Thursday, December 16, 2010

Top 10 least secure sports positions

I got inspired for the following list from the #1 entry, which I worked up in this week's NFL preview. So here are ten positions of prominence that have the relative lifespan of a fruit fly -- despite, well, being kind of a starring role in sports. Feel free to add yours in the comments.

10) Oakland A's closer. This is an organization-level decision, where GM Billy Beane has demystified the position to the extent that he's more or less ruined baseball for lots and lots of fantasy owners. Huston Street, Billy Koch, Jason Isringhausen, Billy Taylor, Keith Foulke... the list goes on and on, and will keep going for as long as teams give up prospects for a role that Beane thinks is fungible. Even for an organization where Everyone Must Go, the closer is buying milk by the quart.

9) Los Angeles Clippers coach. This week, it was revealed that owner Donald Sterling, one of the most regrettable human beings to ever draw breath, let alone have life-changing money and influence, likes to heckle his broken-down point guard, Baron Davis, from his courtside seats. Which, on some level, just makes sense -- why does The Lesser Donald subject himself to his dotage of failure, just as he's spent his life in failure? Because it makes him money, and he gets the side benefit of humiliating everyone he meets. Remember this the next time you read a Bill Simmons column about being a Clippers season ticket holder (in other news, Bill's going to give some of his book money to Al Qaeda -- I keed, I keed, Billy! Otherwise you'll put me in some hardcover book so you can pull me out of the paperback!), or hear how yet another Clipper coach got bounced from the gig. It's how Sterling gets his rocks off, and unlike the players, the coaching contracts usually aren't as long-term or iron-clad.

8) Tony La Russa's closer. Consider, if you will, the curious case of Jason Motte, a fireballing young reliever who had the job all sewn up in spring training in 2008. On opening day, he blew a save when some two-out hits bunched up and cost the team a win against Pittsburgh. He hasn't really had a shot at the job since. Instead, it's been career journeyman and pitch to contact wonder Ryan Franklin, at least when it hasn't been John Smoltz, or Denny Reyes, or a whole parade of arms that answered the phone when His Highness needed someone to come in and get one out in fifteen minutes. Tony's done more to prolong events with very little action than anyone outside of the U.S. Congress. (I was going to go with a porn joke there, but this is a highbrow blog. Besides, it's basically the same joke.)

7) Broncos, Bills, Jets or Bears Quarterback. The best way to get a turnover job is to have a legend fill it for a long time, then spend the lifetime of everyone who has watched that legend find everyone else who fills the gig wanting. That's how Denver has ran through Bubby Brister, Jake Plummer, Brian Griese, Jay Cutler and Kyle Orton so quickly, or how the Bills have had dozens of Losman-level losers since Jim Kelly moves on, or how the last 40 years of the Jets franchise has been Guys Who Aren't Joe Namath. And then there are the Bears, who seem committed to the idea that the offense has to be suspect, or it's just not football. In any event, if you don't like any of these guys, just wait; they'll be gone in 1 to 2 years, on average.

6) Chicago Cubs third baseman. In a franchise that has redefined losing -- first as an enbodiment of haplessness, now as the proof that futility can come with money -- the hot corner has been the particular point of pain. Aramis Ramirez gave them a few years of competence, but he's seemingly hit the wall now, and that pushes things back to the days of revolving door. This one is given particular poignancy by the fact that Ron Santo, a deserving Hall of Fame candidate and the last guy at the position that Cubs Fan remembers fondly, passed away recently. Maybe now, they can finally fill the role.

5) Oakland Raiders coach. The dotage years of Al Davis have not been kind to the men who have taken the paycheck to agree with his lunatic personnel decisions, then try to turn it into a winning football team. Tom Cable has held the job for longer than anyone might have expected, and if he can somehow run the table and get a playoff berth this year, he might even keep it for another twelve months. But probably not much longer than that, and only because even Davis has become aware that no one with any pedigree wants his gig anymore, because your reputation is going to be better served at a major college program. That's how much turnover has sullied this job; guys would rather work in the minors.

4) Mike Shanahan's running back. Fantasy owners have known about this for a very long time, and now that the White Rat is in Washington, it's not like he's changed his tendencies any. Just this year, we've gone from Clinton Portis to Keilond Williams to Ryan Torain, and that's only after a pre-season of Larry Johnson and Willie Parker. If the season only lasted long enough, I'm sure he'd bring in Tatum Bell and Travis Henry, too... if only because part of the package is that since all of his guys know they are replaceable at the drop of a ball or turn of a series, they all run to contact and generate high injury rates. Skins Fan, do not make the mistake of buying a RB's jersey in the Shanny Era, unless it matches your own name.

3) MNF color analyst. I'm not going to go through the litany of ever-deteriorating sideshow freaks, barkers and wrestling heels that have held this chair, only to note that the speed in which they get used up is increasing. A big part of this is that the MNF telecast is no longer the real prime-time game; that's NBC's SNF, which has better matchups, higher production values, and a broadcasting booth that avoids the rah-rah boosterism of the World Wide Lemur telecast. But we've come a long way quickly, and only barely avoided Rush Limbaugh, really. Not that we may continue to be so lucky once Jon Gruden goes back to coaching.

2) Kansas City Royals manager. This one is kind of unfair, really; I could have easily said Pirates Manager, or Orioles Manager, or Nationals Manager, any of the other MLB- franchises that combine low revenues with lower personell selection to create a perpetual cycle of suck that seems to come from an entirely different era of sports fandom. But since these franchises have to continually revisit the idea that they are trying to their fan base, and that the guy filling out the lineup card can make a difference, they turn over the slots with regularity as a bad-faith move to say they are trying. Don't believe it. Or buy a house if you ever get the gig.

1) Washington Redskins kicker. Sixteen men in the last fifteen years have held this gig; you'd find better long-term employment prospects as an office temp given the fact that football is still seasonal employment. We can credit the magic that is the Daniel Snyder ownership era for this, as talent is more or less tossed into the deep end of the pool, then removed at any and all signs of trouble. It all adds up to a magical situation where at least a game a year is lost when the team can't execute the most basic of makes, and all of the fans of the other NFL East franchises giggle like school kids. Oh, Daniel, you are the gift that keeps on giving...


RawSports said...

How about Cleveland Browns Head Coaches. Since their return to the NFL in 1999 they have had, on average, a new head coach every other year.

DMtShooter said...

Sound call. And I can't believe I whiffed on Sixers Head Coach, seeing how I follow the laundry and all.

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