Bud Selig doing what Bud Selig does best
In a previous article concerning what is wrong with the MLB draft, I discussed the arrogance of Major League Baseball as evidenced by the timing of the event and the negative impact it has, primarily on collegiate baseball. Further evidence of the MLB’s arrogance, and to some extent, ignorance, can be found in the execution of the MLB draft event itself.
In the NFL, the draft is one of the sport’s greatest events, second only to the Super Bowl itself. Fans attend draft watching parties at their favorite local sports bar or host gatherings in their homes. The combine and the mock drafts are just a small portion of the fuel for the hype machine, manned by the loudest television talking heads in entertainment.
In the NBA, the draft intrigue is heightened not only by the unique lottery system that takes a degree from MIT and a really advanced abacus to figure out, but also by the controversy that seems to surround the team that "wins" the first selection every year.
But with the MLB draft, there is so much uncertainty and so many unknown factors that make it unique. However, Bud Selig’s arrogance and ignorance have led him to force this oddball, trapezoidal peg into a square hole. Five years ago, Bud Selig (or BS, as I affectionately like to call him) decided it was time to televise the MLB draft. Not known for his decision making (i.e., declaring the 2002 All-Star Game a tie, or deciding to give home-field advantage in the World Series to the winner of that same annual exhibition), it is no surprise how poorly the televised MLB draft has performed. Hey BS: wake up! The MLB draft will never perform like the NFL draft, and here’s why:
- Statistics. With nearly ever college and community college in the country fielding baseball teams, not to mention nearly every high school, there is an immense talent pool to choose from. The 32 MLB franchises fill rosters for a multitude of minor league teams (there are far more than just the A, AA, and AAA affiliates for each MLB franchise), and so the draft lasts a mind-numbing 40 rounds. Ever heard of Eric Hanhold? No? That’s because he was the 1238th player taken this year. He’s a high school kid out of East Lake, Florida, and was born around the time that current Major Leaguer Jamie Moyer turned 31! With this many teams and this many players drafted every year, the chance of seeing a player ever suit up for your favorite team is slim.
- High school players. Everyone knows, or has an opportunity to see, most of the players selected in the first couple rounds of the NFL draft. There are countless film clips, interviews, etc., and the staggering popularity of and television access to college football in America gives you an opportunity to watch Western Kentucky or Idaho State play every Saturday. However, with such a heavy reliance on drafting high school or even junior college baseball players, the MLB draft players do not have the name recognition that football players do. Unless you are a baseball junkie, you probably never heard of most of the major league’s greatest players until they made it to the MLB. Major League Baseball does not have Mel Kiper’s hair yelling at you about why 17 year-old Carlos Correa out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy is the next Derek Jeter or why Byron Buxton out of Appling County High School could be better than Andrew McCutchen. The intrigue and drama are inherently lacking, and cannot be forced.
- Uncertainty. Most of the “experts” pegged Mark Appel as the clear first pick of the 2012 draft. When he fell to the eighth pick, there was surprise and speculation, but not shock or dismay. Do you think this would ever happen in the NFL? Absolutely not. While the experts aren’t always right in the NFL (i.e., Decision ’98: Peyton Manning or Ryan Leaf?!?!?, or #1 overall pick Jamarcus Russell in 2007), never would a clear #1 pick fall to #8. And while the NFL carries occasional stories like Tom Brady who was drafted in the 6th round and is now considered one of the greatest of all times at his position, player careers typically fall more in line with their draft position. The MLB draft, however, carries uncertainty ranging from Mike Piazza, the Dodger’s 62 selection and 1,390th selection overall in 1988, who went on to become one of the greatest hitting catchers of all time, to Matt Bush, a $3 million, #1 overall pick in 2004 by San Diego who never made it above Class-A (subsequent picks included Justin Verlander, Stephen Drew, and Jered Weaver….nicely done, Padres).
Hopefully, the next commission of the MLB has a firmer grip on reality than Commission BS. The future commish should embrace the unique quirks of Major League Baseball instead of trying to manifest a draft experience more in line with other leagues. When one of the highlights of draft day was a young player doing a backflip after being selected, it is clear that the event is not exactly must-see-TV. When the owners decide they’ve seen enough of the arrogant, ignorant follies of Bud Selig, maybe then the MLB will see changes to bring about restoration of America’s pastime.