Dirty Harry on the baseball draft:
- I have a ton of complaints about baseball's draft (the lack of slotting system, rules against trading picks, etc.) but at least this year it's generating more interest than normal, so I suppose sportsbook fans can thank Boras for something. In fact, the league is making a concentrated effort to increase hype and awareness surrounding the event, not unlike the NBA and NFL, which are looked upon with as much interest as the games themselves. The draft is taking place during primetime and will feature Twitter updates of picks.
While I commend the notion, it simply ain't gonna happen. There's pretty much zero chance the MLB draft even remotely approaches the popularity and fanfare of the NFL and NBA drafts. The problem is we simply don't know any of these kids, we have nothing invested in them. If you regularly watch or bet on sports, you obviously get attached to different athletes for a plethora of reasons. In football and basketball, we get to watch these young stars grow and learn at the college level; we learn to love (or hate) them over time.
Baseball is much different, however. For starters, it's all over the map. Half of these kids play college ball, the other are still high schoolers. Moreover, college-level baseball simply doesn't get the mainstream exposure that college football and basketball do. Yes, a lot of people love watching or betting online when the College World Series rolls around, but that's about it–a quick, passing interest.
So by the time the draft rolls around, we don't know much about these potential Major Leaguers beyond stat lines and scouting reports. Ultimately, that's why the draft won't become a national "event” on par with the other big two.
Wait. No. That's not it.
I mean, that's part of it. But just a small part. Here's the big part ...
In the NFL draft, lots of linemen get drafted. How many football fans in Florida can name even a single Pac-10 lineman? In the NBA draft, lots of European players get drafted. How many basketball fans but the most rabid know anything about them?
Someone once said that in politics, "everything is local." That's not completely true ... but it's true enough, and the same thing might be said about sports. The NFL and the NBA drafts are "events" because the local fans get enthusiastic because the players drafted today are likely to show up on the field or the court within a few months.
In baseball it's usually two or three years. At best. If 25 or 30 teams were drafting two or three players who could play at the highest level this summer or fall, the local fans would follow the draft with great excitement. Six years ago, though, the Tigers' top five picks were Kyle Sleeth, Jay Sborz, Tony Giarratano, Josh Rainwater, and Danny Zell. You've probably heard of Sleeth, who was the third pick in the draft, topped out in Class AA, and seems to have retired from professional baseball with a 6.55 ERA. You probably haven't heard of those other four and probably never will.
I am tired of the people who want baseball to emulate football and basketball. It's a fool's errand, for the simple reason that baseball is a fundamentally different sport. Instead of complaining that it's not football or basketball, why can't we just appreciate -- no, celebrate -- how hard this game is to master?