Tanking is a word that is usually affiliated with the NBA. In context, it means, “to perform poorly to have a higher draft spot”. Basically the teams suck on purpose to prepare for the future. The NBA has had to deal with this issue for several years and was one of the first leagues to actively try to campaign against it. Now it seems that the issue has spread to other sports. Buster Olney of ESPN recently wrote an article stating that some MLB owners were starting to get worried about tanking. Olney brought up the Houston Astros because from 2011-2013 they finished last in the league all three years and had the first overall draft pick.
Now with the new format for drafting, the teams only have a limited amount of money to spend on their draft picks before they get penalized. The teams with the higher draft spots have more money to spend on their picks. Common sense dictates that a team that has more money to spend on their picks means that they have a higher chance of signing their picks. But the Astros, who had the first pick in the draft three years in a row, managed to make the playoffs last season and have a talented young squad led by Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel.
While tanking is not explicitly illegal, it’s often frowned upon because it means that the team isn’t performing to the best of their abilities and often won’t address their needs in order to attain a higher draft spot. So it brings into question the integrity of the game. The teams that are accused of tanking often have poor rosters and low payrolls that could easily be addressed through trades or free agency. Olney brought up the 2013 Houston Astros because they had a payroll of just $25 million. If David Price (pictured) were a free agent before the 2013 season, chances are that the Astros wouldn’t have gone after him in order to keep their payroll down. In today’s day and age that is such a low number that no team could expect to perform well unless all of those players on the roster turned out to be Mike Trouts or Bryce Harpers. Surprise! They didn’t, finishing with a 51-111 record. MLB can’t ignore the issue or else it will turn into another version of the NBA.