By LUKE JOHNSON
Tiger Rag Editor
A little more than a week ago, several hundred young athletes’ lifelong dreams were realized when they were selected in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft.
Many of those ball players, like LSU’s Aaron Nola, were able to sit back, relax and enjoy the moment. Nola was surrounded by roughly 100 friends and family members in LSU’s player lounge. Catered food and refreshments lined the walls, excited mouths chirped about Nola’s potential landing spots and camera phones were at the ready as each pick was announced.
They didn’t have much time to either sample the fare or gossip. They exploded with applause and raucous cheers when the Philadelphia Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick.
It was a nice moment, but how would it have changed if LSU held on to a four-run eighth-inning lead against Houston and advanced to the Super Regionals?
A night before he would’ve been scheduled to pitch in LSU’s most important game of the season, Nola would’ve been waiting for his life to change. Then he’d have to somehow put aside that remarkable moment — to somehow not think of what he was going to do with $3.3 million signing bonus — and focus on advancing LSU to the College World Series.
How is that fair?
It would’ve been worse for guys like Tyler Moore and Joe Broussard, who could’ve possibly received phone calls notifying them that they were drafted while they were warming up, or maybe even while they were actively trying to keep their team’s season alive.
What the hell is wrong with you, Major League Baseball?
For some reason, professional baseball is dead set on hosting its draft in the midst of college baseball’s postseason. For some reason, this is allowed to happen.
Can you imagine the NFL draft’s first round taking place on New Year’s Eve, then sprawling out a couple more days during the height of bowl season? What about the NBA draft being held the night of the Sweet 16, college basketball’s equivalent of baseball’s super regionals?
I know I can’t. Neither can LSU coach Paul Mainieri.
"It’s just an awful system for college kids to have to deal with,” Mainieri said. "Can you imagine Nick Saban putting up with that? Can you imagine Rick Pitino putting up with that? There’s no way that would ever happen in football or basketball, where the actual professional draft is taking place on the same day that you’re trying to go out and win a national championship.”
Shame on Major League Baseball for not even having the slightest respect for the college game. Shame on me for being surprised when I first found out about this travesty of a schedule.
Look, I didn’t know squat about collegiate baseball before I came to Louisiana to attend college. Growing up in Wisconsin, a state whose flagship university doesn’t even have a baseball team, I couldn’t have cared less about the college game. You could’ve asked me the day after it happened, and I wouldn’t have been able to tell you who won the College World Series.
Unfortunately, once you escape the borders of the college baseball-hungry Southeast, that seems to be a perception shared by many nationwide. There’s no respect for the sanctity of college baseball’s postseason when it simply does not have the pull of March Madness or bowl season.
That doesn’t make it admissible, though.
What makes it worse is that the solution is so simple. Push the draft back a month. Wait until the College World Series has wrapped up. Hell, you could even promote the draft by making it part of the All-Star Game festivities.
Imagine that. A team’s front office could make use of its off days to assemble its future.
Major League Baseball would probably benefit from that as well. It could use that time, traditionally a dead period in the fast-paced world of sports, to push baseball’s draft to the public. Instead, baseball’s draft competed against Game 1 of the NBA Finals this year. I doubt many people, even some baseball junkies, chose the draft.
There’s no real reason professional baseball can’t push the draft back to allow college baseball’s season to run its course. The only thing teams would miss out on is the ability to have an extra few weeks to run its fresh prospects out through rookie leagues. Really, how much do those weeks mean when you’re evaluating guys that are, at the most optimistic levels, a year and a half from making a big-league roster?
But hey, it’s not like you can expect Major League Baseball to take seriously the impact the draft has on people’s lives that seriously. Not when teams like the San Diego Padres use a mid-round draft pick on Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel, who last played baseball in high school.
You know, because reasons.
Yuck it up, big leagues. Meanwhile, college baseball will have to continue living with pro baseball’s shenanigans while its teams strive for a championship.
"I just think it’s rather ludicrous that this is how it works for baseball,” Mainieri said. "I wish they’d change it, but they haven’t, and it doesn’t seem like they will. So we just have to deal with it. Hopefully next year we’ll have to deal with it while we’re getting ready for a super regional.”
Unfortunately, that appears to be all those associated with college baseball can do: hope that they’re in a situation to deal with the unnecessary burden.
Cool story, Major League Baseball.