Warning: potential incoherent rambling ahead.
Jayson Stark's column today leaves me speechless. Floored. Flabbergasted. Overwhelmed. Sad. Flummoxed. Perplexed. Angry.
Stephen Strasburg will be happy to serve as a one-man sport-changing earthquake. And our prediction is, that's exactly what he'll become.
Once he finishes collecting whatever preposterous bonus the Washington Nationals eventually give him, the landscape will be different. And the shock waves should drive the baseball draft toward a place it should have gone years ago.
Toward a cap on draft-pick bonuses.
Toward some sort of formal slotting system that predetermines how much money top draft choices will collect.
So that the owners can keep more of their money? So that young players--who are the among the most talented in the world at their profession--have to wait years to get their big payday? Stark quotes and unnamed "club official" who asserts that the MLB players "don't want money like this going to kids who have never played a game." How is that relevant? I don't want my employer to hire new people if it means I might lose my job or get a lower salary, either. Why do we accept things in sports that we would never accept in real-life? How would people feel if GE, Google, Goldman Sachs and General Motors organized a draft for college graduates, fixed the starting salaries (at levels below what a free-market would pay), forbid graduates from choosing their employer and then prevented these new workers from changing jobs for the next six to ten years? Drafted by GM, but wanted to work in Silicon Valley? Sorry! Welcome to Detroit.
I understand why there is a draft in baseball; the sport as a whole benefits when there is some semblance of competitive balance. But capping bonuses isn't the way to "fix" the draft. I don't disagree with Stark's (and many other sane people's) idea to trade draft picks; to the contrary, I think that is very reasonable. Unfortunately, I don't see where a hard slotting system is anywhere close to reasonable. Besides, does anyone really think Strasburg is going to actually get the $50 million he's rumored to be requesting?
At least Jayson Werth offers the most perplexing quote of all-time: "You should get paid for what you do, for what you've done. That's what free agency's for -- to get paid for what you could do, for what you might possibly do. It's not what the draft is for."
Actually, Jayson, that's precisely what he draft is for.