Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association deserve credit.
This offseason, the two sides tossed around a few rule change ideas that worked fans into a lather. One in particular is a strikingly admirable idea that shows a clear vision by the MLBPA to try to solve a problem that some baseball fans might not think is necessarily pressing just yet.
The union reportedly offered a proposal to penalize teams that lose 90-plus games in consecutive years and reward successful, low-revenue teams through the draft. The union wants to make the sport more competitive. That's inherently the right thing to do.
There is plenty of room for debate about whether baseball or football is the sport with more "parity." Both sports have a dirty habit of having their seasons end with the team from Massachusetts winning the championship. But the benefit that football fans seem to have is there are fewer games played during the course of the season involving teams that have absolutely no chance ... or teams that, frankly, aren't even trying.
Sure, that's in part because there are significantly fewer football games in general. But with the lack of a salary cap (and more importantly a salary floor), we've seen more and more baseball teams either give up after the All-Star break or never particularly try whatsoever at any point during the year. We'll get back to that.
Ideally, baseball season would feature all 30 markets (well, technically 26 since four markets have multiple teams, but you get the point) spending the majority of six months believing their teams are genuinely competing and attempting to win. That's best not only for those markets but for the game as a whole.
It can't possibly be a controversial statement to say a sport is better if the teams are actually trying and the games are more competitive. It might be a little unrealistic to think it can be implemented perfectly, but it's the right idea.
We still don't know all of the details of how baseball would try to penalize "tanking" in the future, but the premise is sound. We watch sports because we want to see competition. To get that, the teams need to actually attempt to compete.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the rather abrupt swerve.
All of what I stated already is completely and totally true. And yet, here we enter a Baltimore Orioles season in which we know the team might not necessarily be "tanking," but they've most certainly not made the most valiant attempt to win this offseason. And yet not only are we OK with that, we're actually sort of excited about it.
Actually it's more than that. We've genuinely embraced the suck. We remember what it was like to aimlessly suck for a decade and a half. It was embarrassing. It was soul-crushing. Each loss was a reminder of how far the franchise had fallen. Friends who rooted for other teams would rub our noses in historic losing stretches or lopsided defeats, and we'd hang our heads in shame.
Now we'll be like Spike Lee at the Oscars. We'll actually be (kinda) mad when our friends let us know the team won. We'll yell back, "We're trying to tank!"
Obviously there's the tiny possibility the team could be in for some sort of insane "Why Not" type of season. But realistically, we'll hope for areas of individual development, distract ourselves by going out to minor league ballparks as frequently as possible and realize that as nice as it will be to have the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming first-year player draft, the franchise will be well-served having the No. 1 overall pick in 2020 as well -- and maybe 2021 if we're being honest.
And that's why as much as I agree in general with the idea of trying to fix competitiveness ... I can't actually get fully on board.
The reason why we're fully "embracing the suck" is because we've watched the paths taken by teams like the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies in recent years to rebuild their franchises. We see a roadmap to the Orioles ultimately being relevant again. That's the map we're hoping the team can follow. The concept that, under this new rule proposal, the Orioles are terrible and yet aren't rewarded with another high draft pick doesn't just feel unfair -- it feels downright cruel.
This is likely going to be a brutal baseball season in Baltimore. Yet it also sets up to be a season of hope. So as much as baseball has the right idea, I selfishly can't get on board with the proposal because of that.