Fixing the draft

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Jayson Stark at ESPN wrote a rather idiotic article yesterday complaining about the draft.  It wasn’t idiotic because the draft is perfect or anything — it’s not — but because all it complained about was the sheer amount of money teams spend on the draft, quoting no one but anonymous people connected with baseball ownership (other reasons why his article was stupid can be read here).

Of course those guys hate spending money in the draft.  If they could, they’d pay draftees in lumps of coal and bowls of gruel. What Stark never mentions, however, is that overall, the draft is like a bargain basement for teams looking to acquire talent.

While Stephen Strasburg’s $15 million gets all the headlines, overall, teams will spend around $180 million in signing bonuses for draftees this year. That amounts to $6 million per team.  That $6 million gets each team dozens and dozens of players the team controls for a minimum of six years a piece.  Even if only one or two of those players become major leaguers, the teams have more than gotten their money’s worth.

In light of this, the problem with the draft isn’t the amount of money teams are spending. It’s the particular players at the very top on whom that money is spent. Ideally you want the worst teams to take the best players, rendering signability a non-issue. This wasn’t a huge problem this year (as Stark’s colleague Peter Gammons notes), but it has been in the past.

Perhaps some sort of slotting system makes sense to accomplish that (and today the New York Times talks about the forms that could take). Simply complaining about what the top draftees are making, however, accomplishes very little.

(thanks to reader DonCoburleone for the data on overall draft expenditures)

Max Scherzer will not be ready for Opening Day

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Ten days ago Nationals ace Max Scherzer said he’d be ready for the start of the regular season. “I’m gonna do it,” Scherzer said.

[Ron Howard from “Arrested Development” voice] — No, he’s not:

Nationals manager Dusty Baker said that Max Scherzer is not on track to be the team’s opening day starter, and will most likely open the season as the third pitcher in the rotation.

He’s still projected to make it to the opening rotation, taking the hill, most likely, on Thursday April 6 against the Marlins. At least if the schedule doesn’t slip any more.

Scherzer, as you probably know, has a stress fracture in the knuckle of his right ring finger, which has messed with his preparation and has caused him to alter his grip a bit. As of now Stephen Strasburg will get the Opening Day nod.

Theo Epstein named The World’s Greatest Leader

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Fortune Magazine has put out a list of The World’s Greatest Leaders. Not the greatest business leaders, not the greatest leaders in a given industry, but the Greatest Leaders, full stop. The greatest according to Fortune: The Cubs’ Theo Epstein.

For some context, Pope Francis was third. Angela Merkel was 10th. Lebron James was the next greatest sports leader, ranked 11th. Take Fortune’s methodology with a grain of salt, however, given that it has John McCain above Merkel — what, exactly, does he lead now? — and Samantha Bee in the top 20.

So what makes Theo the world’s best leader according to Fortune?

The Cubs owe their success to a five-year rebuilding program that featured a concatenation of different leadership styles. The team thrived under the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts, and, later, under the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of the club’s president for baseball operations, Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox.

I don’t want to take anything away from what Theo has done — he’s a Hall of Fame executive already in my view — but I feel like maybe one needs to adjust for the fact that this is a baseball team we’re talking about. They’re the whole world to us and their brands are nationally and even world famous, but as an organization, sports teams are rather small. There are guys who run reasonably-sized HVAC companies with more employees than a baseball team and they don’t get the benefit of an antitrust exemption and a rule which allows them to get their pick of the best new employees if they had a bad year the year before.

Really, not trying to throw shade here, just thinking that being the spiritual father for 1.2 billion Catholics or running a foundation that serves 55 million needy children — like the woman who comes in at number 14 — is a bit of a tougher trick.

But this will make a great framed magazine article on Theo’s wall in Wrigley Field.