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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.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.