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Volume 25 No. 111
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Kyler Murray's Decision On NFL Future Could Be Blow For MLB

Murray's payoff in football could be immediate as opposed to working his way through MiLB
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Kyler Murray's decision to play football instead of baseball with the A's "isn't a reflection" on him as much as it is an "indictment of Major League Baseball," according to Dieter Kurtenbach of the EAST BAY TIMES. Murray might be "following his passion by choosing football over baseball, but it's a lot easier to do that when your passion will pay better now and probably later." As pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, baseball season "has officially started, but the most marketable star in the sport, Bryce Harper, remains unsigned," and Manny Machado is also "unemployed." However, MLB's issues "aren't just champagne problems for the top-level guys, it's a trickle-down disease." A number of Giants players said that there was a "consensus that just about every player in the MLB pipeline is getting jobbed in one way or another, and there's sadly no resolution in sight." Kurtenbach: "Football has problems. So many problems. But a passion for the sport aside, why would you be stunned that Murray isn't interested in committing his future to Major League Baseball? ... I have a hard time seeing how Major League Baseball -- on the whole -- will bounce back from Murray's decision" (EAST BAY TIMES, 2/12).

SYSTEMIC ISSUES: USA TODAY's Andrew Joseph wrote there is "clearly a problem when the biggest move to happen in the MLB offseason" was Murray deciding that he "didn't want to play baseball." Harper and Machado "could have thrived on the drama that makes the NBA a yearlong soap opera," but instead they "remain unsigned." Joseph wrote the lack of movement on star free agents "has been frustrating to fans and the players." MLB could have "benefited from instituting hard deadlines for signing top-tier free agents" (USATODAY.com, 2/11). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes MLB and the NFL are "fundamentally different in their development process." Almost every MLBer "logs years in the minors," while a first-round NFL QB is "typically hailed as the instant savior of his franchise." The MLBPA has been "dismayed" by the trend of teams using the draft system to their advantage, which has "lessened demand -- and therefore salaries -- for veteran free agents." Murray's case "shows another regrettable consequence" of this trend, as it is possible if the A's had "been able to offer more money to Murray last June, they could have kept him off the football field entirely" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/12). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Beaton & Diamond write Murray's decision is a "blow to baseball." MLB has "devoted considerable resources in recent years to attract top athletes -- and particularly young, black athletes -- to a sport that has seen its African-American ranks plummet" since the '80s. The league had "hoped that, especially with the increased focus on the injury risk of playing football, baseball would be better positioned to convince two-sport prospects to choose the diamond over the gridiron" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/12). 

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY:  ESPN's Clinton Yates said Murray's decision is a "big indicator of a major problem" for MLB. Yates: "I don't knock him for this but if you're Major League Baseball, you think, 'We really had a chance to have a star on our hands and we let him slip away'" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/11). The N.Y. Post's Ken Davidoff said Murray choosing the NFL is a "terrible development for baseball and for the Oakland A's." MLB Network's Dave Valle said, "I'd love to see a way where baseball can accommodate talent like that like they have in the past" ("MLB Now," MLB Network, 2/11). ESPN's Pablo Torre said the MLBPA "wanted to argue for major league contracts for minor leaguers just to get him in the door on the potential of it." Torre said MLB "sent marketing executives" to meet with Murray "because they needed a guy like that, and he was like, 'No, football please'" ("High Noon," ESPN, 2/11).

TO BE EXPECTED? USA TODAY's George Schroeder writes no one "should really be surprised" by Murray choosing the NFL over MLB. In baseball, Murray is a "five-tool prospect." Schroeder: "But emphasis on the noun." Murray might one day "become a baseball superstar, but he'd first have to work his way up through the minor leagues." In football, Murray's "payoff could be immediate." He is arriving at the "perfect time, with NFL front offices growing gradually more open toward quarterbacks who don't fit their preconceived notions of size" (USA TODAY, 2/12). Meanwhile, SI.com's Jon Tayler wrote MLB "isn't at fault for Murray following his passion, and it's too simplistic to say that MLB couldn't pay him enough." However, in another sense, that "statement is true: MLB couldn't offer Murray enough to win him away from the NFL." MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and the rest of the league office "can only blame themselves" for that. MLB also "couldn't compete" with the "promise of instant stardom and endorsements and all the other incentives that would have come with being in the NFL." One "can't blame" the MLB for that, but it does "represent how precarious" the league's position on the media map is (SI.com, 2/11). MLB Network's Chris Rose said Murray is "already a superstar." He said, "It's hard to tell a superstar to go ride the buses and maybe you'll get a crack at the majors in a couple of years. That's not what the game is built like these days" ("Intentional Talk," MLB Network, 2/11). MLB Network's Chris Russo said Murray "understands that he was playing against teams like Alabama in the Orange Bowl in front of 85,000 people." Russo: "Would he rather do that next year or bounce around in the Pacific Coast League or Double-A somewhere in front of 100 people on buses?" ("High Heat," MLB Network, 2/11).

AIN'T OVER YET: THE ATHLETIC's Ken Rosenthal wrote the A's battle to get Murray on the diamond "isn't over." Sources said that the A's were always "willing to allow Murray to participate" in both the NFL Combine and NFL Draft and "gather as much information as possible before making his decision." The A's "know they can top any financial offer Murray receives from the NFL, no matter where he is selected." While Murray "seemingly left no ambiguity in his statement," his words "were not binding." Sources said that Murray has "sent conflicting signals to the A's in recent weeks" (THEATHLETIC.com, 2/11).