A Solution for Tanking

A Solution for Tanking

As I watch a not very good, but still too good White Sox team I have come to a conclusion. I don't like rooting for my team to lose. It's just counter intuitive. When a game is played, the point is to win, or at least root for the win. Watching and not caring about the outcome, or worse wanting the negative outcome, the loss, just feels wrong.

As the system stands in baseball, and in pretty much every other American sport, losing is the new strategy toward winning, or as we call it, tanking. No team calls it tanking. In the White Sox case it's a rebuild, but they are trying, no really they are. wink. It's just so unsavory.

Some people don't think it's that bad, especially when it works, see Cubs, Chicago and Royals, Kansas City. It doesn't always work, or it works more slowly in some cases, like Kansas City. The Royals seemed to be on the precipice for so long and while they broke through in 2015, they missed the playoffs in 2016.

There are people on the other side of the argument as well. Losing "not quite" on purpose is bad for sports, bad for competitive balance and if the games get bad enough it could threaten the bottom line. Racing to the bottom just doesn't make for appointment television.

I fall more into the second camp than the first, but this is the system that we have and I want the White Sox to crater in hopes of building a sustained period of success. As it stands right now, the White Sox have never gone to the post season two years in a row. All of those good teams in the 1990s, the 2005 team and in the, albeit harder, era of a single table league nada. So work the system White Sox and here's hoping for great success in the draft, though I'm not entirely convinced that is in the skill set.

So how to change things? It all comes down to disregarding a firmly held notion rife throughout American sports. If any change is going to come at all, incentivizing losing needs to end. If a team performs poorly, too bad. They don't get a reward. (Well, kind of, but I'll get to that.) No, in order to get the first pick in the draft a team needs to have some success. Not total success, champions don't get the first pick either, but some signs of life.

I'm sure you've heard the expression NBA Hell. It's reserved for those teams that, every year, eek their way into the playoffs (hello Chicago Bulls!) only to get waxed in the first round of the playoffs. The teams aren't good enough to realistically challenge for a championship, but not bad enough to fall into the lottery. In the other sports, to varying degrees this relationship holds true as well. Low seeds in hockey don't move on very often, wild cards in football may spring a surprise here and there but overall the best teams win out, especially in a playoff format that includes a series of games. Baseball is an interesting outlier to this where the wild card teams have gone on to win more often than in other sports. It probably has something to do with the still small number (relatively) of playoff teams in baseball, but I'll leave that to the folks at FiveThirtyEight.

Instead of helping teams from the bottom, the draft would be used to help teams out of hell. The bottom 3 seeds in basketball, the wild cards in baseball and football would be in a lottery based on record for the top picks. After those picks, then based on record poorest to best, the rest of the first round is fleshed out. From there, the following rounds go from worst to first so the bottom feeders aren't completely left in the cold.

In this system, tanking becomes a lot less attractive. Completely nose-diving isn't a good option, especially in the NBA, because the sweetest plumb, that number one pick won't be there at the end. It's also hard to win just enough to be a 6-8 seed and after hitting that point in one season, and then a good draft, the chance of rising goes up greatly.

I know it's not perfect. It is a system, that to a degree anyway, makes the rich richer. But isn't that the American Way? We reward success. We like to support those who show initiative, drive, not losers. As the capitalist capital of the world, we have an awfully socialist system of compensation when it comes to sports. Time to make America grea--- no I won't say it.

My podcast working the way I'd like, so if you'd like to hear some US History presented in a lively, fun way, check it out! (warning! the first two episodes audio is not good, but by episode three, I got it!) Episode 42 is up! 1777 part two Get Your History On! Oh and you can get it on iTunes too!

 Get Your History On

CHICAGO TRIBUNE VIDEO

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