“Abolish the draft”

Pinto tears FOX’s Michael Rosenberg a new one over the latter’s half-assed draft column, and then invokes the nuclear option:

Abolish the draft, and let these amateurs sign for what the market will bear. Then we can stop having these idiotic discussions about what’s wrong with the draft. The draft is just wrong, period.

I haven’t thought through all of the implications of such a thing in this day and age (given all of the changes to the baseball labor market, the example of the pre-draft system is probably of little utility), but as I sit here right now, I can’t see how it would create any more problems than any of the draft “solutions” people have suggested. Sure it’s radical, but only in immediate effect, not long term implications. At least I don’t think so, anyway.

David is throwing it out there for us. Let’s run with it. And please, try to think harder than “the Yankees would just buy all of the good players.” That doesn’t happen now with international signings, and they haven’t raised a big Tigers-with-Porcello ruckus in the amateur draft.

Educate me, people: what would be the pros and cons of just chucking this system and going all free-agent?

Print Friendly
 Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
« Previous: John Henry Moss
Next: THT Awards »

Comments

  1. bpasinko said...

    Con:  It’s not that the Yankees with buy all the good players, it’s that most teams will besides a select few.

  2. Michael said...

    Pro: More power to the players.  Every agent would be better represented as well.

    There aren’t any cons as far as I can tell.

  3. Matt A. said...

    You want to get radical make the minors actual independent leagues.  Keep AAA as the only level with affiliations.  When you think a guy is ready sign him to a minor league contract at AAA level.

    If you still want a draft have a separate National League and American League draft.  Make a draftee choose between two clubs.

  4. Rob² said...

    Could it be that the Yankees don’t sign away all the top international talent because it’s a much bigger crapshoot than the US talent pool?

    Do you really think that the Nationals or Rays or Orioles would have any chance at signing top talent out of college like Strasburg or Price or Wieters if there were no draft?

    There’s no draft in college, but last I checked, there’s not exactly a lot of parity there.

  5. Chris said...

    What the Yankees will do is not draft like crazy and pay immediately, but wait until a player hits AAA and then pay like crazy, once much of the risk is gone.

    Its the long term control of the player that, once its gone, will allow a team with cash to snap up all the low risk/high reward players.  Why pay for all the minor league training when all you need to do is pay as soon as they are ready.  It makes free agent spending much more efficient, which will make the high spending teams better.

  6. Rob² said...

    @Chris – Abolishing the Rule 4 draft wouldn’t necessitate abolishing the Rule 5 draft.  Teams would still control a player’s rights once signed, they would just have to pay them market-rate.

    What is unclear to me is why people assume that abolishing the Rule 4 would hurt the owners alone.  Isn’t it more likely that it would just take money away from free agents?  I mean, why would a team suddenly decide to cut into profits to pay more to amateur players instead of cutting into the pool they use for new free agents?

    It’s the substitution effect, people.

  7. J.W. said...

    Pro: It’s fairer to the so-called “amateur” players.

    Con: The very best prospects would likely land in one of only a few places. (This is somewhat mitigated by the high chances of failure for most prospects.)

    Pro: Having the worst team get the best pick is a classic example of a disincentivizing situation, so doing away with the draft would do away with that

    Con: The draft is somewhat exciting.

    Pro: Free agent signings are somewhat exciting.

    Ultimately it comes down to this. Would the Rays have made the W.S. without a draft? And, do we care if the Rays never make it to the World Series? (I’m not being sarcastic or facetious, it’s a serious question. Is parity, in and of itself a good thing?)

  8. tony a said...

    I’m for it, but most fans are far too anti free agency (thanx to a fabulous propaganda campaign by MLB owners) to go along with anything that increases the extent of free agency…

  9. Greg Simons said...

    Wow, nearly 2000 people have voted on the poll at Rosenberg’s page, and a full 93% are in favor of a draft salary bonus cap.  Amazing how willing people are to give away the rights of others.

  10. Rob² said...

    @Greg – Remember that primarily, it’s the Players’ Association that has given away the rights of the draftees, and it’s pretty clearly designed to get more money for major league players.

    Abolishing the draft is not going to magically cause teams to have more money to spend on players.  Maybe they pay more for the amateur talent, but every dollar that goes to an otherwise drafted player will be taken from the pocket of an established major league player through free agency.  To believe otherwise is to believe that teams are just sitting on cash that they would otherwise be spending on players.

  11. Tripon said...

    Con: Its not as if the draft budgets for teams will grow to meet the newfound demands of amateur free agents.

    Guys like Strasburg, Wieters, Price, etc. will always get paid.

    But what does abolishing the draft do for guys picked in the 5th round, 10th round, 15th round, etc.? The MLB draft is kinda like the NFL draft, at least if you’re picked in the later rounds by a team, you know you’re wanted by at least one team. Would getting rid of the rule 4 draft lead to a raise in the bonuses these guys get, or would it lead to a reduction because now the team has no incentive to sign their late round picks?

  12. Greg Simons said...

    @Rob^2 – I don’t care if it’s owners, MLB players, fans, whoever.  They’re restricting, or wanting to restrict, the ability of individuals to find employment in their desired field.  Imagine whatever field you work in, but now one employer has exclusive rights to hire you.  They may be located in a city you have no desire to live in, their management may be inept, etc.  How would you like that?

