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Losing for better draft picks is not sound strategy


Losing for better draft picks is not sound strategy

Most Ravens fans were thrilled by Monday night’s improbable win. They’re savoring every victory in a season full of injuries and other challenges.

But, there are others who think the Ravens should just lose out.

The Ravens shouldn’t even try to win, and as a result, get better draft choices and help fix what’s wrong with the team.

That’s absurd.

Tanking in sports seems to be the rage. The Philadelphia 76ers have set a record for futility while stockpiling draft picks and playing in front of empty arenas.

The Houston Astros were recently lambasted by agent Scott Boras for having the worst record in baseball three years in a row and accumulating the top draft pick.

Two years after their third consecutive season of 100 losses or more, the Astros made it to the postseason.

Don’t talk about tanking to any Nationals fan. The Nats surely weren’t trying to tank when they had the worst record two years in a row. They drafted Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

Strasburg and Harper were the consensus picks for top draft choices in 2009 and 2010, but that was a rarity. Very seldom is there a surefire top pick in baseball, and in 2012, Houston was accused of drafting Carlos Correa No. 1 because he was supposedly easier to sign.

Three years later, Correa looks a budding superstar.

The Sixers have four first round picks in next June’s draft, and it’s going to take another two years to see if their strategy was a smart one.

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Ask John Harbaugh or Buck Showalter if they would embrace losing in exchange for getting a better draft pick. I don’t think you’d have to guess at their response.

Because of the all the Ravens’ injuries, they have to use many untested players. That’s not a strategy for getting a better draft position. It’s a necessity, and perhaps some of those will play well enough to show that they’re better than potential draft choices.

The Ravens don’t know what their final record will be. They don’t know for certain who will be available next spring in the draft and where they will pick.

They do know fans would be happier with a string of victories at the end of the season rather than a bunch of losses.

The Orioles ended last season with five straight wins. That enabled them to secure a fourth straight season without a losing record. An 81-81 record may cost them a slightly better draft pick, but it’s better psychologically.

And, if you have skilled people drafting, there shouldn’t be much difference between choosing 15th as the Orioles will or 14th, which is where Tampa Bay with an 80-82 record picks.

It’s not tanking for a baseball team to trade off its best players in the midst of a losing season. It can be a smart strategy. The Philadelphia Phillies received six prospects for the Texas Rangers in exchange for Cole Hamels.

The Phillies weren’t tanking. They realized they had a valuable, but expensive asset in Hamels who was under contract for 2 ½ more seasons. They thought they could rebuild more quickly with prospects than Hamels, and they wanted increased financial flexibility.

Of course, their strategy is predicated on choosing the right prospects and drafting well. Philadelphia has the No. 1 draft pick in June.

In late July, the Orioles were near .500, and one of many teams in the American League playoff conversation. They could have decided to trade off Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Davis, Darren O’Day and Matt Wieters.

Instead, they thought they had a chance to make the postseason, and they kept the four and traded for a fifth free agent, Gerardo Parra.

By keeping the team together, the fans were given some hope, and while the team really didn’t make a serious playoff push, the season’s last two months were more interesting.

If Chen and/or Davis leaves, the Orioles get an additional draft choice. They decided that those draft choices were more valuable than whatever players might have been offered at the deadline. (In fact, there was little interest in the trading deadline for Chen.)

The Orioles’ strategy was transparent. Think how empty August and September would have been if Davis had been traded. It would have lessened the chances for him returning, and fans wouldn’t have been able to watch all those home runs fly out of the park.

Maybe baseball should adopt an NBA-style draft lottery to prevent a team that has the worst record in consecutive years from appearing to lose intentionally. But, in the NBA, the team with the worst record has rarely won the lottery.

In baseball, football and basketball, the key is drafting well, not losing intentionally to draft well.

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Machado hits 2-run HR in 15th as Orioles beat Braves 10-7


Machado hits 2-run HR in 15th as Orioles beat Braves 10-7

ATLANTA -- For Braves manager Brian Snitker, playing the matchups meant pitching to Manny Machado with first base open and a marathon game on the line.

The Orioles slugger made that strategy look foolish.

Machado hit a tiebreaking two-run homer in the 15th inning, lifting Baltimore to a 10-7 win over Atlanta on Friday night after each team staged dramatic ninth-inning rallies.

The Braves surrendered six runs in the ninth, and then scored four times in the bottom of the inning.

Peter Moylan, Atlanta's eighth pitcher, hit Craig Gentry to open the 15th. Gentry moved to second on Austin Wynns' sacrifice.

With first base open, the Braves pitched to Machado and he responded with his 19th homer, a drive into the Orioles' bullpen in left.

Snitker said the right-handed Moylan is tough on right-handed hitters but acknowledged "you hate like hell (Machado) is one of them."

