Saturday, June 6, 2009

MLB Draft

Stephen Strasburg is projected to be the #1 draft pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball amateur draft. He's already being proclaimed one of the hardest-throwing pitchers ever, has been linked to psycho-agent, Scott Boras, and is expected to be asking somewhere around $50 million to sign with whichever team takes him (presumably the Nationals). This is all before ever having thrown a pitch in the minor leagues, much less the majors. I sincerely hope the Nationals pay the $50 million. I also hope the franchise collapses within the next 5 years, while Strasburg watches from home, his blown out arm now useless for any professional-level sport. No, I don't really wish that fate on Strasburg or anyone else. But something has got to happen to give MLB a severe wake-up call. Has anyone bothered to check the history of first-round pitchers in the draft? Sure, there are the occasional gems like Roy Halladay. And young guys like David Price and Luke Hochevar still have a chance to turn in stellar careers. But anyone know where Bryan Bullington is? Mark Prior? How about the other 3 pitchers who went in the Top 5 of the 2002 draft along with Bullington - Chris Gruler, Adam Loewen and Clint Everts? All future hall of famers, right? I'd venture a guess that the majority of pitchers who go on to lengthy MLB careers are picked in the middle of the draft. Jake Peavy - 15th round. Roy Oswalt - 23rd round. Andy Pettitte - 22nd round. John Smoltz - 22nd round. Johan Santana wasn't even in the regular draft. He was signed by the Astros as an undrafted free agent. The fact of the matter is, pitching is too unpredictable of a position to risk anything close to $50 million on one college player. Throwing hard does not, by itself, punch your ticket to the hall of fame. In fact, it can often be the downfall that prevents many talented kids from ever throwing a pitch in the major leagues. The injury risk with pitchers is too great to be able to tell in advance who is going to make it. The body motion required to be a pitcher in baseball runs is simply unnatural and puts undue pressure on the muscular and skeletal framework of the arm. Go out and try whipping your arm in that motion 90-100 times in a row over a 3-hour period every 5 days for an extended period of time and see what kind of condition you're in. All the physical conditioning in the world can't always offset the longterm effects of the torture these kids inflict on their arms.

So I really wish the best of luck to Strasburg. But if I were the President of a major league ballclub, I would never ever choose a pitcher with my first-round draft pick.

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