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I pick up a sports section after the holidaze, and I feel like Tom Hanks returning to civilization. The headline reads: "Proposal: Bad teams draft from winners", and in the story below, I see the baseball owners will be seriously considering a plan to allow the eight worst teams over a three-year period to draft players from the eight best teams. I turn to my best friend, the baseball, and I say, "Have they lost their minds, Rawlings?"

Actually, the idea of a "competitive balance draft" in baseball is not unprecedented. (Stupidity is not unprecedented either.) When National League owners realized after the 1963 season that they had stunted the growth of the expansion New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s, they allowed the two teams to pick off a few more fringe players. The Amazin's ended up with Jack Fisher, who lost 24 games for them in 1965. He also brought them future Series heroes Tommie Agee and Al Weis in a trade with the White Sox, but that just goes to show you that the Pale Hose were asleep, not that the owners were smart.

The idea for this remedial draft came from the owners' economic study committee (Five Guys Named George), whose mission was to water the basepaths for the small market teams. If this was one of the plans they thought was worth mentioning, I'd hate to see what they rejected. ("Hey, I got it! The 15 worst teams in baseball get to face Jaime Navarro at least once a season.")

What's wrong with a losers' draft? Rawlings, why don't you take it? Oh, you're speechless. Very well, I'll answer the question for you. EVERYTHING.

First and foremost, there would be that forbidden fruit -- the added incentive to lose. Royals vs. Twins, last game of the 2005 season. Winner gets nothing, loser gets to skim off the Yankees: "Honest, we were trying to win," says manager Tom Kelly. "I know I kept LaTroy in even after he gave up eight first-inning runs, but it looked like he still had good stuff."

Second, there's the built-in resentment from teams 9 through 22, who make neither the postseason nor the soup line.

Third, there's the built-in (but false) assumption that teams are bad because they're poor; I'm not really crazy about giving Peter Angelos any more help if his money hasn't done the trick.

Fourth, we're already reading the word "exposure" far too often in the sports pages.

Fifth, the best players left unprotected will probably be overpriced veterans whom poor teams can't afford anyway.

Sixth, I'll probably sit and watch gavel-to-gavel coverage of this abomination every three years because I am, after all, a baseball fan. ("With their third pick in The Old Navy Performance Fleece Draft, the Philadelphia Phillies select ... Timoniel Perez.")

The owners will also consider various anti-Boras measures this January: a change in college eligibility from junior to senior year; an earlier signing date; a worldwide draft. Rawlings and I have no strong opinions on these, although we do feel that a Cuban defector who risks his life on a rickety boat should get as much as he can from the multimillionaire suits.

But this "competitive balance draft" strikes us as lunacy. Maybe the owners are just trying to take our minds off the upcoming Mother of All Collective Bargaining Agreement Negotiations. Great: another work stoppage. Quite frankly, I don't know if Rawlings and I can bear to be separated again.

Steve Wulf is executive editor of ESPN The Magazine. E-mail steve.wulf@espnmag.com.



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