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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.

MORE ORIOLES: Zimmermann signing, lots of rumors highlight weekend

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Orioles finally hire Brandon Hyde as new manager

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Orioles finally hire Brandon Hyde as new manager

The Orioles have finally found their man.

After entering the Winter Meetings without having yet hired their new manager, a rarity in this era of baseball, the Orioles announced Friday that they had hired Brandon Hyde to fill the role.

Hyde joins the organization after spending half a decade in Chicago under Joe Maddon, and many years prior with the Marlins. He has a long background in player development, something that was important to new Orioles GM Mike Elias, which makes sense considering the state of the organization and their upcoming rebuilding process.

Hyde is 45, so he’ll have the opportunity to stick in Baltimore for a long time if he finds success, however, Elias defines it, in the next few seasons. Many times, the manager leading a team as it embarks on an organizational rebuild is not the same one who leads them back into contention, but the Orioles front office will certainly hope Hyde is up to both tasks.
“After conducting an intensive search, I believe that we have found the ideal leader for the next era of Orioles baseball,” said Mike Elias, Orioles Executive Vice President and General Manager, in a statement released Friday.

“Brandon’s deep background in player development and Major League coaching, most recently helping to shape the Cubs into a World Champion, has thoroughly prepared him for this job and distinguished him throughout our interview process. I look forward to introducing him to our fans next week and to working together with him to build the next great Orioles team.”

Elias was thought to have preferred someone with Major League experience, so as to avoid saddling an up-and-coming manager with multiple 90-plus loss seasons inevitably on the horizon in Baltimore. Hyde technically has experience coaching in the big leagues, though it comes in the form of a single game. The Marlins lost his one game as acting manager 2-1 to the Rays, and Jack McKeon was named interim manager the next day.

Maddon has developed a reputation as a stellar communicator and somebody open to analytics, and it stands to reason that Hyde would follow a similar style of leadership, especially considering how critical those traits are in the eyes of Elias.

Hyde replaces Buck Showalter, a beloved figure in Baltimore after his 8 ½ seasons at the helm brought winning baseball back to a city desperate for relevancy. Showalter’s contract was not renewed at the end of this past season, an understandable decision given his age and how long it will be until the franchise is ready to compete again.

Reports swirled about Hyde being named the 20th manager in franchise history as early as Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, though Elias and the front office were quick to emphasize that nothing was official at the time. In the end, Hyde does end up accepting the job, and he’ll be introduced at a press conference Monday.

Nationals bench coach Chip Hale was, along with Hyde, one of six finalists who interviewed for the position, so the Nats won’t be losing a valuable piece of their staff.

The Orioles are in the honeymoon phase of the rebuild, where hope springs eternal and the losses to come haven’t set in yet. Hyde checks all the boxes for what Elias was looking for, and despite his relative inexperience, he’s someone who should excite, if not necessarily inspire, the fanbase in Charm City.

Orioles fans won’t have many exciting acquisitions to cheer on in the near future, but they may have just made one of their most impactful. The O’s finally have their GM-Manager combination set for the foreseeable future, and they’ll hope to experience as much success and more as the previous regime.

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Orioles GM Elias calls reports of Brandon Hyde being next manager "premature"

USA Today Sports

Orioles GM Elias calls reports of Brandon Hyde being next manager "premature"

Orioles new general manager Mike Elias is a busy man out in Las Vegas. Not only is he looking to add much needed talent to Baltimore's roster but he is also searching for a new manager. Elias interviewed six candidates, including Nationals bench coach Chip Hale, for the vacancy. On Monday, Elias said they were “pretty far along in the process.”

Then the reports surfaced on Tuesday that the Orioles had found their man. 

For a second straight year, Joe Maddon's bench coach has landed a managerial job (Davey Martinez). 

But, in the words of College Gameday's Lee Corso "Not so fast my friend!"

Does that mean Hyde is not the manager? Not necessarily. It likely means Elias wants the news to come out on his terms.