(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Suns and Diamondbacks approach the need to rebuild in very different ways. Which is right?
Vince Carter's left knee continues to plague him, leaving him betwixt the bench and the knife. As of this moment, he won't head into surgery, but will rest the beleaguered joint instead. However, many Phoenix Suns fans have wisely chosen to remain unconcerned about the matter except as a matter of overall kindness to another living soul.
How can they remain so callous about their new team member? Don't they worry that he won't be able to contribute to the Suns this season? No, they do not worry. Last weekend's overhaul of the season set the tone for the Lon Babby administration: players are now assets and assets are meant to be moved. How else do you know their worth?
Of course, most of the offseason signings appear to have occurred without Babby's contributions due to the delicate dance Robert Sarver and Lon Babby committed to when Sarver made googoo eyes at Babby. The implication exists that Sarver signed all the people Babby ever worked with just in case he might want them on his squad, leaving it to Babby to clean up afterwards. Coincidence, surely.
However, both men quickly realized owning the world's largest collection of small forwards ranked well behind, say, the Musical Instrument Museum in terms of local importance. The small forwards, after all, never did figure out how to make music together.
We learned quickly that Jason Richardson would not be in the Suns' plans next season by replacing him with Vince Carter, who definitely won't be in the Suns' plans next season. We also learned that the slow rebuilding is underway, masked as long as it can be by the presence of Steve Nash. No, he definitely won't be traded until the moment he's traded. He's more important as a ticket-selling asset for now, because it's difficult to become emotionally attached to assets. Nash will be traded eventually, though, when it becomes clear he's not coming back after his contract expires and he turns into just another asset.
Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus represent assets, as well -- ones with shorter contracts and better flexibility on the court and in the market. And that first-round pick? That was probably a deal-maker for Babby, as picks are potential and potential is an asset that doesn't expire until you use it.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, on the other hand, could use a little potential. They're out of the asset business now, though, with the new Kevin Towers administration executing on the new game plan. There will be no more asset acquisition for the Diamondbacks. Instead, Towers is into the acquisition of Titles.
J.J. Putz, Proven Closer. Geoff Blum, Clubhouse Leader. Melvin Mora, Proven Veteran. Xavier Nady, Proven Veteran. This will be a team built The Right Way to teach the kids How The Game Is Played.
Except, of course, there's an awfully good chance Putz will be teaching that from the training table. Geoff Blum and Melvin Mora couldn't put together a decent third-base platoon if you lashed them together with a length of rope and let them play at the same time. (You would get a fine sitcom out of it, though.) And Xavier Nady continues to rank third on the all-time list of Xaviers after the leader of the X-Men and the guy that invented Cabbage Patch Kids.
Mark Reynolds? Old Guard. Strikeout Guy. Outta here.
For this season, little harm is done because the difference between these four men and four minor league free agents is not significant and the money spent keeps the MLB Players Association from raising a stink about minimum salaries. However, Titles cost more money than assets because Titles do not directly correlate to production. Instead, they connect to storylines. It's very easy to emotionally connect with a Title. There's a reason reality shows insist on stapling one characteristic to contestants as soon as possible and then riding that baby until the horse turns to glue.
It won't cost that much more now, but what if Titles still matter when the Diamondbacks are ready to contend? A Title to a contender costs much more and could crowd out a more talented and/or cost-effective person that makes room for other team needs. Becoming obsessed with Titles can hurt as much as asset collection.
Which method of rebuilding is better? If the Diamondbacks don't get caught up in Titles after using them this season as window dressing, then they can quietly build behind the scenes in preparation for contention in 2013. If the Suns don't get caught up in asset collection over building a cohesive team, they too can be ready for proper contention in two more seasons. And storylines? Winning seems to create its own storylines.