Major League Baseball finally opened its first-year player draft to a live television audience today. The timing could have been better.
Sure, the Devil Rays did what was expected, taking Vanderbilt pitcher David Price with the first overall pick. Price was the biggest name in the draft, a proven commodity likely on the fast track to the bigs. The problem for MLB was that Price was pretty much the only big name.
The Dugout watched as teams chose top high school talent, which is fine for baseball. High school talent, however, is virtually unknown to the general viewing public, creating a fairly disinteresting broadcast.
What makes the NFL draft so captivating is that even when your team isn't on the clock, you’ve seen the players the other teams are taking play in college.
Even the most ardent follower of amateur baseball has a tough time determining whether the San Francisco Giants filled their needs. Football players have an immediate impact. Baseball draftees are generally at least three years from making it to the big club. By that time their draft position is barely a footnote even to the most knowledgeable fans.
How does baseball make the draft more exciting and interesting? For starters it needs to raise the profiles of the players being drafted. MLB can do that by helping the NCAA get more college baseball games on television. MLB should also hold the draft after the College World Series – the most watched college baseball broadcasts.
Both suggestions are doable. Whether MLB chooses to do so is another matter. The high school element of the draft will always be a drag on the draft’s popularity. So will the amount of rounds. It's a long process.
Perhaps baseball officials realize their draft won’t be the money maker enjoyed by their counterparts in football. If that’s the case, give MLB credit for allowing for fans’ voyeurism without trying to be too glitzy. If the NFL draft offers HBO-type entertainment, the MLB draft is C-Span.
That’s OK. Though C-Span sits unwatched on most TVs throughout the year, it’s kind of nice to know you can look into your government’s actions should you desire. Maybe that’s how it should be with the baseball draft, too.
Disturbing number: Wanna feel old? Check out the birthday’s on some of the early picks. Some of the players taken in this year’s draft were born in 1989. A year from now kids born in the decade of the 90s will be eligible to play professional baseball.