Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.

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Posts about Vikings draft

Ignorant of top MLB draftees? That's your fault

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: 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, 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:

Crean is wild man, but he's not Knight

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: February 26, 2013 - 4:37 AM

Bobby Knight brought an Indiana team here for the first time on Jan. 8, 1972. Jim Brewer blocked a shot at the buzzer to give the Gophers a 52-51 victory. Knight thought it was a foul and chased the officials off the elevated court.

From that moment, a visit by Knight and Indiana was a game circled on the schedule by all Williams Arena ticketholders. Knight’s Hoosiers were dominant in the matchup with the Gophers, but there were some grand moments for a maroon sweater crowd:

On Jan. 28, 1990, Clem Haskins’ Gophers lit up Indiana for a 108-89 victory. On Feb. 27, 1994, the Gophers beat Indiana 106-56, as Knight sat passively below the elevated floor and watched his team’s humiliation.

There was also the last ever game in Williams Arena for Knight’s Hoosiers on Feb. 9, 2000. Dan Monson was in his first season as Minnesota’s coach. A month earlier, the Gophers had been at Indiana and lost by 25 points.

This game started in similar fashion. Indiana led 27-14 in the first 10 minutes. J.B. Bickerstaff was fouled hard by Indiana’s A.J. Guyton. Bickerstaff wound up with a broken leg.

And then Minnesota’s center, 7-foot-1 sophomore Joel Przybilla, took over the game. Przybilla would finish with a career-high 33 points and also 14 rebounds.

At game’s end, Kevin Burleson challenged a three-pointer by Guyton, it fell short and the Gophers won 77-75. Knight and the Hoosiers were left hollering for a foul. The Gophers and a crowd of 14,227 were left screaming in joy.

That joy didn’t last long. Monson suspended Przybilla before the next game because Joel had not been attending classes. Przybilla then quit the team, citing a season-long “lack of communication’’ with Monson.

He wound up being taken ninth in the NBA draft by Houston and was promptly traded to Milwaukee. The draft was held in Target Center. The Timberwolves didn’t have a pick, so the fans amused themselves by booing Przybilla, the home-state kid from Monticello.

There really hasn’t been the same level of anticipation surrounding an Indiana visit to the Barn by Indiana since Knight was fired after the 1999-2000 season. Tonight, the Hoosiers come to town rated No. 1 in the country.

They have a coach every bit as fiery as Knight in Tom Crean, yet it’s not the same. I know this because there has been no urge to repeat a column-writing gimmick adopted by me in the early ‘90s.

For a few years there, I would mark the arrival of the Hoosiers with a column citing tradition, talent and pride as the reason for Indiana’s success, while never mentioning the name of the coach.

For instance: There was a quote from Jerry Tarkanian, coach of defending champion and unbeaten UNLV, on Feb. 3, 1991, saying, “If you’re talking about pure talent, Indiana should be a Final Four team.’’

This was followed by the punchline: “With proper coaching, the Hoosiers are a cinch to be there for the finals in Indianapolis.”

I thought it was funny, even if Sid didn’t.



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