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Friday, July 26, 2019

Boz: Tanking By MLB Teams Isn’t A Strategy, It’s Fan Abuse

Snap out of it. Don’t listen. It’s dumb enough to tear down a roster that is already rotten or old or both. But it’s idiotic to rip up a team that has a chance to make the playoffs, even as a wild card, especially in the first era in MLB history when six teams already are trying to race to the bottom. With more to come? What is this, the shameless NBA where tanking’s been the dirty big lie for years?

Bote Man Posted: July 26, 2019 at 12:24 PM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: business, tanking, team building

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   1. Jose Molina wants a nickname like "A-Rod" Posted: July 26, 2019 at 08:56 PM (#5865421)
I'm not the average fan, but I kinda like rebuilding.
   2. Itchy Row Posted: July 26, 2019 at 09:01 PM (#5865424)
Can’t it be both, like when the owners made Bud Selig the commissioner?
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 26, 2019 at 09:01 PM (#5865425)
It’s dumb enough to tear down a roster that is already rotten or old or both.
Um...why?
   4. Bote Man Posted: July 26, 2019 at 10:54 PM (#5865462)
Yeah, that one puzzles me, too. I think he meant to write the opposite for that clause.

I'm mostly on board with his general thesis, which is probably not popular around these parts.
   5. Buck Coats Posted: July 27, 2019 at 12:54 AM (#5865487)
I see a lot of complaining about this right now but - are teams doing this? There are rumors or whatever but who are the potential playoff teams that have actually been ripping up their teams? It seems weird that we get all these articles complaining about a thing that might happen?
   6. Bote Man Posted: July 27, 2019 at 01:57 AM (#5865492)
I haven't followed closely, but haven't the Indians been making a few deals and rumored to make more deals that will harm them in the near-term while they still have playoff potential?
   7. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: July 27, 2019 at 03:17 AM (#5865493)
Yeah, that one puzzles me, too. I think he meant to write the opposite for that clause.

Nah, I think he wrote exactly what he meant. There are people who are adamant that teams should try and win 70 games instead of 65 this season, over trying to build an actual contender for future years.

These people prioritize the here and now to a comical degree. You can tell the author is one, by the way he throws around terms like "fan abuse" and "shameless." Or "big lie." I mean the biggest tankers in the NBA, the 76ers just lost to the eventual champions in 7, on the flukiest of bounces. They are like 3rd of 4th favourite to win it all next year. They pretty much got exactly what was advertised. You can say it wasn't worth it, that's a defensible position at least. But to call it a "big lie" is pants on head delusional.
   8. TVerik - Dr. Velocity Posted: July 27, 2019 at 05:44 AM (#5865495)
Nah, I think he wrote exactly what he meant. There are people who are adamant that teams should try and win 70 games instead of 65 this season, over trying to build an actual contender for future years.

These people prioritize the here and now to a comical degree. You can tell the author is one, by the way he throws around terms like "fan abuse" and "shameless." Or "big lie." I mean the biggest tankers in the NBA, the 76ers just lost to the eventual champions in 7, on the flukiest of bounces. They are like 3rd of 4th favourite to win it all next year. They pretty much got exactly what was advertised. You can say it wasn't worth it, that's a defensible position at least. But to call it a "big lie" is pants on head delusional.


It's hard to sell tickets to fans if you're not doing everything you can to win. I think it's just a misalignment of interests - most of the fans pay for individual games and want the home team to put on a good show. Arguably, if you're blowing your household budget out of the water in order to take in a game with two or three kids, you don't care about the long-term fortunes of the team much at all.
   9. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: July 27, 2019 at 06:14 AM (#5865496)
It's hard to sell tickets when you suck. Whether that is a 70 win talent team, or a 65 win talent team is a very, very marginal difference in terms of fan enjoyment. A team that is already "rotten and old" is not going to be able to "put on a good show" no matter what.

