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Monday, June 08, 2009
“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?
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 4:04pm
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.
Posted 06/09 at 01:05 AM
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.
Posted 06/09 at 03:42 AM
@ 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?”
Posted 06/09 at 05:57 AM
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.
Posted 06/09 at 06:14 AM
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).
Posted 06/09 at 09:35 AM
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.
Posted 06/09 at 09:45 AM
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.
Posted 06/09 at 10:25 AM
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.
Posted 06/09 at 10:37 AM
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.
Posted 06/09 at 10:38 AM
The Ol Goaler said...
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.
Posted 06/09 at 11:13 AM
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.
Posted 06/09 at 11:15 AM
@John H - totally agree. The anger towards Boras on beyond ridiculous.
Posted 06/09 at 12:40 PM
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.
Posted 06/09 at 12:55 PM
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?
Posted 06/09 at 01:17 PM
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.
Posted 06/09 at 01:26 PM
“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???
Posted 06/09 at 01:34 PM
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.
Posted 06/09 at 01:40 PM
“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.
Posted 06/09 at 01:42 PM
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.
Posted 06/09 at 01:51 PM
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.
Posted 06/09 at 02:01 PM