    But because we’re talking about rich, greedy baseball players who bolt at free agency, leaving their “hometown” team to go elsewhere, so that makes it okay.

  13. Mad Bum said...

    This system would hurt the players. there would be such a glut of players in the market every year that the price would go down. Sure, the bigger talents would still be bought by the Yankees and Red Sox and other big market teams, but maybe not for as much, and the remaining talent would almost certainly be signed at a discount.

    This reason is why baseball doesn’t have a bunch of 1-year contracts for everybody with free agency for everybody at the end of each year.

  14. Rob² said...

    @Greg – My chosen profession has very little relevance to the MLB draft, but the idea that no professions in this country are restricted along similar lines is false.  Academia is restrictive.  Medicine is restrictive.  Investment banking is restrictive.  Acting is restrictive.  People who want to work at the highest levels of any given industry are constrained by any number of factors.

    The relevant piece is that US labor law allows the Players’ Association to decide the barriers to entry into MLB.  Part of the cost of the protection that union provides is submitting to the draft.

    Would abolishing the draft help the Strasburgs and Prices and Weiters of the world, hell yeah.  But the idea that the draft does nothing but limit the income of amateur players at the benefit of the owners is a lie.

  15. Rob² said...

    And just to be clear, I don’t begrudge the players getting paid.  They should get as much they can get whenever they have the chance, be it through the draft or arbitration or free agency.

    Let’s just be honest about who benefits from the draft, because it’s not just the owners.

  16. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    Making ALL players subject to the draft would be a rather simple first step. A structured slot/bonus for the first two rounds would be a harder second step. The former would prevent the Japanese stars from being bought, the latter would kill the “signability” issue. Will either happen? Hell, no.

  17. Ron said...

    Aaron Moreno is the only one that said it so far. There is already a large difference between the so-called ‘large-market’ / ‘small-market’ teams in signing free agents.

    I don’t know if it’s true or not, except as it effects the Royals. Then it’s true.

    But if some teams can’t afford to sign premium “proven” players, how can they afford to sign “amateur” players at free agent type contracts?

    No franchise should have to mortgage it’s future for an unproven high school/college player. And there’s plenty of evidence that it’s all a crap shoot regardless.

    And as far as the argument that ‘no other profession does it’, sports don’t fit into that. No one has to play sports. People have to have jobs. Being an athlete is a talent, like singing, dancing, painting, woodworking. It’s not a taught skill.

    Ballarinas and musicians don’t compete in a normal job market, and neither do athlets. If they don’t like the rules, they can dig ditches or shovel pig s$*t on a farm for minimum wage.

  18. Rob² said...

    @Ron – Baseball is absolutely a taught skill.  Do you really think that baseball players are just born with the ability to hit or throw a curveball?  Is it just coincidence that the vast majority of major league players are American?

    Are some people blessed with a level of talent that few have?  Sure.  But let’s not discount the years of training that go into being a professional athlete.

  19. mo'moe said...

    there’s no real justification to have a draft, and there’s certainly no way of justifying the fact that foreign born players can begin professional careers at 16, and native american players are forbidden from doing so.

    it’s unlikely that all the best players will sign with the yankees or dodgers or other high dollar teams.  after all, the farm systems are a lot smaller than they used to be.  at this point in time, there are only so many slots in a farm system.  no one’s got multiple, power house AAA teams like the yanks used to, or the cards used to, or the dodgers used to.

    at one point in time teams like the old senators or the old browns or the old phillies were just so damn dysfunctional that there really truly wasn’t much hope for them to ever be able to turn themselves around…they didn’t have the cash flow, they didn’t have the scouts, they didn’t have much if anything in the way of a farm system…

    there’s not a single team, now, who is as bereft in any of those areas as the old time downtrodden teams.  and of course, there’s revenue sharing now that wasn’t available then.

    Rob’ says that the idea that the owners are the only benificiaries of the draft is a lie.  okay…where’s your thinking on that?

    i mean…rob’…the draft was set up by the owners to benefit themselves, not the players.  right?

    why would you think that’s not true any longer?

  20. Ron said...

    Rob – to be fair, I’ve read some of your previous comments, and I like the things you have said. So I’m not picking on you.

    But my commment was “Being an athlete is a talent, like singing, dancing, painting, woodworking. It’s not a taught skill”, and I stand by that. I didn’t say baseball specifically.

    Yes, you have to be taught to throw a curveball and swing a bat. I’ve been taught how to do both. I just played baseball (semi-pro) 3 weeks ago, and I still can’t do it, no matter who much I’ve been taught.

    Being an athlete is not a taught skill. You are or you aren’t. Being a painter is not a taught skill. You can learn things to improve your abilities, but if it could be taught, we could teach monkey’s to do it.

    Which would probably be easier than teaching me.

    No one has to play baseball. So the draft is perfectly acceptable to keep the competitive balance.

    Joe Jackson always said he would have played for meal money. Too many of these guys are doing it as a paycheck, and not because they want to play the game.

    I might be an idiot, but if they can work the angles, why can’t the ball clubs?

  21. Ron said...

    Rob, I wasn’t implying that you called me an idiot. I just know there are a lot of people out there smarter than I am.

