Tuesday, June 7, 2011

ONTO-LOOGY: For a baseball fan who roots for a chronically bad-to-mediocre team, there are few days that occasion as much hope as those of the amateur draft, which kicked off yesterday afternoon. "Give us a teenager, or perhaps a 21-year-old," we say, "that we may invest in him the expectation that he will deliver to us the fulfillment and contentment that have eluded us in our miserable lives." But it's also unsatisfying, because, unlike in the NFL or NBA draft (usually), you have no frame of reference. Consider what even a pretty well-informed (but not obsessive) fan doesn't know:
  • We don't know most of these players
  • We've never seen any of them play an actual baseball game
  • Of those whose names we know, we don't know anything about them other than what we've read in the two-paragraph summaries we read on baseball web sites
  • We don't know if they're injured
  • We don't know if they're injury-prone
  • We don't know what makes a baseball player injury-prone
  • If they're in high school, we don't know if they're going to go to college
  • We don't know how crazy much money Scott Boras is going to demand on their behalf to avoid college or even just because he can
  • We don't know if they have the kind of skills that translate when measured against better competition
  • We don't know what kind of skills translate when measured against better competition
  • We don't know if they'll be better than the international players our teams sign outside the draft context
  • We don't know what needs our teams will have two or four years down the road when they're hopefully good enough to play in the major leagues
  • We don't know if they're ever going to be good enough to play in the major leagues
  • We don't know if they're jerks or have plans to grow annoying facial hair or both (Bryce Harper)
It usually takes college players at least two years, and high school players at least four, to make it to the majors; it takes an additional couple of years for them to become meaningful contributors and a couple more for them to reach elite status. Better luck in 2020, Pirates and Mariners! In the mean time, remind me why I bother to follow this.


  1. Meghan4:10 PM

    My husband, a lifelong Pirates fan, not only watched the draft last night but watched Sports Center all night for analysis.  You're not alone, Isaac.

  2. isaac_spaceman4:17 PM

    You should have seen the Internet shitstorm when the Mariners took Hultzen instead of Rendon.  Fire them all!  They took one person who I had never heard of instead of another person who I had never heard of until three days ago!  How dare they!  I demand a recount! 

  3. Jordan4:23 PM

    Didn't everyone know that Bryce Harper was a jerk with a penchant for annoying facial eye-black going in?

  4. Conversely, I was thrilled when the Mariners (and then the D-Backs, O's and Royals) passed on Rendon because it justified the Pirates pick.  Does that even make sense?  That's what I talked myself into.  I was giddy on the phone with my best friend from high school as more and more teams passed on Rendon, a perfectly nice kid who has said and done all the right things and will probably be a fine pro.

    Now the Pirates took a kid with the first pick of the second round who sent out a letter saying he wasn't going to the pros because he really wanted to play at Texas.  But he hired Boras as an advisor, so there's hope!  So now I'm hoping that kid turns down college - turns down Austin! And the scores of beautiful women there! - for the chance that maybe, in five years, he might be a contributor to a Pirates team that looks nothing like the one presently constructed.  

    I just wanted to publicly confress all of that.  Thanks for the forum, Isaac.  Sorry if I've disappointed any of you.

  5. isaac_spaceman6:00 PM

    Yeah, busted. 

  6. lauri6:09 PM

    The optimist in me would say it's because hope springs eternal and the draft is all about hope. As a Mariners fan you often only have hope for the future to hang onto during their bouts of major suckitude. The realist in me says that we just can't help ourselves...

  7. isaac_spaceman6:40 PM

    Zdurenciek took a dud in Fields, but he also has made a lot of solid choices (Ackley, Paxton, Taijuan Walker with the Mariners; Prince Fielder at Milwaukee), so I think the realist should be siding with the optimist. 

  8. Anna Weber8:03 PM

    Go Royals!  

    Seriously though. Go Royals. I love them. Mock me if you will.

    As a small market fan, I have to say it has been EXHILERATING watching our farm system develop and mature into small miracles like Eric Hosmer.

    This draft gives me that same sort of shiver up my spine because maybe, maybe that's the next Cy Young pitcher or young breakout hitter coming up the line...

    Plus, now Royals fans get to root for a guy named Bubba. It doesn't get better.

  9. The Other Kate10:52 PM

    Feel like I have to stand up at least a little for my pre-Nat Bryce, annoying eyeblack and stupid facial hair and on-field brattiness and all. This profile made me a lot more interested in rooting for him.

  10. The Pathetic Earthling1:02 AM

    My niece's boyfriend plays 1B and 3B (I think) for University of the Pacific and has had some interest expressed in him by a few organizations, so I will be paying attention to rounds 25, et seq., to see if he gets his shot. With a little luck, I'll have occasion to follow the Casper (WY) Ghosts or some such.

  11. The Pathetic Earthling1:11 AM

    Wayne Gretzky's son, Trevor, was drafted 239th by the Chicago Cubs.  This is sure to excite his parents.

  12. Well, like any good sports event, you can at least follow a good story, or a pretty-okay story.  Like Brandon Nimmo.  He became the highest-drafted player from Wyoming ever.  Nimmo taught me that there is no organized high school baseball in Wyoming!  And I hadn't heard of him until two days before the draft.

    Or how about the intriguing Josh Bell, who advised teams not to draft him because he plans to play college ball at Texas.  And who is advised by Scott Boras.  It was like Bell issued a dare.  "Go ahead draft me, see if your millions of dollars will convince me not to go to college."  I was surprised the Pirates took him.  Maybe fans can start up a "sign Josh Bell" fundraiser (after they finish donating to 1,374 other, more worthy causes).

  13. KarenNM6:35 PM

    I'm with you Lauri - I'm a Cubs fan, and we need all the hope we can get.