The new CBA: Draft rules (bad), HGH (meh)

Posted By on November 22, 2011 9:51 am

First, I’d like to congratulate Major League Baseball and its players for once again peacefully resolving their labor disputes. Sure makes baseball look good compared to those fools at that other league. (What’s it called? I barely remember it. The one with the guys wearing the long shorts. Oh, never mind.)

That being said, I don’t like what they’ve done to the draft. (At the moment I’m going on what’s been reported, since the official announcement hasn’t happened yet.) As you remember, I endorsed the idea of “hard slotting” system over the summer. This is supposedly a compromise between that and the current system, but I think it’s actually worse than either.

What we’ve got, it sounds like, is a luxury-tax system, where teams get hit with a tax for spending more than a certain amount on the draft. So, what they’ve really done is increase the price of draft picks, which makes it harder for the low-revenue teams to take the best players in the draft.

Say you’re the Pirates and you’ve got the No. 1 pick and there is this stud Bryce Harper-like guy out there who wants $10 million. You may want to just bite the financial bullet and take him (as the Nationals did), because those kind of guys are the lifebloood of an organization if they pan out. Only now, with the tax tacked on, the guy is going to cost you even more. (Technically, you are taxed on the total expenditure for the draft, so one guy won’t cost more, but if you spend more on one guy, you may have to punt some later picks. Still generally bad.)

Meanwhile, the teams who have lots of money to spend will not be deterred. Any player who is pushed out of the price range of a low-revenue team will fall right into the lap of the big boys.

We shouldn’t be making the teams spend more. We should be making the players get less.

In a hard slotting system, each spot in the draft would come with a fixed bonus, much lower than the players get when they are free to negotiate on their own. That benefits the teams by keeping the costs down and also by eliminating the wasted two months of negotiation that deprives the team and the player of two months worth of minor league development.

Who does that hurt? The amateur players. (A very small percentage of them, by the way.) But that’s OK. We don’t care about them. They haven’t done squat in professional baseball. Let them sign and do something and earn their money. Is it un-American? No more so than giving players with zero-to-three years service time no negotiating leverage whatsoever. (Tim Lincecum made $650,000 the year after winning his first Cy Young.) We already draw lines about which players have which rights, so it seems logical to draw a line that reduces the earning power of amateurs.

Now, some people say that hard slotting would reduce the bonuses so the big-time two-sport stars would just turn away from baseball. I don’t care about that because a) we’re talking about maybe two or three players a year, and b) is a guy really going to go play college football because his baseball bonus has to be $2.5 million instead of $4 million? Really? I’m pretty sure those BCS schools are only paying their top football players about $1 million a year. (Joking. Sort of.)

Anyway, that’s enough about the draft. Don’t like it.

Now, for HGH testing. It is a great PR move for baseball, and it shows that the owners and the players care about trying to get rid of HGH and other PEDs, but it really doesn’t mean anything. Unless they’ve discovered something new and I missed it, HGH is only detectable, even in a blood test, for about 24 hours after it’s injected. That means a guy has to be incredibly unlucky to get busted.

Still, I applaud MLB for trying.

Now, how about getting rid of a substance that is really dangerous. (EDIT: They did put in a provision that players now have to hide their dip, which is something. A ban would have better, though.)

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