Implications of an international draft could be disastrous
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It seems Major League Baseball will stop at nothing to save a buck, even if it means doing long-term damage to their product. In an interview with Baseball America, Commissioner Bud Selig stated that he viewed subjecting international players to a draft process as a clear part of the sport’s future, going so far as to call the change “inevitable.” The damage this sort of shortsightedness will do to the game won’t be felt for the next five years. Rather, it is a long-run issue that essentially tells talented international athletes they should go play soccer or basketball. These statements from Selig present a topical opportunity to discuss the issues that recent changes to the amateur-talent acquisition process have had and will have on the most important aspect of baseball: the product on the field.
Serious changes were made to the domestic draft process when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was finalized this offseason, allotting each team an annual “spending pool,” or cap, for the Rule 4 Amateur Draft. If teams exceed this spending cap, they are penalized. Capping spending on amateur talent means less money will be spent in the draft. Less money to spend in the draft means it’s harder to make these kids “Godfather offers” to keep them from going to college. Now, more prospects will be accepting scholarships to play NCAA ball where they can get hurt, get worn out by coaches who act primarily in their own self interests, learn bad habits, or choose to play basketball or football somewhere along the way. It behooves these MLB teams to start developing players as early as possible, and the new CBA goes great lengths to prevent that from happening. Under these new rules, Bubba Starling and Carl Crawford might have been under center at Nebraska and Matt Kemp might be at a team shoot-around right now.
While the changes in the draft further limit the earning power of these players, the fact is the draft in and of itself destroys earning power and is an egregious violation of anti-trust law. Not only are players forced to work at a salary well below what they’d earn if their services were available on the open market, but they’re told where to work as well.
Imagine walking the stage at your college graduation at Pepperdine. You grew up in Maine but went to school in California. You love it in Malibu and never want to leave. You grab your diploma and your school’s president tells you, “Congratulations, youngin. You’ve just been selected to work at an accounting firm in Minnesota.” These violations are circumvented by the collective bargaining process. You can violate anti-trust as long as your labor force says it’s okay. Unfortunately for amateur players, they have no voice at the bargaining table. If a high school or college player wanted to buck the system and bring a suit against the process, it would make for an interesting case, but he’d better be willing to sacrifice his career for it.
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