Chicago Cubs: 3 ways a new CBA can save baseball – #3: Preventing tanking
Although teams won’t come out and say that tanking is something that definitely exists in the world of sports, it’s really no secret that it exists. Once you lose enough games and realize you’re out of the postseason hunt, a general manager’s state of mind can quickly turn to maximizing draft position the following summer.
Why? Because, with how the game is currently structured, you’re better off losing 100 games and having a top-five draft pick sets your franchise up better long-term than barely missing the postseason and winning 85 games.
Take the Baltimore Orioles, for example. In the 2022 draft, the Orioles will have a top five pick for the fourth time in a row and their second first overall pick in as many years. As for the Orioles farm system, it is no surprise they are listed as having the top farm system in baseball, with five prospects in the top 100. That number more is than likely to grow during the 2022 campaign, especially after next year’s draft. That’s all fine and good until you realize the Orioles are 18th in net worth in the league and with a value of 1.4 billion, really don’t have a lot of room for excuses to at least try.
There must be some form of incentive put in place for teams to get competitive again to make MLB, as a whole, a better product. Here’s an example: you have two teams that are competing to win a division down the stretch. Team A in its final series is playing a team that is also legit and fighting for home field advantage throughout the postseason. Team B is facing a team that is not even trying to win because at this point they benefit more from losing and securing a top draft pick. It seems safe to say this puts team B at an unfair advantage to clinch their division because their opponent isn’t even trying.
Situations like this are terrible for the game of baseball. Enabling teams to put an atrocious product on the field year after year not only hurts the league, but takes badly needed revenue out of those smaller market teams. After all, nobody wants to pay to watch their favorite team lose in person.
Coming out of a stretch where baseball’s owners cried poor, you would think they would want to fill as many seats as possible. Losing teams lead to a loss of potential revenue and nobody wants to wait around for four years to secure enough prospects that hopefully help the team turn the corner.
Winning baseball teams are fun for the city in which they represent. A good example of this is taking a look at the Chicago Cubs attendance over the years. By and large, you can track when the team has been good – and when it hasn’t – based on the number of folks in the seats at the Friendly Confines.
So how do you prevent tanking moving forward? How can you ensure competitiveness throughout the league or at least come closer to that mark? One way, similar to the NHL, could be the addition of a salary floor. In implanting one, you are essentially forcing teams to at least spend something on players in the offseason, generating a better product on the field automatically. Hockey is one of the most competitive sports there is and a big reason is because of a salary cap floor.
You can also crack down on teams for not caring about winning by turning the draft into more than just something where the worst team gets the best pick year after year. Instead, implementing a lottery draft for the top five picks each year, almost the same as the NBA, provides less incentive to lose. Furthermore, you can even add to that by creating a rule where you can only have a lottery pick up to three years in a row. Should you still be a bottom-5 team in the league a fourth year in a row, you automatically become disqualified from a lottery pick and receive the sixth pick in the draft and the sixth-worst team slides into your lottery position.
By forcing teams to spend and have a certain amount of payroll attached to their team, along with penalizing teams that choose to not be competitive are two ways the league can make baseball more fun to watch again. In turn, it makes teams more balanced, helps provide everyone an equal shot at a postseason and the owners’ favorite, earns the league/teams more money as a whole.