  22. Tripon said...

    >>it’s unlikely that all the best players will sign with the yankees or dodgers or other high dollar teams.  after all, the farm systems are a lot smaller than they used to be.  at this point in time, there are only so many slots in a farm system.  no one’s got multiple, power house AAA teams like the yanks used to, or the cards used to, or the dodgers used to.

    There’s nothing preventing a team from restarting multiple AAA teams, or rather the rule preventing it will change allowing teams to do it if the teams lobby for it. Baseball teams *will* adapt and will make the new situation work for them.

    Also, one thing the draft does is also forces draftees who normally wouldn’t have gotten higher bonuses to receive due to teams looking for ‘signiablity’ picks, such as Matt Bush, Joe Mauer, and Daniel Moskous. Each player received more bonus money that they would have if they signed as a free agent, partly due to the higher desirability of other draftees in their class. The draft worked to make them more money for them, not not less.

  23. abc said...

    If we eliminate the draft we should also eliminate the salary structure (3 years at the club’s mercy, 3 years of arbitration). 

    As Charlie Finley said in 1976, make ‘em all free agents.  No contracts guaranteed beyond one year.  With no artificial market shortages, the player compensation would find its own level in a free market.

  24. tadthebad said...

    @Rob^2:
    There are other professions that are restrictive, but they aren’t restricted by a draft at all.  They are restrictive by the skill level required of their employees, as well as by the small number of companies in which one can practice his/her profession.  But the companies in these restictive professions must still rely on offering attractive places of business and salaries to attain top-level talent, just like with free agency.

  25. Greg Simons said...

    @Rob^2 – “the idea that the draft does nothing but limit the income of amateur players at the benefit of the owners is a lie.”  This comment was in a response to me, but I never said it, so I’ll assume it was a general statement.  And I never said owner are the only benficiaries of the draft.

    Regarding the statement that other fields are restrictive in their employment, sure, but not to a single company, and not where they can control the conditions of your employment for a decade.

    @Ron – “If they don’t like the rules, they can dig ditches or shovel pig s$*t on a farm for minimum wage.”  So those should be their two choices, take what you’re giving or perform the worst job there is?

    “Too many of these guys are doing it as a paycheck, and not because they want to play the game.”  So many people gave Jeff Kent grief because he didn’t really like baseball, and at first I was one of them.  Then I realized I don’t *love* what I do.  I do my job partially for the paycheck.  Being good at something and making a living at it doesn’t mean you have to love your job, even if it’s one most people would give anything to have.

    It’s that last bit that I think really gets to the heart of all this.  We all played baseball as kids, and maybe longer, and we all love the game.  We say we’d play it for free, so why do the players complain so much when they get big bucks to play a kids’ game?

    I think this all boils down to jealously, to a large extent, and I’m just as guilty of that as anyone.  They’re doing what we can’t, some of them don’t love doing it, some “leave us” as free agents to find other hometowns, so hold out as amateurs to squeeze a couple hundred grand from the team that drafted them.  We’re offended by this behavior in regard to our beloved game, though we’d be quite likely to act in the same way if we were in their shoes – even though we’ll swear here and now that we wouldn’t.

    Baseball is a glorious, beautiful game filled with many happy memories from throughout our lives, and we want to romanticize everything about it.  Therefore, anything that takes away from those wonderful emotions elicits a strong negative reaction.  We can’t separate our emotional attachment from the fact that at the MLB level it’s very big business, whether we like it or not.

  26. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    Actually, the number of affiliates IS capped at 160. It’s something that the NAPBL came up with in the early ‘90s as a means of pitting towns against each other (under the guise of “minimum standards”) to build new stadiums—and for a while, it worked…

    …until independent baseball took off and didn’t have to follow those rules. They could build stadiums on the cheap (Worcester) or construct in the territory of established affiliates (Brockton) or simply move in when the stadium was abandoned by the affiliates (Pittsfield, New Haven, Sussex).

  27. jeff weissbuch said...

    This has to be the stupid thing I have heard in a long time.Mr.Rosenberg must either be a big market fan ( Yanks no don’t)or he just doesn’t get it.The draft is totally fair.We need to have more competive balance not less.The Yankees and others have more than there share of advantages,we can’t give them this one too.If you want this we will just pair baseball down to 6 or 8 teams so Mr.Rosenberg’s yankee’s can win it all with out having to work so hard.

  28. John H said...

    Somewhat of a tangent here, but I’m shocked by how much animosity there is for agents, one agent in particular (not necessarily on here, but in general).

    All the agents do is prevent the teams from screwing over 18-yr old kids who have absolutely no business / negotiating acumen. Can you imagine yourself immediately after graduating high school trying to negotiate the finer points of a multimillion dollar contract? Where would you even begin in trying to determine your market value?

    I’ll just say this: if my son was entering the draft today, he’d be advised by Scott Boras.

    The draft is a transfer of wealth from amateurs to veterans/FAs and ownership; Boras is the agent who does the best job of squeezing every dollar out of clubs for his clients.  The media vilifies him despite the fact that he’s really, really good at what he does; he creates value for his clients.

