Monday, June 9, 2014

Why the MLB Draft Is Just Not Exciting

Every year around the first week of June, Major League Baseball hosts its annual First Year Player Draft. Now to many fans of sports in general, when you hear the word draft, you automatically jump to thoughts of Radio City Music Hall for the NFL Draft, or watching the ping pong balls fly during the NBA Draft Lottery. However, there is nothing the common fan can match up the MLB Draft with, and that along with many reasons, is contributing to the baseball draft becoming one of the least watched sports-related events out of all American sports.

It all starts at the collegiate level. Who flips through the channels on a Saturday afternoon praying that there will be some college baseball on for them to watch? Unfortunately, just like most other college athletics, baseball has fallen into the shadow of college football and college basketball. This shadowing results in less player recognition, which also deters fans away from the draft. Going into the NFL Draft just a couple of weeks ago, everybody was tuning in to see if Jadaveon Clowney was going to go first overall, or who would be selecting Johnny Manziel, and his ego, to come play for them. That's not to say there haven't been top players go first overall in the baseball draft. Players such as Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Gonzales, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper (pictured below together) have all been selected with the top pick. 

Another issue is the publicity and length of the draft. The build up behind the draft is not well talked about on major sports network ESPN, and thus misses a large amount of publicity just from that alone. For the past couple years, the draft has been broadcasted on MLB Network, a station that does not come standard on most cable packages, and thus lowers viewership that easily. The MLB draft is also 40 rounds long, and then add on compensatory draft picks, that is a lot of draft to watch. High school seniors are also eligible for the draft, which although differs from the NBA and NFL, results in even less of player recognition. For example, the top pick in this year's draft was Brady Aiken. Although Aiken has the potential to be a top of the rotation pitcher for the Houston Astros, many fans have never heard of before draft day, as he attended Cathedral Catholic High School, a small, private high school in San Diego.

Fixing the draft will not be an easy process. The MLB is already decades behind the NFL and NBA in development of a popular draft, and that is a very deep hole to dig yourself out of. I think the key move would be to move the draft off of MLB Network and onto ESPN, at least for the first couple rounds. For comparison, the NFL Draft on ESPN received a 8.6 rating, while the MLB Draft on MLB Network received a 0.2. With Bud Selig set to retire soon, there is a chance that the new commissioner will realize the potential for huge revenue through a popular draft, and will run all the way to the bank with it.

Bennett Schiff is a freshman in the Drexel Sport Management program, and one of the few members of the major from the powerful state of Rhode Island. He has volunteered for the U.S. Open of Squash held at Drexel as well as becoming a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity. Prior to arriving on Drexel's campus, Schiff was very active in his local community with his synagogue.

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