Machado said an intentional walk "crossed my mind at first. I thought they were. In that situation they probably had faith in Moylan out there that he could get some ground balls to the left side of the infield."

Machado hit a 0-2 slider Moylan said was "supposed to be middle in." Moylan said the pitch "slipped out of my hand and ended up middle middle."

Moylan (0-1) gave up another run on singles by Colby Rasmus and Jonathan Schoop.

Mike Wright Jr. (1-0), Baltimore's seventh pitcher, threw two scoreless innings.

The game lasted 5 hours, 21 minutes.

The Orioles trailed 3-1 heading into the ninth, and the Braves rallied against closer Zach Britton in the bottom of the inning. Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino was not used while Dan Winkler allowed four runs while recording only one out.

Snitker said he rested Vizcaino because of shoulder soreness and he might be available on Saturday.

Chris Davis hit a drought-breaking homer and drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly as Baltimore opened a 7-3 lead.

Britton got one out and was charged with four runs and five hits. He gave up a single to Johan Camargo and a double to Danny Santana before hitting Ender Inciarte to load the bases.

Ozzie Albies' bases-loaded single drove in Camargo. Freddie Freeman's two-run single cut the lead to one before Nick Markakis tied the game with a double to right field.

Atlanta had jumped in front on Charlie Culberson's tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth.

Davis, making his first start since June 11, hit his first homer since May 9 in the fifth. Camargo tied the game with his run-scoring double in the seventh.

Braves left-hander Sean Newcomb allowed five hits in seven innings.

Orioles right-hander Alex Cobb permitted four hits in seven innings

The start of the game was delayed 11 minutes by rain.

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American League All-Star Game Roster Projection: AL will be loaded once again

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American League All-Star Game Roster Projection: AL will be loaded once again

The 2018 Major League All-Star Game is less than a month away. Fan votes are well underway and early frontrunners are close to locking their position in the Midsummer Classic.

Yesterday, we projected how the National League roster will play out. Today it is time to look at the American League roster projection.

For five straight seasons, the AL has had the upper hand in the MLB All-Star Game. In 2018, it does not appear that will change as the American League roster will be loaded from top to bottom.

As a reminder, here is how the process shakes out, first with the fan vote, players’ ballots, and the MLB Commissioner’s Office:

  • Fan vote: nine position players in AL (DH)/ eight in NL; plus final vote for each league
  • Player’s ballots: next 17 players in AL/ 16 players in NL; (five starting pitchers, three relievers must be chosen)
  • MLB Commissioner’s Office: five AL players (four pitchers, one position player) and seven NL players (four pitchers, three position players)

One player from each team must make the initial roster (before injury withdraws, etc.). Below is how it looks the American League roster will play out, considering the latest fan vote returns:

American League All-Star Roster Projection:

C – Wilson Ramos, Rays (Fan Vote), Gary Sánchez, Yankees (Player Ballot)
1B – José Abreu, White Sox (Fan Vote), Joey Gallo, Rangers (Player Ballot)
2B – Jose Altuve, Astros (Fan Vote), Jed Lowrie, Athletics (Player Ballot)
3B – José Ramírez, Indians (Fan Vote), Yangervis Solarte, Blue Jays (Player Ballot), Mike Moustakas, Royals (Commissioner’s Office)
SS – Manny Machado, Orioles (Fan Vote), Jean Segura, Mariners (Player Ballot),
OF – Mookie Betts, Red Sox (Fan Vote), Mike Trout, Angels (Fan Vote), Aaron Judge, Yankees (Fan Vote), Michael Brantley, Indians (Player Ballot), Eddie Rosario, Twins (Player Ballot), Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees (Player Ballot),
DH – J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (Fan Vote), Shohei Ohtani, Angels (Player Ballot)

SP – Justin Verlander, Astros (Player Ballot), Luis Severino, Yankees (Player Ballot), Corey Kluber, Indians (Player Ballot), Chris Sale, Red Sox (Player Ballot), Gerrit Cole, Astros (Player Ballot), Blake Snell, Tampa Bay (Commissioner’s Office)

RP – Edwin Díaz, Mariners (Player Ballot), Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox (Player Ballot), Aroldis Chapman, Yankees (Player Ballot), Joe Jiménez, Tigers (Commissioner’s Office), Delin Betances, Yankees (Commissioner’s Office), Chris Devenski, Astros (Commissioner’s Office)

Manager: Jeff Luhnow, Astros

Based on this projection, the New York Yankees will have the most representatives with six. The Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox will both have four.

Ensuring no snubs, there will be five players selected for the final fan vote to get one more All-Star into the game for a total of 32 for the American League. As you can see, no matter how the AL roster plays out, it will be a dominant team once again as they look for six straight All-Star wins.

Four of those five wins were inside a National League stadium and that will not change as the Washington Nationals will host this season.