Its that time of the year, resolutions time. Now, any self respecting adult shouldn't need to wait until January to make themselves better but it is a good time to set goals for the upcoming year.
With that theme in mind, I decided to set some goals for the four major professional sports team in Phoenix in the hopes that 2023 will result in more success for the Valley sports scene than we had in 2022.
For each team, I'll have one macro, big picture goal and one micro, more immediate goal.
- Macro - Settle on an identity.
- Are you a team that wants to compete with the Dodgers/Padres/Phillies/Braves/Mets/Cardinals/Cubs? Or are you a team that wants to mimic the Tampa Bay Rays? For too long, the Dbacks have been trying to straddle the line of a team willing to spend and a team operating on a shoestring. 2023 is the year the Dbacks pick a path. Its fairly clear they will not throw around the kind of coin the Padres and Dodgers do so its the right time to tear this team down. The good news is the job has already been started for them and while they have plenty of promising young players, they could use even more. This means dealing Ketel Marte, Nick Ahmed and Christian Walker the second they have some decent trade value.
- Micro - Bullpen, bullpen, bullpen
- Even bad teams need a bullpen. There's nothing more demoralizing or soul crushing to a team or a fan base than a bullpen that just stinks. We've seen plenty of them in the last decade in Phoenix. Even if the Dbacks intend to tear this sucker down, you have to have a bullpen that can avoid making things worse. If the roster is devoid of talent, you still need a culture in place that rewards solid play. A bad bullpen makes progress impossible, even incremental progress.
- Macro - Stay the course.
- There's a pattern of team in sports that want to tank and plan for success long term that get seduced by earlier than expected results. The Coyotes right now are experiencing some earlier than expected results. While far from being a playoff team, they also are pretty far from being the worst team. Plus they are 7-3-2 at home and Mullet Arena is no longer the butt of NHL jokes. The Coyotes can't get seduced by all of this. They must stay on the path of building for 3-5 years down the road. Bill Armstrong is currently the only GM in the Valley who has a real plan and a real conviction to execute that plan. The Coyotes need to embrace the tank and reject the desire to accelerate their timeline.\
- Micro - Trade Jakob Chychrun
- This is part of staying the course. Chychrun is having a great bounce back season and is just 24 years old but he absolutely needs to be dealt while his value is at its highest. Chychrun's status with the team is a great litmus test for whether Armstrong has the will to stay the course.
- Macro - Make a long term franchise determination on Deandre Ayton.
- Ayton signed a max contract this offseason so why do the Suns need to make a long term decision? Because his contract was a formality, his place with the Suns is still very much up in the air. This is year 5 for Ayton. The Suns know exactly who he is and who he isn't. Their long term viability relies on properly evaluating their own players and capably managing the salary cap. If the Suns decide they don't want to continue to wait for Ayton to emerge as a viable superstar, they need to trade him this offseason. If they determine he's too valuable to their team to trade, they need to circle the wagons internally and stop publicly shaming him. Its either/or and 2023 is the time to decide once and for all.
- Micro - Trade Jae Crowder for a Top 7 rotation player NOW
- After getting manhandled by the Knicks most recently, the Suns are at an inflection point: Do they keep fighting or do they become a victim of their injury adversity? James Jones has babied Jae Crowder for too long. Sending him home made a little bit of sense in training camp. Paying him to not play while the Suns deal with devastating injuries to their rotation is egregiously dumb. Instead of waiting for the perfect trade to materialize, Jones needs to find a trade now.
- Macro - Change the narrative around the franchise.
- This means leadership changes. This means cultural changes. This means owner Michael Bidwill changing his style. This means prioritizing results over relationships. This means making a 180 from how the Cardinals have long operated the franchise. Most drastic changes happen philosophically on the field in the NFL. Recently, the biggest changes are in how organizations are structured. Smart people hiring other smart people to win at the highest level bankrolled by real deal billionaires. The Cardinals are still stuck in a simpler time of the NFL and its time to catch up in 2023.
- Micro - Fire Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim.
- It's time.