Trading the old and declining 2 win player at the deadline, and calling up the young, raw prospect, who is only replacement level right now, but gives fans a chance to watch him grow and improve, and become invested in him, might actually be an improvement in fan excitement of a no-hope team, over the one extra win they would have gotten for half a season of the vet. (Holy run on sentence, batman!)
   10. Jose is an Absurd Time Cube Posted: July 27, 2019 at 10:05 AM (#5865512)
Tanking isn’t new (ask the 1915 Athletics). It’s been given a name but the entire history of baseball is filled with teams who were going for it and teams who were more focused on the long term. The difference is we give it a name now.

I do disagree with fancy pants somewhat though. As a paying customer seeing 75 wins is better than seeing 65 wins. I think where teams get it wrong is taking “best offer” deals. Teams should make deals if they can better themselves but “oh #### it, that’s as good as it gets” deals should be dismissed. If you don’t like the return, take the return,
   11. Buck Coats Posted: July 27, 2019 at 10:23 AM (#5865513)
I haven't followed closely, but haven't the Indians been making a few deals and rumored to make more deals that will harm them in the near-term while they still have playoff potential?


Not really? In the off-season they didn't re-sign Brantley or Andrew Miller. They dumped Yan Gomes. And they traded away Encarnacion - but they traded him for Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers, so I wouldn't call that a tank trade. BB-Ref has their payroll at 151 mil (11th in baseball), up from 143 (13th) last year.
   12. calming him down with his 57i66135 Posted: July 27, 2019 at 01:44 PM (#5865526)
I'm not the average fan, but I kinda like rebuilding.
it's like playing pokemon.
Trading the old and declining 2 win player at the deadline, and calling up the young, raw prospect, who is only replacement level right now
thing is, that doesn't happen anymore, either. teams would rather wring an additional year of indentured servitude out of a player than sell another few thousand tickets in a random september.
These people prioritize the here and now to a comical degree. You can tell the author is one, by the way he throws around terms like "fan abuse" and "shameless." Or "big lie." I mean the biggest tankers in the NBA, the 76ers just lost to the eventual champions in 7, on the flukiest of bounces. They are like 3rd of 4th favourite to win it all next year. They pretty much got exactly what was advertised. You can say it wasn't worth it, that's a defensible position at least. But to call it a "big lie" is pants on head delusional.

isn't it funny how a few 50-win seasons can drown out all the talk about how "the process will never work"?


as long as we're #hoopidea'ing it, my "fix" for baseball is that any minor leaguer who is 25 or older should be able to be signed by any team at any time, on the condition that he has to be on the team's active roster for at least 30 days.
   13. Buck Coats Posted: July 27, 2019 at 02:48 PM (#5865537)
Like not to harp on this but the Indians aren't at all an example of a team that "had a chance at a playoff spot but decided to tank instead" - if you want to criticize their offseason strategy it was more like "they were so confident they'd make the playoffs that they took their foot off the gas a little"
   14. donlock Posted: July 27, 2019 at 07:51 PM (#5865579)
There is no tank strategy in baseball in regard to the MLB draft. THe Astros had the top choice three years in a row but Carlos Correa was the only one of the three who has been a star. One of the others did not even sign with Houston.

These are the recent top 1 picks: 2012 Carlos Correa, 2013 Mark Appel, 2014 Brady Aiken, 2015 Dansby Swanson, 2016 Mickey Moniak, 2017 Royce Lewis, 2018 Casey Mize. As you can see, losing 100 games in a season on purpose will not guarantee a franchise draft pick. It may, but the evidence is weak.

The Astros re-geared and got into analytics heavily and made different decisions but that is part of their policy. Other teams have gotten into that as well since Correa's pick in 2012. Brainy guys in front offices will need new strategies but finishing with 100+ losses to get the top pick seems foolish. A number one pick in the NFL or NBA can make a big difference as he would be ready to play the next year at an important position. Cleveland had the number one NBA pick two years in a row but there was no top guy to pick either year.

