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Happy Draft Day! Here’s a depressing draft story for you!

Jun 6, 2011, 12:30 PM EDT

Bud Selig

When I look back at old drafts, be it baseball, football, basketball, whatever, I am struck by the sheer number of names I have never heard before. Because, of course, professional sports is about attrition and so many of the guys who get selected never go on to anything big.

I always wonder if any given anonymous player got hurt. Or if he’s happy working as a dentist someplace. Or if he went to some semi-professional league in Brazil or something and is living a life of ambivalent reflection.

Sometimes, though, we’re reminded that everything can just go bad.  Like in the case of the number two overall pick of the 1971 baseball draft, Jay Franklin, whose story is told in the Washington Post today by Josh Barr:

First he had elbow problems. Then it was his shoulder, overcompensating for the elbow. He bounced around the minor leagues for a few years, then returned to Northern Virginia and worked as a laborer, in quality control and delivering packages. His wife left him, taking their two children to California. His father committed suicide. Shortly thereafter, Franklin was committed to a mental hospital. He now lives in an Annandale group home and attends sessions aimed at improving his ability to socialize; he said his therapist is changing his diagnosis to depression disorder.

Not exactly an uplifting story, but it’s a good story all the same. And one that will make you think a bit deeper about each of the names that are called out tonight, making you wonder what the story is behind the scouting report.

  1. emeraldcityfan - Jun 6, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Very uplifting Craig. And I thought Brien Taylor’s story was depressing….

  2. Old Gator - Jun 6, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    Plaxico Burress got out of jail yesterday. Maybe the Feesh could use him as a designated baserunner, especially with a man on third, less than two outs and a short fly ball to center field.


    • Jonny 5 - Jun 6, 2011 at 1:17 PM

      Too late Gator, didn’t you see the pictures?

    • sdelmonte - Jun 6, 2011 at 1:24 PM

      Hey, anywhere but back at the Meadowlands.

      • Jonny 5 - Jun 6, 2011 at 1:28 PM

        Hey, stick him in CF and instantly remove all home runs “just over the fence”.

  3. spudchukar - Jun 6, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    There is no such thing as “Life after Baseball”.

  4. marshmallowsnake - Jun 6, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    What about Matt Harrington? That would depress me…Has to be the worst draft story ever because his agents gave him horrible advice.

    • jwbiii - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:43 PM

      I read a “Where are They Now” piece on Harrington a few years ago. He seemed remarkably un-bitter. He blew out his arm playing Indy ball, but he met his wife there, and between an insurance policy and suing his former agent came away quite well financially. He was changing tires at a Super K Mart or something.

      • marshmallowsnake - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:11 PM

        Yeah at a Costco…he did make out well in the end, I agree.

      • jwbiii - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:20 PM

        Yeah, couldn’t remember the name of the chain.

      • jwbiii - Jun 6, 2011 at 9:57 PM

        Here it is. Amy K. Nelson at ESPN, so it’s long but well-written.

  5. psousa1 - Jun 6, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    Harrington wasn’t sad – it was absolute stupidity

    • marshmallowsnake - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:12 PM

      Agreed…but the way that the agents overplayed his value, to me, is the sad part. I would have jumped at $4 million!

  6. sportsdrenched - Jun 6, 2011 at 3:07 PM

    I never played baseball beyond Little League. I wasn’t even good enough for my HS team.

    I have a good freind who was the best pitcher on his CC team. I played catch with him a few times. I was amazed at the movement he could put on the baseball. He wasn’t even good enough to get a sniff from a D1 School.

    The talent level of even the worst MLBer is just amazing. We lose perspective of how god those guys are because the other guys rarely get seen.

    The MLB draft more than anyother sport is a crap shoot. Like Craig said, a lot of kids will get their 15 minutes tonight and never be heard from again.

    • ncphilliesguy - Jun 6, 2011 at 4:58 PM

      A friend of mine’s husband played baseball at a major university and was all-american. The guy has at least 4 tools. He got drafted in the 6th round, was solid but not spectacular and moved up the chain until he got to AA, when the guy that drafted him got canned. He was then released (despite being an AA all-star and playing in AZ the previous year), got picked up by another organization, but got released again when a draftee from that organization got his spot. Now he is sitting at home, and you can’t convince me that he isn’t at least as good as Ben Fransisco or John Mayberry (maybe less experienced). To become a major leaguer you have to be a fantastic baseball player AND extremely lucky. Unless you are blessed with HOF talent.

  7. seattlej - Jun 6, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    That’s not even the most depressing story from that draft… Ron Williamson was the 41st pick in ’71. After a couple of sub-par minor league seasons he hurt his shoulder and washed out of baseball. He went back to the small town in Oklahoma where he was from and fell into drug and alcohol abuse while struggling with mental illness. He was never able to hold down a job and increasingly relied on family. Then, he really got kicked in the balls. In 1988 he was wrongfully convicted of murder by a corrupt DA and sentenced to death. He was on death row for 11 years before being exonerated by DNA evidence that had been available for some time. As one can imagine, the stress of being on death row left him in very poor mental and physical health and he passed away shortly after being released. His story is recounted in John Grisham’s “The Innocent Man”.

    • jwbiii - Jun 6, 2011 at 7:08 PM

      Heh. I just looked up Grisham’s imdb page to see if that been made in to a movie. No, but Grisham’s hobbies include coaching little league baseball.

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