They come around every once in a while. The great teams that just seem to dominate their sport forever. You can look back at the legendary Montreal Canadiens teams in the NHL, the Denver Broncos with John Elway in the NFL, and Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the NBA. All these teams had stretches where they were undoubtedly the class of their leagues. They also all suffered an end to their dominance.
Great teams tend to be built with a win now mentality. No matter how long they remain great, the cycle remains the same. Bring in the best of the best and take a run at a championship every year. Not a run in five years, a run this year. The cost of that is inevitably a loss of youth and prospects in exchange for top free agents and trades for aging veterans. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top current teams ready for a fall from grace.
NBA: Los Angeles Lakers
Well, it’s starting to look like it could be a long season for the once formidable Lakers who, at the time of this writing, are sitting with a 9-11 record. Age is coming back to bite this team with five star players having over ten seasons of NBA experience. Two of those have over fifteen seasons of experience. Take a look at those five players, paying specific attention to their experience and age:
- Kobe Bryant – 16 Seasons – 34
- Steve Nash – 16 Seasons – 38
- Antawn Jamison – 14 Seasons – 36
- Metta World Peace – 13 Seasons – 33
- Pau Gasol – 11 Seasons – 32
The ages range from 32 all the way to Canadian Steve Nash’s 38. While Kobe may have been the youngest player to reach 30,000 points, he’s no spring chicken either at 34.
The bottom line is these players are nearing or past the tail end of their prime seasons, and that’s shown this year with injuries and a losing record piling up. The Lakers can’t seem to keep up with the younger, faster teams and that may signal the end of the Lakers dynasty.
NFL: New England Patriots
How much longer can Tom Brady rule the NFL with an iron arm? At age 35, you have to think his time in the bigs may be coming to a close sooner rather than later. When you look at the quarterback he replaced (Drew Bledsoe) to take the starting job, you start to realize how long he has been in the league. That was back in 2001, and he has dominated ever since.
But the team has seen a number of pieces change over the years, and many of the great Patriots teammates from the glory years have retired. Gone are Mike Vrabel and Teddy Bruschi, leaving receiver Wes Welker, at 31, as one of the few remaining Super Bowl legends. The Patriots have done a great job of replacing pieces as the team has gone along, but at this point they have begun fighting an uphill battle as their key components are getting older.
MLB: New York Yankees
Can you guess when Derek Jeter made his rookie debut for the pinstripes? No, it wasn’t along side the Babe, though it does feel like he’s been there forever. Jeter made his Yankee debut in 1995, one season before the insanely dominant Yankees teams won their first of five World Series from 1996 to 2009.
That’s why Derek Jeter is the perfect microcosm for where the Yankees are right now; clinging onto the past. The Yankees are old, and they are getting hurt. 38-year old Jeter’s injury in the play-offs showed how critical that one piece was to the entire team. They collapsed with the loss of their captain, and other veterans disappointed. Now the Yankees have announced 37-year old Alex Rodriguez will miss at least the first month of next year due to a hip injury. The Yankees cleared the farm to sign their stars and now are going to have to start rebuilding from scratch.
NHL: Not Applicable
Since we have no idea when the NHL will return, we can’t possibly know how old the players will be. Come on NHL, make this easier on us!
With the signing of Mike Napoli, the Red Sox have made a statement: they’re trying to win now. After a disastrous 2012 that saw them jettison many aging veterans, apparently the Sox feel they have enough in the cupboard to add a few pieces and make a run. The Sox have also been linked to adding veterans Nick Swisher and Adam LaRoche.
In a division where the Jays have made massive improvements, the Orioles have developed surprisingly quickly, and the Rays have been a steady force for years, is this the right approach to take? It feels much like the Yankees of the 90’s, buying up big names to plug holes. It worked then, but we can see the harsh downside beginning right now. The Yankees are getting older and trending downward, and there doesn’t seem to be much help coming from the farm system.
So what do you think? Are the Red Sox making the right move or should they be rebuilding from the ground up for sustained success?
It’s slightly ironic to think that the season in which we lost the game’s greatest closer, we may gain the heir apparent. While it’s far to early to compare Cincinnati Red Aroldis Chapman to Yankee legend Mariano Rivera, it is quite fun to take a look at this phenom.
Chapman has pitched 28 innings this season in varying capacities for the Reds, only recently being named the official Closer. In those 28 innings, he has given up 0 earned runs. That’s not a typo, it’s June and Aroldis Chapman has not given up a single earned run yet. Oh and guess what? He’s compiled 50 strikeouts over that same period.
This is why it boggles my mind when they consistently talk about moving Chapman into the starting rotation. Yes the man has a freakishly strong arm, but isn’t that a continuing issue with relievers moving into the rotation? Look at Boston’s Daniel Bard, a reliever used to overpowering pitchers. Boston moved him to the rotation at the start of the year, and now you can find him pitching in Triple-A.
Before Cincinnati fans go up in arms, hear me out. I’ve always considered Chapman more of a thrower than a pitcher. He knows what he can do, and he does it. I don’t know if that would translate over six plus innings as a starter. Hitters adjust and I don’t think it would be long before Chapman’s ERA started flying high. I feel the same way about Mariano Rivera. As good as his cutter is, two times through the line-up and teams will start catching up. So why move these guys to the rotation? The Yankees didn’t and they ended up with the greatest closer in the history of the game. Chapman is a ways away from that, but why take that possibility away when you see a guy like this dominate like he has?