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1st MLB Draft Lottery this year, but there is a better way


Doc Munson

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I believe I had shared this thought last year, If I hadn't., I thought I'd throw it out there for your thoughts While a draft lottery for the top 6 positions is at least a start to preventing tanking, still there is an incentive to losing. Albeit not as great as before, btu ask any team, would you rather have a16.5% chance (like teams with worst records) or a 0.9% chance like the Twins have.  I am guessing any GM that wants to rebuild will take the 16.5% chance and tank.  The way to prevent tanking is not to just disincentivize tanking but rewarding winning.  

Fielding a poor club with a small payroll is a CHOICE, it is not something that just happens. While low payrolls do nto 100% guarantee poor results (see Guardians) it does correlate pretty darn well.  of the 3 teams with teh best shot at the #1 pick (16.5%) they finished 30, 27 & 19 in payroll. 

In order to incentivize winning, you simply have a MLB Draft Tourney at the end of the season.  However, you want to do it. Single elimination tourney, All best of 3, heck even a 2 game series with run differential as a tie breaker. You have the best team to NOT make the playoffs get byes. and they get home field for all games.  The winner gets the #1 overall pick, the loser of "title" game gets 2nd, Winner and loser of 3rd/4th place game/series get 3rd/4th. and all other are based on how they finished in the draft tourney (come up with whatever rules you want, they can't be any more random than a lottery anyways, LOL).

This incentivizes winning, which would drive up payrolls, Before the start of the season do you think the A's, O's (surprised everyone a year early) Pittsburgh really thought they would contend?  No, they were content having micro sized payrolls knowing they would get top draft picks to boost their future.  Do you think they would stay at $61-85M team payroll if they thought that would field them a team that would get them the 10th overall pick in the MLB Draft?   OF course not.

 

And on the plus side, a MLB Draft Tourney currently does not exist, which means TV contracts for these games also do not exist, which mean it is yet another money-making TV contract they can put out to the highest bidder.  Make more money AND prevent tanking by incentivizing winning???  Now THAT is a win/win.

 

I am curious, how exciting do you think a single elimination tourney for the top draft pick would be? Would you be interested in watching your team in such a tourney?

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I love the idea, and this is one instance where the fans would likely be on the side of ownership, but the MLBPA would never agree to it unless it meant more money for the players...which it should, but the owners history of sharing new revenues with the players is poor at best.

It could happen if the owners incentivized the players properly. But the ratings would likely not be that good if the tourney competed with the WS tourney. 

Maybe in September? But then it would have to be minor leaguers, which could happen since the minors playoffs are done by mid-September. Have the 40 man roster that is not called up, along with all the other top players throughout the system, compete? But that defeats the purpose.

Awesome idea, but really hard to see how it works.😠

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A couple of things I would push back on.  One, this is counter to the idea that the worst teams need should get the higher picks to rebuild.  This could actually lead to mid-level, late season "tanking" more than a full season tanking.  For example, we were in first most of the year, then just stunk it up the last month in a half, and Cleveland went on a run.  By mid-September, it was clear we were not going to do far into the playoffs, even if we made it by how we were playing. 

Why not then make sure you do not make the playoffs just to get to then fight for the number 1 pick?  Also, I personally do not think teams are specifically tanking for the number 1 pick, but they are keeping pay roll down for other specific reasons.  Look at the team that said we are tanking, Houston.  One would say, well it work out well for them doing so, but when you look at their top picks, only 1 of their number 1 picks helped them in their rebuild, or beyond.  Correa was a number 1, and their next 2 number 1 picks never made majors, although 1 did not sign so they then got to draft number 2 the next year and their own number 5, which both of them turned out well.  

However, the point is, you still need to identify the talent, at the top.  They failed two number 1 picks in a row, only to get lucky one did not sign.  Had they signed, they would not have got lucky the next year, and maybe not be in the position they are.  However, they also had very good international signings. like Alverez, or Altuve, who was part of that tanking teams, most of their starting rotation were all international signings, and later round picks as well they hit on, Pena their replacement for Correa was a third round pick. 

I have long said, the draft in MLB is not going to be the best or only way to build a team and tanking for high picks will not equal success.  In Houston's case, they got more international signing money, then in one year went all in on signing guys and hit on many of them, hence the great rotation they built from international signings.  

Yes, top picks have a much better chance to help down the road, but very rarely is the number 1 overall the best player out of the draft.  Unlike in basketball where the number 1 is normally the best, but not always, in baseball, they are rarely the best.  They are good, more often than not, but many times someone later in the first turns out to have the better overall career. Picking number 1 only gives you the chance to ID who the best is, something that is not always easy. 

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I think that we are talking about at least 2 different things. Choosing to have a small payroll and just making money off the MLB TV contracts and the draft are completely different animals. 

1. League should have a higher floor for mimum payroll.. period. But that has to be bargained and wasn't. Players issue not bargaining that. As long as that stays in place and is not changed. The teams will continue to do what they have done and changing draft format is futile. But.... 

2. I would go even further with the lottery... and suggest it for NBA also... All non-playoff teams are in the lottery. 1 ping pong ball per team. Period. Why? Teams have really no incentive to tank. If team 15  gets the top pick it helps them faster. Last place team gets it fine but if all have the same odds .... would be great TV drama watching!! 

Last and didn't want to go there but.. your suggestion for a draft tourney? WELL - YUCK! 

Watching the worst teams in baseball during playoff time battle it out? NO THANKS. In fact would promote teams to be one of the bottom teams at the end of the year to get some TV time and free publicity... Not a good idea. 

 

 

 

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I'm with the others: teams that are tanking have different agendas from teams trying to compete. There's no shame in it anymore, you just need a high tolerance for how little your fans care to see your face in public.  If you want to want to force more teams to compete then you have to make it less lucrative to suck. That might take the form of reducing your rev sharing if your payroll  stays low for too long or reducing other rewards like making the draft less secure.  That stuff seems to be on the table already. 

I guess my question back is after decades of revenue sharing and consistent payroll patterns anyone expects anything to change unless changes to the fundamental rev sharing rules are considered. Dancing around the top draft pick is nonsense, as those guys just turn into trade bait in 4-6 years for the small-rev teams anyway.  I think the salary floor idea is probably the best way out of this, but I'm unclear how to entice owners to spend more money. How do you get them to vote against the interests of one of their own? It's no more money in the pocket of the rich teams, and it costs the little/terrible/cheap ones more cash to finish last.

Maybe the metric should be percentage of revenues returned to the field, and you can't be below some ratio (40% ??) for more than three years in a row, or two in five.  They have the rev numbers used for sharing, so either use gross or shared revenue only, but make a certain chunk appear on the field or lose it next year. Say what you want to about the big playoff teams, but they are spending to win. There has to be a little temptation to just take home $200m+ instead of spending like the Dodgers.  

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