  29. Steveo said...

    A couple of Cons: Two quick points to make is that the MLB draft is prob. the least likely choice to be a FA system. NFL and NBA the players go straight to the team and can have an immediate impact. MLB you could have a guy like Matt White that you give $10 million to and he never plays a ML inning.

    Also finally I think you can make the argument that the MLB draft actually gives more players opportunities than a FA system would. You would be hurting 100’s of players from making a living and having a chance to become an major leaguer. I think that if everyone was an FA and teams had to pay say $20-25 million for their top 5 players then you wouldn’t see signability guys like Lannan and Stammen have a shot in the majors. Way too many guys like that would get lost in the shuffle. Now teams sign between 30-40 draft picks. I would imagine that, that number would be cut in half, and teams would probably cut a minor league affiliate or two, as a way to save money.

  30. GWR said...

    It seems clear, at least right now anyhow, that the very top talent would end up in only a few places. Maybe 8-10 teams would get the top 20% of the talent. Every single year. Its just reality.

    Eliminating the draft would change everything we have all know about pro sports all our lives. Teams that don’t do well get a chance to improve themselves by getting first dibs at young talent. I realize money issues don’t always make this ideal but it would seem a simple fix to that is a cap on bonuses and salaries for players in their first number of years.

  31. mando3b said...

    If my son were entering the draft today and wanted to make a lot of money, there would be any number of fine agents he could choose from. If he wanted to make a lot of money AND be gratuitously saddled with a reputation as a punk and greedhead, then Scotty B. would be our man.

  32. Steve said...

    Here is one interesting way to get rid of the draft.  Poll the teams such that the top 100 hundred players are ranked.  Have all of the teams submit closed bids for every player in the top 100, who ever submits the highest offer wins.  If one team would like to drop their entire budget on the top prospect so be it, but then they won’t have any other draft picks.  It would bring in some interesting game theory.

    Continue with the draft as normal with the “lesser” picks.

  33. The Ol Goaler said...

    Quoting themarksmith…

        6 of Yankees’ 26 World Series have come after the draft was instituted 44 years ago. They thoroughly dominated from 1930 to early 60’s.

        3 of 10 Cardinals’ World Series titles came after the draft started.

    Seven of the 10 Cardinals’ WS titles came after Branch Rickey invented the farm system; signing multiple amateurs to minor-league contracts, and keeping the best… The championship teams of the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s were built this way.

    The Cards won three pennants (and two WS) in the ‘60s, three pennants (and one WS) in the ‘80s, and two pennants (and one WS) in the 21st century.  Abolishing the baseball amateur draft would bring even more chaos to the already-chaotic “system” of developing MLB players for every franchise.

  34. mo'moe said...

    triton

    yes, actually.  instead of allowing them to use leverage against amateur players to institute financial responsibility on themselves, which is what most of their ideas mean.

    my earlier point about the fact that mlb is allowed to use their leverage to exploit under age international talent…and yet, they also have helped/insisted to create/on creating a system where it’s not possible at all for underage natural born american citizens to sell themselves to…national association affiliated professional teams…is an example of what you’d have to call either institutionalized racism, or something similar to that.  the ownership of mlb is all about what’s advantageous to the ownership of mlb…always has been, and won’t change that outlook without a fight.

    these are the same guys who’ve never blinked about dummying up financial records to show congress…or having their mouthpiece stand up in front of congress and tell outrageous lies denying their culpability in the steroids mess..

    when you look at things that way…the fact that they not only want the draft to remain the way it, but want to institute slotting…as a further way of controlling their costs…

    makes me pretty sure that the draft is *only* for their benefit.  they’re using a draft to screw young folks out of being able to make as much money as they can, just because they (mlb) don’t trust themselves to behave as prudent businessmen and mature adults if there were no draft in place.

    and, again, the original reasons for having a draft…well, the context has changed, and i don’t think those reasons really stand up to scrutiny any longer.

  35. mo'moe said...

    tripon:

    while those examples may prove your point, i’d submit to you that other folks drafted lower might find better paychecks and bonuses being paid, if they were able to have more than one team to negotiate with.  an actual market place for their talents…

    i’d rather have a hard limit on the number of minor league affiliates a major league team could enter into an agreement with than for MLB to continue on with this draft nonsense.

    again, the idea of having a draft is centralized control and cost containment, which is in management’s interest, not really the individual player’s, overall.

    i don’t see how this is an arguable point, even.  management certainly isn’t in the business of promoting the financial welfare of the players as a group or as individuals (in the abstract) at their own expense.

    if bud were to actually push thru a hard slotting scheme..this would just prove the point.  the draft and slotting and salary caps and all these things are for cost containment and cost the player’s money. 

    which is funny, since baseball players as a whole take a smaller percentage of the industry’s gross than any of the other major sports leagues.  and that’s never enough, apparently..

  36. mo'moe said...

    er…‘and that’s never enought, apparently’ *for the owners*…the same folks who cried poor for thirty years, threatened contraction…and by god want to lower their overhead and rake in more money.

    eh?

