Does the title seem harsh for this post? Sorry, Mr. Selig but I cannot possibly hide frustration in the fact that you are seriously considering placing a hard-slot system in signing the amateur draft picks.
For those who don't know, the Pittsburgh Pirates have spent more money in the draft than any other team in the last three years. It has been the Pirates' model for building a successful franchise to draft the most talented players and sign them away from their college commitments/high contract demands in order to build up the system. These signings have yet to show any reward at the major league level as it is still far too early. However, given the small market in Pittsburgh, the draft is the only way the club can hope to improve their chances at becoming competitive.
Other franchises have already seen success by investing heavily in the draft. The Tampa Bay Rays went to the 2007 World Series with a team almost entirely comprised of prospects. The Milwaukee Brewers have built up their payroll through raised attendance, stemmed from becoming a competitive team after signing talented draft picks in the early 2000s. The Cincinnati Reds, a once proud franchise like the Pirates, were stuck at the bottom of the NL Central basement for most of the 2000s until they started investing in the draft to select players such as Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Travis Wood and Mike Leake. Last year, the Reds won the Central and now are currently in the hunt to repeat.
If Major League Baseball places a hard-slot system on the amateur draft, you can say goodbye to the hopes of small market teams, including Selig's own Milwaukee Brewers. That's right, the commissioner's favorite team is a small market team and a cap on draft spending will further damage their chances of competing. Why is it so important to place a cap on the draft? No idea. Maybe it is unfair to pay amateur players a ton of money when those players were passed up by other teams due to high contract demands. Never mind the fact that the Yankees have a payroll that exceeds $202 million while the Red Sox have a payroll of $161 million. The Phillies are usually in the bottom of the ranks in draft spending. Why? Because they have the second highest payroll in baseball at $172 million. The Brewers? Their payroll is around $85 million while the Pirates are at $45 million. Like the Brewers, the Pirates will increase their payroll once their prospects are up for a contract extension.
When this cap is instituted, next year, the small market team will start to deteriorate, thus creating the six team league we were accustomed to seeing before 2007. While the Pirates may have loaded up on talent at the right time, the ability to continue that influx of talent will drastically take a hit. They'll still take the most talented players on the board, but the days of signing mid-round high school kids away from college are over. Teenagers will turn down 100k if it means going to college, getting redrafted, and signing for $1 million.
This decision is void of all logical reasoning to keep 30 markets interested in "America's Past time". Then again, Mr. Selig has never tried to draw the interest of 30 markets; it's always been about Yankees vs. Red Sox, under his tenure. If we're going to cap draft spending and, consequently kick down the small market teams, why not cap free agent spending and payroll to level the playing field?
Tell me, Mr. Selig, why should I or any other small market fan, care about your league? A league which you nearly destroyed with a strike in 1994, embarrassed with a steroid scandal in the early 2000s and possibly caused total disinterest now, with the silencing of small market baseball.