SBD/Issue 184/Leagues & Governing Bodies

MLB Continues To Develop Draft Into Made-For-TV Event

Last Night's MLB Draft Was Televised For
Second Straight Year In Primetime On MLB Net

The MLB Draft, televised for the second straight year in primetime on MLB Network, showed expected growth from '09, with a new hour-long pregame show, a televised compensation round, look-ins into 20 team war rooms, and more fans and baseball luminaries on site, including four HOFers. The draft has taken on heightened importance in recent years as teams have grown more aggressive in signing homegrown star players to long-term deals, and clubs have found the draft a far more efficient and cost-effective means of player acquisition than free agency. "I talked to a lot of owners today, and it's the clubs that draft best and most smartly that do well," MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said of the once highly secretive draft proceedings. "Given the economics of the sport today, the draft is even more important, if that's possible, than when it was instituted in 1965. So this is a very, very crucial day in many respects. ... I've always wanted this to be what it is today. Clearly the other sports have an advantage (in their drafts). After all, players get a lot of fame and attention in their three and four-year (college) careers that they have. We don't have that, obviously. But given what's happened the last couple of years, as this grows and as the network grows, there's no question there's a big difference between even last year and this year, and I'm very hopeful and believe that this will continue to grow, and should." Padres Vice Chair & CEO Jeff Moorad added, "This has really gone beyond all expectations. When you look at this room, I'm proud to say that MLB doesn't have to play second fiddle to the NBA or NFL in terms of the draft. It can and should stand proud. This is a great tribute to the leadership of MLB, from the commissioner on down, to create an event that's turned into this" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

EXCUSED ABSENCES? SI.com’s Ted Keith noted for “much of Monday night, the scene inside MLB Network Studios seemed less about the stars of the future than it did the stars of the past.” While the “corridors were littered with familiar faces” such as former MLBers Jeff Bagwell and Barry Larkin, Studio 42 was “noticeably absent of any of the players whose names were being read every five minutes” by Selig. On a night when both the NBA and NHL finals were “not around to distract television viewers from tuning in to MLB’s proceedings, such absences counted as both a missed opportunity and a disappointing reality.” The proceedings are “still taking place inside the relatively cramped TV studio.” Like “much else about the draft, it is an improvement over just a few years ago, but still far short of being the must-see TV of its competitors’ versions” (SI.com, 6/7). The timing of the draft conflicts significantly with high school and college baseball playoffs, and the heavy fluidity of the event following the first few selections makes it very difficult to guarantee any particular player will be chosen. Selig, as he did last year, said last night he still would like to see more draft choices on site (Fisher). However, in N.Y., Thomas Kaplan noted most of the players selected in the Draft "are anonymous to the average fan," and the former MLBers give the proceedings "some recognizable names, if not star power" (NYTIMES.com, 6/7).

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