Rebuild, Retool, or Retank?

Photo Credit: Keith Allison | Flickr

by: Andy Zsiga @zsiga_andy

With eight of the thirty teams in the MLB winning less than seventy games last season, there is a looming question of how teams are deciding to rebuild in baseball. 

Team talent has always cycled in baseball, and teams have always gone through stretches of winning and losing (two quick examples are the opposing of the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates of the 1990s and early 2000s), but it seems that there is now a thought process teams need to tank to be successful.

Many fans now root for their team to throw the towel in and begin rebuilding from the bottom up, and it seems possible many teams are giving in and starting at a very low level.

This idea of losing to win seems to stem from teams that are set well for the near future due to enduring a few years of trades and losing. The Chicago Cubs turned five losing seasons into a bunch of youth, four consecutive seasons of ninety wins or more (and counting??), and most importantly the 2016 World Series Championship, by making shrewd moves in both player personnel and front office leadership. 

The Houston Astros were more dramatic in their losing and concerted efforts to lose by emptying the cupboards so bare, they won less than sixty games three years in a row, but now their young talent has produced back to back one-hundred win seasons. The Astros actually paid a hefty price in attendance, due to their concerted effort to lose, and just this last year their attendance returned to being close to three million people for the year, a normal number for the mid-2000’s Astros teams.

The 2018 season not only saw eight teams win less than seventy games, but it also witnessed two teams fail to reach sixty games; the Orioles putrid 47-115 record brings tanking to the forefront.

There seem to be many teams changing the scenery of their organization. 

While rebuilding is necessary, a complete tear down may be too much at times, and a complete tear down does not always mean success is around the corner. The key to the success of teams like the Cubs and the Astros is that they rebuilt from the top down, instead of trying to use the same old methods to be successful. 

The Boston Red Sox seem to understand very well the importance of having the right front office in place; they have made quick moves to ensure the future of their organization is safe, and it has paid off.  While the Red Sox had losing seasons three out of the four years, 2012 was the only one of those they failed to reach seventy wins; the Red Sox were quick to part ways with ESPN darling Bobby Valentine when they saw he was not leading them to a championship.

The Red Sox rebuilt rather quickly and avoided many of the stigmas of a long drought of winning, but other teams also take this approach, even shortening the number of years they lose. 

Since the year 2000, the St. Louis Cardinals have only had one losing season, and have seemed to navigate through the years their talent is taking a hit. Instead of tanking or even rebuilding, the Cardinals seem to be infinitely retooling, a skill every fan wishes their team had. The Cardinals success begins with smart scouting leading into giving players opportunities and ending with cashing out players at their maximum value.

It is nice when your organization can retool rather than rebuild, but honestly, sometimes the minor league system just dries out and money alone will not be able to save your organization. 

Rebuilding has to happen sometimes, but tanking does not. 

Tanking is extreme, and it is a shame so many fans actively cheer for their teams to lose; there are many other ways to build a strong roster, and tanking will not always produce the desired results. While tanking is not a preferred way to be successful, there are at least two teams enjoying success right now due to it, and it does not seem that the Astros and Cubs are regretting their years of infamy.


What do you think? Are you for your team tanking if it leads to a championship? Should there be consequences for a team that is actively trying to lose? Let us know in the comments and give us your Fan's Perspective!

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