The Houston Astros have received high praise from most quarters on their perceived strategy of tanking their way to a World Series championship. But a few voices have spoken out about the inherent unfairness of deliberately losing to procure high draft picks — unfairness to fans and to MLB’s revenue-sharing system.
Teams like the Padres, White Sox, Phillies, and Reds have also been called out for what Jack Dickey of Sports Illustrated called “shameless bottoming out” in his article “The Case for…An End to Tanking.” Bottoming out may have been the aim of this year’s Padres team, but the organization failed at that just as it failed to contend in 2015 after general manager A.J. Preller’s trade-fest.
According to Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune, opening day payroll for the Padres this season came in at about $68.5 million. Almost half of that figure goes to players no longer on the roster like Matt Kemp, James Shields, Hector Olivera and Melvin Upton Jr. Upton Jr. received $15,450,000 from the Padres. In the meantime, the highest paid actual Padre was Wil Myers ($4.5 million).
Of course, the Padres refer to the 2017 season as a “rebuilding” year. Call it rebuilding, call it tanking, but pressure is growing for MLB to change the rules which reward rebuilding or tanking or whatever term you choose to use.
In June this year, Henry Druschel of beyondtheboxscore.com wrote an article entitled “How to discourage rebuilding.” He recommended that MLB take three steps: open the playoffs to more teams; decide draft order on other criteria than winning alone; jettison the qualifying offer system. Whether MLB adopts any such reforms remains to be seen.
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Locally Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton, longtime talk show host (now on the Mighty 1090), has called out the Padres for cheating their fans of a watchable team. On The Kept Faith’s recent podcast Hamilton asked why local fans should have to live through seasons with no hope, adding that the Padres have lost 325,000 fans in just the last two years. Hamilton went on to say that teams like the Padres make huge profits off of revenue sharing deals and other income streams. One possible solution would be for baseball to enact a floor to spending as other sports have.
“Yes, the Houston Astros won the World Series, but they subjected their fans to three 100-loss seasons in a row,” Hamilton said in an interview with friarsonbase.com. “Teams owe fans a better product on the field today while developing talent for tomorrow.”
Padre’s executives certainly tout that developing talent, but they need to ask themselves how many of those 325,000 lost fans will return when/if the team actually does contend.