Tanking: Does MLB Really Have a Problem?

Tanking. It’s a buzzword, and over the last few months, one that has gained some traction in regards to Major League Baseball. Back in December, Buster Olney wrote about the issue as one of his 10 things to watch in 2016.

The Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs both had great seasons in 2015, reaching the playoffs with young and exciting and talented teams built through a tear down to build up approach. After cutting spending and losing a lot of games in successive years and finishing at the bottom of the standings, the Astros and Cubs had picked at or near the top of the draft and had access to players such as Carlos Correa and Kris Bryant.

The impolite phrase for this is much more common in the National Basketball Association: tanking.

Now it appears that the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers are in the midst of a similar approach, with the possibility that the Reds and other teams could follow. MLB might have a situation in years to come that 10 percent to perhaps a quarter of the teams are designing failure.

A few weeks ago, Jayson Stark went into greater detail.

But on the other side of that divide, we have the Phillies, Reds, Brewers and Braves. And we can find some execs out there who would throw the Rockies and Padres into that mix, too.

Those teams have various ways of describing what it is they’re up to. But assembling a team that’s built to win a World Series in 2016? Let’s just say that wouldn’t make the top 25 ways other clubs would describe it.

“I’ve never seen the game so messed up,” grumbled one exec from an NL team on the “win-now” side of the Not So Great Divide.

“I think it’s a problem for the sport,” said an executive of an American League contender, looking at the state of the NL from afar. “I think the whole system is screwed up, because I think it actually incentivizes not winning. And that’s a big issue going forward.”

It’s interesting that this issue is being raised at a time when baseball is experiencing a golden age of parity. The Kansas City Royals just won the World Series, the New York Yankees are the only team not to sign a free agent to a Major League contract this winter, and, in my view, we have more teams than ever before trying to win in any given season. While there is absolutely a huge divide between the good and bad teams in the National League, that is a byproduct of the fact that the American League is so condensed that all 15 teams see themselves as contenders this year.

And, with all due respect to Stark and the unnamed executives, I actually just don’t see much evidence that any MLB teams are currently attempting to lose as many games as possible in 2016.

The Rockies and Padres project to be lousy, but that certainly isn’t for lack of trying to be decent on their part. The Padres are 12 months away from a huge (and ill-advised) win-now push that saw them make a bunch of future-for-present moves, and even in the aftermath of the failure of going for it with a roster not good enough to justify the optimism they were selling, the Padres have held onto most of their team. If anything, the Padres are being too slow to enter a necessary rebuild, following the footsteps of the Rockies, who have been perpetually mediocre without committing to a direction.

Rather than blowing up their roster, the Rockies have thus far rejected offers for Carlos Gonzalez, even after signing Gerardo Parra to a three-year contract. They’re kicking the tires on Yovani Gallardo for some reason. They kept Troy Tulowitzki for a couple of years past the point of when they should have, only dealing him a few months ago once he’d lost a good chunk of his trade value. They re-signed Jorge de la Rosa rather than dealing him for young talent when they had the chance. The Rockies aren’t going to be good in 2016, but that’s more due to their unwillingness to commit to a rebuilding project in past years than any kind of effort to lose on purpose.

Those two teams are bad because they have yet to show they know how to win, not because they don’t want to. The Braves, Reds, Brewers, and Phillies? They’re more obvious rebuilders, but even there, I don’t see really see much evidence for tanking.

The Brewers’ asking price for Jonathan Lucroy has reportedly turned away all potential suitors. There’s been no real attempt to move Ryan Braun that anyone can see from the outside. Will Smith, an elite left-handed reliever, is still a Brewer despite the fact that contending teams paid through the nose to acquire relief pitching this winter. These are players who could definitely help a winning team, and in the case of Lucroy and Smith, their contracts are significant positives boosting their trade value. Sure, Braun’s a tougher guy to move due to his contract and the PED suspension he served recently, but if they were really trying to lose, paying down his contract to get his bat out of their lineup would be priority #1.

The evidence is even weaker against the Braves. A year ago, they signed Nick Markakis to a four-year contract because they wanted a reasonable on-base guy to help keep their lineup from being too anemic during their rebuilding years. They’ve steadfastly refused to trade Freddie Freeman, and when they have made present-for-future trades, they’ve brought in guys like Shelby Miller, Hector Olivera, and Ender Inciarte. The Braves are clearly looking to the future, but if they were attempting to get the best draft pick possible, they’d have flipped Inciarte to one of the many teams who would like to have him playing center field for them in 2016. They’d have traded Freeman for a package of young talent and a lot of cash savings. They wouldn’t have signed Markakis. Looking at what the Braves are doing and calling it tanking is supplying a conclusion without respect to the evidence.

And then there’s the Reds, who refused offers for Aroldis Chapman, Todd Frazier, and Jay Bruce back when all three had significant value at the trade deadline, holding onto their veterans because they explicitly said they didn’t want to put too poor of a product on the field. That proved to be a poor decision, as all three lost value over the next few months, and the team ended up having to take significant discounts when dealing Chapman and Frazier this winter. Interestingly, however, the Reds have repeatedly chosen proximity to the majors over long-term upside in their trades, going so far as to turn the Frazier deal into a three-way trade to get players from the Dodgers that they can get to the big leagues more quickly, rather than the longer-term values the White Sox could offer. And, of course, the team has made no real attempt to trade Joey Votto; a team trying to get the #1 pick in the draft doesn’t keep a 32-year-old MVP candidate just for the fun of it.

This leaves us with the Phillies, the team that really seems to be driving this “tanking” talk. Or, perhaps more realistically, it’s the city of Philadelphia that is driving this talk, because sportswriters in that city have to cover a team that really is trying to lose on purpose. The 76ers, the local basketball squad, are currently 6-39. They probably won’t set the record for worst mark in NBA history, but they’re going to be in the conversation, and it’s pretty clear that the Sixers are “tanking,” in the sense that they see value in losing as many games as possible to up their odds of getting a franchise-changing talent in the draft.

My suspicion is that the Sixers’ approach is being applied to the Phillies mostly due to the fact that the two teams share a market. That both teams are building for the future makes it easy to draw parallels between them, but it should be pretty clear that MLB and the NBA are not the same entity, and they do not have the same incentives.

In basketball, one player can literally turn you from a disaster into a contender. The best player in baseball is worth something like +8 WAR, with most of the other elite players worth more like +6 to +7 WAR in a given year; in basketball, the metrics suggest it’s more like +20 WAR for the best of the best players, and that’s in a season with half as many games. You put a great player on the worst team in the NBA and they’re suddenly a legitimate playoff team; you put a great player on the worst team in MLB and they’re probably still going to finish 20 games out of first place.

There’s another huge factor in NBA tanking: draft picks not only join your team in the very next season, but the best picks often become your team’s best player from the moment they sign. If you land the right player, the turnaround can be almost instantaneous, where in MLB, the payoff for hitting on a good draft choice is still a 2-3 year wait for impact at the big league level. The necessary development time for MLB players is also why it’s more difficult to get those picks right; Ken Griffey Jr is going to become the first #1 overall pick to ever get enshrined in the Hall of Fame when he goes in this summer. For comparison, there are 14 #1 overall picks in the basketball Hall of Fame, and that doesn’t count the three more who are going in this summer, or active players like Tim Duncan or LeBron James who are shoo-ins for induction when they retire.

