With the new year already flying by, it is easy to forget those resolutions we made just a few days or weeks ago. Don’t forget them, you resolved to make changes for a reason. If 2023 proved anything it is that change is inevitable, change is possible and change can be so much fun. Consider the changes we have all witnessed in the past year in the world of sports.
A year ago this month the Cowboys lost to the 49ers in the divisional round of the NFL Playoffs. Sound familiar? Yes they lost to the same team at the end of the 2021 season too. The reality is they could meet a similar fate this season but that does not mean there have been no changes.
Most teams that finish 12-5 don’t make wholesale changes and the Cowboys didn’t either. But they did part ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. Every team is looking for that next wunderkind, that players coach who can relate to this generation of athletes. In Moore, the Cowboys thought they might have found him. All he needed was some seasoning as a coordinator. At thirty-one years old he became the youngest offensive coordinator in the league. But after four years of calling the plays the offense did not change. So Jerry Jones did. He fired one of his own and replaced him with a Super Bowl-winning play caller named Mike McCarthy. The west coast offense has been a perfect tool for Dak Prescott and perhaps it will lead the Cowboys past the 49ers and back to the promised land.
Consider the Dallas Mavericks. Did they change? Of course they did. They always seem to be changing. But the biggest change of all was a result of maturity and fatherhood.
Anyone who has ever watched Luka Dončić can see he is special. It is hard to quantify why. He is not faster than the other players, he’s not the tallest, he does not jump the highest and yet he is a perennial all-star and an MVP candidate. Prior to this season anyone who watched him could also see that he was petulant. He chided, cried and died with each call the referees made or didn’t make.
In the past year Luka has gotten in better shape, he has become a dad and he has grown up. Maturity is not linear. Each person grows up at a different pace. The results have been noticeable. He is playing even better and whining way less.
Finally, the real reason I wanted to write about change. Our Texas Rangers. What a year! What a change! The first spring training I covered was back in 1990 in Port Charlotte. I asked manager Bobby Valentine about the key to success that year and he said, “pitching and defense.” Almost every manager at every spring training since the beginning of time will say the same thing. Yet for 51 years in Arlington the Rangers did not have enough pitching.
Enter former major league pitcher Chris Young. In his first off-season as the General Manager he acquired a five-man rotation. Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney, Martin Perez and Jake Odorizzi were all either signed, re-signed or acquired. Even after all of that CY told us, “you can never have enough pitching.”
We saw how right he was before the season was a month old. Odorizzi was rehabbing all year and deGrom blew out his elbow in April. Suddenly the Rangers needed more pitching. I hate to say he told you so.
At the trade deadline they got it. Acquiring another of the best in the game, to pair with deGrom when healthy, Max Scherzer. They also traded for Jordan Montgomery and Chris Stratton. That proved to be enough, just enough to take this franchise somewhere it had never been. It went all the way to the top.
I know you have not forgotten, but Arlington’s own Texas Rangers are still the World Champions and still acquiring pitching. This off-season has not been as dramatic as the past two but the Rangers have continued to add pieces and add pitching in an attempt to become the first MLB team to repeat in over two decades.
The Cowboys, Mavericks and especially the Rangers have all changed. They didn’t just talk about change, they did it. They did not abandon their resolutions. Three examples of how change can work and how fantastic it can feel.
Sports columnist John Rhadigan is an anchor for the Bally Sports Southwest television network.