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Jordan Bean | Sacked

The dumbest billionaires

Published: Monday, February 10, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 07:02

For a group of the wealthiest, most successful people on the face of the Earth, professional sports owners sure do make bad decisions.

It has been proven time and time again that the road to winning championships does not come from writing the biggest paychecks, but rather from spending wisely and drafting players well over a period of time.

However, this message has not reached the top floors of athletic facilities worldwide. They have continued, despite repeated evidence to the contrary, to dole out the big bucks to free agents, foolishly thinking it is the key to success.

For example, after acquiring superstars Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, the Red Sox thought they were poised to make a championship run. Instead, they suffered the worst collapse in the month of September ever, followed by their worst season since 1966, winning only 69 games. 

The Los Angeles Lakers recently gave Kobe Bryant an extension, while injured and unable to play, to keep him as one of the highest paid players in the league. His mighty contributions this season have led them to a near-league-worst with an 18-32 record.

Joe Flacco cashed in his Super Bowl victory by signing a deal worth over $20 million a year, but saw his Ravens go just 8-8 this past season, hardly enough wins to justify that kind of money.

The formula does not work.  This is just a handful of the many examples to illustrate this point. Yet, the owners don’t learn.

Part of the problem is that there are exceptions to the rule to give them hope. The 2009 Yankees signed roughly $500 million worth of talent en route to winning the World Series, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is sustainable. This is evidenced by the fact that they are now left with aging superstars and regretful contracts.

The root of the problem is that the owners of the business are not experts in the field. Imagine a scenario in which whoever bid the most money could be the owner and CEO of Apple or Microsoft. It’s safe to say that the company would likely sputter if not run completely into the ground. At their worst, teams can become like fantasy leagues for the rich.

The solution to this, implemented by the smart and successful owners, is to pass off all team management responsibilities to those who have spent their whole life perfecting the craft of a sport’s operations. 

If we were to juxtapose two programs and owners, we would highlight everything there is to know about this. Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft is the gold standard. He treats the team as an investment and owns it for his enjoyment, not just as a toy to play with. He trusts those with more knowledge than he has to make the football decisions. The long-term success of the team is nothing short of remarkable given the current salary cap era in the NFL.

On the other end of the spectrum is Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones. No one can question that his heart is in the right place. He’s willing to spend the money on players and he even built a brand new state-of-the-art stadium, but consistently chooses to meddle in the affairs that involve signing and creating a roster. Under his ownership, the team has been on the verge of winning every year, but has consistently come up just short in the biggest moments.

Owners should buy teams because they have the money and love for the game, not because they’re qualified to make day-to-day decisions. It’s time for them to become wiser and sign a player for what he will do, not what he has done. Leave the sports decisions to the sports guys, but until next time — you’re sacked!

Jordan Bean is a sophomore majoring in economics. He can be reached at Jordan.Bean@tufts.edu.

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