Tanking is a real thing in the NBA because of the outsized impact of single players, and the fact that they are so much easier to identify before they get to the professional ranks. Neither of those things are true in MLB, at least not to nearly the same extent, so conflating the Phillies’ rebuild with the Sixers’ lose-on-purpose approach is based more on a tenuous geographical comparison than anything else. The Phillies are going to stink, and unlike the other rebuilders, they haven’t really held onto any of the players who would have made them less bad than they will be, but why should they have?

The Phillies could have kept Cole Hamels and won 70 games instead of 67, maybe. But to what end? Would those three wins over six months change the fans’ perception of what the team was doing? Is MLB really better off with bad teams going the Colorado route, staying bad for long periods of time, rather than bottoming out in the hopes of bouncing back to high levels? Would any Rockies fan really rather have their organization’s position right now than the Phillies, simply because they’ll be slightly less terrible in 2016?

The reality is, the spread in talent in MLB is the smallest of any of the big three sports leagues; pretty much every team wins between 30-60% of their games. That’s more like 15-85% in the NBA, or 10-90% in the NFL. The NFL is a behemoth even as the same few teams win every year, while other franchises linger as bottom-feeders for decades. The NBA actually has a real tanking problem, with teams actively seeking to get rid of good players for little return to improve their odds of getting a franchise player with the #1 pick, even though they have a draft lottery.

In MLB? I just don’t see it. There are six teams who realistically don’t have much of a chance this year, but only one of them has stripped their franchise of present-value veterans, and given the Phillies’ lack of organizational talent after waiting too long to rebuild, they didn’t really have much of a choice. And because franchise players are harder to identify and matter less in MLB than they do in the other sports, I just don’t see that the league actually has a structural issue where losing games is heavily incentivized.

There are always going to be teams that are not trying to win in a given year. Given MLB’s efforts to increase parity over the last few decades, there are fewer of those now than ever before. All this talk of tanking feels to me like taking basketball’s problem and forcing it into baseball’s narrative simply because two Philadelphia teams happen to be terrible at the same time. Right city, wrong sport.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Sportszilla
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Sportszilla
4 months 5 days ago

Just curious, but: is there at least a slight argument to be made that MLB teams might be getting smarter about the top of the draft, especially in an era with better scouting, more data, and more hard-and-fast slot restrictions? Obviously player development is still a massive crapshoot, but it seems like there could at least be the chance that the value of top picks is going up a bit recently.

That said, tanking in baseball still has much more downside (especially for GMs) than it does in the NFL or NBA, and as you point out Dave there’s no real reason to think it’s happening.

troybruno
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troybruno
4 months 5 days ago

These feels more like a comment on the youth movement in baseball where we have a historically great under-25 cohort of players. That will obviously make the draft *appear* to be smarter, but in reality it is just a comment on the once-in-a-generation talent level.

You don’t have to look that far back — take 2009 for example: Strasburg went #1, but then you have Ackley-Tate-Sanchez-Hobgood rounding out the top 5. With some useful pitchers in the top 15, but nobody that would justify tanking. Oh, and 24 picks missing on Trout would probably be counter to your assessment as well…

goyo70
Member
goyo70
4 months 3 days ago

I agree that draft pick volatility is a good reason why tanking doesn’t make a lot of sense. On the other hand, if you are on the cusp of having a protected draft pick (meaning you can sign free agents who have been extended a qualifying offer AND keep a high draft pick), the incentive seems considerably greater to “position yourself accordingly”, or tank. Even with this level of common sense as a backdrop, many teams cannot or will not take the bait: case in point Mariners 2015. Needed either to lose last game of year or needed the White Sox to win their last game, and they (the Ms) would get a protected pick. Needless to say, in a season where most things went wrong, the Mariners won and the Sox lost that final game, striking a blow against tanking, and underscoring with emphasis what it means to Mariner something up.

wildcard09
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Member
4 months 4 days ago

Even if it was true that MLB teams are getting better at evaluating the top picks, you still have to wait 2-4 years before you see any of that benefit to your big league club.

brober34
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brober34
4 months 5 days ago

good points, especially in comparison with the other major sports. In baseball, teams really need to be terrible for 3 or 4 years in a row (like the Astros and Cubs recently were) for it to really pay off. Even then, it takes smart drafting and good player development for it to work.

Zonk
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Zonk
4 months 5 days ago

Being terrible in itself is not a panacea; the Pirates tried that for 15 years before getting some good management in. You have to capitalize on the draft picks and be willing to spend on IFAs to take advantage of being bad.

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 4 days ago

Just curious: which draft picks do you think Huntington has capitalized on? Eight drafts and only Alvarez (+6 career WAR) and Cole to show for it thus far. (They were both top 2 overall picks, btw). In terms of the future, Glasnow is the only consensus top 25 prospect in the org. That’s not a good yield at all.

Zonk
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Member
Zonk
4 months 5 days ago

I agree with this article; MLB is not the NBA, teams are just trying to either win now, or build for the future (or they are the Rockies).

I also wouldn’t call what Cubs were doing losing on purpose. 2012 offseason, they spent $21 mil between DeJesus and Maholm in FA. They still had alot of highly paid players they were working off the books.

Baron Samedi
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Baron Samedi
4 months 5 days ago

Let’s be honest: Intentional or not, Cubs have been tanking for over a century.

MonkeyMan
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MonkeyMan
4 months 5 days ago

Whatever. We appeared in a WS as recently as 71 years ago!

scooter262
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scooter262
4 months 5 days ago

I’m surprised by all the thumbs down for Baron Samedi’s comment. It’s pretty obviously sarcastic, and I laughed when I read it. Obviously, the Cubs have not been tanking for 100+ years. But I can forgive their fans if it feels that way.

Jon C
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Jon C
4 months 5 days ago

I’m not surprised. This community is full of uptight follower type personalities.

Baron Samedi
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Baron Samedi
4 months 4 days ago

FG went mainstream awhile ago.

/hipsterglasses

TKDC
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Member
TKDC
4 months 5 days ago

I just replied to why Baron Samedi might get negative votes for this, but it is awaiting moderation because of the username that I think Baron Samedi used to be (which I guess if you even type out your post goes into “awaiting moderation”). I’ll just say it was the guy that used to brag about how great his martini making skills were.

Baron Samedi
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Baron Samedi
4 months 4 days ago

I have no idea what you’re talking about.

There is no “used to.”

Jon C
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Jon C
4 months 5 days ago

Simple solution. Have the teams that missed the playoffs go in order down then reverse order the playoff teams.

Jon C
Member
Jon C
4 months 5 days ago

This way a really bad team still gets a decent draft pick and teams will always want to try to make playoffs. It would also add incentive to keep trying to win even after you’re eliminated.

TKDC
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Member
TKDC
4 months 5 days ago

Simpler solution. Do nothing. This is not a problem.

tz
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tz
4 months 5 days ago

Agree about baseball. However, Jon C’s idea would be perfect for the NBA.

