The Phillies have finally spoken out about the team turning in two of its 2013 draft picks to the NCAA for using agents to negotiate in violation of NCAA rules. While Washington State’s Jason Monda was cleared to play and didn’t miss any games, Oregon State’s Ben Wetzler was suspended for the first 11 games this year. Director of scouting Marti Wolever commented on the narcing, which the team was silent about for months, in an interview with reporters late last week.
The Daily News’ David Murphy posted the entire Q&A with Wolever. Surprise: Wolever says it was blown out of proportion by the media, and that there’s been no blowback to the team over their attempt to harm the future livelihoods of college students. Even better: All of professional baseball is supportive of their attempt!
"You wouldn’t believe the number of people in professional baseball who have come up to me and our group over the course of the year and say, thank you for what you did," he told reporters. "You guys aren’t the bad guys in this situation." Wolver adds he has "no regrets" over turning in the players.
Wolever makes the point that the narcing was done not as a retributive measure but as a way to help the team. He has a point: Teams want to draft players who are willing to sign with them; when a player doesn't sign, the team essentially forfeited that draft slot (plus the money allotted to signing the player — by rule, as teams have a limited pool of funds to pay draft picks). Players can be drafted after they graduate high school, or after their junior and senior years of college. High school players and juniors can negotiate with teams, but aren't allowed to do so with an agent. It's an open secret that players do use agents as advisors, but the teams usually ignore it. "If you don’t want to sign, tell us," Wolever told reporters. "If you do, let’s try to reach an agreement and let’s move forward."
Wolever used the Phillies' ability to turn in players for negotiating with an agent as a warning: Sign with us like you said you would or we'll tell the NCAA you used an agent. The Phillies say the players lied to them — Monda, from Washington State, is going to medical school instead of playing pro baseball — and they were just doing their civic duty by turning him in to the NCAA. "The NCAA did the investigation, not the Philadelphia Phillies," Wolever said. Nothing to see here!
Sports teams (and fans) are always talking about wanting high-character guys for their teams. How about showing some character in the front office? The rules set by the NCAA, and supported by Major League Baseball, are incredibly unfair. They leave college students without the ability to have a lawyer when negotiating with a possible employer. The Phils didn't have to turn these players in. They tried to get two college players in trouble because the kids didn't sign. What a thing to be proud of.
This particular situation isn't a huge deal. Monda doesn't even want to play pro ball, and Wetzler is going to be drafted with a high pick this year. Everything worked out, I guess. The real question is: The Phillies' last 10 drafts have literally been the worst in baseball according to one analysis. Geeze. Would these guys have even been any good had they signed?
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