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Global Draft Is a Foreign Notion Still

This year's selection of amateur baseball players, which starts today, remains largely a United States affair.

June 03, 2003|Gary Klein | Times Staff Writer

Before they left the bargaining table with a labor agreement in hand last August, bargaining agents for baseball owners and the players' union agreed to explore the concept of a worldwide baseball draft.

Nine months later, it remains closer to concept than reality.

A committee appointed to study the feasibility of implementing a global draft by this year or next has met only once and is far from working out the details.

So when the annual amateur draft begins today, it will be largely a United States affair, just as it was the first time, in 1965 when outfielder Rick Monday was selected with the first pick by the Kansas City Athletics.

Players from the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico are eligible, as are foreign players attending U.S. schools. Players can be drafted as seniors in high school, while attending junior colleges, after their junior years at four-year colleges or if they turn 21 within 45 days of the draft.

Rob Manfred, management's lead labor lawyer, said he remained hopeful that a worldwide draft could be instituted by next year.

"If we thought it wasn't going to happen, we wouldn't be spending time in the committee," Manfred said last week.

Owners have pushed for a worldwide draft because they want to stop paying multimillion-dollar bonuses to domestic draftees and foreign free agents. Most also believe that a global draft would level the playing field between smaller-market teams and big-budget franchises such as the Dodgers, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves, who have invested heavily in international scouting and have reaped the benefits.

The union is philosophically opposed to any draft because of restraint-of-trade issues and is not eager to stem the flow of bonuses by putting more players around the world under any one team's control.

The worldwide draft, a secondary point to begin with, fell by the wayside during last summer's labor negotiations when owners and players came to agreement on the marquee issues: revenue sharing and the luxury tax.

However, the sides agreed to begin discussions about the draft last Oct. 15. Sandy Alderson, vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner's office; Gene Orza, the union's associate general counsel, and Montreal Expo General Manager Omar Minaya are among the committee members who were charged with working out the details.

On Monday, Orza said that several meetings were postponed because of logistical and scheduling problems. He described the committee's initial meeting about three weeks ago as "fairly fruitful," but said it was very preliminary.

"The hard issues have yet to come up," he said.

Among those issues: the number of rounds there would be in a worldwide draft.

During negotiations last summer, owners proposed one 40-round draft that would have included amateur players from every country but Cuba. Players not selected in the draft would have been free agents, eligible to negotiate with any team. Those already playing in professional leagues in their countries would not have been eligible and would have continued to go through a posting system, as Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners and pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii of the Dodgers did in Japan.

The union proposal called for two drafts -- one of eight rounds for amateur players in the U.S., and one of eight rounds for foreign amateur players. Players not selected would have been free to negotiate with any team.

According to Manfred, there is now agreement that the draft will consist of at least 20 rounds but not more than 38.

"The difference between 20 and 38 is still an issue," he said.

Also at issue is the future of baseball academies that several teams operate in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

Orza said the committee would meet again in the next few weeks but refused to speculate about whether a framework would be in place in time for next year's draft.

Logan White, the Dodgers' scouting director, said a worldwide draft would make it tougher for some teams because they would have to begin spending money and scout internationally, regardless of whether there were combines. He also said there might be too many international hurdles to overcome.

"I think it's going to be very difficult to iron out all the kinks and make it a reality," he said. "But either way, we'll be fine."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

2003 Draft Order

FIRST ROUND

1. Tampa Bay

2. Milwaukee

3. Detroit

4. San Diego

5. Kansas City

6. Chicago Cubs

7. Baltimore

8. Pittsburgh

9. Texas

10. Colorado

11. Cleveland

12. New York Mets

13. Toronto

14. Cincinnati

15. Chicago White Sox

16. Florida

17. Boston

18. Cleveland (from Philadelphia for signing Jim Thome)

19. Arizona (from Seattle for signing Greg Colbrunn)

20. Montreal

21. Minnesota

22. San Francisco (from Houston for signing Jeff Kent)

23. Angels

24. Dodgers

25. Oakland

26. Oakland (from San Francisco for signing Ray Durham)

27. New York Yankees

28. St. Louis

29. Arizona

30. Kansas City (from Atlanta for signing Paul Byrd)

SUPPLEMENTAL FIRST ROUND

31. Cleveland (loss of Jim Thome); 32. Boston (loss of Cliff Floyd); 33. Oakland (loss of Ray Durham); 34. San Francisco (loss of Jeff Kent); 35. Atlanta (loss of Tom Glavine); 36. Atlanta (loss of Mike Remlinger); 37. Seattle (failure to sign first-round pick John Mayberry).

*

Cream of the Crop

* DELMON YOUNG: An outfielder from Camarillo High, he is expected to be chosen first or second in the amateur draft, which begins today. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have the first pick and on Monday were reportedly considering either Young, the younger brother of Detroit Tiger Dmitri Young, or Southern University infielder Rickie Weeks.

* Other highly touted Southland prospects include third baseman IAN STEWART and pitcher IAN KENNEDY of Westminster La Quinta; California third baseman Conor Jackson, who played at Woodland Hills El Camino Real, and pitcher JARED HUGHES of Santa Margarita.

Gary Klein

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