Will the international draft hurt Dominican baseball like it hurt baseball in Puerto Rico?

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Thumbnail image for dominican republic flag.jpgI’m opposed to the the imposition of an international draft during the next round of collective bargaining for a few reasons. For one thing, I think it will be a logistical and political nightmare, as would anything that requires even the tacit participation of a guy like Hugo Chavez. I also tend to find it unseemly that a bunch of guys — current players — are able and willing to toss the rights of teenagers in other countries over the side at a U.S. collective bargaining table. I’ll grant, however, that those issues are more philosophical than practical, so it’s not like I expect anyone to take them too seriously.

More practically and more significantly, I worry that an international draft would eliminate the incentive for major league teams to go out and work hard to
develop amateurs in places like the Dominican
Republic, building academies and the like. I mean, why would they make such an investment if they would have absolutely no inside track to any of the talent they find there? If you’re the Astros, are you really going to want to see the Cardinals draft the talent you discovered and developed? Of course not.  And this isn’t just hypothetical. Look at Puerto Rico. Before 1990, there was no draft there, and all kinds of
Puerto Rican talent flowed into the Major Leagues. Since then: baseball
has declined horribly in Puerto Rico
, and most observers blame the draft.

But perhaps my concerns on this have been overstated.  ESPN’s Jorge Arangure has a take on this today that’s definitely worth a read.  In it he argues that the fate which befell amateur baseball in Puerto Rico won’t necessarily happen to the Dominican Republic because baseball and its attendant income is simply much more important to people in the latter than in the former:

Could what happened in Puerto Rico happen in the Dominican?

simple answer is that it doesn’t seem as likely. The difference lies in
economics. An international draft will almost surely bring down bonus
amounts, but that will have less of an impact in the Dominican where
nearly half of the residents live under the poverty line and the Gross
Domestic Product per capita is in the $5,000-$8,500 range, depending on
the source. This means that claiming even a $5,000-$10,000 signing bonus will have a
substantial affect on a family in the Dominican, much more so than it
would in Puerto Rico where the GDP per capita is around $18,000.

I hadn’t considered the monetary angle of it.  Is the greater need to earn an living from baseball in the Dominican Republic enough to overcome the disincentive on the part of the teams to find talent?  Hard to say, but it may be. It certainly could work to lessen the impact of development divestment on the part of the teams. Of course, it may increase the profile of buscones too, as someone is going to have to find that talent when the ballclubs reign in their development budgets to concentrate on players closer to draft age as opposed to finding younger players they wish to woo.

I still remain opposed to an international draft — those philosophical objections still nag — but Arangure’s article has certainly made me rethink the competitive impacts of such a beast a bit.  As we get closer to the new CBA negotiations, I’ll continue to rethink and (gasp!) research it a bit more.

Billy Beane promoted to VP, David Forst named A’s general manager

billy beane getty
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I’m so old I remember when general managers used to run baseball operations departments. Now they’re basically assistants.

The latest example: the Oakland Athletics have promoted Billy Beane to vice president of baseball operations and have named David Forst general manager. Forst has been with the A’s for 16 years and has been Beane’s assistant for 12 years, so it’s not exactly a situation in which Forst will be making the final calls. The official move came today, though the move has been in the works for some time, it seems.

Someone with a lot of good front office access is going to write a good story this winter about the title inflation going on in Major League Baseball over the past year. And it’s gonna be great when one of his or her sources breaks the pattern of saying “well, baseball transactions are so much more complex these days . . . ” and admits “hey, if Theo gets a fancy title and La Russa gets a fancy title I WANT A FANCY TITLE TOO.”

Not that it’s much of a secret as it is.

Brewers fire pitching coach Rick Kranitz

Wily Peralta, Rick Kranitz, Hernan Perez, Martin Maldonado
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Despite a change at general manager from Doug Melvin to David Stearns the Brewers quickly made it clear that they’re keeping Craig Counsell as manager, but today they fired pitching coach Rick Kranitz.

In fact, all of Milwaukee’s coaches except for hitting coach Darnell Coles and third base coach Ed Sedar were let go, as Counsell shakes up his staff after managing the Brewers to a 61-76 record as Ron Roenicke’s replacement.

Kranitz took over as the Brewers’ pitching coach in 2011, during which time they’ve ranked 11th among NL teams in ERA.