My Annual MLB Draft Rant

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I tuned into the draft coverage on the MLB Network last night for a brief moment as they were up to pick 40 or so.

When talking about the newly minted MLB draftees, Harold Reynolds had the same look on his face as Sarah Palin when she discusses neuroscience.

And among the panel on the MLB Network, Reynolds was the eloquent one.

Reynolds himself was the 2nd pick in the 1980 MLB Draft. To get a gauge on how convoluted the draft was back then, Reynolds was taken in the secondary phase of the June draft. It’s safe to say that if he’d been taken in the regular phase, Reynolds would not have been the second overall pick when Darryl Strawberry, Darnell Coles and Billy Beane—prep school standouts all—were in the draft.

Reynolds was a good big league player, but not worth such a high pick under any circumstances. That analysis is, of course, in retrospect.

He might’ve been drafted that highly because no one–no….one–knows what 99.9% of the drafted players are going to become. There are so many variables that it’s impossible to know. And that’s the point.

John Hart was also on the MLB Network panel and he has a unique perspective into the draft because he’s been a baseball man and run two different organizations. That perspective should have led Hart to toss his hands up in the air and say, “Who knows?”

Hart was one of the GMs who passed on Derek Jeter in 1992. In the case of the Indians (Hart’s club) it was in favor a right-handed pitcher named Paul Shuey.

Was it the ghastly mistake that hindsight suggests it was? Or did the Indians and the other teams who let Jeter “slip” by see something in another player that made those players preferable to Jeter?

There are very few players who are consensus first round picks and can be expected to be star big leaguers. It didn’t take much effort to look at Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg and anoint them as future megastars. For Jeter, who would’ve looked at that skinny and somewhat funny looking high school kid with the fade haircut and expected him to become what he’s become?

No one. Not even the Yankees.

Hart knows this. The armchair experts don’t.

Most of the draft comments I saw were coming from people who don’t know anything about MLB itself, so what are the odds they’re going to know anything about the draft?

What I found laughable was what passed for “insider” analysis from people on the web. They were regurgitating stuff they read in a scouting directory or saw online and treating it as if it’s gospel. If the inside baseball people don’t know what a player is going to be, then you can be pretty sure that a guy sitting in front of his computer and never picked up a baseball doesn’t know either.

There were players being compared to Willie Mays.

Willie Mays!!!

Willie Mays is, by many estimates, the best player ever. So some 17-year-old kid is going to be the next Mays? Really?

I can tell you right now that the odds of that happening are zero point zero zero zero zero zero zero zero.

In other words, it’s not going to happen.

Then imaginary controversies were created. What did it mean to Jose Iglesias that the Red Sox drafted a shortstop with their first pick?!? Did it mean they no longer believe in Iglesias?

No. It means that they saw a player they had use for—in some way as a player, as a trade chip, as a guy they didn’t want and decided to draft to save the money for next year’s draft, for whatever—and selected him. A shortstop can be moved anywhere on the field and play adequately. Bret Saberhagen was drafted as a shortstop who’d pitched a bit in high school and the Royals decided that he was going to pitch after they’d drafted him. Two Cy Young Awards and a World Series MVP later, a potential Hall of Fame career as a pitcher had been derailed by injuries. Saberhagen would not have been what he was as a shortstop if he even made it to the big leagues at all.

There’s no “approach” to the draft. It’s not about signability; it’s not about drafting college players who are close to the big leagues to help immediately; it’s not about money in the bottom-line sense. It’s about picking players who you think have talent and hoping they develop to be used as trade chips or to make it to the big leagues and play for the team that drafted them.

The talk about the changes made to the draft in the CBA are irrelevant and missing the main point that it’s the big league players in the union now who screwed the amateurs because they’d had enough of the Harpers and Strasburgs of the world getting money that could have (and in their mind should have) been allocated to established big leaguers. I can tell you the thinking of the big leaguers who were faced with a relatively hard salary cap and teams like the Athletics and Rays telling potential free agents that they only had X amount of money to spend per year on the organization as a whole; Y was allocated to the big league product; Z was going into the draft.

Why would any big leaguer in his right mind want to see a $15 million check handed to some kid out of high school when an agreement could be made to tamp that down as a rule with punishing sanctions dropped on the collective heads of the teams that flout those rules?

The attitude of the MLB union chafing at a player never having played professionally getting that kind of money isn’t wrong. Let them work their way up. Let them deal with constrictions of what they can make.

You’re being sold snakeoil. The draft is important, but it’s not worth all this faux attention given to it by people who don’t know much of anything about the players they’re talking about apart from what they’re fed.

Reynolds, Hart and everyone else used the buzzwords: upside, power fastball, speed, athleticism to cover up the fact that they had no idea who or what the majority of the drafted players were.

It’s a speculative farce.

When he was broadcasting NFL games, Terry Bradshaw used to use a fake player’s name as being in on a tackle every single week regardless of which teams were playing. No one noticed.

I’d love to come up with a fictional player for next year’s draft complete with a bio, photo and video and say that he’s a potential top pick with some array of skills that make him viable not as the first pick in the first round, but as someone who could be taken between rounds one and five. Someone would buy into it’d go viral.

