The media loved the storyline of how the Atlanta Braves went from a sub-.500 team at the All-Star break to World Champions. Braves fans and many in baseball will likely regard it as one of the great turnarounds in baseball history. However, super-agent Scott Boras has another take on it. He believes that teams were “tanking.” Specifically, those out of playoff contention teams were off-loading talent at the trade deadline in a race to the bottom.
When asked during the MLB’s recent GM meetings in Carlsbad: “We don’t ever want a system that rewards being a lesser team. We have got real cancer in this game. Now we know clubs will sacrifice seasons,” Boras said.
Teams traditionally let players go to reduce payroll, trade for developing players, or get something for a player they know was unlikely to re-sign with them. Boras argues that the four outfielders that fueled the championship push came with little improvement to their previous teams. In fact, some argue that it made them easier for the better-than-average teams to beat them.
Amateur draft in play?
According to Boras, rather than trading for young players under contract, teams are gaming the restraints placed on amateur spending by the previous collective bargaining agreement (which ends December 1). The restraints limited the size of signing bonuses for amateur draft picks, so moving to the front of the line with a bad record can be helpful.
Scott Boras is a smart man who is very adept at securing top-dollar contracts for his clients. So it makes sense that he cites the amateur draft as the cause for fielding a non-competitive team, but he may be right. The timing also makes sense, with a record four teams losing more than 100 games in the last two full seasons. It previously happened only once in 110 years.
Nothing new, really
Baseball is not the only sport where a race to the bottom is considered advantageous by some. Certain NBA and NHL teams also seemed like they were playing for next year’s draft pick. Then there was the Colt’s real or imagined strategy in 2011 to “Suck for Luck,” to draft top pick Andrew Luck to replace Peyton Manning. While the strategy seems clever enough, it rarely works out as planned. Just ask Colts fans.