The Ethics Of Playing For A Draft Pick

The Royals have been one of the least successful franchises in baseball over the past two decades. They’ve been so bad that it’s hard to believe the team has only one No. 1 overall draft pick to its name.

Luke Hochevar has been the Kansas City Royals' only No. 1 overall draft pick.

(That would be Luke Hochevar. We’ll talk more about him in a minute…)

Fortunately, the future is looking brighter for the Royals. Strong young players like Mike Moustakas are on the way up. But how much better would the outlook be if the Royals had been just a little bit worse the last few years?

Instead of drafting Eric Hosmer, Aaron Crow and Christian Colon with their three most recent first-round picks, they could have had Tim Beckham, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper with No. 1 overall selections.

The Major League Baseball Draft, just like drafts in all other sports, is designed to help the weaker teams build from the inside with the best amateur players available.

If the season ended today, the Royals would have the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft.

That’s right. There are six teams with worse records than the Royals this season. But it would be hard to argue that any team could a No. 1 overall pick more than the Royals.

So what would be wrong with the Royals laying down the rest of the season?

They wouldn’t have to do anything blatant. Just small things – like playing Jose Guillen in right field instead of DH – that would ensure the Royals lose as many games as possible.

So instead of a situation like the 2010 draft, where the Royals had the fourth overall pick in a field with only three great prospects, the team could be sitting pretty at the top of the draft.

Would such a move be unprecedented? Who’s to say? Maybe the Nationals have taken a dive on purpose the last couple years. If they did, it was a brilliant strategic move; it netted them the best pitching prospect (Strasburg) and the best hitting prospect (Harper) of all time.

Why not the Royals?

There are some drawbacks, of course. For one, the Royals might just screw it up and select a dud with a No. 1 overall pick. (See: Luke Hochevar, selected over Tim Lincecum and Evan Longoria).

Also, if the league discovered that the Royals were doing this, there could be a sizable amount of backlash. As well as copycatting. The Orioles, for example, could probably play far worse than the Royals if they tried hard enough.

The most compelling reason, though, is that fans may have trouble living with themselves if they knew their team tanked the season on purpose. The Royals can’t afford to have any more fans lose faith.

To steal from Herm Edwards: You play to win the game.

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