One of the best college pitchers available in this year’s draft had no business being drafted, and, to the credit of the ultra-competitive decision-makers of MLB, he was not drafted.
Luke Heimlich, Oregon State’s senior ace, plead guilty to, and was convicted of, molesting his six-year-old niece when he was 15. For that reason, he went undrafted in 2017 and in 2018, despite his baseball ability.
Following the draft, it was always possible that some organization – sensing an opportunity to get a prodigious baseball talent for a bargain – would proceed to try to sign him. I just never expected it would be the same organization that recently subjected its players to a presentation on the evils of pornography:
The Royals are considering trying to sign Luke Heimlich. Here's why they shouldn't https://t.co/KzysN3HNby
— The Kansas City Star (@KCStar) June 23, 2018
Of the possible pursuit of Heimlich, Royals GM Dayton Moore told the Kansas City Star, “We continue to seek information that allows us to be comfortable in pursuing Luke …. You try to be open-minded. We’re an organization that has constantly given players second and third chances …. The easy thing is to wipe your hands of it and don’t even look into it or deal with it. We’re going to continue to look into it. I think that’s what good organizations do. I think that’s what good people do. And we try to be both.”
So they say.
Before you start thinking about giving the Royals credit for taking a principled stand about redemption and forgiveness, consider whether they’d be doing this same thing if Heimlich was a 30th round-type prospect. And consider that Heimlich is currently denying that he did anything wrong, and instead pled guilty only to keep things quiet and move on.
I believe in the merits of serving one’s time, and being given a chance to become a productive member of society thereafter. I do not, however, believe that everyone is entitled to the status of “Major League Baseball player” by virtue of his ability to play the sport, alone. What can and should Heimlich be entitled to do with the rest of his life? I suppose that’s for each prospective employer to decide. For me, were I running an MLB team, this is not someone I would want associated with, and representing, my organization. The end. Maybe that makes me a lot of cold things, and maybe it’s the “easy thing” to do, but that’s where I am.
Even setting that aside, and looking at this from another perspective, I simply cannot fathom an organization deciding that the upside of having a “really good player” for cheap is worth the tremendous costs to the organization in the court of public opinion. Just imagine: even if Heimlich is successful and becomes one of the best and “most valuable” players in the league, the stain of his past will never leave your organization. Every time he takes the mound, you’ll feel it and you will bear that weight. Why on earth would you willingly subject yourself to that deserved, constant scrutiny just to get a good player?
Maybe the Royals will go through with this, and maybe they’ll successfully sell the story of nuance and redemption. But they go ahead, then they’ll do it knowing full well that there’s a child victim whose life was forever scarred by this pitcher that they just had to have.