Tanking is Stupid… And it’s Not Really Happening in Baseball
I get it. It’s the offseason. Dexter Fowler is the best free agent left on the board. Baseball writers need something to talk about. But the recent wave of tanking talk is a bit of a stretch.
Dave Cameron did a great job of refuting the tanking notion over at Fangraphs, saying:
“It’s interesting that this issue is being raised at a time when baseball is experiencing a golden age of parity. The Kansas City Royals just won the World Series, the New York Yankees are the only team not to sign a free agent to a Major League contract this winter, and, in my view, we have more teams than ever before trying to win in any given season.”
Not surprisingly, the two main perpetrators of the tanking hubbub were Buster Olney and Jayson Stark. When you’re employed by ESPN, you can’t really be held responsible for most of what comes out of your mouth, or your Word processor. I wonder, though; do Stark or Olney, or any of the unnamed sources in their articles, watch the NBA?
You’re always going to have some rebuilding teams in baseball, or in any sport. Oddly, this year, all of MLB’s rebuilding teams happen to be in the National League. To compare that situation to the travesty that is the Philadelphia 76ers or the Los Angeles Kobe’s-Farewell-Tours would be like comparing Michael Jordan, the NBA player, to Michael Jordan, the Birmingham Barons outfielder.
Basketball is great. I love the NBA. But the tanking problem in that league is probably its biggest embarrassment. It’s especially shameful because teams engage in it despite the fact that it very rarely works.
First, you have to win a lottery. You know, like the crackhead who hangs out at your local convenience store, bumming change so he can buy a scratch-off ticket, and, you know more crack. Then your pick has to pan out. Ask Greg Oden and a host of others about how much of a guarantee that is. Then you have to find the right coach, build a cohesive roster around your stars, and get lucky on the health front. No biggie.
Sure, Lebron James was the number-one pick. But Steph Curry was the seventh pick, Kawhi Leonard was taken 15th, Paul George 10th, etc., etc. There are no guarantees, especially when you’re relying on the whims of fate.
Thankfully, tanking is essentially non-existent in baseball. Sadly, it’s an infection in the NBA. Stupidly, GMs continue to pursue it as a strategy.