Jon C
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Jon C
4 months 5 days ago

It’s my thought Houston did tank and it worked. Besides a preemptive strike is a good thing in this case.

baubo
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baubo
4 months 5 days ago

As a fan of a team that got the 14th pick 3 years in a row just recently, if only you were the NBA commissioner…

rjbiii
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rjbiii
4 months 5 days ago

Completely agree. These clubs are rebuilding not tanking. And as you say the Phillies rebuild looks like it does simply because they took too long to turn to it and had nothing much of value to sell. Same could probably be said for the Cubs and Astros before them, though for some reason I have it in my head that those two (Astros in particular) really did want to be as bad as possible: something to do with international free agent pools or something?

rjbiii
Member
rjbiii
4 months 5 days ago

I’m thinking the Astros not the Cubs. Three years No 1 pick. Highest international bonus pool money.

http://m.mlb.com/news/article/70844002/astros-have-top-pool-for-international-signings

Could easily have been an intentional strategy and it did seem like that at the time. But still, definitely doesn’t seem to me that any of the current rebuilders are doing that.

TKDC
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TKDC
4 months 5 days ago

Whatever the Astros strategy was, the results so far are one 86 win season after several years of being terrible. Not something worth trying to repeat.

troybruno
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troybruno
4 months 5 days ago

You sure? PHI is in year 4 and it took HOU 6 years… I would think the Phils fans would happily trade 17 and 18 for a playoff appearance in 2019 and projections of better years ahead.

baubo
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baubo
4 months 5 days ago

The Astros being terrible for several years, while correct, were not all tanking. Just like the Phillies didn’t tank themselves into their current hole. I think that’s a distinction that many here are trying to distinguish, and many others not doing so.

While if you just use a cutoff of the past few years to say “The Astros have sucked for many years and all they got was a 86 win wild card” is ignoring a large part of information. There’s certainly the future, which we don’t know about. But more importantly, there was also the past. For much of the late 90s to mid-2000s the Astros were trying to win and they were gutting their minor league system to sustain a better big league club. Now, they made a lot of mistakes with how they accomplished that, which resulted in them sucking. But it’s not like they started with blank slate which is being terrible.

I think most fans of teams that aren’t the Yankees are willing to go through peaks and valleys with regards to team success. If you look at it that way, the Astros went through a nice decently prolonged period of good success, then they got crappy, and now they seem to be moving upward but we’re not sure yet. That feels more like normal trends of a typical team.

Bip
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Member
Bip
4 months 5 days ago

This is the key for me. Teams are not really trying to lose games, but they are doing things that are conducive to long-term success that have the impact of weakening the current team. Selling your veterans at the trade deadline certainly makes the team worse, but is that tanking? I mean, yeah, they are basically choosing to lose more games, but not because they want to lose, but because the trade-off is beneficial for them.

TKDC
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Member
TKDC
4 months 5 days ago

Nobody in any sport is really trying to lose on purpose. I think the Sixers management is just really good at spinning a steaming pile of crap into something positive. They have several top picks playing on that team; they are just not very good. Also, no team has really been turned around and into a title contender by a first draft pick since Lebron James or I guess arguably Dwight Howard or Derrick Rose for one season. Sure, there are a lot of all-star game selections coming from that position, but they don’t automatically equate to contending for championships.

Turning to baseball, this is befuddling and the only thing I can think of is that it’s the offseason, all the free agents have signed, as something needs to be said to fill the pages of websites. A few teams going into the season not expecting to win is something that has literally happened in every team sport league every single year for as long as they’ve existed. This is a 100% non-story.

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love
4 months 5 days ago

I disagree. The 76ers GM was quite clearly trying to exploit the draft system in the NBA to increase his chances of drafting a franchise player. And that meant losing or putting the least talented team on the floor until they got that guy. The strategy would have worked but there were three issues: hinke has no ability to identify talent, they overestimated the frequency of those players and also overestimated the tolerance of the other owners for their gameplaying.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
4 months 5 days ago

There is a huge difference between not chasing after the 8-seed and losing on purpose. There’s also a difference between being terrible and tanking. Why so many people believe a team would really want to be bad for several years is beyond my comprehension.

There have been teams that are really bad for an extended period of time. It is usually caused by poor drafting at the top. Most front offices are cleaned out if they have several bad drafts in a row and are terrible. But maybe if you call it something, like “The Process,” you can buy yourself additional years (to probably still draft terribly) before you are fired.

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love
4 months 4 days ago

I usually like your posts but this is quite literally ahistorical. Hinke made clear that the intention was to gather as many high draft picks as possible through every means available. One of those ways was intentionally putting the worst team in the nba on the floor for as many years as it took. This was not the only method. Hinke also wheeled and dealed with existing draft picks and players.

Finally, the owner was fully bought in and aware of what was happening and intended.

Finally finally, there is no evidence that the coaches or the players were ordered to or tried to give less than their best.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
4 months 4 days ago

There have been plenty of teams that have been bad, gotten into the lottery, and gotten better. It makes zero sense to just try to be bad year after year. No GM is going to go into a crappy team and decide the best way forward is to build around that crappy team (aka, chase an 8 seed). But if this guy really did convince his owner that he should have a horrible team for years, and it would eventually get better, than he’s an idiot and the owner is a bigger idiot. No one really wins that way. Yes, there are a couple once in a generation guys that can literally singlehandedly turn around a franchise (LeBron), but they come around… once in a generation. Good teams in the NBA are built though solid improvements, not lottery tickets. Look at all the best teams aside from Cleveland (who was extraordinarily lucky in the lottery to an extent no one could rely on).

TL;DR version: Philly’s strategy is stupid or a shame, but either way hasn’t worked and won’t work, so there’s no reason to try to prevent it.

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love
4 months 4 days ago

I watched the whole thing from ground zero. The owner, the press and the fans all bought in lock stock and barrel. Hinke had to be restrained by the nba. He would have followed the plan as long as it took… They took control of the franchise and installed the former Suns owner/gm as de facto head. No way the nba was going to let him squander all those picks and set the franchise even further back.

As a non philly fan, the hinke and kelly cluster eff regimes were a golden age of daily joy and pleasure. But all good things come to an end in this vale of tears we call life…

troybruno
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troybruno
4 months 5 days ago

I think you’re right on baseball, 100% wrong on basketball. Given this is a baseball site, I won’t argue the latter point.

Jon C
Member
Jon C
4 months 5 days ago

Tkdc, it’s fine if you tricked yourself into thinking teams, especially NFL and NBA, don’t tank purpose but it’s horrible that you’re trying to convince others of it as well.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
4 months 5 days ago

If you think that players and coaches are going to actively do a worse job so the team might get better players to replace them, and also worsen their reputations around the league, you need to be told how ridiculous that is.

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love
4 months 4 days ago

Wow. Nonresponsive and unfair. No one alleged this. No one. This discussion is about ownership and gms.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
4 months 4 days ago

Okay, well then, assembling a horrible team, in the NBA or any other league, is a stupid strategy and won’t work, so there is no reason to do anything about it because GMs that try it will fail.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
4 months 4 days ago

I guess I don’t understand tanking because I can’t imagine that trying to field the worst team in the league would ever be a good long-term strategy, unless you were just pulling some shenanigans with a team that isn’t that bad to get the first pick (which I can’t see getting away with).

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love
4 months 4 days ago

You gotta read up on the sixers and the nba man…

I think they might have stepped in because of ben simmons being in the draft and the other owners not wanting to reward hinke and the sixers.

