Tanking doesn’t pay off anymore
The Oakland A’s have the worst record in the majors this year. Nearly halfway into the season they stand at 23-48, and their .324 percentage means they aren’t even winning one out of every three games. This afternoon their starting pitcher took a no-hitter into the 8th inning and they still lost.
Not only are they in the MLB cellar, they’re on pace for the worst year in franchise history. At their current clip they’ll lose 109 games, or 110 if you round up the decimal, which would eclipse their 54-108 mark from 1979. No other Oakland team has ever lost more than 98 times.
This isn’t completely unexpected. We all knew the A’s would have a rough season after tearing down their roster for the next rebuild and slashing to an especially meager payroll. But they’ve cratered harder than we might have feared.
When your club is struggling, there’s normally a silver lining to fall back on, and that’s draft position. Sure you’re in last place, but at least it means you’ll get the No. 1 pick next summer!
Well have I got bad news for you.
One of the many changes to come out of the recent lockout is that a Draft Lottery is coming in 2023. The first six picks will be determined by a lottery, with all non-playoff teams eligible, and then after that the rest are determined by record. In other words, the worst team is only guaranteed the No. 7 pick, and to go higher than that requires hitting in the lotto. The worst team does have the best odds in the lotto, but no better than the second and third worst teams.
All 18 non-playoff clubs will enter a lottery for the top six picks. The percentage chances of each team getting the No. 1 choice, in reverse order of winning percentages: pic.twitter.com/lzWR3PeOqW
— Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) March 11, 2022
My point here isn’t to criticize the lottery idea, or praise it, or pass judgment at all really. Rather, it’s to remind us all that it’s a thing that exists and it’s happening next summer, because it appears that’s going to have a serious impact on the A’s.
I’ve seen a lot of folks in the comments section, or on Twitter, or elsewhere, bringing up the No. 1 pick in regard to Oakland’s woes, but it’s a mirage. No matter how many games the A’s lose this year, they cannot guarantee the 2023 top pick in that fashion. They can only get there with some lotto luck, and even then there’s only so far they can max out their chances in that process.
Perhaps none of this will matter. Oakland could bounce back a little and stay out of last place, and maybe even get lotteried up to a better pick when all is said and done. Or they could get lotteried down to a lower pick but still strike gold since the draft is an inexact science anyway. But dang. They haven’t had the No. 1 pick since 1965, and even their 1979 disaster only netted them the fourth position, and now that they finally might have been in line for it, the decades-old rules are changing to take it away. That’s some rotten timing.
Tanking no longer pays off in baseball, at least not in terms of draft position, and the A’s might become the first team to find that out the hard way.