Tanking in MLB Has Changed, Not Ended

A common inscription on gravestones in cemeteries reads: "Life is Changed — Not Ended."

And so it goes with tanking in sports.

The Lords of Baseball may have thought that they had put the kibosh on their sport's tanking problem by implementing the most draconian draft lottery of the four major professional sports — with the first six picks determined by lottery, versus four in the NBA, two in the NHL, and the NFL not having any lottery at all — as part of the new collective bargaining agreement.

But they have another think coming.

By refusing to re-seed the Division Series after the results of the new best-of-three wild card series are known (and giving the higher-seeded team home field in all three games of said series is grossly unfair because it deprives every team that makes the playoffs of having at least one postseason game at home), the owners have opened up the possibility of teams tanking games in order to get the sixth, rather than the fifth, seed in the playoffs — not only because the 6-seed wouldn't have to play the 1-seed in the Division Series if they win their wild card series, but also because, at least as often as not, the 3-seed will have finished with a poorer record than at least the 4-seed, and perhaps even the 5-seed, as well.

To illustrate how a scenario ripe for tanking might arise, say that, going into the last series of this season, the seven teams with the best records in the National League are as follows:

Dodgers: 102-57
Giants: 94-65
Braves: 87-72
Brewers: 86-73
Padres: 84-75
Phillies: 83-76
Mets: 79-80

If I'm Joe Girardi, I have all of my pitchers — starters and relievers alike — quite literally throw with the opposite hand in their final series! That way, not only do the Phillies avoid the Dodgers in the Division Series if they win their wild card series, but they will also get to play the Braves or Brewers instead of the Giants in the wild card series.

And the very word "re-seed" has become the sports world's answer to a dog whistle in politics (maybe this is why neither the NBA nor the NHL "re-seed" either — although the NFL does), on a par with Tony Perez and other Cuban-born baseball players constantly getting referred to as having "defected" from the Castro clan's totalitarian regime. "Escaped" would be a far more accurate term — but our left-leaning (to be polite about it) media prefer to call it "defected" because it sounds bad. By contrast, how many times was Albert Einstein ever characterized as having "defected" from Hitler's Germany?

One supposes that the owners should be praised for giving into the MLBPA's demand that the playoff field be enlarged only to 12 teams, instead of the 14 that the owners had sought — and with 12 of MLB's 30 teams henceforth advancing to the postseason, MLB retains its position as having the "Big Four's" (soccer doesn't count) most "exclusive" playoff format, in that going forward 40% of baseball's teams will make the playoffs, compared with 43.8% of NFL teams (14 out of 32) doing so, 50% in the NHL (16 out of 32), and 66.7% (20 out of 30) in the NBA (although MLB's decision to abolish one-game playoffs to break ties for wild card berths, or for division titles if the loser of such a game would not get a wild card, and using tie-breaking procedures for this purpose instead, is not such a good idea).

And since the MLB owners have a history of actually listening to the players when it comes to matters of this sort — remember that it was the union who pressured the owners into junking the ridiculous practice of awarding home-field advantage in the World Series to the league that won that summer's All-Star Game in favor of giving the pennant winner with the better regular-season record the extra home game therein (it would have been even better had it been decreed that it no case could a wild card team get home field over a division champion in the World Series regardless of record) — it would behoove the union to chime in once again and nip this tanking loophole in the bud before the regular season actually starts.

The best way to stop a rooster from crowing on a Sunday morning is to kill it on a Saturday night.

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