May 27, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels managerMike Scioscia
is interviewed before the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
The trade deadline is approaching. I know, shocker right? We only hear about it all the time right now. Which teams are looking for what kind of players to help in their playoff push. Which team should let whom go. The rumors on who’s going where and when, etc, etc, ad nauseum. Of course, most of the talk regarding the Halos is that they’re too far back to make a push toward the playoffs and many people are speculating about who can be traded, who would bring the most back for the team in return. I think I even read something advocating the Angels do as bad as possible in second half of the season so they get better draft picks.
These people have various reasons for their rumination on this particular topic, most seems to be focused on rebuilding the depleted farm system, which has lost so much in recent years due to trades and has lost out on higher picks because of the big signings that have been made the past few years. Six times in the past eight seasons, the Angels haven’t had a first or second round pick thanks to signings of Jeff Weaver, Gary Matthews Jr., Justin Speier, Torii Hunter, Scott Downs, Albert Pujols C.J. Wilson, and Josh Hamilton. The highest the Angels’ have been able to draft has been the 17th pick in 2011, where C.J. Cron was acquired.
I see all this and understand the desire some fans have to build the system back up, but I am far from advocating tanking the rest of the season in order to gain a higher pick. Sure, you could end up with a Bryce Harper (the top pick in 2010), Stephen Strasburg (number one in 2009), David Price (first in 2007), Justin Upton (one overall in 2005), Joe Mauer (to lead off 2001), Adrian Gonzalez (who opened the 2000 draft), Josh Hamilton (the premier pick in 1999), Darin Erstad (the initial choice of 1995), Alex Rodriguez (the primary selection in 1993), or Chipper Jones (numero uno in1990), who have had stellar careers (in some cases so far)…
You could also end up with a Brien Taylor, Matt Bush, or, though nowhere near as disappointing as these two, the still tragic Steven Chilcott, each of whom never even played a game in the Majors. The Yankees picked Brien Taylor number one in the 1991 draft. He suffered a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum during a fight outside of baseball in 1993, the injury required surgery to repair; he never played a game above AA, and most recently, was in court where in August 2012, he plead guilty to federal cocaine trafficking charges and was given 38 months in prison along with 3 years’ supervised release.
Chilcott was chosen first by the Mets in 1966, the second year the draft was in place (interestingly enough, he was the top pick just ahead of Reggie Jackson.) He was a catcher and thought to be on his way to making it to the majors in 1967 when he dislocated his shoulder while diving back to second base on a pick off attempt, which ended his season. His career after that was plagued by injuries and he never played beyond AAA. Fortunately, he has had the best life of the three outside of baseball. He became a contractor in 1980 and lives comfortably in Santa Barbara.
Matt Bush is perhaps the most harrowing story of all. The top selection in 2004 by the San Diego Padres, he was suspended before ever seeing the field because of a bar fight. In 2007 he was converted to a pitcher, but a torn ligament in his pitching elbow that year ended his season, led to him having Tommy John surgery and kept him out for 2008. The 2009 season brought a new deal with the Blue Jays, but knowing his past history of violence, recklessness and leagal troubles, the deal they signed him to was one with zero tolerance behavioral code and allowed them to release him in March, the day after he reportedly was in an another altercation with a woman at a party.
Next the Tampa Bay Rays took a chance and signed him to a minor league contract in 2010, and he was set to begin the 2012 season for their AAA affiliate the Durham Bulls, but the they severed any ties to him after his arrest for hit-and-run and DUI during spring training last year. Rays GM Andrew Friedman announced that Bush would never play for the Rays organization again, and he was put on the restricted list for the season. It should be noted that Matt Bush hasn’t retired from Major League Baseball as yet, but he was sentenced to 51 months of prison following his latest drunk driving incident to which he plead no contest in December 2012 and I’m including him because he has yet to play a day for a Major League ball club.
Meanwhile, Mike Trout, Matt Garza and Matt Cain were all taken 25th in 2009, 2005, and 2002 respectively. Albert Pujols was famously a 13th round pick in 1999 and Mike Piazza was chosen 1,390th during round 62 of the draft his year. The Yankees originally drafted Chris Davis in the 50th round of 2004 as the third to last pick; he is currently lighting it up for the Orioles, leading the league in home runs. The Florida Marlins signed reigning AL MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera as an amateur free agent in 1999.
There have been 45 number one draft picks since the inception of the draft in 1965; only 3 players taken first have won Rookie of the Year awards, 22 have represented their teams in All Star games, and only 2 have gone to the World Series with the team that drafted them: Darryl Strawberry and Chipper Jones.
My point is, getting top picks doesn’t necessarily mean they’re guaranteed success in the big leagues, nor does getting a later selection indicate the players’ performances will be relative to when their chosen, which is why I would never support the team doing poorly in order to get higher choices. Besides, with teams like the Miami Marlins, the Angels probably wouldn’t even end up with a top pick.
Maybe I’m crazy. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m the only fan that can’t help but root for the team to do as well as possible and hope against all odds for an amazing comeback that puts them in the playoff race. If the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates can go from being 16 games over .500 with a record of 63-47 as late as August 8th to finishing with a record of 79-83 (giving them a record 20 consecutive losing seasons), who knows what can happen this season.