Tanking is an issue in almost every professional sport.
Simply put, rebuilding teams value draft positioning more than they value meaningless regular-season victories.
In many sports leagues—the NBA in particular—a high draft pick can revolutionize an organization.
A generational talent can change everything for an NBA franchise, and the transformation can happen very quickly.
Interestingly, the same cannot be said about MLB teams.
There are two reasons for that:
- It takes more than one player to carry a baseball team to relevancy (just look at the Los Angeles Angels, who are mediocre despite having two superstars).
- The MLB draft doesn’t produce big-league-ready players; it produces prospects that are several years away from breaking into the bigs.
For those reasons, tanking is less common in baseball.
But it’s certainly not non-existent.
The Baltimore Orioles, for example, are flirting with 20 consecutive losses right now.
With a .311 winning percentage, the Orioles are on a path to win 50-51 games. They would be the first MLB team to lose at least 108 games in three straight full seasons since the expansion 1962-65 Mets.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 22, 2021
As currently assembled, that team does not belong on the same field as other MLB clubs.
Baltimore seems perfectly content with letting the losing streak run its course, because as a result, the team is going to end up with the No. 1 pick in the 2022 MLB Draft.
Although this issue is more common in other sports, it’s clear that the system is broken.
What are three alternate ideas to MLB’s current structure for determining the draft order?
Option No. 3: The Best Non-Playoff Team Gets The Top Draft Pick
This idea has been getting a lot of buzz lately.
What do y’all got on this MLB idea:
Instead of reverse order of record setting the draft-
The order goes
Pick 1-20: BEST to WORST record of teams that didn’t make the playoffs.
Pick 21-30: normal inverse order of playoff results.
Make winning always matter! Tanking punished
— Richie Shaffer (@Rshaff8) August 21, 2021
What if the best non-playoff team received the first pick in the draft?
This is a very interesting idea.
First, it provides zero incentive to tank.
Second, any team that’s on the verge of a playoff berth isn’t thinking about draft positioning, so there’s no chance of a club trying to intentionally land in this spot.
More than anything else, it would serve as a consolation prize for a team that fell just short of its season-long goal.
Option No. 2: A Draft Lottery
The NBA adopted a lottery format in 1985 hopes of discouraging tanking.
The results have been mixed.
Essentially, every non-playoff team gets entered into a lottery for the top pick in the draft, and the worst teams from the previous season receive the best odds.
However, no team enters the lottery with any higher than a 14.0 percent chance of winning.
Additionally, the three worst teams from the previous season all enter the lottery with equal odds of winning, so there is no incentive to finish dead last.
Perhaps MLB could adopt a similar concept.
It’s not perfect, but it does prevent tanking to a certain degree.
Option No. 1: A Tournament Between The Non-Playoff Teams
Let’s have some fun.
This might not be practical, but the coolest way to determine the draft order would be by conducting a tournament between the non-playoff teams.
It would be a 20-team field since 10 MLB teams make the playoffs each year.
It could take place at the same time as the postseason, thus giving all fans a reason to be excited for October baseball.
There’s really no chance that it would upstate the actual playoffs, although some folks are sure to make that argument.
The winning team would claim the top pick in the draft, and the rest of the draft order would be determined by the order of finish in the tournament.
What’s not to like?