Thursday’s incredible Field of Dreams game proved one thing. There is nothing better than great baseball played by good teams.
The recently concluded Rangers-Mariners series proved one thing as well. There is nothing worse than bad baseball played two bad teams.
In an article on ESPN.com, writer Jesse Rogers took on the subject of tanking and teams like the Rangers with their deliberate attempts to throw away entire seasons in an effort to do some theoretical long-term rebuild.
Deliberately tanking goes against everything sports are all about. Every year, fewer than half the teams in Major League Baseball are making an attempt to field a competitive team. That’s a shame.
As he points out, the issue is going to be at the heart of the upcoming labor negotiations that begin the day this current contract expires, which is the day after the World Series.
Cardinals pitcher and Major League Baseball Players Association executive board member Andrew Miller said it best, “As players, we are required to compete every single time we’re between the lines. You hope that your team is doing the same.”
It’s not. Not even close.
And the Players Union is going to beat the “get all thirty teams to complete every season” drum loud and long this off-season.
“You’re going to hear that a lot from us,” added Miller. “I think everyone is going to be sick of that phrase.”
Put aside the cold hard cash reasons players want all teams to try. Look at the competitive reasons. All your life you play to win. In Little League, high school, college, in the minor leagues. You and the guys in that dugout, in the locker room, in the trenches with you band together to try to win. Nothing is holding you back.
Then you get to the big leagues. And for the first time in your baseball career, it’s about losing. On purpose. How disheartening is that?
Imagine what it must be like to be a player on the sixty percent of teams that go into each season not even making any attempt to win.
What’s it like to be a Ranger? Veterans like Brock Holt and Charlie Culberson are reduced to placeholders on teams. What a way to see the dream fizzle out.
One idea that is popular among players and picking up steam is to re-align the draft. Instead of the worst team getting the first pick, which is one hundred percent the reason the Rangers are purposely losing, the first pick goes to the top team that didn’t make the playoffs. Second pick goes to the second best team that failed to make the playoffs, then it proceeds down to the worst team, then the first round continues with the playoff teams, seeded in order of finish.
So, with eight teams making the playoffs, that leaves twenty-two teams not making them.
Instead of getting the second overall pick in the draft, the Rangers would have gotten the twenty-first pick in the first round, since they were the second to last worst team.
So, instead of totally draining your team of any and all able-bodied oxygen-breathing talent in order to gut it to the studs and leave your fans with nothing, teams would have the incentive to still be good after the trade deadline. Because the best non-playoff team would get the first pick.
It’s a great idea. And an even better negotiating tactic.
Players want to win. Teams don’t. That’s where the negotiations are starting for the next contract. For the players, it’s a brilliant strategy. Whose side is a fan going to be on? Winning or tanking? It’s kind of hard to root for owners when they are charging you top dollar to watch a team they assembled to lose.
I’m with the players on this.