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Hundreds protest extending the draft to the Dominican Republic

Apr 19, 2010, 10:42 AM EST

Thumbnail image for dominican republic flag.jpgNick Collias MLB Trade Rumors has a must-read story up this morning about a protest which took place outside the hotel in which MLB Dominican baseball czar, Sandy Alderson, was staying last week. The purpose: opposing the implementation of an amateur draft in the Dominican Republic, which is high on Bud Selig’s list for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

As I’ve written in the past, the biggest concern of a draft in the Dominican Republic is that it will harm baseball there the way it has in Puerto Rico since it was brought into the draft in 1990. Puerto Ricans complain that the draft killed the player development model there. The declining number of Puerto Rican ballplayers in the U.S. bears that out, at least in part. The protesters believe that an international draft will gut baseball in the D.R. and that it will push would-be ballplayers into lives of crime, social displacement and disorder.

ESPN’s Jorge Arangure has disputed the notion that a draft will harm baseball in the Dominican Republic like it has in the Puerto Rico, writing last month that the financial incentives in play in the former are much stronger than in the latter.  It’s an interesting point, and one those who oppose the draft have yet to counter.

Given the agendas of everyone involved — both those in favor and opposed to a draft have both financial and non-financial motives — the social and business implications of a draft in the Dominican Republic are hard to suss out. One goal everyone can agree on, it seems, would be not to leave the D.R. worse off than it was before.

To that end, here’s an idea that would (a) address the protestors’ concerns regarding social dislocation; (b) remedy the often exploitative history of baseball in the Dominican Republic; and (c) help everyone out financially, at least in the long run: In exchange for everyone agreeing on the draft, Major League Baseball can enact a policy in which they agree to provide a basic education to every young man who is drafted and/or signed. 

Why should baseball do this? because as of now over 90% of the guys they sign devote their teens to baseball, don’t make it to even the minor leagues, and are left out on the street by the time they hit their 20s.  If a draft comes into play these guys will continue on as even less well-paid chattles than they are now, and providing an education for them will help lessen the socioeconomic blow.  In exchange, baseball could demand and expect greater help from the government in addressing its own problems, such as age fraud, steroids and the other nastiness inherent in the system. Win-win, as they say.

That’s not my idea, by the way, it’s the idea of a young lawyer named Adam Wasch who proposed it in a law review article last year.  It’s a good read as far as law review articles go, and will teach you an awful lot about what goes down in the Dominican Republic, baseball-wise.  The major takeaway for me:  Neither the current system of unfettered free agency nor a system in which MLB merely drafts who it wants and walks away is ideal.

There exists a special albeit complicated relationship between the country and the corporation in this case. If the players involved are going to tweak it, why not tweak it in a way that addresses everyone’s concerns, not just one party’s?

  1. JBerardi - Apr 19, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    “To that end, here’s an idea that would (a) address the protestors’ concerns regarding social dislocation; (b) remedy the often exploitative history of baseball in the Dominican Republic; and (c) help everyone out financially, at least in the long run: In exchange for everyone agreeing on the draft, Major League Baseball can enact a policy in which they agree to provide a basic education to every young man who is drafted and/or signed.”

    File this under “great ideas that will never even be considered”. Think like a businessman, Craig– Selig isn’t pushing a Dominican draft because the owners of major league baseball like writing checks to Dominican guys…

  2. Joey B - Apr 19, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    I’m not in favor of applying the draft to the DR for two reasons. I’m uncomfortable with allowing US unions to dictate rules for non-US citizens, and if the draft applies to Dominicans, it should apply to everyone.
    Having said that-
    The PR thing is a non starter. One out of 143,000 Puerto Ricans play in the MLB while one out of 125,000 DR’s play in the MLB. You have no sample size, and no material difference.
    The headline is misleading. It sounds like a real protest. It’s the players protesting, probably at the behest of their agents.
    This looks to me like a union-lead issue. KC, for example, is going to spend ‘x’ number of dollars whether they have a DR draft, a SK draft or any other draft. No difference to the owners. However, by paying the foreigners less, we implicitly pay the US prospects more. That means more money for the US agents and less for non-US agents.
    The overall sense I’m getting is the soft bigotry of low expectations. I’ve lived in NYC my entire life. Every time a change was made to welfare, or if street vendor laws were enforced, or anything else, there were protests that people would be dying in the street. Why? Because some thought that NY’s poor couldn’t fend for themselves: a sense that the poor lacked the capabilities of the rich. Guess what? The poor adapted like the poor have always adapted. They learn the rules and make their next decision based on their self-interest, like everyone does and like everyone has always done.
    The idea that the original article and the coverage of that article implies that Dominicans will resort to crime if not handed baseball contracts is utterly repulsive.

  3. sjp - Apr 19, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Aren’t MLB academies financed by individual teams a primary mechanism for to attract and develop baseball talent in the DR (as is the case in other countries)? Setting up such academies gives teams the inside track to sign players in whose development they have invested. If a draft removes this signing advantage; why would teams maintain their academies in the DR? Why develop talent that you don’t have a better than average chance to sign? If many of those academies are shut down, and the road to a big-time contract made longer, isn’t it inevitable that much less talent will make its way into MLB systems from the DR?

  4. Kro - Apr 19, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    Nice post Craig. I hate the very idea of a draft as it limits the laborers’ ability to negotiate wages and work environment, but you brought up some concerns I hadn’t thought of with regard to education and future earnings.
    The salary structure of MLB rewards the elite talent with extraordinary wages while the ballplayers of lesser talent receive almost nothing. MLB and the Players’ Union should use the concept of revenue sharing is a model to eliminate this vast disparity. If the teams in smaller markets didn’t exist the big market teams would have no one to play against. Similarly, the elite baseball talents require the experience gained by playing games against the lesser talented players to in order to develop their skills.
    I understand that the concept of providing for all goes against the tenets Capitalism, but if the existing wage structure was modified to ensure a more egalitarian distribution of wealth to players at all levels I believe that the opposition to the draft would be reduced.
    This post is running long, but the labor structure of MLB is such a unique and interesting topic that I could talk all day on the subject. Thanks again for the nice post Craig.

  5. Joey B - Apr 19, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    “I hate the very idea of a draft as it limits the laborers’ ability to negotiate wages and work environment,”
    That’s why the idea that this is an owner-lead iniative lacks legs, imho. In the NBA, for example, you have caps on draftee salaries. This is the union’s way of rewarding the vets at the expense of the college kids. The union can do the same for baseball, if it wanted to. The less money available to kids in the DR, the more money available to vets in MLB.
    My guess is that they’ll be some quid pro quo between the union and the owners that’ll restrict the DR’s in exchange for the players getting something else.

  6. Charles S. Farrell - Apr 20, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    http://WWW.DRSEA.ORG

  7. otto - Apr 22, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    That young Lawyer, Adam Wasch, should be the next commish!

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