Who's Running the Show Anyway?
Players have become more and more pampered over the years as their salaries have rose into another stratosphere. Athletes have become the richest of the rich and it does not look like a trend that is going to change. Even players that are unproven in terms of playing professional sports are garnering more clout than they should. How can a kid who is coming from high school to the pros call the shots? Got me, but it is happening more and more in sports.
The draft is and was always designed with a basic principal in mind. The worst team with the worst record picks first. They pick first so they can get the best available talent in an attempt to improve the team in the long run. A few good drafts in a row, you got yourself a place to start and perhaps a solid building block for the future. Recently we've seen a bunch of players dictate where they go and price them out of certain team's price ranges.
Kobe Bryant back in 1996 was being seriously looked at by the New Jersey Nets. Kobe however, had different plans. He said he would not play for the Nets and would not sign with them if he was picked. So the Nets picked Kerry Kittles with the eighth pick and Kobe slipped to the Hornets at the thirteenth pick and was subsequently traded to the Lakers. The rest is history.
In the 2001 major league draft, the Twins passed on Mark Prior and picked Joe Mauer because Prior was out of their price range. Now, I'm not saying Mauer is not a going to be a great player, because I think he is, but the clear cream of the crop was Mark Prior. Their decision to draft Mauer should have been solely on the fact that he is who they wanted, and not becuase they could not afford to get Prior's contrat demands.
In this year's draft, the same thing happened with Stephen Drew and Jared Weaver. Those two were by most estimations, the two best players at their respective positions. San Diego had thought about signing both of them at different times, however, they both fell in the draft. Weaver went at twelfth to the deep pocketed Arte Moreno and his Angels while Drew fell to fifteenth to the Diamondbacks, who despite their money problems, are not poor and may not even sign him anyway. The D-Backs have maintained a rather high payroll over the years with the exception of 2004 and could afford to meet Drew's demands and would dish out the money if he decides to play for them. See the problem there? IF HE DECIDES!
Also this year, the San Diego Chargers had the first pick in the NFL draft (when was the last time an NFL and MLB team of the same city both owned the top pick in their respective drafts?). Eli Manning was the clear favorite among quarterbacks. He had the pedigree and the skill to back it up. The Mannings came out and publicly said that Eli will not play for the Chargers and for them not to pick him. Eventually, the Chargers folded. They said they were basing their decision on their needs and not the Mannings demands, but it was obvious. In the end, the Giants had Manning and the Charges had Phillip Rivers. Rivers may end up being better, but I doubt it. The Manning family has a pretty good track record thus far.
The basic idea behind the draft is simple, but not exactly easy to enforce. Amature athletes should not be able to dictate what teams they play for. It is more prevalent in baseball about players dropping because of signability (i.e. Scott Kazmir dropping to 15th) but in other sports it is more likely for a player to drop simply because they refuse to play for team. In terms of baseball, changes need to be implemented to protect teams and help their future. The actual numbers of players who get drafted actually having an impact in the majors in the future is small. When teams pass on 'can't miss' prospects because they simply cannot afford them puts them in a place to essentially use their pick on a player who may be a bit more of question mark. Placing caps on signing bonus for draft positions is a place to start, but other ideas will need to be implemented. For starters, a cap on draft positions would sure motivate a player to sign as high as they can. If picked first when the signing bonus has the highest ceiling, a player like Drew or Weaver would surely be motivated to ink a deal. I do understand that first round talents get picked in the later rounds and will therefore demand more money, but you can put a cap at $2,000,000 or $1,500,000 for every subsequent round after the first. You can have a $5,000,000 cap on first and work down from there throughout the first round. For a team like the Expos who are owned by major league baseball, they will have a high pick, but do you think they will be spending $3,000,000 on a draft pick? Nope, they will most certainly be picking someone who is only going to cost them $1,500,00 or so. Hopefully the team will be sold by then, but the way the negotiations are going it is a mystery to everyone.
The draft should unequivocally be about the worst team getting the best player. However that needs to happen, it needs too. I'm sure every player would like to be a Yankee and win championships, but life is not that simple. When you have an opportunity to play professional sports, there has to be concessions that need to be made on the players behalf. There are things such as arbitration that allow a young player to get as much in Montreal as he would in Los Angeles, so it should not matter where he goes. Eventually they will hit free agency and they can decide to go where they want. They earn their right to do that at that point. It is utterly ridiculous that the system is so out of whack. You can never do anything about a player refusing to sign because they do not like the team, but that is a laughable situation. If players are allowed to pick who drafts them, it defeats the purpose of the draft. The system is broke, and it definitely needs to be fixed. Recommended signing bonuses for drafting slots just do not cut it.
I think Ladainian Tomlinson said it best in a recent Maxim interview:
Maxim: What do you think about Eli Manning refusing to play for the Chargers?
LD: It's insulting. And mark my words, it's going to come back on him. You start thinking about a guy like Pat Tillman, who turned down millions to go fight for his country. Then you think about Eli crying about where he wants to play football, and it just puts everything in perspective.
Tomlinson said it right, everyone has lost perspective. What was once supposed to be an ultimate privilege is becoming something increasingly taken for granted by some athletes. If you ask me, it's a shame and disservice to the game and all the fans that help pay their salary that would give almost anything to change positions with them. Their act is getting old.
"What he did extremely well, he was able to throw his curveball for a strike at any count," outfielder Johnny Damon said. "The kid has some pretty good stuff."
In his last combined nine innings against the NY Yankees and the Boston Red Sox he has one run surrendered, five hits, six base on balls, and thirteen K's. Met fans could have been watching him pitch, but instead we are relegated to Heilman and are wondering if Zambrano needs TJ surgery. Unreal.
"The biggest problem over there is you've got the inmates running the asylum," Ojeda said from his home in Rumson, N.J. "Ownership has got to let the players know the door is now closed to them. Go play and shut up.
"It's gone on for too long and it has killed the chemistry there. That's why they need to make wholesale changes. Art Howe wasn't a good fit, but if you keep this same cast of characters and just change the bus driver, you've still got a mess."
Finally someone said it besides the fans. Some of the crusty veterans must walk the plank and it starts with Leiter and Franco.