick for what it seems many agree will be a marginal improvement this year (and maybe only this year, since Gortat is in the final year of his contract), was a wise personnel move for a team that has repeatedly made poor personnel moves for the last three decades.(I'm not going to count the two sentences Mike Wise devoted to Gortat in his Wizards preview column earlier this week.) While fans were lamenting the possible shortsightedness of this move, no one at the Post really delved into that issue -- even if only to argue the other side and defend it as a trade that made sense. (The Lee post did mention that some would see the move as shortsighted, but, as I said, was mainly an analysis of why the Wizards would make the move--which was fine, since Lee isn't a columnist and passing judgement on trades isn't his job as a beat writer.)

I will freely admit that I'm not a big NBA fan, and thus, don't really have a strong opinion on the trade. But the trade's exchange of future for present--and the upset it caused among some fans--did remind me somewhat of a trade the Caps made earlier this year that also received virtually no analysis in the Post, and it troubled me. Washington sports fans, along with some in the Washington sports media, constantly talk about how disappointing our local teams are -- particularly this year. There are a number of reasons, some unique to their teams, why each of these teams have not lived up to expectations, but what's the one commonality among all those disappointments? It is deficiencies in personnel.

The Nationals didn't have a good enough bullpen and bench and lacked starting pitching depth this year. The Redskins just don't have enough good players at positions like receiver, safety and offensive line. The Caps, for years now, haven't had enough secondary scoring and can't find more than 3 or 4 good defensemen most years. And the Wizards...well, as I said earlier, they're been a trailblazer in offering horrible contracts, making bad draft picks and consummating shortsighted trades since the 1980s. And yet, too often the Washington Post, the most important and influential sports news source in the area, just doesn't show enough interest in these personnel moves (particularly when it comes to the Caps and Wizards) -- or, perhaps more importantly, holding accountable those who make those personnel moves for the local teams. If anyone can find a serious examination and critique of Caps General Manager's George McPhee's tenure that has appeared in the Post over the last three or four years, please leave a link in the comments -- because I haven't seen it. And while Tom Boswell certainly does analyze Nats' personnel moves, he seems to go out of his way to avoid mentioning team architect Mike Rizzo too much -- in the case of these three post-mortems on the Nats in September, two avoid mentioning the GM entirely, while the other lets Rizzo say that Davey Johnson"threw him under the bus" by placing too much blame on the GM for the team's personnel deficiencies. (That doesn't mean there aren't occasional Post articles that do hold the Nats' GM accountable -- this excellent Adam Kilgore blog post outlined how the hiring of Matt Williams demonstrates the huge amount of power Rizzo holds in the organization -- but such pieces are rare.)

As much as DC sports fans, and the local sports media, lament how the local teams need to show more effort, or their superstars need to play better, or their coaches need to coach better, none of our local teamsbare going to win championships -- or even come close -- without the right personnel. That's why tracking how our teams are built and asking why those building the teams are making (or not making) certain moves is so important. If you look at blogs about the local teams, fans are doing a pretty good job at debating these moves. Why can't the Post do the same?


Post a Comment

<< Home