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Reusse blog: Ignorant of top MLB draftees? That's your fault

  • Blog Post by: Patrick Reusse
  • June 10, 2013 - 12:40 AM

A gigantic share of both the sports media and the sporting public is fixated on the NFL. These folks had a good time late last week, demeaning the efforts of Major League Baseball to put some hype in the early stages of its draft.

They did this by repeating the opinion that nothing comes close to the three-day spectacle of the NFL Draft; and by asking, "How can you make a big deal out of something when the fans don't know the names of these pitchers, catchers, infielders and outfielders?''

We all were aware of this, folks. We don't have to repeat this thousands of times -- or, I guess we do, because that's how some of us fill hours of argument shows on television, sports talk radio and podcasts.

There is a certain puzzlement to the MLB Draft, more in the format of the early portion of the draft than in the backgrounds of the top players. Anyone who wants to can get more information on the top draft choices than ever before, through the herculean efforts of ESPN.com, MLB.com and the pioneer of draft coverage, Baseball America.

Now that there's a limit for total signing bonuses leveled on each team, the Jonathan Mayos of the baseball world are producing mock drafts for the first 40, 50 players that are similar in accuracy to those offered by the Todd McShay-types for the NFL Draft. Among Commissioner Bud Selig's triumphs, making signability less of a factor in where top prospects wind up in the drafft ranks high.

I'm not denying there's a desperate quality to the MLB Draft, although it's not so much in Selig trying to mimick Roger Goodell's announcement of the first rounders. The desperation surfaced in 2012, when the domos of MLB decided what was needed to spice things up was a lottery and the ability to trade draft choices.

The MLB Draft started in 1965. Even then, league presidents Joe Cronin [AL] and Warren Giles [NL] were astute enough to understand that if trades of draft choices were permitted, the low-revenue teams would be unloading first-rounders to the Yankees and the Dodgers, and the other titans of the sport.

For sure, Calvin Griffith and the Twins would have been trading first-rounders in the '70s and into the '80s, when the franchise had hit hard times. Famously, the Twins took pitcher Tim Belcher as the first overall pick in 1983, followed by outfielder Oddibe McDowell and pitcher Billy Swift, and signed none.

Short-term, the Twins would have been better off if such choices could have been traded. Long-term, the game's attempt to have some form of balance (which it does with today's revenue sharing) would have been destroyed, if the Yankees were trading to get in position for the highest-priced, most-covered draft prospects.

All these years later, Bud's brainiacs sought  to have a lottery and trades involved in their draft, so they came up with this: "competitive balance'' picks after the first and second rounds that could be traded.

There were 13 teams in the lottery, based either on being in the bottom 10 in market size or in revenues. There were six comp picks available after last week's first round and five after the second round.

The lottery took place last July and was based on 2011, meaning no one paid attention. Comically, defending AL champion Detroit  wound up with a competitive balance selection (which the Tigers traded to Miami in the Anibal Sanchez deal) for this year's draft.

This was ridiculous, but tell me you don't know anything about the players selected in the first round of the MLB Draft, and that's your problem.

You're like like me with college football recruiting. I don't pay attention other than where a few Minnesota seniors might be going ... but I don't rip the sport for being unaware of the backgrounds of the top 30, 40 recruits in the country.

I take an interest in the MLB Draft. I even watch it. I enjoy the crap shoot aspect of it -- the gamble of taking a high school pitcher No. 4 overall in the hope that some day he can turn out to be another Roy Halladay.

ALSO: The Twins draft choices included Tanner Vavra, Valparaiso infielder and the son of coach Joe Vavra, in the 30th round. Here's a column I wrote on Tanner and his long-shot baseball quest in August 2011: 

http://www.startribune.com/sports/twins/127699843.html

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