Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Dumbest Idea Since Segregation

Baseball wants to honor black ballplayers who made the Negro Leagues an amazing venue of American sports during the first half of the 20th century. The best Negro League players are already in Cooperstown, and many others who could have excelled in the Major Leagues also deserve recognition. But not like this:
[Twenty-nine] former Negro Leaguers will be drafted in a pre-draft ceremony, a tribute formulated by Hall-of-Famer Dave Winfield and embraced by Major League Baseball.
There are two basic problems with a tribute in the form of a draft. First, black ballplayers went undrafted during segregation not because they were black, but because there was no amateur draft. The amateur draft was created in 1965; before that there was a minor league draft, which could have been a route from the Negro Leagues to the Major Leagues. However, Jackie Robinson and those who followed signed as free agents - exactly the way any player would want to.

Even if a draft existed, why would a player want to be drafted? The draft has been compared to involuntary servitude, and is always a means of keeping player salaries or bonuses down. By stripping players of their right to negotiate with any club (like a free agent), the teams protect their profit margins. Being drafted may mean access to professional baseball, but largely on the team's terms.

Perhaps MLB is unintentionally revealing its regrets over not including Negro League players earlier in its history: All that lost revenue...

1 comment:

Katy Widrick said...