I Think I'm In Love with the the Anti-Tanking Gold Plan

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I Think I’m In Love with the the Anti-Tanking Gold Plan

Chicago Cubs

Have you heard of The Gold Plan? No, not like a higher tier of service at the spa where you’re getting a mud bath and reading this post – but, hey, treatyoself – it’s a draft order approach, originally tailored to the NHL, as a way to address tanking within the sport. It’s … awesome.

The plan, named after its inventor, Adam Gold, is a pretty radical and ingenious way to de-incentivize tanking, while also keeping competitive balance in mind, WHILE ALSO generating additional fun for fans down the stretch. An explainer from SportsNet (and a hat tip to a question at The Athletic that put this on my radar):

The idea goes like this: Instead of a draft lottery system that encourages losing by awarding the best odds to the league’s worst teams, you’d determine the draft order based on the number of points each team earned after being eliminated from the playoffs. Once you’re mathematically out of the playoff hunt, you start the clock on banking points towards your spot in the draft order. The team with the most post-elimination points get the top pick, and so on down through the rest of the non-playoff teams.

The beauty of the plan is that it still weights the odds of getting the first pick heavily towards the league’s worst teams, because they’ll be eliminated first.

In a typical season, the league’s worst teams will get about ten games or so to rack up their points, while teams that come close to the playoffs will only get a couple (and sometimes none at all). We’re still offering a hand up to the teams that need it most. It’s just that now, they have to earn that prize on the ice. And their fans would be able to feel good about wins again.

I’d vaguely heard of this before, but I’d never actually looked into it. Now that I have, I’m in love. I think baseball should be giving this a very serious look, since they’re already reworking the CBA, and potentially addressing these very topics.

Porting the plan over to MLB is imperfect, since there are no “points” to be racked up, and this does create some hurdles. You can’t just go by winning percentage, because a team that was eliminated on the day before the last day of the season would then have to win only one game – Game 162 – in order to get the first overall pick. I don’t think that’s quite what we want. Going by an accumulation of wins is also tricky, since the schedules are not always balanced.

But let’s not throw this idea out just because you’d have to adjust the metric slightly. You could still go by the total wins, while making some kind of adjustment if necessary because an extreme imbalance in the schedules. Or, heck, you don’t make any adjustment, since staying in postseason contention, itself, already accounts for the games remaining on the schedule. So, yeah, actually, I think you could just go by wins: the non-playoff team that wins the most games total after being mathematically eliminated from postseason contention gets the first overall pick. Second most wins gets pick two, and so on.

Suddenly, teams not only have no reason to try to be the team that loses 110 games, but teams have a strong incentive to try to stay good down the stretch. Call up some top prospects, perhaps? Not lay down in September?

And fans, they have a reason to be all about those September Orioles games. Every win counts. Think about the potential for additional excitement down the stretch, as you have a pool of teams competing for the playoffs … and another pool of teams competing for better draft picks! No more uncomfortable Reverse Standings Watch. You’d just get to root for your team to win, and keep winning.

Also, for those of you who hate the idea of expanding the postseason, note that this plan could accomplish one of the goals – keeping more fan bases interested in the games for longer into the season – without actually diluting the playoff pool further than necessary.

There is one potential downside, just as there is with any anti-tanking plan: it might make the Trade Deadline less exciting. If you are a team that knows you’re going to be eliminated eventually, you might want to hang onto your best players – even short-term guys – to help you secure a higher draft pick. I’d argue, though, that you might still see lots of “sell” trades, because (1) draft pick placement is not guaranteed, (2) the prospect return you get could easily outweigh the difference between pick 4 and pick 3 (or whatever), and (3) your period of time to play for a pick might include only 10 or 12 games. (And what the heck, you might see really weird situations develop, with unexpected teams trying to acquire rentals to help them win more games after being eliminated. Ok, actually, that seems pretty unlikely. But who knows? Let’s get crazy!)

So, what do you think? Does a version of this plan do the trick for baseball? Not only to reduce tanking, but also to add a whole lot more excitement to the second half? Am I missing some obvious problem or risk or terrible part of this?


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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.