Hinke’s insight into the game theory of dominating the nba was correct… too bad he is a powerful seprg and a terrible judge of talent on and off the court.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
4 months 4 days ago

I honestly don’t think it is. Ben Simmons doesn’t look like Lebron. He doesn’t even look like Anthony Davis. Speaking of, how much has having Anthony Davis done for the Pelicans? Davis was, by PER, one of the top players in the NBA last year, and the Pelicans still weren’t any good. What is Ben Simmons going to do for the Sixers (who still will only have a ~25% chance of getting the top pick)?

The best two teams in the NBA were not built this way at all. Yes, Curry was a somewhat high draft pick at 7, but without other savvy moves, they would not be where they are, and the 7th pick can’t really be called the result of tanking.

I think the NBA should just let them keep at it.

RoyalsFan#14321
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RoyalsFan#14321
4 months 4 days ago

I don’t know which teams you are assessing as the two best in the NBA, but the Spurs are absolutely built from having two generational #1 draft pick talents.

TKDC
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Member
TKDC
4 months 4 days ago

15 years ago, yes. 10 years ago, yes. 5 years ago, maybe. Now, no way. Duncan, while still a contributor, is not why they’re still so good. And they’ve stayed elite without top draft picks for the last 17 years. San Antonio is weirdly now an example of not needing a top guy. Also, yes, Duncan was also an unbelievable get, but like I said, waiting around with a purposely terrible roster for a 25% chance of getting Duncan is dumb. The only reason the Spurs even has a chance at Duncan was because Robinson was hurt the year before.

TKDC
Member
Member
TKDC
4 months 4 days ago

And claiming Robinson has something to do with the current Spurs is ludicrous

Les Vegetables
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Les Vegetables
4 months 5 days ago

I agree with you assessment Dave, not only is there little evidence but tanking in baseball is far from a guarantee.

What I would like to know is the risks associate with tanking. Is there anyway we could figure out what the financial effects are (roughly) for a teams performance over the course of a season? This way we could possibly figure out the risk you run by tanking and not hitting on that top prospect.

Timothy
Member
Member
Timothy
4 months 5 days ago

So I’m with Dave for most of this, except for the Phillies, where his primary argument is that the Sixers are tanking (which, yes, they are). But look at their roster: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/2016-zips-projections-philadelphia-phillies/

I’m not a proponent of spending money to spend money, but it wouldn’t take a lot to make the roster presentable. They have 4 players projected to post zero or negative WAR in 2016 and four more who figure to contribute about 1 WAR (ignoring the bullpen). That’s more than half of the starting roster. And it’s not like they’d need to sign a J-Up or MVPCentipede; merely signing Will Venable would make their outfield a lot better.

I also realize that the FA’s, of course, have a say in this and it’s probably a tough sell to get somebody to want to join this roster, but a big part of that ties back into the fact that they’re tanking and will probably be doing so for another couple of years. So . . .

Also, I think the idea that you can just get the #1 pick in the NBA and turn your team around overnight is overstated. The Timberwolves have the last two #1 picks and are currently 14-31. Their future looks bright, but this year and next year still figure to be kind of rough in Minnesota.

kuri3460
Member
kuri3460
4 months 5 days ago

I hear what you’re saying but I guess the counter argument is that the phillies are going to be a last place team even if they traded for Mike Trout. Why spend the money or, more importantly, tie up the roster spots even temporarily? It’s like putting new tires on a car that you know isn’t going to pass inspection.

You try and build your next pennant winner, whether that means adding the one missing piece to out you over the edge, or tearing the house down and starting over again.

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love
4 months 5 days ago

You are seriously underestimating the current talent level in Philly and one JP Crawford. They are better than atl and will challenge mia.

Joe
Member
Joe
4 months 5 days ago

I think with regards to the NBA it’s at least theoretically possible for a single player to turn the team around. If the #1 pick is Lebron your team can go from worst to first overnight. Of course most #1 picks aren’t Lebron so it doesn’t always work in practice. In MLB drafting Trout #1 overall doesn’t provide any value for you next year and won’t be enough to make a bad team good on its own.

With the Phillies I’d argue there is a difference between rebuilding and tanking. I don’t think the marginal value of a #1 pick over a #2 is anything significant (though I could be wrong) so I don’t think they’d actually try to lose. They’ve accepted that losing now is inevitable as they try to plan for the future but I think that there is a clear distinction between accepting it and intentionally doing it as the 76ers are doing.

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love
4 months 5 days ago

Yes and no. lebron didn’t take his team from worst to first overnight and neither did jordan. But yes, to dominate in the nba you need one of the top 3 or 4 physically dominant players.

Jason B
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Jason B
4 months 5 days ago

Wait, I’m sorry…MVPCentipede? (A) Who is that, and (b) no.

MonkeyMan
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MonkeyMan
4 months 5 days ago

(A) It’s the latest trend in human centipedes. (B) yes.

johansantana17
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johansantana17
4 months 4 days ago

Cespedes

Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
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Serbian to Vietnamese to French and back
4 months 5 days ago

Therefore will I with Dava for most of the “?ankees OSM, where his main arguments set strikers tube (which, yes, they are), but looking at her composants.:????://???.?????????.???/?????/2016-????-???????????-????????????-????????/

I am not a supporter of spending money to spend money, but it will not have much to do with the agent. They have 4 players expected to be zero or negative war in 2016 and four more children contribute about 1 Var (ignoring the bullpen). This represents more than half of the original list. It’s not like I need to register or MVPCentipede J; We have just signed will Venable unexplored much better.

I also realized that the SA is, of course, has a voice on this field, and it can be hard to sell someone wants to join this list, but much of this is related to the fact that the tank and may be a way for a few years. In accordance to that. . .

Also, I think the idea of being able to pick up the No. 1 in the NBA and turn your team around at night is overvalued. Celtic has two number 1 last choice and is now 14-31. Their future looks promising, but is still expected this year and next year is a little rough in Minnesota.

travisC
Member
travisC
4 months 5 days ago

Who are the 4 players projected to post zero or negative WAR? I only see 2, Ruf and Howard, who play the same position. So your argument is they are tanking because they won’t cut someone being paid $35M?

Dave T
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Dave T
4 months 5 days ago

I think that he’s including the back 60% of the rotation (Eickhoff, Harrison, and Morgan).

travisC
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travisC
4 months 5 days ago

The rotation is Nola/Hellickson/Morton/Eickhoff and Velasquez or Oberholtzer. All of them have positive projections, using Steamer for guys not on the link. No one expects Harrison and Morgan to be in the rotation.

Dave T
Member
Dave T
4 months 5 days ago

I’ll second Kuri’s point about not spending money just to be mediocre, and I see additional logic behind the Phillies’ decision to play a lot of these players projected to post bad to mediocre results. A lot of these players are still relatively young – mid-20’s – and perhaps some of them will surprise on the upside and turn into decent or even good players.

If a couple of them pan out, then they can still be around as cost-controlled talent when the team is actually ready to contend (and spend FA agents) in a few years (or at least be trade chips if they are blocking more heralded prospects).

One other advantage of committing to a rebuild – besides high draft picks – is that a team can take chances on long-shot propositions. In other words, looking for value by doing things like playing “B” or “C” prospects to see if they can actually perform better than projected, taking chances on draftees, seeing if career reclamations can work (and possibly flipping any successes for prospects if they do), etc. Once a team has really decided it’s going to spend at least a couple years rebuilding, those make more sense than signing a bunch of mediocre FA’s on the wrong side of 30.

