Recently, my mind has started to drift toward the upcoming 2021 MLB Draft, which for the first time will be taking place after the College World Series and as part of MLB’s All-Star Game festivities, beginning Sunday, June 11 and finishing Tuesday, June 13.
And as I began to look at Kiley McDaniel’s latest mock draft on ESPN.com, I noticed that the team in front of the Baltimore Orioles, who will be picking No. 5, is the Boston Red Sox. I did a double take, and sure enough, there they are No. 4.
And then it came rushing back to my memory bank that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred had the final say on the draft order due to the unusual nature of the 60-game season in 2020 but never followed through on making common-sense adjustments. MLB announced in October that the draft order would be based on the reverse order of the standings, as usual.
What might those common-sense adjustments have looked like? How about combining teams’ records from 2019 and 2020 to create the draft order? That would have taken the Boston Red Sox, a perennial big-spending contender, at the least out of the top five. Can you imagine the NBA, following a fluke season, allowing such an unfair outcome for the fans of those cities whose teams are stuck in the mud of losing too many years in a row?
The draft is about trying to reward organizations that are lower in the standings with access to better young players, with the idea being that after being rewarded a few years in a row, they will transition back in relevance for their fans.
The Red Sox were merely slapped on the wrist for manager Alex Cora’s involvement in the Astros’ cheating scandal. Cora, who was the Astros’ bench coach in 2017, was suspended for the 2020 season, and the Red Sox dismissed him. But as soon as his suspension was up, he was welcomed back warmly and will benefit greatly from whoever this No. 4 pick turns out to be.
Of course, some readers of this commentary will read this as a whine and argue that teams that are chronically bad don’t deserve any extra favors. But I think MLB, out of fairness to this system, should have at least commingled the records from 2019 and 2020 to meld a more realistic draft order.
Somehow it seems to have worked out perfectly in the top three picks, as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers got the first three picks … but then the Red Sox jumped in front of the Orioles and will get the chance at a major talent for pennies on the dollar.
It’s blatantly unfair, but we’ll just keep our fingers crossed that the Orioles’ pick pans out regardless.
Here are my power rankings:
1. Tampa Bay Rays (38-23, No. 1 last week): The Rays are 24-8 in the past five weeks. With Washington and Baltimore visiting, it should be another productive week for manager Kevin Cash’s guys.
2. San Francisco Giants (37-22, No. 3): Shortstop Brandon Crawford and third baseman Evan Longoria have combined for 21 homers and 67 RBIs so far. But in a very unusual and scary collision while trying to field a ground ball, Longoria suffered a shoulder injury that will keep him on the injured list for 4-6 weeks.
3. Chicago White Sox (36-23, No. 4): Hate to be redundant, but it took Tony La Russa a while to get in a groove with his unstoppable stopper Liam Hendriks. Just keep feeding him the ball with the lead. It’s not complicated. La Russa now has moved into second place all time in wins by a skipper.
4. San Diego Padres (36-25, No. 2): From 3,000 miles away, it looks like we could be watching the last season of the Jayce Tingler experiment. We’ll see, but if things go south in San Diego, A.J. Preller will look to blame anyone but himself.
5. Boston Red Sox (36-23, No. 5): Manager Alex Cora’s team just completed a series sweep at Yankee Stadium for the first time in 10 years.
6. Oakland Athletics (35-26, No. 7): Would love to be wrong, but it seems the Billy Beane methodology stops short of what has been accomplished in St. Petersburg, Fla. Where Tampa Bay looks like the real deal, the A’s often look like posers when push comes to shove. Love manager Bob Melvin.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers (34-25, No. 6): Any team that is No. 1 in payroll at nearly $200 million shouldn’t be running the very real risk of playing a one game playoff to advance to the divisional round.
8. Milwaukee Brewers (33-26, No. 13): Manager Craig Counsell’s team always seems to win a very high percentage of the games they should win. The Brewers are 10-3 in the past two weeks, with a four-game sweep against Arizona and a three-game sweep against the Nationals. Thirty-two of their 59 starts have been made by pitchers: Brandon Woodruff (12 starts, 1.42 ERA), Freddy Peralta (11, 2.25) and Corbin Burnes (10, 1.97). Did I mention a guy named Christian Yelich is back?
9. Houston Astros (33-26, No. 15): The sneaky good Astros sneak back into the top 10. When they get Lance McCullers Jr. back off the IL, they’ll have a total of seven options to start games. Zack Grienke (6-2, 3.38 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) has turned back the clock with 82 high-quality innings so far. Another one of those seven is Framber Valdez, who is back from a finger fracture in spring training.
10. Chicago Cubs (33-26, No. 9): When you look over the Cubs’ stats, how good of a manager David Ross must be comes into sharper focus. Now keep an eye on whether or not ownership will really try to sign the key guys (Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo). Here’s a shocker — Matt Duffy is on the IL.
11. New York Mets (29-23, No. 10)
12. Cleveland Indians (31-26, No. 12)
13. New York Yankees (31-29, No. 11)
14. Toronto Blue Jays (30-27, No. 14)
15. St. Louis Cardinals (31-29, No. 8)
16. Kansas City Royals (29-28, No. 16)
17. Cincinnati Reds (28-29, No. 24)
18. Atlanta Braves (28-29, No. 21)
19. Washington Nationals (24-32, No. 19)
20. Philadelphia Phillies (28-30, No. 20)
21. Seattle Mariners (30-31, No. 17)
22. Los Angeles Angels (27-32, No. 22)
23. Minnesota Twins (24-35, No. 23)
24. Detroit Tigers (24-35, No. 25)
25. Miami Marlins (25-33, No. 18)
26. Pittsburgh Pirates (23-35, No. 27)
27. Colorado Rockies (24-36, No. 28)
28. Texas Rangers (23-38, No. 26)
29. Baltimore Orioles (21-38, No. 30)
30. Arizona Diamondbacks (20-41, No. 29)