Hundreds protest extending the draft to the Dominican Republic

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Thumbnail image for dominican republic flag.jpgNick Collias MLB Trade Rumors has a must-read story up this morning about a protest which took place outside the hotel in which MLB Dominican baseball czar, Sandy Alderson, was staying last week. The purpose: opposing the implementation of an amateur draft in the Dominican Republic, which is high on Bud Selig’s list for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

As I’ve written in the past, the biggest concern of a draft in the Dominican Republic is that it will harm baseball there the way it has in Puerto Rico since it was brought into the draft in 1990. Puerto Ricans complain that the draft killed the player development model there. The declining number of Puerto Rican ballplayers in the U.S. bears that out, at least in part. The protesters believe that an international draft will gut baseball in the D.R. and that it will push would-be ballplayers into lives of crime, social displacement and disorder.

ESPN’s Jorge Arangure has disputed the notion that a draft will harm baseball in the Dominican Republic like it has in the Puerto Rico, writing last month that the financial incentives in play in the former are much stronger than in the latter.  It’s an interesting point, and one those who oppose the draft have yet to counter.

Given the agendas of everyone involved — both those in favor and opposed to a draft have both financial and non-financial motives — the social and business implications of a draft in the Dominican Republic are hard to suss out. One goal everyone can agree on, it seems, would be not to leave the D.R. worse off than it was before.

To that end, here’s an idea that would (a) address the protestors’ concerns regarding social dislocation; (b) remedy the often exploitative history of baseball in the Dominican Republic; and (c) help everyone out financially, at least in the long run: In exchange for everyone agreeing on the draft, Major League Baseball can enact a policy in which they agree to provide a basic education to every young man who is drafted and/or signed. 

Why should baseball do this? because as of now over 90% of the guys they sign devote their teens to baseball, don’t make it to even the minor leagues, and are left out on the street by the time they hit their 20s.  If a draft comes into play these guys will continue on as even less well-paid chattles than they are now, and providing an education for them will help lessen the socioeconomic blow.  In exchange, baseball could demand and expect greater help from the government in addressing its own problems, such as age fraud, steroids and the other nastiness inherent in the system. Win-win, as they say.

That’s not my idea, by the way, it’s the idea of a young lawyer named Adam Wasch who proposed it in a law review article last year.  It’s a good read as far as law review articles go, and will teach you an awful lot about what goes down in the Dominican Republic, baseball-wise.  The major takeaway for me:  Neither the current system of unfettered free agency nor a system in which MLB merely drafts who it wants and walks away is ideal.

There exists a special albeit complicated relationship between the country and the corporation in this case. If the players involved are going to tweak it, why not tweak it in a way that addresses everyone’s concerns, not just one party’s?

Jake Peavy is having a bad go of things right now

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 25: Jake Peavy #22 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at AT&T Park on May 25, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Veteran hurler Jake Peavy has not signed with a team. It’s not because he’s not still capable of being a useful pitcher — he’s well-regarded and someone would likely take a late-career chance on him — and it’s not because he no longer wishes to play. Rather, it’s because a bunch of bad things have happened in his personal life lately.

As Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports, last year Peavy lost millions in an investment scam and spent much of the 2016 season distracted, dealing with investigations and depositions and all of the awfulness that accompanied it. Then, when the season ended, Peavy went home and was greeted with divorce papers. He has spent the offseason trying to find a new normal for himself and for his four sons.

Pitching is taking a backseat now, but Peavy plans to pitch again. Here’s hoping that things get sorted to the point where he can carry through with those plans.

The AT&T Park mortgage is paid off

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This is fun: The San Francisco Giants recently made their last payment on the $170 million, 20-year loan they obtained to finance the construction of AT&T Park. The joint is now officially paid for.

The Giants, unlike most other teams which moved into new stadiums in the past 25 years or so, did not rely on direct public financing. They tried to get it for years, of course, but when the voters, the city of San Francisco and the State of California said no, they decided to pay for it themselves. They ended up with one of baseball’s best-loved and most beautiful parks and, contrary to what the owners who desperately seek public funds will have you believe, they were not harmed competitively speaking. Indeed, rumor has it that they have won three World Series, four pennants and have made the playoffs seven times since moving into the place in 2000. They sell out routinely now too and the Giants are one of the richest teams in the sport.

Now, to be clear, the Giants are not — contrary to what some people will tell you — some Randian example of self-reliance. They did not receive direct public money to build the park, but they did get a lot of breaks. The park sits on city-owned property in what has become some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If the city had held on to that land and realized its appreciation, they could flip it to developers for far more than the revenue generated by baseball. Or, heaven forfend, use it for some other public good. The Giants likewise received some heavy tax abatements, got some extraordinarily beneficial infrastructure upgrades and require some heavy city services to operate their business. All sports stadiums, even the ones privately constructed, represent tradeoffs for the public.

Still, AT&T Park represents a better model than most sports facilities do. I mean, ask how St. Louis feels about still paying for the place the Rams used to call home before taking off for California. Ask how taxpayers in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas feel about paying for their second stadium in roughly the same time the Giants have paid off their first.