Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Good Call, Paul

Paul Meyer calls for the release of Randall Simon and, when Freddy Sanchez returns, Chris Stynes. These moves would make me smile.

He also opines that Tampa Bay claimed Pirates Rule 5 prize Jose Bautista not to help this year, but to have in the farm system last year. He's probably right. Bautista isn't going to take many at bats from anyone in Tampa's outfield, and while he might take a few from Geoff Blum and Damian Rolls at third, there aren't many to go around since those players basically back up Aubrey Huff anyway.
I understand the reasons for the Rule 5 draft, but the practice of keeping guys on the major league roster and not playing them seems contrary to the spirit of the draft and highly detrimental to those players' careers. Bautista is now in the middle of his second consecutive busted season - he's got eleven at bats this year, and he missed most of last year when he broke his hand in a fight with a garbage can. Maybe he'll go back to the minors next year and put it together, but now that seems doubtful, and it's likely that the promise he displayed as a 21 year old in Class A Hickory in 2002 will go to waste.

Chris Shelton, another Rule 5 loss, has only 32 at bats for Detroit this year. Now he's on the disabled list, which means that he'll probably get to have a long, long "rehab" vacation in Toledo or Erie where he won't appear to be injured, but will thankfully actually get to play.

The point of the Rule 5 draft, I think, is to keep teams from stockpiling tons of major league-ready talent in the minors. The intentions of the draft are good, and when an organization uses the talent the acquire to legitimately help their major league team (as the Brewers are doing with Jeff Bennett, for example), that's great. But in practice, some of the best prospects selected in the draft just get stockpiled and neglected on major league benches, or on "rehab assignments" that, in practice, are no different from the minor league assignments they'd get from their original teams. The point of the draft is to improve the quality of the game by making sure that major league talent gets to play in the major leagues, but that isn't happening in the cases of Shelton or Bautista.

It's not that I think the Pirates deserve to get Shelton and Bautista back. Leaving them unprotected was moronic, and the Pirates deserved what they got. Shelton and Bautista, however, deserve better. This season will be wasted for them, and if their careers flame out as a result, the Pirates will say, "See? We told you so." But if they do flop, it will very likely be because the rules of baseball didn't allow them to realize their potential.

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