Dooduh
Member
Dooduh
4 months 5 days ago

Yeah, we shouldn’t confuse teams that have done really bad rebuilding jobs like the Braves and Reds and to some extent, the Rox and A’s, for willfully choosing to tank. Making bad deals or just failing to cash assets in at the right time is why a bunch of these currents dogs are bad.

Of the current bottom feeders, I would consider the Phils and Brewers as having the best chances of turning things around quickly based on depth and quality on the farm. The Pads, Rox and Marlins continue to make puzzling choices (tho the Pads will have a bunch of early draft choices in June) and the Braves rebuild has been much more a quantity over quality thing thus far… not impressed at all with where they’re heading.

HarryLives
Member
HarryLives
4 months 5 days ago

I think you’re underestimating the talent that the Braves have in the minors right now.

Steve Perry
Member
4 months 5 days ago

~”…and the Braves rebuild has been much more a quantity over quality thing thus far… not impressed at all with where they’re heading.”~

To be fair, the Braves’ rebuild is just a bit over one year in the making. These things typically take several years. It’s entirely possible that the ‘key’ piece of their rebuild hasn’t been acquired yet.

They have made some moves that don’t seem to follow their publicly stated goals exactly (four years to Markakis, acquiring Olivera), but most commentary I have seen seems to be crediting the Braves with having accelerated their rebuild.

Dooduh
Member
Dooduh
4 months 4 days ago

Miller trade was great. Not find of any other deals they’ve made over the past year+, and there have been many. Seems like they’ve been actively trading just bc they can.

Joe
Member
Joe
4 months 5 days ago

Dave thanks for writing this! Those articles have been making me mad for a long time now.

domxbomb
Member
domxbomb
4 months 5 days ago

this is a great article.

the really interesting question here is how free agents are going to view the Sixers when they do get better. philly’s unprecedented tank job has certainly drawn ire all over the league, and from their own players as well. will NBA players take sixers money? NBA’s salary cap structure makes it so teams can’t blow another out of the water by offering more money, and players (at least in the past offseason) have shown they are heavily weighing basketball factors as opposed to money/big market status, a la Lamarcus Aldridge turning down Lakers and David West taking big pay cut to both play in San Antonio.

output gap
Member
Member
output gap
4 months 5 days ago

The current Cubs roster is built out more by trades than the draft. Rizzo, Arrieta, Russell, Hendricks, Montero and most of the bullpen were acquired through trades. Comparatively, only Bryant and Schwarber have made an impact as draftees.

Part of the success of Epstein’s “tanking” was the willingness and ability to find a short term asset and turn it into a long term asset. Arrieta was acquired for Scott Feldman, who was signed for the purpose of eating innings and, if successful, be deadline trade bait. This worked for CHC with Feldman and Hammel, netting them Arrieta and Russell.

I am less familiar with the Astros experience, but even in their case, the only draftee contributors thus far are Correa and McCullers. The idea of “tanking” in baseball can be successful when the organization focuses on trading short term assets for long term ones and maximizing asset values, by selling high or buying low and helping improve the players. It’s not a draft strategy. The Reds are picking second in 2016, but did themselves a significant disservice by holding short-term assets without positive short-term prospects.

troybruno
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Member
troybruno
4 months 5 days ago

I don’t think you’re saying anything different than Dave here…

Carlos Baerga
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Carlos Baerga
4 months 5 days ago

…and Keuchel, and Springer, and Altuve, and Tucker…

output gap
Member
Member
output gap
4 months 5 days ago

I realize the Astros drafted some great players — but I’m referring to the period where they were drafting 1-1 and losing 100 games. Altuve and Keuchel predate the “tanking” Astros and Springer was drafted as the Astros fell from bad to awful.

I think the discussion of “tanking” is centered around teams that try to win divisions and don’t because they lack satisfactory talent and luck (2013 Phillies) and teams that are built to lose 100 games because they have AAAA auditioning for the Show, lots of rookies / inexperienced players and limited to no short term upside (2012 Cubs). With the 2015 Phillies, you can have a modicum of hope for good fortune. With the 2012 Cubs, you have no hope to start out with because the state of the roster can’t support winning 70 games with everything going right. But often, it’s teams like the 2013 Phillies that don’t come to grips with their roster deficiencies that end up being like the 2012 Cubs that start over from scratch.

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love
4 months 5 days ago

Nice one. But I think the distinction between teams shedding bad contracts and teams losing for draft picks… the first should be encouraged and the second not tolerated.

The Phillies shed salaries and should be applauded. The Cubs just were terrible for a long time. The astros case is much less clear. As is the Braves. Their recent trades of young talent for prospects looks like a type of gameplaying that should be discouraged.

brewers_rule
Member
brewers_rule
4 months 5 days ago

Tanking is a poorly chosen blanket term for the middling to lower payroll teams coming to the realization they’ll never compete for the big contract guys the high payroll teams like the Dodgers et al can. Essentially dealing with the horrid salary system in baseball to enjoy cheap youth a short while. Teams have no choice but to rebuild & hope fans enjoy watching stars develop because once they hit salary ceilings home teams can’t reach, it starts ALL OVER AGAIN as they go to the big teams either by trade or free agency.

‘Golden age of parity?’ Yes, the Royals won with a midlevel payroll but look at the guys on their squad that were homegrown vs the big name they traded for to put them over the top: Cueto. Let’s take the 2015 payroll results & see where the last decade’s WS winners lie on that scale:

Royals-16th
Giants-5th (3 times last 10yrs)
Red Sox-3rd
Cardinals-11th (2 times last 10yrs)
Yankees-2nd
Phillies-9th

That’s 2 teams NOT in the top 10 over the last decade of baseball and based only on 2015’s payroll (we all know Philadelphia’s was near top during their win). Yes, lower payroll teams make the playoffs here or there but when the rubber meets the road, salary tips the title into the hands of the big boys EVERY year. In the NFL, every team has a realistic shot come postseason but not in MLB where the high priced arms eventually sink the cinderellas by the divisional series.

Only glove, no love
Member
Only glove, no love
4 months 5 days ago

Payrolls in MLB are self imposed restrictions.

How did Cueto out the Royals over the top?

Winning the WS is a terrible way to judge anything.

Isn’t there a sports radio morning show you can call and vent on somewhere?

Actually even they would disagree with you.

formerly matt w
Member
formerly matt w
4 months 5 days ago

Yeah, Cueto had a 4.76 ERA in the regular season with the Royals, and I think a 5.40 ERA in the postseason.

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 4 days ago

So you think if all contracts were voided tomorrow and every team was put up for sale in an auction, the Pirates and the Yankees would go for even remotely similar winning bids?

For someone to suggest that location doesn’t matter in baseball is laughable.

troybruno
Member
Member
troybruno
4 months 5 days ago

Using your arguments that a WS winner is a good judge of parity… last 15yrs:

MLB: 10 unique champs (33% of league) and SFG + BOS + STL won 53% of total
NFL: 9 unique champs (28% of league) and NE + BAL + NYG won 40% of total
NBA: 7 unique champs (22% of league) and LAL + SAS + MIA won 73% of total

73% of NBA Finals in the past 3yrs have been won by 3 teams!

troybruno
Member
Member
troybruno
4 months 5 days ago

sorry, NFL should be 8/15 or 53% as well…

Jason B
Member
Jason B
4 months 5 days ago

“73% of NBA Finals in the past 3yrs have been won by 3 teams!”

