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The first overall pick is from Puerto Rico, but it’s not something Bud Selig should be crowing about

Jun 5, 2012, 11:35 AM EST

Carlos Correa

The first overall pick in the draft was Carlos Correa, from Puerto Rico.  This made Bud Selig happy (scroll to second item):

Commissioner Bud Selig was thrilled to see Houston select 17-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa with the top pick in the draft. Correa played at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, and Major League Baseball is always looking to grow the game and foster talent outside the 50 states.

“Wonderful. It really is. It’s everything we’re trying to accomplish, in a lot of ways,” Selig said. “So I’m very pleased. Very pleased.”

There is lots of talk about how he’s the highest draft pick out of Puerto Rico ever, and how that’s such a great thing for the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.  And it is. But it’s also misleading.

There has only been a draft for players from Puerto Rico since 1989. Before that players from Puerto Rico were free agents, just like international players.  Also before that there were many more players from Puerto Rico in affiliated baseball than there are now, with most experts saying that the institution of the draft drove many away from baseball due to the far worse economic rewards compared to life under free agency.

The Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, then, wasn’t something that elevated baseball on the island. It was something that, at best, is trying to make up for the destruction Major League Baseball wrought to amateur baseball there by imposing the draft in the first place.

That Correa is the number one pick is a good thing for him, for Puerto Rico and for baseball.  That it took 23 years to get a number one overall pick from the land that produced Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and Roberto Alomar is not something that Bud Selig should be particularly proud of “accomplishing,” however.

  1. samgod13 - Jun 5, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    Is this effect overstated? Yes, I know that Correa is going to get 30 mil less because he was drafted, but is that difference what has kept kids away from baseball? The draft may be a contributing factor but I’d be surprised if it was the leading one.

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Jun 5, 2012 at 11:57 AM

      Draft vs Free Agency means that teams are less inclined to invest in a country and develop talent themselves. Many of the South American countries which operate outside of the draft have camps and academies set up by major league franchises, since they know they can develop and then sign talent. No team wants to invest in developing talent in Puerto Rico if it means the players that come out of their academies just go straight into the draft.

      So it’s not just the money that players can earn from free agency vs the draft, it’s the level of investment from teams interested in developing that free agent talent as well.

      • CJ - Jun 5, 2012 at 12:42 PM

        nailed it

      • myopinionisgarbage - Jun 5, 2012 at 1:22 PM

        The level of investment you’re referring to is also what leads to the craziness of people switching names of entire families. There is a lot more sleaziness involved with those camps than you’re giving them credit for. While you view free agency as a “way out” and “investments” for the poor children down there, it’s really nothing more than a labor racket of young children. Call a spade a spade.

      • natstowngreg - Jun 5, 2012 at 1:26 PM

        Puerto Rico is not a foreign country. It is part of the United States of America. Though Puerto Rico does fit into your comments (with which I agree) in the sense that baseball-wise, it’s more like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela than Florida or Texas or California.

      • js20011041 - Jun 5, 2012 at 1:56 PM

        myopinionisgarbage, there may be some instances of young Latin Americans being taken advantage of, but in many cases, if the team isn’t there “taking advantage” of them, what else do they have? If there were no MLB academies in the Dominican Republic, what else would these kids be doing? They’d be working in fields or they would be involved in crime, or any number of other far worse alternatives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very pro labor, but in this case, with those teams down there in those countries, at least some of the kids have a way out. Like The Dangerous Mabry said, a worldwide draft would kill the development of many of these players and would ultimately lead to fewer Latin American players in baseball. That’s not good for anyone.

      • samgod13 - Jun 5, 2012 at 4:29 PM

        Thanks!

  2. hushbrother - Jun 5, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    I would think the “far worse economic rewards” are still infinitely more appealing to young Puerto Ricans than the alternative of working in the sugar cane fields.

    • paperlions - Jun 5, 2012 at 1:20 PM

      Yep, those are the 2 options for athletic, young, Puerto Rican men….baseball or sugar can fields….no one in Puerto Rico plays basketball or soccer.

      As TDM pointed out above, the biggest difference is that there is only a fraction of the money spent to develop talent compared to the days before PR was included in the draft. As soon as MLB institutes a global amateur draft, you can rest assured that all of the team-based academies will immediately be shut down, which will require MLB itself to invest in talent development or see the number and quality of Latino players in MLB precipitously decline.

    • 4letterman - Jun 5, 2012 at 4:24 PM

      Being from Puerto Rico, there’s no sugar cane fields they can work on. Puerto Rican youth play other sports, basketball, boxing and so on. Also they can get a degree in college and have a profession. Just FYI

      • The Common Man - Jun 5, 2012 at 4:34 PM

        This is my favorite comment ever.

      • 4letterman - Jun 6, 2012 at 11:03 AM

        Because??? :-)

      • paperlions - Jun 5, 2012 at 5:08 PM

        So….what do they use to make all the rum? Don’t tell me they import sugar….scandalous.

      • 4letterman - Jun 6, 2012 at 11:11 AM

        Sadly enough they do….:-(

  3. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jun 5, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    I just hope that this is somehow a sign of better things to come from those outside the states. I’d love for the market to much more economically support draft players worldwide.

  4. rcali - Jun 5, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    What? You mean the first pick wasn’t somebody from an inner city? Baseball is doomed!!!!!!

  5. myopinionisgarbage - Jun 5, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    Essentially, your complaint is that, MLB has been forced to treat young baseball players in Puerto Rico as a big investment instead of a labor racket, and that this has curtailed the amount of talent that they can derive from Puerto Rico. That sucks for us as spectators of the sport who enjoy seeing greatness, no matter how it manifests itself, but it’s no small thing to just gloss around the ethical minefield of Latin American baseball camps.

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