Friday, December 18, 2009

Baseball Draft

Bud Selig has called meetings to discuss how to improve the game (i.e., shorten the length of the games to prevent them from becoming like five-day Test cricket matches).

I have a suggestion. I tried to send an e-mail to Bud, but doesn't have a way for the average fan to contact the MLB offices, unless one would like to send a letter. Anyway, here's the letter I wrote:

Dear Commissioner,

I am very glad to hear you're making an effort to shorten games (and hopefully the postseason), and I have a somewhat radical suggestion that might help make another aspect of baseball more interesting to the casual fan.

Your baseball draft.

The NFL has done a great job in marketing its own draft, to the point where fans will spend the entire weekend glued to the television watching what players will be picked up by their team, then hours of Mel Kiper Jr. analyzing how each team did.

Baseball, on the other hand, has a more difficult job to do with its draft: the draft has many more rounds, it has high school players, as well as college players, none of which are seen by the casual fan (unlike basketball and football). I think all drafts also have their own problems, and I'd like to address them here.

1. A draftee is held hostage by the team that picks him.
2. A team is held hostage by the player/agent.
3. There is no limit on bonuses, causing some of the small-market teams to bypass players they feel will be "unsignable", for lack of a better word.

My suggestion: do away with the draft.

Instead of a draft, each of the 30 MLB teams is given a "salary cap" under which they can sign all eligible players for the draft (you need to include overseas players in this as well - Japanese free agents, Cuban defectors, and Caribbean sixteen-year olds). The difference is that the team with the worst record has the most money in their salary cap, and the World Series Champion has the least. It could be based on how much money was allotted to the draft signings of this past year (I don't know exact dollar amounts).

Then, the new MLB "draft" wouldn't be a draft at would be an auction.

The Kansas City Royals announce a player, and teams begin bidding. The bids are accepted by an auctioneer. The bidding ends when:

1. A particular team bids, and no other team tops that bid.
2. A player whose name has been called "stops" the bidding on a team he wants to play for.

This new style draft would be exciting to watch. It would end teams being held hostage by agents (the price bid is what the player would sign for, no need to hold out since no one else bid higher, and if the player stopped the bidding with a team they wanted to play for, they couldn't complain).

In addition, different strategies could be employed by different teams, and discussed/evaluated for weeks after:

1. Maybe there is another Stephen Strasburg - would a team devote all their money to signing him?

2. Let's say the Pirates farm system is barren. They could avoid the high-priced signings, and attempt to restock their system by taking lots of players, rather than picking a couple.

Mr. Commissioner, I understand you are considering following the "slotted"
pricing currently done in the NBA. While this would control rookie salaries, the NBA (as I said before) has an advantage of having a two-round draft, and many of the players taken are known before the draft, thereby moving the focus of the casual fan to the picking of those players. I would suggest trying a different tact, and not follow the other sports. Baseball should be a leader and innovator, not a follower.


Marc Carcanague

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