And then there’s Peter Magowan. Here’s Bill Simmons, talking about the end of the Phoenix Suns era:
…. I don’t know (Phoenix Suns owner) Robert Sarver. Never met the guy, never heard anything bad about him, couldn’t vouch for his financial situation. For all I know, he’s the greatest guy ever. But for the life of me, I can’t imagine why someone would want to own an NBA team if he cared more about breaking even than winning a championship. What’s the point? Why not sell to someone who cares more about a title? Like so many other NBA fans, I have a pipe dream of stumbling into enough wealth to own an NBA team some day. It will never happen, but really, it’s my ultimate pipe dream other than my daughter turning into a world-class tennis player and me turning into one of those deranged Tennis Dads who shows up for every match flashing hand signals and intimidating the judges. Anyway, if I were fortunate enough to own an NBA team, I would never, ever, EVER favor my pockets over a chance at a title. I just wouldn’t. It’s like going to Vegas for a guy’s weekend and refusing to lose more than $100. Why even go then? Just stay home.
For instance, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck once vowed never to pay the luxury tax like Sarver. When a potential Garnett deal started to take shape this summer, and the Celtics realized that their payroll could climb into the mid 70s (that’s millions) once they filled out the roster with free agents and buyout guys, instead of just blindly saying, “Nope, sorry, we can’t do this,” the Celtics spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out exactly how they’d make that money back through ticket sales, merchandise revenue, corporate sponsorships, 2009 ticket hikes, playoff money, extra courtside seats and everything else. They left no stone unturned. Eventually, the decision was made that the Garnett trade was worth the risk — they owed it to the fans, and if they couldn’t figure out how to capitalize financially on a rejuvenated Celtics franchise in a sports-crazed city that absolutely loved basketball once upon a time, then they had failed as an organization. They made the trade. And if you watch any of the home Celtics playoff games, you’ll see Grousbeck sitting underneath the basket next to the visitor’s bench. He’s the happiest guy in the building.
That could have been Sarver. Could the Suns have done more? Did they leave every stone unturned? Did they maximize the financial potential of those teams? Did they fail as an organization to capitalize on a potential dynasty? Looking at those moves from 2004 to 2007, you’d have to call the Seven Seconds or Less Era one of the memorably squandered opportunities in recent sports history.
Exactly. Did Magowan interfere with Sabean’s efforts to keep a strong nucleus around Bonds? Did he put the kibosh on the Guerrero signing? Did he do everything he could to get a championship while Bonds was clearly the cornerstone of a championship team for ten years in a row? From 2000-2004, Barry Bonds put everything he had into becoming the absolute greatest player ever, running out the kind of numbers you’d normally see in a video game. Did the Giants ownership do everything they could to take advantage of this?
You’d have to answer no. They failed as an organization to capitalize on one of the greatest players in history having one of the greatest runs of performance ever seen. They complained about not being able to afford the players who could have made the difference in 2000, in 2001, 2002 (notwithstanding the tremendously bad luck they ran into), 2003 and 2004, while flushing tens of millions of dollars down the toilet on “veterans” who could have been replaced for pennies on the dollar. They lowballed one great free agent after another, they traded the wrong guys at the wrong time for worthless replacements; they held onto Jason Schmidt when they knew he was washed up and leaving…..
The team was a player or two away from a legitimate shot at a title for a good six years, and the Giants spent most of that time downgrading at one position after another, all the while claiming money was the reason why. I’ll give Magowan all the credit in the world for keeping the Giants in San Francisco, for building the most beautiful baseball park in the world, and for bringing Superman home.
But, when he had a chance to bring a world championship to San Francisco, he pinched pennies, and broke the hearts of the greatest fans in the world.