Jayson Stark sucks.
While this is hardly breaking news, it seemed like an appropriate introduction to today’s diatribe about Stark’s lengthy column on ESPN.com this afternoon in which he dedicated nearly 2,000 words to discussing the problems with Major League Baseball’s player-drafting system but failed to include even one mention of the system’s largest flaw: the exclusion of foreign players.
Commentary on baseball’s flawed drafting system without regard this facet of the problem is akin to writing about Mike Tyson’s personal life with no mention of his tendency to sometimes rape women, beat up strangers and allow his children to play with things that kill them.
Stark’s essay ran on ESPN.com for one reason: He is an ESPN “senior baseball writer.” If any amateur or even professional writer who was not already employed by ESPN submitted this column for publication, they would be immediately sent a letter that said something along the lines of “thanks but no thanks.”
But because at some point the company decided to invest money in Stark’s ability to think about baseball and report on his ponderings, ESPN’s audience is treated to quotes from Ryan Howard and Adam Dunn about how miffed they are about Stephen Strasburg potentially making more money than they do.
The entire column really boils down to that most-revered mantra of thoughtless sports conversations: Why do these guys get paid so much money to play a game?
In this case, the guys in question are not the A-Rods, CCs and aforementioned Howards and Dunns; but the Strasburgs, Priors, Mauers and Prices, who each year baseball teams make large wagers on that they can make good on their projectability and become superstars like those mentioned above. Is it a good bet that any given amateur will become A-Rod one day? No. But that doesn’t stop teams from betting millions of dollars on the prospect.
It’s happening and will continue to happen for the foreseeable future. Why the public, or Jayson Stark or Ryan Howard, would rather see the teams and their owners have the money rather than players is the real issue there, but that’s a story for another day.
The real issue with Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft is not how much money draft picks are being paid, but who those draft picks are in the first place. As it currently stands, the MLB draft could be renamed the Black & White Draft, as American and Canadian players are the only ones subjected to it.
Brown players from Asia and Latin America are almost exclusively signed as non-drafted free agents, an arrangement that results in multimillion dollar signing bonuses for 16-year-olds, posting fees of tens of millions of dollars to Japanese and Korean teams, and scenarios in which player's true names and ages are fudged and American teams suffer ordeals such as that of the Washington Nationals this past winter.
Will Stephen Strasburg be worth $50 million over the course of his career? Probably not, but the Nationals (or some other team) is presumably willing to pay him that much to find out. As baseball fans, we should be happy that someone is willing to invest so much money to see if he really is that good.
Conversely, baseball fans should resent hack writers like Jayson Stark, who do nothing with their near-unlimited access to players and teams except perpetuate trite, thoughtless platitudes like complaining about how much money players make.
Instead, read what I have to say about things. I can’t get quotes from Ryan Howard or anonymous team officials, but I will often work tasteless allusions such as Mike Tyson raping Desiree Washington in an article about the baseball draft, and that’s a promise you can take to the bank.
P.S.: Also, Stark quotes Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth in the article. Work in Jayson Nix and his brother, Laynce, and the four could have themselves a nice little superfluous "Y" foursome.