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Tuesday, August 18, 2009
“Fixing” the draftJayson Stark rolls out the usual column. It's basically a brief in support of the owners. I'll grant that there are many problems with the draft, but an argument which boils down to "we need to fix the draft because these guys are making too much money" is a decidedly one-sided one.
He also throws out a bunch of specific ideas, all of which we've seen before. Two that are particularly stupid:
• WORLDWIDE DRAFT -- We're not sure if this on-again, off-again idea will ever fly. But it's gaining momentum again, because it needs to. A system that allows the Yankees and Red Sox to outspend everybody on any player they really want, with no limits whatsoever, doesn't serve anyone except the Yankees and Red Sox. Whether baseball can figure out a way to navigate all the unique laws and circumstances of every country with a baseball talent pool is a massive question. But we now sense more interest in getting those international signings under control than we've sensed in years.
As many around here have noted before, there will be way less talent coming out of Latin America if there's an international draft because there will be no incentive for any team to find talent and set up academies to develop it if the competition is going to turn around and draft them. The imposition of the draft in Puerto Rico has dried up the flow of talent from that island, and it would do the same in the Dominican Republic. And if you think Hugo Chavez is going to allow the Americans to limit the power of his people to make the deals they want to make, you're crazy. Also stupid:
• THE CONTROL ROOM -- Another idea that's been building steam beneath the surface is a way for teams to wriggle out of the embarrassment of being held hostage by 17-year-old high school kids. What some people in the sport would like to see is a draft system similar to the hockey draft, which would allow any team picking a high school player to control that player's rights through his college years. "We need something to that effect," said an exec of one team, "just so you don't feel like you have no leverage as a club in those negotiations. So if you draft a kid out of high school and he says he's not ready to sign, after his sophomore year you can try to sign him again. And after his junior year you can try to sign him again. And then, if he still doesn't sign, after his senior year of college, then he goes back into the draft."
Except the baseball draft has about eight million rounds, and teams can draft anyone they want, regardless of whether a player actually makes some formal declaration to make himself eligible for the draft. It's one thing to render a willing signee the property of a single team for six years. It's another thing altogether to tell every high school senior with game that they'll never have even a modicum of say as to how their career will pan out. Not to mention the fact that such a rule would utterly kill college baseball. That said, I'd be fine with the rule if the control ended the moment the player finished college. How about this as a compromise: players become total free agents the moment their college eligibility is over. You gotta give something to get something, so how about it?
The draft is bad enough as it is from a freedom-to-ply-one's-trade perspective. Adding wrinkles that take away incentives for teams to develop talent and turning kids into branded cattle is ridiculous.
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 3:55pm
Greg—good point, well made: I’m not trying to absolve anyone of malfeasance within the bounds of this particular system; but my essential point remains—in “real-world” terms, no one is suffering here, and it would be nice if our rhetoric could reflect that (while remaining partisan for one side or the other, if desired—that isn’t really my focus here); but I would go on to argue that all parties have done their part to make the current system dysfunctional, and blaming one side more than the other simply seems dishonest to me—greed and arrogance are greed and arrogance, no matter who displays them; more importantly for the current discussion, there are aspects to baseball that simply make it very different from other, more traditional, industries: there are 30 MLB teams; it is in the interests of everyone involved to have them more or less equally capable of succeeding—success on the field translates to economic success for more players; baseball would not be well served by having three or four championship-calibre teams playing 26-27 variations on the Washington Generals; one way to avoid that is to have a draft that gives all teams access to the best available talent, and a chance to develop that talent; having reptiles like S. Boras manipulate the system the way they do, if followed to its logical conclusion, would mean that all the best players went strictly to the highest-paying teams—otherwise, they’re getting “screwed”. I fail to see any “unfairness” in, say, the Pirates paying a young player with no MLB experience a six- or seven-figure salary for the first few years of his career; it’s the team’s job to make it worth his while to stay after that, of course, but they should at least be allowed a reasonable shot. Of course, here I’m not talking about front-office stupidity, cupidity or venality: if teams can’t take advantage of the system, they have no right to whine about teams who can. And, yes, there are lots of reptiles in the owners’ suites, too . . . Even so, Steven Strasbourg is not Tom Joad—or you or I, for that matter—and it’s silly to pretend he is.
Posted 08/19 at 03:27 PM
“Also, if I’m not mistaken, player who hasn’t been signed during the control window becomes free agent (but also subject to the same signing rules as drafted players).”
I think a player can refuse to sign, but he still must re-enter the draft if he does not sign with his original team. Those who are undrafted may sign with whomever they like.
With respect to the number of rounds, why doesn’t baseball just off a few rounds? Past the 10th round, aren’t teams mostly stabbing in the dark anyway? Let all the rest of the kids become free agents (subject to rookie signing rules).
Posted 08/19 at 07:09 PM
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