Chicago Cubs: Suggestion of ‘tanking’ a bit ridiculous


ESPN’s Buster Olney recently reported on MLB owners taking a look at the possibility of teams–like the Chicago Cubs–intentionally tanking to improve in the long run.

If you’re yet to read it, be sure to take a look at Olney’s report. There’s nothing really wrong with it per se, as it is true that teams are “rewarded” for poor records. But the reason that structure was put into place was so teams would have the ability to improve over time–not getting stuck in a cycle of mediocrity. Baseball put the system in place, and now they might not like that it’s working?

Being a .500 baseball team won’t earn you as high a draft pick, or money allotted to spend on said picks. So being average is simply going to leave you average for the near future. But lose near 100 games for a few seasons and you can bring yourself back up to the level of the big boys–ala the Cubs or Houston Astros, which seem to be the two teams most are pointing to in these cases.

I can somewhat understand that. The Cubs did their best to unload high-paid talent–some of which wasn’t near as talented as they were high-paid–and fielded teams that at times you had to really dig into to find the silver lining. And the Astros dropped at least 106 games in three straight seasons, which has gotten them back to the playoffs.

So would a professional baseball team really tank to get better? My thought is, the Cubs have been “tanking” for over a century. Yes, they’ve had some success mingled in–but there’s still not been a World Series in there. So whether it be called rebuilding or tanking, neither will guarantee success.

The Cubs have a brain trust that has been able to take a relatively short-term rebuild and make this team a forecasted competitor for years to come. Yes, the Cubs dropped 100 games in back-to-back seasons. But would it have mattered if they went 81-81 and were battling for a Wild Card spot? Or if they were like the Pittsburgh Pirates, making it to the playoffs each season but either losing in the Wild Card game or in the NLDS?

Teams that struggle are clearly hoping that the higher draft picks can help turn things around, but that’s not a given. Tanking, as they call it, leads to lower attendance numbers and less income for the club. What good will it do to get draft picks and have no money to spend on them? Take a look at the Cleveland Indians. They have been “in the mix” the last few seasons, battling for a Wild Card, yet each offseason is filled with additions of players past their primes, or gamble on guys that are coming off of one good season. Why? Because they have no money to spend.

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Tanking is a broad assessment. The Indians haven’t “tanked”, but maybe they should–which would simply be using what the CBA put in place to do. Keep teams from long-standing mediocrity. Baseball doesn’t want the same team to win it year after year. It’s not good for the game. The excitement last season provided by the Cubs and Astros shows what “new blood” can do for the game.

Tanking. Rebuilding. Restructuring. Whatever your word for it, just let it be. If it’s withing the rules of the game–even if they massage those rules–let’s just leave it be. If the Cubs did indeed do it for a few years to hopefully have a decade of success? Any team or fan would accept that.