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Tuesday, June 9, 2009
News Flash: Baseball isn't Football

Dirty Harry on the baseball draft: Well, yeah.

Wait. No. That's not it.

I mean, that's part of it. But just a small part. Here's the big part ...

In the NFL draft, lots of linemen get drafted. How many football fans in Florida can name even a single Pac-10 lineman? In the NBA draft, lots of European players get drafted. How many basketball fans but the most rabid know anything about them?

Someone once said that in politics, "everything is local." That's not completely true ... but it's true enough, and the same thing might be said about sports. The NFL and the NBA drafts are "events" because the local fans get enthusiastic because the players drafted today are likely to show up on the field or the court within a few months.

In baseball it's usually two or three years. At best. If 25 or 30 teams were drafting two or three players who could play at the highest level this summer or fall, the local fans would follow the draft with great excitement. Six years ago, though, the Tigers' top five picks were Kyle Sleeth, Jay Sborz, Tony Giarratano, Josh Rainwater, and Danny Zell. You've probably heard of Sleeth, who was the third pick in the draft, topped out in Class AA, and seems to have retired from professional baseball with a 6.55 ERA. You probably haven't heard of those other four and probably never will.

I am tired of the people who want baseball to emulate football and basketball. It's a fool's errand, for the simple reason that baseball is a fundamentally different sport. Instead of complaining that it's not football or basketball, why can't we just appreciate -- no, celebrate -- how hard this game is to master?