  37. Thomas J. Comer said...

    One thing that would have to change w/o a draft is that the modern scouts would have to become what scouts used to be: salesmen.  They have always had to project and evaluate talent, but with the advent of the draft thay have not had to cultivate a kid’s family and sell the franchise to the prospect.  It would be an adjustment.
    TComer

  38. KPatrick said...

    I don’t think it’s fair to take “the Yankees will buy all the good players” off the table as a “con.”  If the list of “all the good players” that the Yankees can “buy” expands to included North American players between the ages of 18 and 22, the analysis changes.  I understand it’s not the sexiest argument that can appear in a comment thread, but I’d hate to avoid the simple answer.  That’s a fundamental change in facts.

    Two darn-near-facts: 

    (1) The argument about parity being good in and of itself isn’t necessarily foreclosed for all times just because it’s settled in the eyes of the lords of the realm, but it’s settled, in all four major sports, and has even been, at least as reflected by how the draft is set up.

    (2) Baseball’s current economic system at least skews toward favoring franchises that live in more populous metropolitan areas.  All other things being equal, the Milwaukees of the world are not in as good a bargaining position as, to pick an example completely at random, the Yankees—simply by virtue of Milwaukee being smaller.

    If Law and Pinto can live with there being a perpetual underclass of baseball teams, so that their economic ideological bias can be satisfied in all realms of the world including entertainment, I guess that’s their business.  I think baseball is more interesting when the Rays can draft well and see that come to fruition, knowing that without a salary cap, they’ll never be able to get there by having a winter where they go out and purchase Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett.

  39. Tripon said...

    >>er…‘and that’s never enought, apparently’ *for the owners*…the same folks who cried poor for thirty years, threatened contraction…and by god want to lower their overhead and rake in more money.<<

    So the answer would be to raise the investment and expense of signing amateur talent on the whole, and give clubs an easier excuse to claim poverty?

  40. Doug said...

    Let’s agree on some givens here:

    1) Businesses exist to generate profit for their owners

    2) The current system was COLLECTIVELY bargained

    If we can agree with this:

    1)  Let’s stop bashing ownership for having a profit motive.  I’ve been a baseball fan since I put a glove on, but I don’t pretend my team would exist if it stopped making money.  If all we’re really arguing about here is whether owners, or athletes, make more money, the discussion is downright boring.

    2)  Sure there’s tension between management and labor over the division of the revenues of the business, but neither side is all wrong here.  Both sides want as much of the pie as they can get, and that’s why labor unions rose in influence, to help labor negotiate from a more level playing field.

    So – why do all major sports leagues have drafts to distribute young talent?  Since we acknowledge that a profit motive is necessary for the existence of the league, we can move past the “it’s to screw the players” argument into the “to encourage parity among the teams” argument.

    None of us has a crystal ball, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that a pure free agent system for young players would end up with a similar net result to the current system for free agents.  More talent would end up with the teams with higher revenue.  I think that’s bad for the sport as a whole, and that you’d see an acceleration of the differences between the haves and the have-nots.  So, unless you’ve been able to spin losing into a marketing tool (ala the Cubs), fans will just come out less to watch losing ballclubs.

    Is the system perfect, no.  The differences between the Rule 4 draft and the international signees doesn’t make any sense.  The draft may depress some salaries for individual players (though, I suspect, not too much, as a whole, see above re: profits).  But, “we had to burn down the village in order to save it” just doesn’t feel like it makes sense here.

  41. themarksmith said...

    I’m not sure the international signings are the same situation as American signings. Latin America has the disadvantage of unknown ages and fewer organized leagues with comparable talent levels (though that one is lessening). East Asia is even bleaker on being able to compare talent. You can’t get young players from Japan, the one place that it’s easier to compare to. The Yankees, and other teams, don’t necessarily sign foreign players possibly because it’s much harder to judge them. Sure, they can go ahead and sign a bunch of them anyway, but they may think it’s wiser to stick to the States. They know how to compare them. The scouting is a bit more formalized. Ages are always correct. They don’t always pan out, but at least, they know what they’re getting.

    And though not all top prospects work out, most first round picks end up doing something at the major-league level. If the Yankees sign the top 5 players, it puts them in a pretty good position.

    And just for trivia, but I’m not sure it means anything:

    6 of Yankees’ 26 World Series have come after the draft was instituted 44 years ago. They thoroughly dominated from 1930 to early 60’s.

    3 of 10 Cardinals’ World Series titles came after the draft started.

    Again, it could just be that there are more teams, but something seems odd about that.

  42. themarksmith said...

    All that said, I’m not sure a draft is the best thing, and I think players deserve whatever they can get. But I think some “free-market” people will change their minds if their teams get screwed.

  43. Daniel said...

    Baseball has been given anti-trust exemptions, and so to that end, the owners and MLB executives acting on behalf of the owners can dictate how the system works.  Does it benefit the owners?  Of course, but think about the ramifications of opening up the system and completely destroying the current structure.  Teams would fold.  New teams would pop up that would throw balance out of whack.  You lose continuity.  It would hurt the sport. 

    To all of you who are crying about how owners are screwing over young men: these young men are getting multi-million dollar bonuses.  Because let’s face it, the draftees who would benefit from eliminating the draft are the cream of the crop, the guys who are already getting paid.  Eliminating the draft would hurt the mid-level and lower tier guys, because there will be less money to go around once you get to those guys.  Heck, maybe you miss out on the diamonds in the rough entirely.

