In April, Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer called “GM A.J. Preller’s unprecedented 2017 roster as unabashed a tanking declaration as we’ve seen from any recent rebuilding.” But tanking the way to high draft picks turns out to be harder than it looks.
The Astros and Cubs tanked their way to the playoffs last year, with Chicago winning the ultimate prize. This year Houston ranks behind only the Dodgers in total wins at 67 and should have another chance at that prize.
After a losing trip to the World Series in 2005, the Astros had been muddling along. Then in 2011 the organization hired Jeff Luhnow. He had been the vice president of scouting and player development for the St. Louis Cardinals, the organization that excels in those areas.
From 2011 to 2013, the Astros never cracked 60 wins, allowing the team to draft players like George Springer, Lance McCullers and Carlos Correa. However, Houston wisely chose to hang on to their second baseman, 5’ 6” Jose Altuve, who currently leads all of baseball with a 5.95 WAR.
In what the front office chooses to call a rebuild, Padres general manager Preller built the 2017 team around sketchy starting pitching, castoff veterans and rookies, which should have guaranteed a last place finish. However, the Padres are tanking at tanking with 44 wins. The Phillies bring up the rear with 35 wins, followed by the White Sox (39), Giants (40) and Reds (41), putting San Diego in fifth place in the tank league.
So Padres fans find themselves suffering through another lousy season without the promise of the first or second or even third pick in next year’s draft. Of course, over the next two-plus months the team could catch up in the loss department.
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One impediment to reaching the goal lies in manager Andy Green’s attempts to win every single game. After all, that’s his job. He’s certainly not going to manage to lose. And the players have every reason to want to win. Their very livelihood depends upon it. The rookies need to prove they belong, and the veterans need to play well enough to stay.
But even more important, they are all competitors at heart. And this ragtag bunch has a lot of heart. They don’t give up until the last out, and they root for one another. Even with the changing cast of characters, Green has them playing as a team.
If this tanking strategy doesn’t work, Preller and company will have to figure out another way to reach the playoffs. In the meantime, the clock keeps ticking leaving Padres fans wondering when or if the home team will ever get to the playoffs again, let alone the World Series.