Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Baseball's WMDs

Two weeks ago I noted how MLB may very well be trying to overstate the impact of Dominican free agent bonus skimming in order to make the case for an international draft. The ever watchful Pete Toms points out that Selig is indeed beating that drum:

In the midst of a scandal involving scouts from multiple teams and other club officials "skimming" bonuses from Latin-American players, Selig said MLB continues to look into the possibility of a worldwide draft. The draft is currently confined to the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

"I don't think it's any secret that support for a worldwide draft is growing amongst all baseball people," Selig said. "I've had a lot of people, including a significant number of general managers, say to me in the last couple of months that they wish we had a worldwide draft. I think that's something we will discuss in the future."
As I noted before, the skim scandal bears no direct relationship to the imposition of a draft. The scandal is a criminal matter borne of careless accounting and communication practices. A draft is, ideally anyway, a mechanism for depressing salaries and bonuses. Teams can completely control and account for the bonuses being given to Dominican players absent a draft. Likewise, team officials could still skim bonus money even if those bonuses were handed out incident to a draft as opposed to a free agent signing. The issue is oversight, not structure.

My gut tells me that baseball was completely fine with whatever was happening down on the Island -- maybe even the skimming -- as long as the bonuses stayed low. Now they're not so low anymore, and thus baseball feels the need to do something about it. Simply imposing a draft on a straight-up basis would be unpopular and politically difficult, so baseball needs a hook. The skim is that hook. A red herring -- baseball's version of the WMDs -- given more play than is warranted so that baseball can say it is addressing criminal exploitation when, in reality, it's simply trying to prevent the next Michel Inoa from happening.

Will it work? If recent history has shown, Selig tends to get what he wants, so maybe we'll see such a Dominican draft sometime soon. Hopefully not too soon, however, because the Rule IV draft is itself rife with inefficiencies and problems. Indeed, if Selig isnt' careful he may, in the rush to prevent the next Michel Inoa, create many, many Rick Porcellos.

9 comments:

Diesel said...

You couldn't be more correct here: The party line from baseball, prior the explosion in bonuses the last few years, was that a worldwide draft would be too cumbersome. Now that those damn kids are making real money, of course management wants to impose a draft.

Peter said...

Why isn't Selig's slotting system collusion? And if it is, why isn't anybody (like Boras) challenging it?

If the slotting system collapses, I have a feeling that Selig & Co. may end up regretting instituting a worldwide draft.

Dre said...

Not many teams follow the slotting system anyway though, that's why its not collusion and there are no challenges to it.

Eventually, I would like to see baseball write a system into the CBA similar to the NBA's, which assigns $ to each pick.

Justin Zeth said...

There's the potential, is there not, for a sticky situation if the #1 pick in the international draft is regarded as just as good a prospect as the #1 pick in the North American draft, and gets significantly less money? I can see that happening. If Michel Inoa had been available in this past draft, it's possible he could have gone #1, or at least in the top three. The 'crazy' contract the A's gave him is for quite a bit less than what Tim Beckham's likely going to receive.

Dre said...

Beckham got $6.15M
Inoa got $4.25M

Peter said...

justin, my understanding is that they would have one draft...which complicates things, because you'll be able to draft 16 year olds from the Dominican but not from the United States. How does one justify that (aside from saying "because we feel like it")?

Another big problem I see is teams hiding players. In the US and Canada it'd be basically impossible for a team to hide a kid because of the media and everyone's knowledge of the implications of being a high draft pick. The world is an awfully big place, though, and it seems to me, at least on the surface, that there would be a lot of potential for shady dealings, especially in countries where baseball is not as big of a deal.

Pete Toms said...

Why is slotting not collusion? I always read that it's because the amateur players are not union members. Or at least that's why the PA doesn't fight it. I guess it's still collusion.

The penalty levied against the Cubs is an interesting development. Maybe Selig is going to dig in his heels on this slotting thing. A world wide draft doesn't solve his problem unless he can enforce the slot recommendations. The Rule IV draft is a joke as it stands, it's not a draft, it's an auction.

Diesel said...

The only reason there's hard numbers in the NBA draft is because that union cowers at Stern's feet. Baseball, mercifully, does not suffer through a similar imbalance.

Why would anyone want to restrict the money being spent on draft picks? All that means is you rig the system so that owners get all of the upside, and none of the downside. I'm no radical, but I think players should be able to get as much money as they can for their fleeting talents.

Peter said...

I hate the way the draft has gone the past few years (actually it was better this year), but I'm extremely hesitant to support anything that suppresses player salaries.

It's not easy to take that stance since I'm an Indians fan, but in the end you have to realize that all these owners can afford to sign Rick Porcello and maintain profitability.