    My final point is that baseball is entertainment.  Strasburg as a Yankee?  Boring for most people who aren’t Yankees fans.  Strasburg as a Washington National?  Much more interesting – can he help turn around a crappy franchise?  Will he give the fans a reason to come out to the ballpark?  Allowing poor performing teams to draft the top talent is much more entertaining than handing the top talent to the top 10 richest teams.  And if that means the Strasburg’s and Alvarez’s and Crow’s have to subsist on several million dollars less?  You’ll excuse me if I have trouble drumming up any sympathy.  Those players are free to negotiate and try to earn as much as they can, within the system that has been set up to ensure baseball continues to operate as an entertainment business.

    And as a counterpoint to those who say the draft/slotting is taking money from players and putting it in the hands of the owners: why aren’t the owners allowed to act in their best interests?  They have paid a certain cost to enter a business that has been given exemption from anti-trust legislation.  One of those costs, by the way, is having to deal with possibly the most powerful union in the country.  So why should the owners freely give up their right to control this portion of their costs?

  44. Daniel said...

    Another point, this time about Boras:

    The guy does what he gets paid to do – negotiate the best possible contracts for his players.  But again, there’s an extra cost associated with that and that often involves having to do things unconventionally (Bryce Harper moving to the Dominican?) or risking alienation/stigma (Crow or Alvarez).  If my son were to enter professional baseball, I would want him to be as successful as possible, but not by dealing with an agent who uses ethically questionable tactics to earn a higher salary.  And I hope that by the time my son has to make the decision on who he wants to represent him in these negotiations, I’ve taught him that character is more important than money.

  45. Jason said...

    “but think about the ramifications of opening up the system and completely destroying the current structure.  Teams would fold.  New teams would pop up that would throw balance out of whack.  You lose continuity.  It would hurt the sport.”

    Eliminating the draft would cause teams to fold???  New teams would pop up???  What???

  46. Rally said...

    The international market is a big crapshoot because of time to the majors.  These guys are often 6-7 years away.  If you don’t sign them at age 16-17, then somebody else will beat you too it.  But a lot can change in 6-7 years, and the ones who become superstars are not necessarily the ones who commanded the biggest bonuses at 16-17.

    So there’s not a great incentive for a big market team to try and corner the market.  Keep the best players unavailable until age 21-22 with college, and I’m pretty certain the Yankees would offer the $ to lock up Strasburg and Ackley.

  47. Jason said...

    “The guy does what he gets paid to do – negotiate the best possible contracts for his players.  But again, there’s an extra cost associated with that and that often involves having to do things unconventionally (Bryce Harper moving to the Dominican?) or risking alienation/stigma (Crow or Alvarez).”

    Again…what???  Harper hasn’t moved to the Dominican, and, from what I’ve read about this, he isn’t going to.

    Crow and Alvarez are two different situations and we really can’t place the blame on Boras without knowing the entire story.  And in the end, both players ended up better off – Alvarez got the contract he wanted (any “alienation” will be long forgotten when he’s mashing in the Majors in a year or two) and Crow will probably be drafted in the first round again and won’t have to spend the next 6+ years pitching in the Nationals organization.

  48. Daniel said...

    Jason – obviously I took it to the umpteenth degree, but my basic point is this: Baseball is a different animal than other industries.  As Craig pointed out in his most recent post, the competitive forces that drive companies’ actions in other industries are completely different than in baseball.  Anyway, my premise is that if you want to change the fact that baseball is a closed system that has collectively bargained the way these things work, you have to open it all the way, right?  And that leads down the proverbial slippery slope.

    Even if you don’t buy that argument, the fact remains: the owners have been given the right to conduct business in this manner.  We’re not talking about reserve clauses and players living below the poverty line.  We’re talking about the difference between 20 year olds making $4 million and $8 million.  I’m fine if the owners decide to do away with the draft, but I would expect them to ask for concessions in return.

  49. Daniel said...

    Jason, again you missed my point entirely.  No, Harper is probably not moving to the Dominican.  But Boras threatened to do it (or at least dropped hints that he was willing to do it) and either it was a bluff (borderline ethics) or it was ridiculous (moving to the Dominican to get a better contract).  And I just would not want my son involved in that.  And sure, Alvarez’s stigma may disappear (there’s actually some question as to how much he’ll “mash” in the majors), but that doesn’t change that there was a giant mess in that negotiation.  If you have no problem living with the questionable ethics Boras employs to get you a better contract, that’s your decision.  I wouldn’t want that for my son.

  50. MJ said...

    @ Daniel

    But Boras threatened to do it (or at least dropped hints that he was willing to do it) and either it was a bluff (borderline ethics) or it was ridiculous (moving to the Dominican to get a better contract).  And I just would not want my son involved in that

    According to KLaw, whether he moved there or not he’d still be subject to the draft since he’s still an american citizen.  Now if he wanted to renounce that and become a citizen of another country, that’s a different matter.  However, I’m sure we’d all agree that it’s not exactly the brightest move.

    We’re not talking about reserve clauses and players living below the poverty line.  We’re talking about the difference between 20 year olds making $4 million and $8 million. 

