Draft picks are more important today than at any other point in baseball history. Model franchises covet draft picks and wisely retain internal talent while supplementing via trade and the free agent market. Some teams ride the volatile small market boom / bust cycle and assemble a championship caliber team in the wake of 30 years of futility. Others know a guy who knows a guy named Bernie Madoff and unknowingly invest in a ponzi scheme thus tying up their assets for a number of years which consequently leads to an exodus of talent. Finally, others see they have an aging core of players and a barren farm system then decide upon the path of tanking.
One must look no further than the Cubs for a prime example of this sporting kamikaze into MLB draft. You can make the same case against Houston and their blossoming young superstars though their coffers don't run quite as deep as those in the windy city so does that make it egregious to a lesser degree? I think what Chicago has done over the last handful of years goes against the game as we learn to love it growing up and needs to be prevented from happening again.
Chicago made some poor investments in with the key offense being Carlos Zambrano and many of their draft picks just didn't pan out such as Corey Patterson and Felix Pie. Instead of rebuilding/retooling on the fly they took a page out of the Miami Marlins playbook, a team that has managed to stumble into two World Series championships in the wake of 40 man roster fire sale, and completely gutted their roster then making "BIG" free agent splashes like Marlon Byrd and Edwin Jackson. They fielded a team with a payroll mimicking the Oakland A's without the talent and trademark Billy Bean's moneyball craftyness while playing in one of the biggest markets in the MLB. Meanwhile, they forced their fan base into five years of misery as if the hundred years before that wasn't enough. All the while, they filled their plate at an all you can eat prospect buffet.
You may or may not be thinking, "What's wrong with that? When you lose you get good draft picks... that's how it works..." However, what the Cubs did was the equivalent of a CEO blowing his fortune on a grand tour around the world then coming back to the US and living in subsidized housing while getting food stamps and welfare until he decides he's ready for his next corporate gig. There's nothing technically illegal about this but it just feels wrong. I saw an "insider" article on ESPN talking about this practice of tanking in baseball and without being able to read more than the first two sentences I could tell it summed up my feelings. If one or two teams does this it makes you raise your eyebrow but if this practice spreads it will be inherently bad for the game. We may soon find out if this practice spreads based on how Philadelphia proceeds with their rebuild. They've had the aging core fall apart and the fire sale. The question is what's next? If tanking becomes the next big thing since sliced bread and moneyball, maybe it's time for a lottery style draft in the MLB similar to that in the NBA .