FORT MYERS, FLA. -- The Rule 5 draft in Major League Baseball allows teams to pay a price to select players with a specific professional seniority from other teams that have not placed those players on their 40-player big-league roster.
The process of claiming players from other teams is said to date to 1892, when there was a National League and the American League was nine years from joining the fun.
The first time this maneuver was referred to as the Rule 5 draft is said to have occurred in 1941. Obviously, this has nothing to do with chronology, since the Rule 4 draft involves the selection of high school, college and other amateur players, and that more famous draft did not start until 1965.
I was writing a column for Thursday’s print edition on Ryan Pressly, the reliever who came to the Twins in the Rule 5 draft of 2012. He is one of the Twins of longest-standing among the Rule 5 players that have been taken since Calvin Griffith moved his Washington franchise here seven weeks before the 1960 winter meetings and that Rule 5 draft.
This informative piece -- http://twinstrivia.com/twins-rule-5-draft-history/ -- on the Twins’ Rule 5 history was produced recently by John Swol at twinstrivia.com. As you can discover reading it, the Rule 5 was much more active in the Twins’ early seasons.
Reason: Marvin Miller was not hired until 1966 as the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, to start pointing out clearly to the athletes all the methods the owners were using to keep salaries at paltry levels.
If you could keep the entry level dollars at a minimum, you could do the same in the major leagues ... that was the owners' reasoning. And it worked for a long, long time.
The major leagues had a “bonus baby’’ rule that started in 1947. In its original form, any player receiving a signing bonus of more than $4,000 – that’s 45 grand today – had to spend two full seasons with the big-league team signing him or be placed on waivers.
It wasn’t just being on the 40-man; they had to be on the active, in-season roster.
Paul Giel, the great Gopher running back and pitcher, had his career foiled by this when he had to spend two seasons with the New York (baseball) Giants after signing out of college. Harmon Killebrew had to spend two years as a teenager from Idaho in 1954 and 1955, playing in a total of 47 games, for the Washington Senators.
The Rule 5 draft also was modified from 1959 through 1969 to make players who had spent one year in the minors eligible to be drafted if they were not on the big-league roster. The idea here is that teams would not pay a significant bonus to a player, if the team knew that it might lose a player after one minor league season.
The Twins had two of the gut punches in losing first-year players to Rule 5: outfielder Reggie Smith and pitcher Rudy May.
Smith was an American League Rookie of the Year for Boston and also a seven-time All-Star, and May was the lefthander that Sir Rodney Carew most-hated to face.
The first-year player nonsense finally went away in 1970 and the Rule 5 draft became more the exercise that now gets attention from baseball hardcores in the December meetings.
It cost only 25 grand to select a player – and he often would go back to his team for $12,500 – from 1959 to 1984. Either the pickings were slim or that was too rich for Calvin’s blood, but the Twins only took a flyer on one Rule 5 player from 1970 through 1975: shortstop Sergio Ferrer in 1973
[An aside is required here: Sergio was the Opening Night shortstop for the Twins in 1974, and scored the winning run from second base on a sacrifice fly when KC’s Amos Otis went to the turf while making the catch in center.
That was my first season on the beat. The newspapers paid airfare to the Twins, and the beat reporters from Minneapolis and St. Paul flew with the team. There was a rare charter one night from Texas to Detroit.
There had been a rain delay that afternoon and we had two, three Bloody Marys in the hospitality room run by Rangers owner Brad Corbett. Not much of an owner, but he served excellent liquor.
Anyway, on that charter, I wound up sitting next to Steve “Tooter’’ Braun, who would become one of my all-time favorite Twins. Bob Fowler, my role model then at the Minneapolis Star, was across the aisle. We both had been overserved by now, and Fowler heard me offering my theory to Braun that oldtime legends of the game were frauds compared to today’s athlete.
I emphasized the point by saying, “Stevie, you are a better hitter than Ty Cobb ever could have dreamed of being.’’
This got Fowler started asking for more comparisons: Bert Blyleven vs. Walter Johnson. “Blyleven,’’ I blurted. Rogers Horsnby vs. Carew. “Rodney,’’ I blurted more emphatically.
This went on until Fowler asked, “Sergio Ferrer or Honus Wagner?’’ I was standing in the aisle by now, making my pronouncements, and Sergio was a couple of rows away.
I stared at the affable little slap hitter, hemmed and hawed, and said, “Fowls, I’m going to have to think about that one.’’
Ah, Tanqueray, you've been missed these past 36+ years.]
OK, back to Rule 5: The Twins, of course, wound up with the greatest player of the modern era of Rule 5 in Johan Santana. They had the first pick in 1999, and made a deal where they took pitcher Jared Camp for Miami, and then the Marlins took the pitcher the Twins wanted in Santana, and also gave the Twins the $50,000 to cover the draft.
Outfielder Shane Mack, taken from San Diego for the 1990 season, would be No. 2 for Rule 5 success for the Twins in the modern era. And after that would come Doug Corbett, who not only became an effective closer for bad teams in 1980 and 1981, but was traded to the Angels for Tom Brunansky in 1982.
Pressly is already No. 4 on the list with his 230 appearances from the bullpen, and even though he’s 29 and coming off a subpar year, I’m still a believer in that 98 mph fastball and big curve.
And No. 5 on this list of Rule 5ers since 1970, I'm going to pass on Scott Diamond and Gary Wayne and give it to Sergio Ferrer, just to make up for a long-ago, alcohol-infused remark