    Unfortunately far far more of the drafted players aren’t the ones making the $4-$8M contracts but are living at or around the poverty line.  Remember that this isn’t the NBA draft with only two rounds.  There are hundreds of players who make the same if not less than most of us on this board who have to make sacrifices in their lives to continue persuing(sp?) their dreams.  The Strasburg’s/Ackley’s/Priors/etc will get their money regardless of what is done, it’s all these other people who could be screwed by the abolishment of the draft.

    @ hoboblin

    There was an interesting article a while ago here on THT arguing that Boras is unethical because representing several top free agents is a conflict of interest.  IE if the Yankees sign Tex and CC, Manny gets screwed.  Tex and Manny are both Boras clients.  It’s a strong point.

    It can be even worse if he’s representing one player like Strasburg who’s going way over slot and another player who’s willing to accept slot money.  How can he say he’s representing each one’s best interest if a team is interested in both of them?

  51. Jason said...

    “Anyway, my premise is that if you want to change the fact that baseball is a closed system that has collectively bargained the way these things work, you have to open it all the way, right?  And that leads down the proverbial slippery slope.”

    Nobody is arguing that baseball should blow up the entire collective bargaining agreement.  Just that it makes some sense to at least consider getting rid of the draft.

  52. Jason said...

    “But Boras threatened to do it (or at least dropped hints that he was willing to do it) and either it was a bluff (borderline ethics)”

    How the is a bluff borderline unethical? It’s a negotiation.  EVERY agent should bluff for the benefit of their client.

    And a large part of the blame for the Alvarez situation should fall on the Pirates, who failed to submit a contract by the deadline.

    You haven’t given a single example of unethical behavior by Boras.

  53. Michael said...

    As I’ve argued elsewhere, a “free market” draft is an awful idea without having an actual free market for it to exist in. MLB (and other American-style major sports leagues) can’t be “free markets” due to their severely limited nature.

    What the “free market” argument would actually need to succeed is a clear path to success for good teams and a clear path to failure for bad teams – basically, an FA-style relegation/promotion system.

    If the Nats suck repeatedly, they should not be playing other MLB teams. Put them in a league where a lower bankroll can still keep them competitive. If they can finish at the top of the International League next year, let them replace the Diamondbacks or O’s next year after those teams are relegated.

    When people argue for a “free market,” this is the only way to truly sustain it. Unfortunately, it would never sell to the mid-level and poor teams, who want to keep splitting the largest pie possible, or needless to say, to the cities and states who have built expensive ballparks to remain a “major-league city.”

    No, a closed market like MLB requires equity so that all teams have a fighting chance. A truly free market would allow its failing businesses to be eliminated as necessary.

  54. Michael said...

    w/r/t Boras, Not sure that he’s done anything unethical draftwise, but in his other work he has created enough fictional bidders for his free-agent clients to drive the price up that I’m surprised he hasn’t been investigated.

  55. Brandon said...

    Personally, I think the way to go is a draft with arbitration. If a player isn’t signed by a certain date, the player and the team go to arbitration. If the player chooses not to sign the contract that the arbitrator decides, he’s forbidden from signing with a major league team for 3 years or something.

    All this holding out business is only good for the agents, really.

  56. Tripon said...

    For the draft, there’s the Luke Hochevar mess:

    Taken from wikipedia:

    “The Dodgers would select Hochevar again, this time in the first round (6th overall) of the 2005 draft. After heated, desperate negotiations between the Dodgers, Hochevar, and his agent Scott Boras, Hochevar suddenly switched agents to Matt Sosnick, accepted a $2.98 million signing bonus from scouting director Logan White, then returned to Boras the next day and reneged on the deal. Several months of lukewarm talks continued with Hochevar pitching in an independent league (where he struck out 34 batters in 22.2 innings), but amidst much bitterness, the two sides never came close to reaching a new agreement.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luke_Hochevar

    Something happened there.

  57. Jason said...

    RE: Hochevar

    From the same Wiki page:

    “[Hochevar] re-entered the draft again in 2006…[and] signed a four-year major league contract worth $5.3 million guaranteed with the Royals. He received a $3.5 million signing bonus with the ability to earn as much as $7 million over the four years.”

    Looks like Boras got him a much better deal in 06.

  58. Tripon said...

    It also cost him a year of service time, and the bonus was only $3.5 million. So by holding him out, Boras guaranteed him only $500,000 when the rookie minimum at that time was $370,000.

  59. Jason said...

    Only if you assume:

    1 – The Dodger’s offer was a big league deal containing as much guaranteed money ($5.3m) instead of a minor league deal with only the bonus ($2.98m) guaranteed.

    2 – That he would have then been ready to pitch in the majors a year earlier.

  60. Tripon said...

    Jason: Good Points.

    Still, a deal was agreed upon, and suddenly squashed due to Boras’ interference. It was an ethically murky situation for Boras.

  61. Daniel said...

    Jason – I’m not going to go through all of the questionable tactics Boras uses to get his clients more money.  You can sort through Craig’s posts and find plenty of examples.  Fabricating offers, making ridiculous claims about his client’s talent that border on fabrication, attempting to renege on deals (why did he fight Alvarez’s deal but didn’t say anything about Hosmer’s, which was submitted after the deadline as well?). 

