Thursday, June 7, 2007

Live, From Cinderella's Castle...

As you may have heard, the first four hours of baseball’s draft were broadcast live on ESPN2 on Thursday. Since I know almost nothing about draft prospects aside from a few random articles, I figured it was natural for me to sit down for the first round and report back on the goings-on. Every draft has a trademark; the NFL has Jets fans, the NBA has amazing suits, and the NHL has people un-ironically using the word “eh” in casual conversation. What will set baseball apart? Let’s find out...


Karl Ravech in the house, live from... Disney World? Sure, why not. Steve Phillips and the Man, the Myth, the Gammons fill out ESPN’s crew, who are speaking in a dead-silent room. You can hear the echoes when they speak. We’ve got people from Baseball American and Scouts, Inc. as well so that we have someone here who knows what they’re talking about.

Every draft has its own buzzword; football loves a player’s “motor,” the NBA loves “length.” Apparently baseball is all about “signability.” Tell me something doesn’t need to be fixed there.

I’m glad they broke out the green-room for the players here; watching players hold up jerseys they won’t see again for three more years (if at all) is going to be a hoot. Especially the part when the Commish has to force a smile; I don’t think I’ve seen Bud smile in ten years.

Don Zimmer is here to represent the D-Rays. I hope they don’t make him carry the card up the podium; Tampa’s five-minute clock might run out.

Apparently Devil Ray fans do exist; in fact, all 34 of them might be in the building this afternoon.

Apparently the Royals here at number two are the big wild card—if they take George Brett, everyone else’s draft board goes down the tubes.

Judging solely by decibels, it doesn’t sound like Royals fans turned out this afternoon. Or Nats fans. Or Cubs fans. Or Pirates fans. It’s going to be a quiet four hours.

Good, I get my first unspellable name—Mike Moustakas (Moustakis? Mustakas?). Anyway, he’s a prep shortstop that probably will end up at third base, and he goes to the Royals. I feel even worse for Royals beat writers than I already do—they’re going to have to learn to spell him.

I’ve read that the Cubs are in baseball’s doghouse because of their ownership problems and are being heavily leaned on not to overpay a guy here. I love me some conspiracy theories. Anyway, they take Josh Vitters, a prep third baseman. He’s the first in-attendance pick of the day, and sets the bar high for “most awkward interview of the day.” I’ve seen more personable things on the side of the road.

A good day for the Greeks so far—Daniel Moskos off the board, joining Moustakas. Gammons tells us that he wasn’t “abused” in college, which is good to know; I’ve heard rumors of the Gophers using Chinese water torture in practices.

A name I’ve actually heard goes off the board in Matt Wieters, a Georgia Tech catcher. This was not supposed to happen according to what I’ve read; Wieters is a Scott Boras client, and Peter Angelos apparently hates Boras. I’d enjoy sitting in on those negotiations.

The Nationals grab a left-handed pitcher at number six, Ross Detwiler. Is he already their third-best starter? Either way, he apparently eats six meals a day trying to gain weight. That comment is followed directly by a highlight package of Prince Fielder (the Brewers pick next); I’m guessing that if Detwiler (who is a skinny chap) eats six meals, Prince eats about forty-nine.

Brewers fans actually get a bit of a chant going as they grab Florida first baseman Matt LaPorta. The main word associated with the pick was “interesting,” followed by “intriguing.” I think both of those are code words for “bad.”

At 11, the Mariners grab a Canuk, Phillippe Aumont from Quebec. He’s apparently the last player in the building, which is a shame. I was hoping for someone sitting there until 50. In any case, he’s giving Vitters a run for his money in the interview. He’s the master of the three-word answer.

Another AL Central team up next with Cleveland on the clock. I’m preparing to hate whoever gets picked here... and that lucky chap is Beau Mills, a lumbering college slugger. ESPN has him on the phone, and I think he has a hate-able face. I can muster the required spite for this guy.

The Braves take a high school outfielder from Georgia, netting the biggest in-house cheers since Price at number one. ESPN has an epic list of Braves in-state picks; someone should buy the Atlanta front-office an atlas.

The Reds grab a high schooler from Punxsutawney, PA. Feel free to make your own Groundhog Day joke.

Over half-way through the first round now, and so fan I’m vastly disappointed by the use (or, the non-use) of all the team representatives in the house. If we don’t give Darryl Strawberry something to do soon, he’s going to relapse.

Peter Gammons just snuck in a shot at all of the people who “talk about Moneyball and then never read it.” I hope Joe Morgan isn’t watching. Oh, wait. Of course he isn’t watching. That would mean he’s actually attempting to do something informative for his job as a baseball analyst.

Karl Ravech points out the boards in all of the teams’ rooms, and asks Steve Phillips what’s on them. Response: “...Names of players.” That’s the kind of hard-hitting analysis that I’ve come to know and love.

Whoops. I got sucked in by a fantastic YouTube video and missed like three picks. Focus! Anywho, the White Sox on the clock, with the Twins coming up in three picks. We’re in the good stuff now.

Selig is finding a nice groove with his “Team X is on the clock” delivery. It’s just bored enough with a touch of obliviousness. Fantastic stuff. The White Sox take some college lefty. I wish him ill. Tigers, followed by Twins for the next two picks.

I snuck a question into a chat with Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein on Wednesday, and he said to be looking for high school middle infielders with the Twins at 28. The specific guy he mentioned may or may not have been named after the dorm I lived in my first year of college; we’ll see how this shakes out.

The Tigers take Rick Porcello, a high school pitcher regarded as one of the absolute top talents in the draft who fell because of the Scott Boras effect. The Tigers have been willing to take tough-to-sign guys (see: Andrew Miller last year) and it’s paid off big-time for them (Verlander, Miller, etc.). Twins on the clock.

I’m getting a bit worried about Detroit. They’re very willing to spend the extra money to get top-flight draft talents, and their rotation could be dominant in two years. Eek.

Ben Revere, a 5’9”, 152 pound high school centerfielder from Kentucky. Sounds like a pure speed guy; one of the ESPN talking heads loves this guy. No one else seems to have heard of him.

One thing that drives me nuts: Steve Phillips says that the Twins have to score runs by grinding it out because they don’t have the “boppers.” That might be true now, but why would that affect a draft pick? I mean, they could just as easily grab a power hitter, right? Not that I’m against this pick (I mean, what do I know?); I’m just against Steve Phillips.

On the plus side, this guy has an easily-punnable name. His first stolen base in a West-Coast night game can be his midnight ride. On the minus side, ESPN does not have a picture of Mr. Revere; he may or may not exist.

Here come the Yankees with the final came of round one. Everyone is expecting the money-bags to open up here. They end up rolling the dice on Andrew Brackman (a college righty), who may or may not have some kind of elbow injury. They’ll just keep him away from Pavano and I’m sure he’ll be fine.

So with the first round wrapped up, I’ll skedaddle as well. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by ESPN’s coverage. It was quite no-frills, with people who actually knew what they were talking about. There was no John Kruk-type to be seen, just Gammons, the prospect gurus, and Phillips to give a bit of front office perspective. The five minute gap is pretty solid as well; it gives the TV guys time to give a little info about each pick without the whole thing dragging. So all in all, not too shabby.

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