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Red Sox vs. Astros: A battle for last place

The Red Sox and Astros meet out west trying ostensibly to win. But...maybe actually to get closer to the first pick?

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Jared Wickerham

The Red Sox are headed west to take on the Houston Astros in a matchup that has a lot more to do with draft positioning than anything else.

Oh Sox fans, we've had a heady couple of days. Back-to-back walkoffs against the White Sox, some big plays from the young players, Jon Lester going nuts once more. It's been downright fun, which I think most would agree is a strange concept to apply to the 2014 Red Sox who have by-and-large been anything but.

But this fun has not come without cost. In fact, if we're taking an entirely pragmatic view of things...losing might have just been better. Such is the strange scenario presented to teams that have fallen well out of contention this early in the season by the draft. The only practical difference between winning 75 games and winning 60 games lies in where you end up picking come June, and how much money you have to throw at draft picks. There is no award given for getting close to .500. No punishment for falling well short. A 75-win season may well be more fun, but a 60-win season is ultimately going to give a team a better chance at winning the World Series down the line irrespective of the current talent on the team.

Simply put, there's more value in losing 100 games than in losing 90. It's annoying, but true.

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So it is that the Red Sox' trip to Houston comes with mixed motivations. At the moment, the Red Sox are three games "up" on the league-worst Texas Rangers (unexpected misery loves unexpected company, I suppose), with the Astros just half a game above Texas having swept the last series from them. For those on board with "tanking," whether through concerted effort or just by virtue of the Red Sox not being a very good baseball team, this series is a big opportunity to force some wins onto first-pick favorites in the Astros. For those who still hope to pick up even irrelevant wins, this is an opportunity for the Red Sox to take four off some very weak competition.

In all honesty, while research shows that the first pick is a prize to be coveted well above even the second pick, I expect that's largely influenced by outliers like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. In more normal years, the first pick is still certainly the best pick, but it is not quite so far above that next group down. All told, if you're making one of the first three or four picks in the draft, you're probably getting a very good player. With that in mind, allowing yourself to get upset with your bad team's rare successes seems like a pretty miserable way to live your life.

Still...let's not start sweeping teams unless we're gonna make a miracle out of it.

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league for tonight's MLB games. It's $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. You can join in now using this link, but if the article didn't tip you off, you should probably avoid most of the players involed in this series.