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Is draft nepotism really a big deal?

Jun 10, 2011, 8:46 AM EDT

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I hate nepotism. I’d probably still hate nepotism even if I ever had a relative who could do me a favor, which I didn’t (damn). I’d probably still hate nepotism even if my first job in the law hadn’t been working for a guy who hired his son a couple of years later and treated him like a full partner while I reviewed documents all day.

Nepotism is bad for institutions because it favors relationships over competence. Or, when the relative just happens to be competent anyway — which does happen, you know, because not all nephews and favored sons are simpletons — it’s not fair for the relative because no one else will ever believe they earned what they got.  And of course, nepotism is totally depressing for non-nepotees.

The subject of nepotism has come up in connection with the baseball draft for years, as teams have frequently drafted sons and — in at least one case a daughter — of team executives and dignitaries. It happened this year, with a couple of teams drafting sons of favorite sons and, depending on who you believe, the White Sox’ not drafting Ozney Guillen bent Ozzie Guillen’s nose out of shape.

Against this backdrop, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes the following:

Baseball teams routinely draft their favorite sons with throwaway picks, and that’s a problem Commissioner Bud Selig can’t ignore before next year’s Nepotism Seminar reconvenes … To make everybody more comfortable, the league needs to impose late-round restrictions and shorten the draft — and not just to save the Guillens from acting like the baseball Kardashians every June. Tweaks in the rules also would ease the burden of baseball executives who likely feel pressure they never will acknowledge publicly to draft sons or nephews or buddies on the final day.

My above-stated stand on nepotism notwithstanding, this is silly. This is certainly a problem Bud Selig can ignore. It’s almost the perfect definition of that which is ignorable. “To make everybody more comfortable” is the standard for new rules now?  If that’s the case, boy howdy, do I have a list of demands, because I know from comfort.

Baseball teams can and should draft whoever they want. I’d love if the Braves took me in the 49th round next year simply so I could say I was unhappy with my bonus and decided to go to junior college.  I hope the Rangers find some long lost relative of Mickey Rivers and pick him on day three.  There are a zillion rounds and a zillion non-draftee signings after that with which teams can stock their system.  If a team executive wants to burn a pick on junior simply so he can have some inside joke/memento to share with relatives next Christmas, who are we to judge?  Well, we can judge, but why should we care?

Let ‘em draft who they want to draft. If the organization is so dysfunctional that a pick or a non-pick is going to upset team morale, there are likely other, much bigger problems swirling around the front office. If a team is drafting poorly with its legitimate picks, the GM is going to be out of a job soon enough anyway. As long as the guy isn’t picking his sister’s kid while leaving a solid middle infielder with good on-base ability on the draft board, I can’t think of anything I care less about.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Jun 10, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    Agreed. What a stupid non-story from Haugh.

  2. jakemanny - Jun 10, 2011 at 9:19 AM

    It would have been a shame if we missed out on mike piazza.

  3. xnumberoneson - Jun 10, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    The draft is such a crapshoot anyway. By the time you get to the later rounds, you’re basically just filling roster space in the low minors. So who cares if it’s nepotism? And every once in a great while you get Mike Piazza, who was “like a son” to Tommy Lasorda.

  4. kellyb9 - Jun 10, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    Nepotism isn’t a big deal at all. If a team is willing to waste a pick, it’s their problem. I will mention that GM’s likely look for a baseball “pedigree”. Being a good athlete can be genetic whereas being good in the white collar world probably isn’t. So who can really fault a GM for picking a popular last name.

  5. ThatGuy - Jun 10, 2011 at 9:26 AM

    I’ll have you know Toby Gardenhire and his career .230/.292/.269 batting line, clearly made it to AAA in the Twins system on his own accord, steadly climbing up the ranks never spending more than 1.5 season at any level.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 10, 2011 at 9:33 AM

      John Scheurholtz Jr. did the same for the Braves. He was selected in the same draft as Francoeur, and was promoted almost as quickly, never hitting a lick. At all. He finally quit playing and now he’s coaching or something in the organization.

      Which, hey, if he has actual managerial skills like his dad, great. But his promotion as a player was a farce.

      • ThatGuy - Jun 10, 2011 at 9:50 AM

        But what makes me scared, is he is a Utility infielder who can’t hit. Which means I would not surprised at all to see him as a bench player on the Twins next year…

      • joshfrancis50 - Jun 10, 2011 at 10:06 AM

        Farcical perhaps, but isn’t there a part of you who, today, would rather see Scheurholtz Jr. on the team than Frenchie?

      • natstowngreg - Jun 10, 2011 at 12:54 PM

        Excellent point, Craig. I see no problem with drafting relatives. Basing roster decisions on nepotism is another matter.

        However, I don’t see banning the practice as the answer. Seems to me, if a team promotes unqualified relatives, it would be penalized on the field.

  6. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Jun 10, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    This kind of story happens nearly every year about this time in Chicago. With two months of the season gone, the Chicago baseball writers can’t write about either team (they run out of printable ways to say “crappy”). So, they write about a non-existent problem and offer a solution. A better idea would have been to write a real story about how the Cubs need to fire everyone (from the owner to ticket takers) and start over. Now, that’s a solution to a real problem.

  7. twofistedslopper - Jun 10, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    I don’t quite think drafting a player like this is nepotism, it’s more like pedigree: you know the kid has athletic skills, let’s see if the parents passed down the talent.

    Doug Melvin/Jack Z (the round mound of profound) did this often in the high rounds with the Brewers: Fielder, Gwynn Jr, Dykstra, Jemile Weeks. Talent will rise to the top (Braves and Twins be damned!), the rest is filler.

  8. spudchukar - Jun 10, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    It still sucks when you ARE the solid middle infielder with on base ability, and you get by-passed due to some kid, whose Dad is head of player procurement.

  9. royalsfaninfargo - Jun 10, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    As per your stand on nepotism Craig: I assume you are not grooming your child to take over Hardballtalk after you call it quits?! Because my youngest daughter is being groomed as we speak to take over my duties as a commenter when i finally hang up the keyboard.

  10. The Rabbit - Jun 10, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    According to some sportswriters, when Alex Avila was called up, it was only due to his father’s position in the TIgers org. (Don’t know whether they thought he should have been drafted.)
    I’m sure they’ve forgotten what they wrote.

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