Huh? Actually 100% of the NBA finals in the past 3 years have been won by 3 teams.

bbdawgrex
Member
bbdawgrex
4 months 5 days ago

I think part of the misinterpretation here is that people use tanking and rebuilding interchangeably. I’m not sure Stark or Olney are making a distinction between those two words, like Dave is.

MonkeyMan
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Member
MonkeyMan
4 months 5 days ago

Olney likes to portray himself as a moral authority.

SomaDaydream
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SomaDaydream
4 months 5 days ago

It’s stupid to suggest the Phillies are tanking because their team is bad. They are paying the price for years of trading away talent. They were one of the best teams in the majors for years…and now they’ll be one of the worst for years.

JMag043
Member
JMag043
4 months 5 days ago

If the league had a team salary floor we would probably see less of this. There is no incremental gain for a non-contender signing a 2 win outfielder. The teams aren’t actively trying to lose, they just realize there is no incentive to try to win more.

Mike NMN
Member
Mike NMN
4 months 5 days ago

There’s certainly been some tanking in the past. But the real problem lies with the CBA/Revenue Sharing/Draft Order, etc. The intent is probably good–make the smaller market teams more competitive with the heavy-hitters. But the system hasn’t worked as intended. When you guarantee every team a certain amount from the central fund, you diminish the necessity to complete, because it’s possible to be profitable and lousy at the same time. Reverse order drafting makes some sense, but not protected picks. If you must take away a draft pick from a team, don’t provide certain teams with safe harbors for doing it. Competitive Balance picks make very little sense at all. Highly successful teams get them–why? Young talent is the life-blood of the sport, particularly when it’s cheap young talent. The more you funnel young talent to teams who go out of their way to lower payroll by offloading regulars, the higher the price free agents become–because what you can’t draft, you have to buy. That’s counterintuitive to a well functioning system. Free flow of talent will actually moderate salary increases by reducing scarcity. You are really fixing the wrong side of the problem. It’s not so much the Dodgers or Yankees outbidding everyone, because there’s only so much free agent talent to go around, and only so many positions they can fill. It’s not economically rewarding teams for being competitive.

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 4 days ago

“…the higher the price free agents become–because what you can’t draft, you have to buy.”

The better question is: if your pockets are much deeper than the average team’s, why would you draft (and assume massive risk) when you can pour money on the problem? If you have no rev. sharing and no draft order reward, you know what would happen within 10 years? MLB would shrink by 5-10 teams. I’m not even saying that’s a terrible thing; it’s simply the reality in business.

Mike NMN
Member
Mike NMN
4 months 3 days ago

Because you want to leverage your superior financial resources, and no one can afford a roster of 15 players making 20M per year. Younger, cheaper talent allows you to do the spending on the most expensive bauble in the box. Need a starter–buy the best.

Paul22
Member
Paul22
4 months 5 days ago

One could say the AL has its own tanking issues, with big market teams like the Angels staying on the FA sidelines seemingly content to be 80 something win teams. Smaller market teams like the Rays and A’s also have little reason to win due to stadium issues, and you can’t be all that impressed with the Indians, Mariners, Twins and Blue Jays offseasons on the FA market

Frankly, a lot of those AL teams could have done more than they did on the FA market which was a great market for hitters that nobody seemed to want. Other than Detroit, Red Sox and to a lesser extent the Orioles, many teams passed on talent that could have made them a few wins better.

With the percentage of revenues spent on MLB talent at 20 year lows at least, minor leaguers making 300% less in real dollars than they did in 1976, bonuses for draft picks restrained, local and national TV money booming, not to mention the baseball component of mlbam and franchise values skyrocketing, teams just don’t seem to need to win to do well.

In fact the present model of MLB teams seems to be win only if you can win cheaply. If the only way you can win is to sign costly FA, then pass and lose for awhile so you can restock young talent to win cheaply again.

If I am a player, I have to ask why I should give up my best 6-7 years when teams don’t want to pay me afterwards because I am “too old and risky” to give a big deal too. Maybe MLBPA needs to reduce the number of cost controlled years. We all know now the high player development costs that justified the years of team control is a myth with the low pay of minor league players, coaches and scouts an other costs paid by their affiliates.

Sure MLB has parity, but it seems a false parity where top teams just come down to mediocre teams level. In the recent few years sometimes I feel the talent level is dropping, but since its dropping across the board its not as easy to notice, But the spread between the top players in the game and the league average players seems to be increasing. Maybe I am imagining that. Might have to look into it some more. Low minor league pay and harsh conditions coupled with lower bonuses, coupled with high tuition levels and better deals for other sports may be keeping a lot of American born talent from pursuing baseball as a career. But thats Ok with owners who refer to pay minor league players 20 million less a year per team just to keep up with inflation since 1976. Which may be why the value of picks is so high since nobody in their right mind with any talent would want a minor league career w/o a healthy bonus. Much of the top talent in MLB in the last few decades has come from late round picks when minor league pay was much better

So many MLB teams are cheap at both end, FA and minor league pay. The minimum is not increasing that rapidly either. Good deal for them.

AngelsLakersFan
Member
AngelsLakersFan
4 months 5 days ago

This. There isn’t nearly as much incentive to spend money in MLB as there used to be. The myth of ‘buying a championship’ has been disproven time and time again. The problem for teams is the lessening return on free agent dollars in the years since the end of the steroid era.

This would make a good jumping off point for an interesting article for this site regarding the actual return on free agent dollars.

While teams are paying around $8m per war teams have received much less in actual value. Players are declining rapidly in their 30’s when most FA’s are signed.

As we saw this year with the rise of the ‘qualified offer’ and the number of potential lost first round picks for second tier talent. Losing these picks year after year really hurts.

Not to mention the cost of winning, and the size of your payroll dramatically impacts your international bonus pool and your teams draft pool. Take a look at the amateur draft signing bonus pool some time and tell me there isn’t a problem.

After all of that you only have to be a mid 80’s win team to have a legit shot at making the post season, and years have shown that no matter how good you are a 105 win team isn’t all that much more likely to win the world series as the 87 win team.

Then, even if you do win, how much of your bottom line is ultimately the result of your team’s performance? While team revenues are sky high much of that comes from increased league revenues and long term television deals. The Angels, as you mentioned, signed their huge tv deal following the Albert Pujols signing. They have 5 years of Mike Trout and their revenues are generally locked in for the foreseeable future.

evo34
Member
evo34
4 months 4 days ago

Ha! Yes, the MLB PA should fight for more power. That’s what the issue is… You understand it’s a union, right? Unions exist to protect the power of senior members, so why would they want the young guys to get a bigger slice at their expense?

Love it when people start breaking out the violins for MLB veteran players — the only employees in the world to have 100% guaranteed contracts. Can’t perform well any more? That’s your employer’s problem, apparently. #operationshutdown Any idea what an NFL player would do for even one year of guaranteed salary (not to mention the massive reduction in long-term injury risk)?

MLBPA is the most powerful union in the sports and arguably in the entire country. And yes, non-union members (minor leaguers) are getting completely jacked. The answer, however, is not to make the union more powerful to extort money from the owners. It’s to make the veteran players stop demanding such back-loaded compensation, and I dunno, allow your employer to stop paying you when you can no longer do your job(?)

