MLBits: Spoiling Extra Draft Attention, No Reunion for Harvey/Mets, 50-Game Playoff Implications, More

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MLBits: Spoiling Extra Draft Attention, No Reunion for Harvey/Mets, 50-Game Playoff Implications, More

Chicago Cubs

Although the MLB Draft is obviously hugely important to the sport, it never quite carries the day with fans the way drafts do in the NBA and NFL. Part of that is because those sports are simply more popular, particularly in college, where top draft picks are on national display for a year or two before they join the pros. And part of that is because top picks in those sports wind up as difference makers in the big leagues MUCH sooner than they do in baseball, where some time in the minors is all but guaranteed. There’s really nothing MLB can do about any of that, it’s just the nature of the sport, and that’s okay.

But another reason I think other drafts are more popular is length. The NFL and NHL deploy seven round drafts and the NBA is down to just two rounds. MLB, by contrast, has 40(!) round drafts in a typical year. So even if you’re able to generate some extra attention for the early rounds (which they haven’t really been able to accomplish), promoting the draft as one (or two), digestible viewing experience(s) is simply not possible, and that hurts its national broadcast appeal. Basically, everything about baseball works against the draft being a big, popular, national event. And that’s not good for the sport.

But this year was supposed to be different. Although a five-round draft absolutely *stinks*, one silver-lining was the increased national coverage and hype. Finally, MLB was getting the sort of back-to-back national coverage/excitement other sports routinely receive when they welcome new players to the professional ranks. But now? Well, there’s a big problem.

In case you missed it earlier today, the owners lobbed the ball back into the player’s court, with a proposal that is *absolutely* going to be rejected by the union. But that’s not the only problem. The owners asked for the answer on … you guessed it! Day 1 of the draft:

So now, instead of only not having good news to share (opportunity missed to have a big, feel-good moment), the league will have the pleasure of a freshly-rejected return-to-play proposal clouding over the ONE YEAR they have more draft coverage.

I’m not going to be so cynical as to assume the owners WANT the players to look like they’re the ones standing in the way on a day when that message will be amplified by additional MLB coverage. But that’s certainly how it looks.

At every single turn, MLB – and specifically the owners – are making this process as painful in the short and long term as possible.

No Reunion for Mets and Matt Harvey

In the MLBits on Friday, we discussed Matt Harvey’s potential move to the KBO (along with two other yet unnamed “former MLB All-Stars”), and largely understood his decision. However, yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of the Mets drafting Matt Harvey 7th overall and with that came some intrigue as to a potential reunion in 2020.

Some intrigue that was quickly squashed …

I believe it is time for Matt Harvey to head to the KBO or NPB to rebuild some value. The 7.09 ERA and 6.35 FIP in 2019 is just not going to cut it.

Hey, by the way: As I mentioned, yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of the Mets taking Harvey, but it was ALSO the same year the Blue Jays took Noah Syndergaard 38th overall and the Mets took Jacob deGrom several rounds later.

Theo Epstein Does Better in One Try

Earlier today, Theo Epstein jumped on a pre-draft conference call with the Chicago media, and elected to begin with a message on the on-going, largely justified, civil unrest:

And I just want to point out how easy it was for him to say the right things.

There’s an enormous gap between words and action, and yet most teams/leagues/businesses have failed at the easy part: saying the right thing. It took Epstein exactly one sentence to say the names of those who’ve been killed and to condemn the on-going, systemic racist violence in this country. He didn’t fix anything, but these are much better, more productive comments than we’ve seen from most MLB teams, or the league in general.

Expanded Playoffs

In case you missed it, the league has proposed an expanded playoff picture this year, that could include more than half the league (16 teams has been floated). In addition, with 50 (or fewer) games a real possibility, the playoff picture may look absolutely ridiculous and unbalanced this year.

To illustrate this point, CBS Sports has taken the time to look back at the last five playoff races to see who would’ve made the postseason from 2015-2019 if there were a total of 14 teams included over the full 162 game schedule, as well as if there were 14 teams included at the 50-game mark.

I’m sure you’ll want to click over to see the full chart of outcomes, but I thought we could talk about the Cubs at the 50-game mark, to internalize how much a short season can mess with expected outcomes.

In reality, the Cubs made it into the 2015 postseason as the 2nd wild card team, but at the 50-game mark, they were actually out of the regular postseason picture. If MLB expanded to two extra teams per league, they’d make it in as the 3rd Wild Card, but that’s obviously a much tougher journey for a team that ultimately made it to the NLCS.

Nothing changes for the Cubs in the 2016 postseason. They were in first at the end of the year and at the 50-game mark.

In reality, the Cubs won their division in 2017, but at the 50-game mark, it was the Brewers who were leading the way. In fact, at the 50-game mark, the Cubs (i.e. the eventual division-winners) would’ve been the FOURTH wild card entry. Again, this is a team that went on to the NLCS for the third consecutive season.

At the 50-game mark in 2018, the Cubs would’ve been in a four-way tie for the second wild card. And in 2019, they actually would’ve won the division, instead of finishing in 3rd behind the Cardinals and Brewers.

Needless to say, 50 games is a terrible way to pick a winner.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami