Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow gamed the system when he rebuilt that organization from scratch. Now, other teams are doing it. Welcome to the age of tanking. The St. Louis Cardinals are ready.
Earlier this week, an expert on the subject of tanking, Houston Chronicle beat writer Evan Drellich,
You did this, Jeff Luhnow! Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
wrote a column about the horrible trend Luhnow started. Drellich and everyone else in Houston painfully watched three consecutive 100+ loss seasons (and a 90+ loss campaign) before the team finally broke through this year. At least Drellich got paid to watch, I guess.
Drellich quotes several Major League general managers, and at one point he ponders the degree of tanking that is acceptible.
"Even if it’s reasonable to accept losing for a time, there’s a notion that teams can go too far. Yet the hypothetical line that separates an acceptable effort is blurry.For example, the three consecutive 100-loss seasons the Astros endured are too much, said one GM who likely has some losing in front of him and didn’t want to be named.But what is the cut-off? Are three straight 90-loss seasons acceptable, and why would that be?"
Several teams are about to find out. The Atlanta Braves, of course, are positioning themselves to
go out with a gutteral moan at Turner Field next year. Defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons is already gone, and now franchise cornerstone Freddie Freeman is on the chopping block (see what I did there?) I’m not even going to touch the argument about whether the St. Louis Cardinals should go after him. But wow. What a message to your fan base, Braves.
Looks like the St. Louis Cardinals will be whipping up on the Braves long after they move into their new ballpark, which, but the way, isn’t even in Atlanta.
As if losing star players isn’t enough, poor Atlantans have to stomach toothsome team CEO and Chairman Terry McGuirk cry poverty in a recent Atlanta Business Journal interview:
"We’ve never really lost money with the Braves. Baseball is not a widely profitable business. If you took all of the free-cash flow of all of the 30 teams, it’s pretty much zero. That’s sort of a fairly well known fact. If you actually, do have free cash flow, you’re among a minority."
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, fan favorite Todd Frazier has emerged as a trade candidate. This, from the esteemed ESPN reporter Jayson Stark earlier this afternoon:
Should the St. Louis Cardinals deal stud pitching prospect Alex Reyes and others for him? (Nah. Freeman — in a decent lineup where he would actually get pitches to hit — is better.)
But I digress.
Frazier was the one guy everyone thought the Reds wouldn’t move, even with their otherwise drab future. One, because their owner is super competitive. And two, because the fan base there would absolutely lose their collective mind. Cincinnatians looove them some Todd Frazier. Almost as much as soupy chili with cinnamon in it.
Next up in the tanking sweepstakes is probably the Milwaukee Brewers, who will almost certainly shop their last star player, Jonathan Lucroy. Oh hey, Lucroy plays some first base. I wonder if the St. Louis Cardinals should go after him.