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
4 months 5 days ago

I have to say, I cannot really weigh in on the idea of tanking as a problem, because, well, I like tanking.

Let me reel that back a bit. I – probably not unlike a lot of other fangraphs readers – am extremely interested in the metagame of baseball, that including things like team building, allocating money, draft strategy, prospecting, trade strategy, all that stuff. Seeing competitive baseball being played is great, but following all this other stuff that precedes it is a lot of fun too. So, while a team that is ‘intentionally’ being as bad as possible isn’t great for the on-field game, it is rich content for the metagame. I love thinking about how a team like the Phillies is going to use its rare surplus of roster spots, or what the Braves will do with the veterans on their roster, if they will spend money for the purposes of acquiring tradeable assets, and so on.

If a team was literally just making a mockery of the sport because they got some benefit out of it, I might feel differently, and in that case a change to the incentives would likely be needed. However, just like baseball is a competitive game, so is front-officing, and it’s a game I like to watch quite a lot as well, in from that point of view, tanking is just another strategy to execute.

tz
Member
tz
4 months 5 days ago

As another fan of the meta-game, I love extreme strategies, which includes tanking in places where it makes a lot of sense (like the NFL and NBA). One of my favorite extreme strategies is in college basketball where newer Division I schools load up their scholarships for a particular senior year so that season’s team will have a ton of experience playing together, maximizing their chance of getting a Cinderella win in March Madness. In some ways, this is like what the Marlins have done, getting two championships amid a lot of awful years.

Dave T
Member
Dave T
4 months 5 days ago

I wouldn’t put the NFL in the same category as the NBA, because there have been very few (if any) occasions of teams blatantly tanking in the NFL in recent years (unlike the NBA). It’s somewhat odd, because the NBA of course has a lottery while the NFL doesn’t.

This post offers a few ideas why that might be the case – http://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/12/nfl-tanking-nfl-draft-titans-eagles-cowboys-tanking-doesnt-exist – some better than others.

I’ll add a few other possible explanations why NFL teams don’t tend to tank:

– the NFL season is short enough that a couple of wins – especially upset wins – late in the season can make a difference in selling season tickets for next year.

– turnover of coaches, coordinators, and players (the USA Today post mentions player turnover) is so great that they all have individual motivations to look good every game that they can.

– the NFL’s transaction structure makes tanking a challenge. There’s a salary floor (as well as the hard salary cap), so it’s tough to just decide to get rid of all of a team’s good/expensive players. There are very few in-season trades, mainly because of the difficulty of teaching a player the system of a new team during the season, so teams can’t just sell off players in-season.

– there are 22 starting players between offense and defense, so 1 good player from the draft can only help so much. Yes, a star QB is highly valuable, but there’s also a school of thought that putting him on a really bad team just sets him up to struggle for his first few years in the league.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
4 months 4 days ago

I’ve heard more statistically-inclined NFL analysts say that teams are way too short-term oriented, and are way more likely to try to go for it when they shouldn’t. So, if NFL teams start getting smarter, we might actually see more “tanking” or something like it.

I don’t think any sport will ever quite resemble the NBA in this regard. In the NBA, if you draft Lebron James, you’re good for at least a decade. That incentive is insane.

Mike NMN
Member
Mike NMN
4 months 5 days ago

To follow on the “meta” argument, yes, team building and shrewd front office moves are always interesting. But product on the field also counts. The fan, whether it’s the home town team (who might very well be playing in a stadium fully or partially subsidized by the taxpayer) or those in away games, ought to have a reasonable expectation that they can at least see a competitive game. Teams that deliberately put poor performance on the field, while sharing in gate receipts, are taking advantage of a captive audience as well as the largess of the teams that choose to compete.

Baseball4ever
Member
Baseball4ever
4 months 5 days ago

“It’s interesting that this issue is being raised at a time when baseball is experiencing a golden age of parity.”

The definition of parity is mediocrity. You can hide anything in mediocrity. I certainly wouldn’t call it a golden age. The last great period of MLB was 1978-1993, making the the 1980’s the last great decade.

Jason B
Member
Jason B
4 months 5 days ago

lolwut

isavage
Member
isavage
4 months 5 days ago

I think the only reason this is brought up as an issue is because of the weird imbalance where basically all the really bad teams are in the NL. With the extra wild card too, right now you pretty much only have 8 teams battling for 5 playoff spots, while the other half of the league doesn’t have much of any shot. So yeah, that seems like a bit of a problem, except the AL is the opposite, there wasn’t a clear seller in the AL this off season and everyone at least has contention dreams. The only reason anyone’s talking about tanking is this quirk where the rebuilding teams all happen to reside in the NL.

rhayex
Member
rhayex
4 months 5 days ago

Dave, no offense, but I don’t believe the Reds have signed a major league free agent this offseason either. I just went through their transaction page over at MLB.com and I couldn’t find a single one.

Radermecher
Member
Radermecher
4 months 5 days ago

Creative scheduling,based on ones previous season,allows the NFL a somewhat false parity.Baseball is blessed with great young teams,and players.Tanking seems to be how many have worked the present system.

Dave T
Member
Dave T
4 months 5 days ago

Only 2 out of the 16 games on an NFL team’s schedule are affected by prior season record. Each NFL team plays:

– each division opponent twice (6 games);

– every team in one other division in the same conference rotating independent of record – e.g., the South plays the North one year, then the East, then the West (4 games);

– every team in division in the opposite conference, also rotating independent of record (4 games);

– the same-place finishers in the 2 divisions of the same conference not already covered above, e.g, 1st place against place, 2nd place against 2nd place (2 games). As I said, these are the only 2 games that depend on prior season record.

Steve Perry
Member
4 months 5 days ago

As a Braves fan, I saw the question of whether they were ‘tanking’ come up often, usually by their own fans.

As one of the other commenters noted, tanking and just being bad aren’t the same. I think in the NFL and NBA, where rookie draftees can have a more immediate impact, tanking could be a viable strategy, to an extent. But an MLB draftee is generally 4-5 years away from helping the big league club. If the goal is to turn around and field a winning team to compete for a WS (and increase revenues), then tanking to get a better pick doesn’t seem like the way to go, IMO.

I’m just hoping the Braves can pry a bat away from somebody. Those things are being guarded like the last virgin on Earth.

takehomejoan
Member
takehomejoan
4 months 5 days ago

I find it so odd that ‘tanking’ is now the trend in the era where its most easy to make the playoffs given the new playoff format. Take my White Sox for example: the metrics show they were probably THE hardest team to watch in the MLB last year, but we finished with 76 wins. Minnesota, who was perceived by the media as an exciting up-and-coming-over-achieving playoff-contender, only won 83. Houston won 86, and the wildcard.

The talk of tanking surrounded the team starting near the deadline. The bold and crazy were suggesting dismantling the team and trading off Chris Sale for practically a club’s entire farm system and trying to win with draft picks. The “Houston” and “Cubs” approach. The more mild, but still crazy rumor this winter was that we were going to move Jose Quintana to bolster an offense that was anemic in 2015.

The silliest part of it is: that after having the Chris Sale proposal bashed into my head for 6 months, after seeing what the lonely Royals finally accomplished, watching every rookie the Cubs brought up look like a perennial all-star, I started to consider it. “Only like two or three more years of 90+ loss seasons, then we’ll TRULY be ready to win another World Series” , I told myself, “You have to be bad before youre good.” Not always.