For a player and person who doesn’t exist.

Would anyone notice?

I’m dubious.

That might explain how ridiculous this whole charade is and the attention paid to it would stop.

It would work too. I know it would. And it would absolutely be more entertaining that this current nonsense.

It’s no contest.

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8 thoughts on “My Annual MLB Draft Rant

  1. All this coverage for the draft is a waste of time. In a way the added attention may be good for the sport, but other than checking box scores for players my team picks I can’t be bothered. Debating the top picks is folly. There are one, maybe two true can’t miss prospects a decade. The past 25 years I count three: Griffey, ARod, and Harper.

    1. I don’t have the time for it either. The funny thing is, nor do most of the “experts” like Reynolds and Hart–experts who are analyzing players they couldn’t identify out of a lineup if said player had just mugged them.
      It’s about ratings, ad time, webhits and selling draft directories.

  2. It just gets more and more ridiculous each year. The most irritating part is King Bud standing up at the podium doing his best Stern impression. What a friggin’ joke. Here are some guys you aren’t going to hear about for another 5-6 years… maybe… if that. This is a good case of MLB trying too hard.

    1. I watched maybe 10 minutes of it and saw the team reps coming out and announcing the names. Brad Ausmus, Ron Karkovice, Fergie Jenkins, It was silly. And Selig is the cryptkeeper in his rumpledest of rumpled suits. It’s a farce.

  3. Great post Mr.Lebowitz , you are spot on about the sham that is perpetuated by this “event.” I don’t blame MLB on this one, they are a business looking to make money and keep fans interest- of course they are going to ape the same veneer successfully used by the NFL, NBA and NHL.

    But I can’t believe the amount of fans and the blogs they run that actually buy this garbage. Unless you are/were a professional scout or intimately familiar with the players in question; you haven’t got an idea of what’s going on outside of those very rare Ken Griffey Jr.-type players (and even then it’s a crapshoot. Just ask can’t miss Brien Taylor and Todd Van Poppel.) Most of these guys, if they are ever seen again will be 2-5 years down the road and along the way they will have their mechanics changed; their bodies built; their positions changed….how many MLB teams just pick the biggest, strongest candidates and hope they can teach them actual baseball skills? They aren’t even unfinished projects; they are dreams.

    And nothing drives home this fact more than there being no Number One picks currently in the Hall of Fame ( This is going to change soon when A-Rod, Griffey and Jones become available.) For all the hoopla, hype and attention of this spectacle, it should be advertised by someone that a pitcher like Andy Benes or Harold Baines is what you end up with. Very good or serviceable players to be sure, maybe even a few prime all-star years; but nothing that often lives up to the hype. 3 possible HoF out of 47 picks is worse than a Russell Martin batting average, and any fan would be insane to buy into this.

    Again Mr.Lebowitz, great post.

    1. It’s funny that you mention Van Poppel when the Braves would’ve taken him had he given any indication that he was going to do what he eventually did and sign. As a consolation, they wound up with Chipper Jones.
      I don’t care that the fans are buying and watching it–it’s their time, but to read the directories and spout what they’re reading as if they themselves are authorities on said player when they’ve never seen the players and wouldn’t know what they were looking at if they did must chafe the people who are actually making the picks. I certainly wouldn’t want to have my considered decisions criticized by some guy with a book, a computer and delusions of grandeur and expertise.
      Thanks for the compliments, but you don’t have to call me Mr. Lebowitz!

  4. Right as always. Don’t know if you are into baseball cards, but in 2008 Topps made a “Kazuo Uzuki” card. It said he was a high school player in Japan that could toss a 104 MPH fastball and was entering the draft or some rubbish. Of course it fooled several people and his card was trading on ebay for upwards of $16 dollars for a while.

    But yes, there is no telling who’ll be a Mike Piazza or a Brien Taylor. I watched last night mostly to see who’ll the Yanks would get and afterwards I still had no idea. It seems that Ty Hensley is just another average righty that they draft every year who takes about 5 years to make it to the bigs, but as you can see today the hype machine is going full blast on him. It’s all rather boring and pointless really given their history of drafting blah righties over the years…

    1. I don’t collect anymore, but I do have a bunch of cards of draftees from the early 1990s who I thought were going to be good.
      Todd Hollandsworth, Tony Tarasco, Ben Grieve.
      Yah.
      Piazza might have been something of a fluke with a player who had some hitting ability, got his shot because of his Godfather Tommy Lasorda and was bolstered by possible PED use.
      But others like Don Mattingly (19th round); James Shields (16th round); Heath Bell (69th round); and others like Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte made it where many first round “phenoms” didn’t.
      Many times it’s just the player who won’t give up and has someone in his corner to give him an opportunity that surpasses the “future stars” whose names we know for all the wrong reasons.
      As for Ty Hensley, he might be in New York by 2018 and on a protectionist pitch count amid a debate as to whether he should be a starter or a reliever. Or perhaps he’ll be in New York for a medical exam for another injured pitcher. It’s the Yankees way.

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