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Has the Media Changed the Landscape of Free Agency in Modern Sports?

Posted on 05 July 2012 by andrewtomlinson

If you are a hockey fan, then you have probably been following the Ryan Suter and Zach Parise story for the last week. What has been fascinating is despite the two players not being superstars, when they signed it seemed as if the teams who did not get them had lost out on this generation’s version of Wayne Gretzky.

While both players are extremely good, could the shear amount of discussion and media “buzz” about the two have created a perceived value higher than what it truly is?

Hockey isn’t the only league where we have seen solid players become perceived superstars through the buzz of media. Steve Nash is a very good basketball player, but I highly doubt he is going to put the Los Angeles Lakers over the top. No one would know that if they checked Twitter though, with people saying he makes the Lakers practically unstoppable. Now people would still be fantanical when it comes to moves like the one for Nash, but I highly doubt it would reach the levels we are currently at in the days before Twitter, Facebook and instant access to radio.

Any owners and general managers who says they do not pay attention to “the noise” on social media sites and large news networks is straight up lying. It is hard not to listen to the noise, since it is everywhere, but at the same time they truly would not be very good at their jobs if they did not gauge what their fans’, their true customer, demands and wishes were. Too often though, it seems the people creating the buzz about players seem to condem the owners and general managers who don’t listen to them.

It is fascinating to me to see pundits and members of the media eliminate NHL teams from the playoffs and crown others Stanley Cup Champions just because of a few signings. You would think after what we saw with Nnamdi Asomugha last year and how many crowned the Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl Champions with his addition, sports media personalities would learn from their mistakes. Yet, it seems every year a big free agent signing can cause analysts to go bonkers over some guy they themselves talked up.

Take a look at Prince Fielder and his signing with the Detroit Tigers for instance. People started calling him the best younger hitter in baseball and a better free agent target than Albert Pujols. Sure, he may have out hit Pujols early on this season, but look at where the Tigers are in the standings, below .500, and the Angels, in position to have one of the Wild Card spots. Sure, Mike Trout might have something to do with it, but the underlying theme is the big singing of Fielder isn’t making the Tigers a World Series lock like many predicted in January and it isn’t because Fielder has played poorly. Instead, it is because one player can only have a limited impact.

Much is the same with Parise and Suter, while talked up on Twitter, they aren’t going to guarantee Minnesota a Cup. Now is the interesting part of free agency where we truly test this media affecting free agency theory. With the media darlings off the board, who do they talk up next? Is it former Capitals left-wing Alexander Semin, or could it be someone like Shane Doan? Regardless, it will be interesting to see who gets the most buzz over the Internet, airwaves and through the “noise makers.” If the hot name is signed to a huge deal, even if he probably doesn’t deserve the money spent on him, it will be hard for anyone to say media isn’t influencing the way team’s spend their money.

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