Being behind the times and failing to be on the forefront of change, (much like the Yankees) landed us with good draft picks like Carlos Rodon and Carson Fulmer. The Sox weren’t ‘tanking’ in 2013 & 2014, they were just finally showing the rotten fruits of their bad decision from recent previous years. (The idea that acquiring players like Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, and Adam Dunn was what was to keep them on top) We’re lucky enough to have a decent core of players under club control. If guys like Melky, La Roche, and Alex Avila can have their normal years, this team is in position to win now. Play better cohesive defense, and get normal statistical outputs from your proven veterans.

take the Reds for example: I understand that club has gone stale.And that Votto’s contract broke the bank, but it wasnt impossible to bring back Cueto and Leake. As long as people in Eastern Kentucky and Western Ohio pay their cable bill every month, the Reds will have an infinite amount of money. Desclafani is good. Homer Bailey is coming back next year.

the padres: I understand they jumped the gun and just slapped a mess of stars together and expected to win , which almost never works, but their park is huge. Their starting pitching is good. They hovered around .500 two years ago with an historically bad offense. Retinker, dont just ship everyone out.

My point is: that 10 of 30 teams make it in. If you can play .500 ball until September 1st and turn it on late, youre going to be in the race until the end.
The modern standard of baseball is to have a deep farm system of contact hitters, and power arms. Yes, that does seem to be the way. Maybe if the state of your organization is so entirely backwards that the only choice is to be like Houston or Chicago and start over from scratch, If youre a team on the cusp, just go for it.

-Blame the Astros and Cubs for getting seemingly immediate results
-Blame the Cardinals for creating the illusion a few years back that that style will work for everybody
-Blame the 76ers for being so bad that it transcended sport

Joe
Member
Joe
4 months 4 days ago

Wow so many things probably not worth responding but here we go…

1) Let’s make something clear when Dave suggested trading Chris Sale last year “for a club’s entire farm system” he was not suggesting to “win with draft picks”. Actually he was suggesting that you win with your brand new farm system. It was not a suggestion to lose on purpose it was a suggestion to focus on getting assets for the future rather than the present because…

2) The White Sox are not “in position to win now.” Sure they may be able to take advantage of a weak division but Steamer projects them for 81 wins or the 11th best team in the AL. That’s not exactly what I’d call World Series caliber.

3) The Reds: OK no team has “an infinite amount of money”. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt for talking in hyperbole but especially with Votto’s contract in a not huge market financial concerns are always an issue. But really what possible utility is there in bringing back those players and tying up resources? You can’t possibly believe the Reds are “on the cusp” especially in their division? They have zero realistic chance of winning in 2016 so it makes sense they focus on the future. That doesn’t mean losing for draft picks. That means trading good players for prospects (kind of like the deal that gave you guys Todd Frazier) and trying to find value buys in free agency that can then be traded for more prospects (so not the $130M Cueto).

4) Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908 which is less than 110 years ago. Best to get basic arithmetic right when trying to be taken seriously. (I understand this comes from your comment below but really it’s all the same)

Let me explain to you something you clearly don’t understand. Most teams aren’t trying to win for one year. Teams build deep farm systems so they can win both right now and in the future. Deep farm systems are great because they provide consistent talent to the big leagues (for long term winning) while also providing a team with the resources to trade for present talent (for short term winning). Deep farm systems aren’t just built through drafts. In baseball it is very difficult to build a deep system solely through the draft. A deep system is built through trades (by being on the other side of the process I just described). In fact the Cuba process that you very clearly despise was very much dependent on trades (Russell, Arrieta, Rizzo all were traded for) not the draft.

We get it you’re a White Sox fan and the White Sox are doing it the right way and the Cubs and Astris did it the wrong way and all that good stuff. But next time you want to comment can you at least know what the hell you’re talking about?

takehomejoan
Member
takehomejoan
4 months 5 days ago

the White Sox (76-86) were a truly bad team last year, of which most of their position players were 0.0 WAR players. You see the pretty Samardjia, Dave Robertson, La Roche, Melky signings and think “here we goooo :) ” then you watch the team every day and see the glaring holes in the lineup like Carlos Sanchez, Connor Gilaspie, Gordon Beckham, and Tyler Flowers. You start off 0-4 on the year, never really get it going at all, but you still end up with 76 wins – 7 behind a ‘hot’ Minnesota team and 10 back of the “standard of modern saber execution”, the Astros.

So how do you get back ? Trade your AL Strikeout Leader and bonified Ace pitcher to bolster your bottom tier offense? No. Trade your #2 starter who, by the numbers, is actually better than your #1 over the course of 35 starts? Nah. You replace your revolving door at 3rd base with a cornerstone like Todd Frazier. You trade that whimpy 0 WAR bat at second base for a guy that play like his ass is on fire, Brett Lawrie. You make adjustments. You dont blow it up.

If youre the Phillies who hung onto that 2008 title so long that you missed the boat, yeah you blow it up. If youre the Cubs who have gone 110+ years without winning, you try anything and blow it up. If youre the Yankees and everyone in your lineup is 35 and you just got beat by a bunch of 22 year olds, you blow it up. If youre the Padres, Reds, Marlins, Brewers, White Sox, etc you keep going.

Jason B
Member
Jason B
4 months 5 days ago

“You trade that whimpy [sic] 0 WAR bat at second base for a guy that play like his ass is on fire, Brett Lawrie.”

That ass-on-fire has been destined to turn around, what, like 3-4 franchises now, and counting? The Brett Lawrie who put up 2.6 WAR in just 43 games in 2011 doesn’t seem to be coming back. Last year he put up 0.6 in 149 games.

Temper your expectations accordingly.

OrangeJoos
Member
OrangeJoos
4 months 5 days ago

Beane doesn’t believe in tanking nor does he put faith in reliance on a pick to be a superstar,it is probably why we remain a team less inclined to do what the Cubs or Astros did. Smart or foolish could be argued either way.

mckeetho
Member
mckeetho
4 months 5 days ago

I think a distinction has to be made in the definition of tanking, and I think it comes down to coaching decisions. If the coaches are attempting to lose games, whether by tactical decisions in game, or gametime lineup decisions, then it is tanking, and should be looked down upon. However, if coaches try to win each game with the roster they’re given, then I have no problem with management deciding to place future value over present value to build the team.

I guess the distinction would be whether teams are actively trying to lose, vs. knowingly building a team that has less of a chance of winning. It may seems like a difference of semantics, but to me, at least, it makes all the difference.

jac29
Member
jac29
4 months 5 days ago

So does it really matter that the Diamondbacks traded Dansby Swanson? He’s a couple years away and doesnt help the team right now, and by the argument made here and in the podcast, the value he adds to the team is completely unknown and is more likely that he will be nothing more than an average to below average player. Was the backlash mainly because they included Ender Inciarte?

KCDaveInLA
Member
KCDaveInLA
4 months 4 days ago

Good article, and definitely agree. The turn-around on player development is so slow, that one high draft pick does not move the needle. KC was accused of doing this several years ago (amidst the “process” that we were supposed to “trust”). I would think, though, that a team who was “tanking” would simply use *cheap* replacement-level players, and not for instance throw $36 million at Jose Guillen or $55 million at Gil Meche. The same with Braves and Reds right now. As for the Phillies, there is simply nothing they can do with very few desireable assets, except for draft well.

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