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?

Report: Pirates to convert JB Shuck into two-way player

JB Shuck
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Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.

Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.

Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.