Tonight is the MLB draft, and if you don’t watch I can’t blame you. It’s terrible. And because it’s so terrible, I love watching it (until Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals comes on that is). Here’s why…
Bud Selig is a horrible public speaker.
This can not be debated. Selig has no charisma whatsoever. The man simply can not pronounce “Los Angeles, ” he says “Los Angeleeze.” When announcing a pick he says the school and then the town and state. That’s great if it’s a kid from some prep school or private college that you’ve never heard off. But when it comes to colleges that have the city and state in the name, well then it’s just watchable. If someone is drafted from UNC-Chapel Hill, he says “from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, North Carolina.” Come on Bud, use some common sense. He speaks in flat voice and often pauses awkwardly. Just the guy you want to be the voice of one of your more high profile public events!
There’s no drama.
The obvious drawback to baseball’s draft is that at best only a handful of kids are known. College baseball is an afterthought to the sports world until the College World Series, which is after the draft. And HS baseball, save for the wunderkid, has no public interest. It doesn’t have part of the appeal of the draft in other sports, in that we get to see where these kids who we’ve been following through the season, through bowls, through the Final Four, through the Memorial Cup are going. We know the big names, we’ve followed their careers. Not with baseball. So you have a draft of nobodies, and to top it all off you can’t trade picks. Trading picks is entertaining. It gives us something to talk about, like when this year the Falcons dealt a whole bunch of picks to get Julio Jones. We can talk about that trade for years depending on how it pans out. Can’t do it with baseball. Can’t get the excitement or disappointment that the hardcore fan gets when their team trades up or down. MLB shouldn’t make trading picks possible because of this, it’s just an unfortunate side effect. And because you can’t trade picks, the time they take between picks is completely pointless. NFL, NHL, NBA teams, they take their time on their picks because they are taking or making calls, seeing if there is a good trade to be made. Since MLB teams can’t do that, there should be no reason why picks aren’t fast and furious. They used to be, which brings us to:
It’s just a bad TV product.
The draft used to be an afternoon conference call as recently as 2006, it was never an event. A team would say a name and then immediately the next team would. The NFL on the other hand, their draft was an event at least as far back as the 60’s, they had reporters in attendance and Pete Rozelle would announce the picks at a podium. There was already a location, already a forum where picks were physically announced. So the transition to television was fairly seamless. The transition to TV has been pretty rough for MLB. MLB Network does a nice job with what they have to work with, not blaming them. What they have to work with though, is not good. The interviews with newly drafted players are boring. I’m sure it’s exciting for the kid that the Angels just picked to get drafted, but if he gets to the big leagues, and if it’s with the Angels, the roster is going to look very different, so why ask him if he’s excited to play with Torii Hunter? I hope they ask whoever the Braves draft if he can’t wait to play with Chipper Jones. The answer of course would be “yes, I can wait, because he’ll be retired by the time I get there.” And to top it off, these kids, through no fault of their own, are generally pretty bad on camera. NFL and (most) NBA draftees just spent a college career getting interviewed all the time and having a support network at their school to deal with the media. They’re not all good either, but they’re experienced. That kid from some high school in the panhandle of Florida is as green as grass. And then of course there’s the rampant speculation that the analysts must do when talking about these kids who are years away from the majors. With the NFL and NBA, the draftees will step in right away, and a good number of NHL picks do so too, so talking about how a player’s skills, even if they’re raw, pertain to a system, or how the current coaching staff will develop them is perfectly fine. You can’t do that with MLB. None of these players will make an immediate impact in 2011, and the casual fan isn’t going to remember these guys a year from now.
And the cherry on top: it’s at 7pm, which is when baseball is played. Such as the Dodgers at the Phillies on ESPN.
But I’ll still watch, because we love train wreck television.