Rutschman and Bobby Witt seemed consensus high picks this last draft but who were the obvious top picks the years before this year?

Finally, Atlanta, Milwaukee and some others have gotten from bad to the top of their divisions without tanking or losing lots of games.
   15. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: July 27, 2019 at 08:49 PM (#5865593)
Cleveland had the number one NBA pick two years in a row but there was no top guy to pick either year.

Eh, they had 3 #1 picks, one of them was Kyrie, who when he is not actively poisoning the locker room, is a great talent. They were able to package one of their other #1's for Kevin Love. And those assets were enough to convince LeBron to come home, and win them a championship. Hard to say it didn't work out for them.

But also, I wouldn't say they tanked. They were just incompetent, because Comic Sans Boy is a clown.

Also, also, the other #1, Anthony Bennett was seen as a massive reach, even at the time (see incompetence noted above). Victor Oladipo went #2, and developed into a pretty decent star player once he got away from Westbrook.
   16. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: July 27, 2019 at 11:51 PM (#5865660)
I do think the difference is that it used to be one or two teams tanking. Now a third of the league is tanking.
   17. BrianBrianson Posted: July 28, 2019 at 08:26 AM (#5865680)
I see a lot of complaining about this right now but - are teams doing this?


Basically, no. The claim that tanking is more profitable than competing is demonstrably false. The only real difference is that teams have figured out that winning 60 games on a $50 million payroll while trying to put together a viable team a couple years down the road is a better strategy then winning 70 games on a $100 million payroll while not trying to put together any kind of plan.

You just can't acquire worthwhile enough players in the MLB draft - it's too uneven. The canonical example is the Astros - their attendance went down ~1.5 million/season, and still hasn't totally rebounded. They were in a bad situation, and made the best of it.
   18. . Posted: July 28, 2019 at 09:04 AM (#5865683)
It's in the professional interest of the MLB GM/front office class for ownership and the media and fans to believe in such a thing as sensible tanking/rebuilding. It lowers the standard for success, thereby tending to extend their term of employment. With the give in the pythag/actual win relationship and the second wild card, there's almost no excuse for not contending for the playoffs in any particular year.
   19. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: July 28, 2019 at 12:01 PM (#5865707)
I do think the difference is that it used to be one or two teams tanking. Now a third of the league is tanking.


The thing is, tanking is frequently identified as "teams who did, or are doing poorly." It's classic post hoc analysis. In some cases, like the Orioles this year and the Marlins nearly every year, it's obvious. Most times it is not. Take the 2018 Rays. No one now says they were tanking, because they won 90 games. But prior to and even during the 2018 season, they were most certainly lumped in with the tanking teams. Are the White Sox tanking? There was no shortage of accusations of them not trying to win prior to the season. They've hit a rough patch lately, but 3 weeks ago they were 41-42. They are on pace for 73 wins. If they hit that or better, all of a sudden they weren't tanking. Conversely, if Fernando Tatis breaks his leg and the Padres wind up with 69 wins, someone will cite the team that gave $300 million to Manny Machado as one of those who didn't try to win.
   20. donlock Posted: July 28, 2019 at 12:11 PM (#5865709)
If a team finds themselves with a bad group of players and wants to improve, it is difficult to find new ones. Almost every team needs starting and relief pitchers. No one has talent there to spare. How does a weak team improve, even if they are willing to spend money? The free agents available in 2018 were very expensive and neither of the top 2, Machado or Harper, made the All-Star team nor are the Padres or Phillies enormously improved.

The wealthy Yankees and Red Sox need to improve their pitching but can't or won't trade/buy talent from other teams. The Orioles, also in the AL East, have first crack at the waiver wire but have found few gems. They have spent most of the season playing a ss (Martin), a cf (Broxton) and a 1b (Chris Davis) hitting less than .200. They obtained 15 minor league players from last season's mid season trades. None of them have been useable this season, even on the team with the worst record in baseball.

