It’s been a little over a week since news broke that the Phillies turned draft pick Ben Wetzler into the NCAA. And, somehow, things have gotten worse!
According to the report, from Baseball America‘s Aaron Fitt, the Phillies thought Ben Wetzler would sign with the team when it selected him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. The Phillies didn’t meet the dollar number Wetzler wanted, so he went back to Oregon State.
In turn, the Phillies ratted on him to the NCAA for using an agent. They also allegedly told the NCAA about Jason Monda, a sixth-round pick of the Phillies who decided to return to Washington State. According to NCAA rules, players are not allowed to sign with an agent until they leave school. According to Fitt, it is standard practice for players to have an "advisor" who helps them negotiate with the team. It is immoral to force college kids to negotiate without any representation, but it makes sense: Best I can tell from its rules, the NCAA brass hates college students. (The rule: "If the student-athlete is considering returning to an NCAA school, that advisor may not negotiate on behalf of a student-athlete or be present during discussions of a contract offer, including phone calls, email or in-person conversations.")
Monda was cleared the day before the season started. Wetzler was suspended for the first 11 games of Oregon State's season. The Phillies issued a statement:
"The Phillies did participate in the NCAA investigation and a ruling has been issued. We believe it is inappropriate to comment further on either the negotiation with the player or the action taken by the NCAA."
Or, rather, they sort of issued one! Then Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro talked with reporters about how he wouldn't say anything. Here was the best exchange:
Q: Do you think it could affect you, getting on college campuses, checking out guys, and in future drafts?
RAJ: I think people know we do things professionally and the way we go about our business. So I think our reputation is very good.
Has Amaro not seen the amount of Ryan Howard contract jokes made at his expense on the Internet? Geeze, all you need to do to be a "funny" baseball writer is say "Ryan Howard's contract" and — wham! — baseball blogging job offer.
Here's the deal, though: This could hurt the Phillies. Maybe it will! And although it probably can't do anything as it represents only major league players, the players' union is investigating.
Without further explanation from the team, one can only surmise that the Phillies attempted to harm this kid's baseball career simply out of spite. (Okay, he's 22, but whatever.) The Phillies have been turned down by players before! Fortunately, Wetzler will be able to play this season. But what if the NCAA had suspended him for a full season? What if missing these 11 games hurts him this season? Maybe you don't care about Ben Wetzler, but baseball prospects follow baseball news and read Baseball America. Who's going to be happy with the Phillies?
There is risk for MLB clubs in turning in players to NCAA:College coaches have the power to lock down scouting access to specific MLB teams.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) February 20, 2014
And, well, it's unfair: If college players know that a team could turn them into the NCAA if they don't sign, they could be pressured into signing a below-market deal. That would work out well for baseball teams, but not so much for the kids. It is not inappropriate for the Phillies to talk about this. They should be forthcoming as to why they turned him in — per the Portland Tribune, the agent is "a well-regarded executive who has represented many athletes in the Northwest over the years" — and if this is standard policy from now on. Geeze, just blame it on a nameless low-level employee and let's move on! The fans kind of do deserve to know if the Phillies are planning on being this stupid again in the future.
The real question is, of course: If the Phillies are going to make it a habit of attempting to ruin the lives of children, do they take requests? There are always obnoxious kids walking around downtown, maybe Amaro can teach them a lesson.
Follow @dhm on Twitter.