MLB.com's article on slotting of draft picks is a propaganda piece

Leave a comment

Thumbnail image for stephen strasburg jersey.jpgSo far, MLB.com’s “Fixing the Draft” series has been just fine. It dealt with the issues of an international draft and trading picks fairly straight up, presenting the pros and cons as most people understand them.  Today’s entry, however — on the potential imposition of a hard slotting system for draft picks — is a propaganda piece, the sort of which many of us feared we’d see a lot of when MLB.com launched, but which has been more or less absent. This one, however, is a piece of journalistic malpractice.

At the outset, lets make sure we all know what we’re talking about here. “Slotting” refers to the practice — non-biding at present — in which a team pays a drafted player a bonus on
where he’s taken in the Draft. Currently, MLB makes suggestions as to what the picks should get. Some teams heed the suggestions, some do
not. There really is no penalty for exceeding slot except for drawing the ire of Bud Selig. There is anecdotal evidence that MLB punishes teams who exceed slot, but no one is really sure.

The owners — and most people who watch, but don’t really understand the draft — would like to institute “hard slotting,” which would impose NBA-style mandatory bonuses for each pick. The negotiation process would be over: you get picked first, you $X, and if you don’t like it you can go play for the St. Paul Saints.  Personally, I disagree with hard slotting because I’m a fan of the free market and don’t see why billionaire owners need to impose such a beast when, in an average year, each team pays a total of $6 million — Pudge Rodriguez money — to its entire slate of draft picks. But that’s a big topic, so let’s save my ranting on that for another day.

Today, let’s ask this: why was no one from the Players Association quoted for this article? This would seem to be pretty critical, because just two weeks ago, the new head of the Players Association — in response to my question, I must egotistically add — revealed for the first time that the union considers the term “hard slotting” to be synonymous with “salary cap,” and we all know how the union feels about salary caps. It fights them. To the death. And no matter what conciliatory things Mike Weiner might say about everything being on the table come 2011, you can bet your bippy that nothing the union refers to as a “salary cap” will be negotiable.

You’d think that little fact would be relevant to today’s article. I mean, how can the pros and cons of hard slotting be complete when one of the cons is that implementing it would foment an ugly labor battle that risks a work stoppage?

Without the players’ hard opposition to hard slotting, the article serves as mere owner propaganda. Propaganda, I’m going to guess, that will have the effect of making the union’s eventual active opposition to hard slotting seem more unreasonable and unexpected than it really is (“But this has been discussed for years, why are you just complaining now . . . “)

Bad form, MLB.com.  Talk to Mike Weiner. Ask him what he thinks of hard slotting and re-run the calculus.    

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

Getty Images
6 Comments

The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.