The NCAA may rethink their preposterous rules regarding amateurs and agents

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I’ve written about this several times before, but let’s sum up: the NCAA has a rule on the book that serves no purpose other than to exploit kids. It’s the no-agents rule, which allows college baseball players to have an “advisor,” but prohibits the advisor from talking to professional teams.

And that’s the case even before the kid goes to college. If, as most promising players are, the kid is drafted out of high school, he can’t have an experienced agent or attorney contact anyone associated with Major League Baseball, even if it isn’t about money.  Can’t talk to a scout to get an opinion as to how he’ll do as an 18 year-old minor leaguer. Can’t talk to the team about their plans for him.  When it comes time for a teenage kid to make a major life choice — college or pros — the NCAA says that you have to go it alone or else you’ve lost eligibility.

This rule had been ruled unlawful by a court in Ohio and Tigers’ prospect Andy Oliver got a $750,000 settlement out of it from the NCAA.  Of course, by virtue of the settlement, the NCAA got to keep the rule on the books and continues to enforce it against amateurs who have the audacity to actually look out for their future interests in an informed and intelligent way.

But what has struck me the most about this rule is not its actual effect, but the sheer arrogance with which the NCAA has enforced it.  Players are way more likely to get smacked if they own up to a simple mistake or misunderstanding of the rule than if they just flat out lie about having an agent.  During the Andy Oliver suit the NCAA was openly contemptuous of the Ohio court in which the case was being heard, ignoring orders and acting as if it couldn’t be bothered by the proceedings. When the judge told them otherwise — and hinted strongly that the NCAA was going to get reamed — the settlement was hastily reached. More recently was the case of James Paxton and the University of Kentucky, where Paxton’s advisor was told by the UK athletic director that “the NCAA made its own rules and could do whatever it wanted,” and that the NCAA investigator “had [Paxton’s] life in his hands.” Just obnoxious.

Chilling stuff.  But now, it seems, someone at the NCAA may have woken up. Because in the course of this story talking about the latest enforcement of the no-advisors rule comes this passage:

The NCAA’s man in charge of baseball told college coaches earlier this year that new rules acknowledging baseball’s “unique set of circumstances” could be on the way.

“If I had a kid who was left-handed and threw 95 (mph), I’d like to know what his value would be,” Dennis Poppe, managing director for baseball and football, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. He didn’t discuss any specific changes.

Because the NCAA has been arbitrary and capricious when it comes to its amateurism rules, penalizing kids for nickel and dime offenses while doing everything it can to make millions and even billions off their free-of-charge athletic talents, I am not going to hold my breath.  But maybe — just maybe — there’s some hope here.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.