Funny period in baseball with the terrible pitching and all the home runs. Lack of player transactions also seems much different than in recent years.
   21. Stevey Posted: July 29, 2019 at 12:43 PM (#5866015)
BB-Ref has their payroll at 151 mil (11th in baseball), up from 143 (13th) last year.


BB-Ref has their payroll at 120M, and that overstates it a bit, as it pro-rates Santana's signing bonus over the life of the deal, even though the Indians aren't paying any of that, and the Indians got $6M in the Santana and Bauers trades. The Indians functional payroll for 2019 is around 110M.
   22. escabeche Posted: July 29, 2019 at 01:03 PM (#5866036)
The Orioles, also in the AL East, have first crack at the waiver wire but have found few gems. They have spent most of the season playing a ss (Martin), a cf (Broxton) and a 1b (Chris Davis) hitting less than .200. They obtained 15 minor league players from last season's mid season trades. None of them have been useable this season, even on the team with the worst record in baseball.


Baseball America now ranks their farm system 8th in baseball, up from 22nd last year, so there's some evidence that the future of the team is looking better than it was. Broxton has played in less than half of the Orioles' games and has already been released. As for gems -- well, the strategy of "throw random unwanted no-names out on the field and see if any of them can play" has yielded John Means, Pedro Severino, Renato Nunez, Hanser Alberto, Anthony Santander, who are all pretty OK! Maybe Wojciehowky is good too! That's about as much as you can expect from the strategy.

I am not in any way denying that the Orioles are intentionally not putting the best team on the field that they could.
   23. Rally Posted: July 29, 2019 at 04:40 PM (#5866115)
#14,

Astros got 2 superstars out of the 3 1-1 picks. Since Aiken didn’t sign they were given the #2 pick the following year, and turned that into Bregman. Aiken not signing was a huge stroke of luck for them.
   24. donlock Posted: July 29, 2019 at 05:29 PM (#5866142)
#22,

Don't understand your last sentence. Are you saying they could be putting a better team on the field than what we see? Not sure which players you had in mind. Means, Nunez, and Santander were on the roster and played a bit last year. Alberto and Severino were picked up in spring training this season.

My point was there have really been few players available to the team by hanging around the waiver list and grabbing warm bodies. Broxton (since gone) and Wojo came off the wire as did Dan Straily, Armstrong, Aaron Brooks, Tom Eshelman, Taylor Scott or by waiver wire trades. Some of the waiver wire gents were unclaimed and went to other teams higher than the Birds. Not sure there are major league players available to put on the field for the teams hoping to avoid 100+ losses.

Adding Adley Rutschmann as the #5 player in the minor leagues helped the O's go from #22 to #8, as did the presence of some talent in the low minors that was already there. If these kids and some of the current Birds develop, there may be a better team in Baltimore in a few years. Hard to see getting a Rutschmann type alone would make tanking worthwhile in team development.
   25. manchestermets Posted: July 30, 2019 at 07:41 AM (#5866226)
The claim that tanking is more profitable than competing is demonstrably false.


Demonstrate it then, including profitability figures.
   26. Rally Posted: July 30, 2019 at 10:19 AM (#5866277)
Orioles, perhaps delusional, went into 2018 thinking they could contend. They only won 75 games in 2017 but were above .500 heading into September. They were probably thinking they had a chance if things broke right, they added a few pieces, and Buck Showalter could outperform the RS-RA numbers once again. They didn't trade any of their top players, went into 2018 with Machado, Jones, Gausman, and Britton. They spent some money to bring in Cashner and Cobb.

Those 2 pitchers, who had mid 3 ERAs in 2017, combined for a 9-30 record and ERA over 5. Everything else that could go wrong did.

Orioles didn't spend anything in the 2018-19 offseason. They could have tried to make the 2019 team better had they spent some free agent money, but the illusion that this team had any chance of contending was gone. So they made the choice to accept a likely 55-60 win team in a rebuild instead of trying to push for 70-75 wins.

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