    If you’re not willing to even except the premise that a lot of Boras’s dealings are shady, then obviously you wouldn’t mind him representing your son.  I recognize that the man uses whatever tactics he can legally get away with to obtain more money for his clients.  I would not want that for my son.  If the Harpers were unwilling to move to the Dominican, then it becomes a lie, not a bluff.  I have no idea whether they were or not, but there’s a good chance that it was a lot closer to a lie than not.  The extra money earned would not be worth having to submit to his methods, results be damned.

  62. Jason said...

    I don’t think we can blame Boras for that mess.  The Dodgers offer was low, evidenced by the fact that Hochevar was able to get over $2.5 million more guaranteed the next year.

    The details surrounding the agent switching do sound “ethically murky,” but again, how can we blame Boras more than Sosnick, White, or Hochevar himself?  We really don’t know what happened.

  63. Jason said...

    @Daniel – I’m not saying the guy’s never made a mistake(see: Varitek.arbitration.2008), but come on, bluffing is lying.  If Harper was really willing to move to the Dominican, it wouldn’t be a bluff.

    Boras is damn good at his job and has quite a reputation.  Any player that signs on with him should know exactly what they are getting by now.

  64. Daniel said...

    MJ –

    “Unfortunately far far more of the drafted players aren’t the ones making the $4-$8M contracts but are living at or around the poverty line.  Remember that this isn’t the NBA draft with only two rounds.  There are hundreds of players who make the same if not less than most of us on this board who have to make sacrifices in their lives to continue persuing(sp?) their dreams.  The Strasburg’s/Ackley’s/Priors/etc will get their money regardless of what is done, it’s all these other people who could be screwed by the abolishment of the draft.”

    I agree.  Abolishing the draft would help the guys getting paid millions to get paid millions more.  Fine.  But what about the 8th rounders?  Or the 15th rounders?  If more money went to 1st and 2nd rounders, then costs have to be cut elsewhere.  Some of that might be major league free agents but some of that will also be lower round draftees.  And then we might miss out entirely on some guys who are haven’t completely matured yet and so are considered marginal prospects. 

    My main point is one that has been echoed by others in this thread – baseball does not operate as other free market industries.  If you want to abolish the draft within the system under which baseball currently operates, then you have to give the owners some other concession, and you can bet your butt that it would have to be a LARGE concession.  If you want to do away with the current structure of major league baseball entirely (wherein 30 owners and their chosen representatives decide how to run the sport), then you have to open it up to everything.  Collective bargaining out the window.  Teams folding because of losses.  Billionaires trying to start new teams and join the league.  No revenue sharing.  It could go on and on.  It’s impossible to have it both ways.

  65. Daniel said...

    Boras is only damn good at his job if you don’t care about the tactics he uses to represent you.  I wouldn’t want a man who’s willing to stoop to the levels that he does representing me or my family in anything.

  66. Jason said...

    Daniel, teams use similar tactics in negotiations.  They deceive, bluff, and fight for every dollar.  If you don’t have an agent that is willing to do the same (and all agents do it, Boras is just the best), you’ll end up getting screwed.

  67. Ron said...

    @ Greg Simons:

    You must be a journalist, because you chose to cherry pick what you wanted out of my comment to make it sound differently than the point I was making, and convienently left out the last comment:

    “but if they (the draft choices/agents) can work the angles, why can’t the ball clubs?”

  68. Greg Simons said...

    @Ron – I was simply responding to what I thought were two absurd statements.  And the ball clubs do work the angles.  Heck, they even have a name for it.  It’s called the amateur draft.

    @themarksmith – “Again, it could just be that there are more teams, but something seems odd about that.”

    30 teams vs. 16 and two and three rounds of playoffs make it much harder for any team to dominate like it did in the past, though the Yankees remain in a better financial position than everyone else.

  69. Daniel said...

    That’s a pretty broad generalization that has absolutely no underlying evidence.  Do teams try to get advantages?  Of course.  But does an agent have to resort to fabrications, bluffing, and extreme exaggeration in order to get a fair deal?  I think you’d be hardpressed to prove that.  Not every agent is as ruthless as Boras.  And yet Boras isn’t the only good agent.

    In other words, the subset of agents who are good does not equal the subset of agents who use questionable ethics in negotiations.  Sure, there’s a lot of overlap, but not completely.

  70. Sara K said...

    Economics (not to mention MLB draft rules) are so very not my strong suit, so I am prepared to be told that I have this totally wrong…

    1. Does it really matter if a handful of rich teams dominate the top-ranked picks? I was under the impression that few of the “top” guys actually end up panning out, at least in comparison to the amount they’d be getting paid to fall short of expectations. What round did Pujols go? 

    2. If rich teams go nuts on potentially worthless picks, doesn’t that (at least partially) dent what they can afford spend on veterans? Yankees aside, there is only so much money, right? 

    3. Wouldn’t it be better to let teams trade picks?  Wouldn’t that give the have-nots a chance to get some talent in exchange for their unsignables? 

    More questions than opinions, I know…

  71. Josh Fisher said...

    I still say there’s no way its feasible logistically…have thousands of prospective players amateurs one minute and free agents the next. It would be impossible.

  72. Jason said...

    Whatever, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what he does.  You obviously do.

    …but if I were to get drafted, knowing how long the odds are that I will have a long and prosperous MLB career, I’d want the most ruthless MF’er I could find negotiating what is probably my one large payday.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *