Friday, June 02, 2006

In the 50th round, the Baltimore Orioles select Jeffrey F#@!IN' Maier, Wesleyan University!?

This article from The Washington Post is causing some groans in the Orioles community (link and link).

That's right, Jeffrey Maier is getting some (and by some I mean very few) looks from Major League teams as a potential draft choice in next week's First-Year Player Draft.

Maier, best known in these parts as the 12-year-old demon child from Old Tappan, N.J., who tipped fate in the Yankees favor on a now-infamous October night in 1996, is now a 22-year-old Division III college baseball player who just recently broke the all-time hits record at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. But to put that in perspective, Division I baseball is pretty talentless outside of the top few teams in the Pac-10, ACC and SEC, and Wesleyan hasn't had a player drafted since 1965 and hasn't produced a Major Leaguer in almost 90 years.

(Interesting side note: Jeffrey now asks to go by "Jeff." Sorry, kid. You're already too famous. There's no way any baseball player, fan or sportscaster will ever refer to you as "Jeff Maier" in any way other than to say "And here comes Jeffrey Maier to the plate, who has asked to go by Jeff now.")

Apparently Maier has about a 50 percent chance of being drafted, and Orioles owner Peter Angelos (who should be thanking little Jeffrey every day for taking some of the blame for the Orioles nine years of futility that otherwise would fall on Angelos) is intrigued:
"I wouldn't be at all opposed to [drafting Maier]. In fact, I'd say it's a very interesting development ... You can say the Orioles are very seriously considering him. I know this much: I was at that game, and he certainly did seem to be a heck of an outfielder. Sure, we'd take him. In fact, I like the idea more and more, the more I think about it."
Uhh... what? He dropped the ball in that game! I hate to break it to you, Peter, but you've already got one Jay Gibbons.

All that being said, though, I'm with Angelos on this one. The O's should draft him. I know a lot of Baltimore fans out there are probably ready to stab someone just at the thought of this debacle, but hear me out.

The draft goes 50 rounds. FIFTY. That's, for lack of a better word, a buttload of future busts. Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman apparently has said he doesn't want to waste a pick on a novelty, but Brian's fooling himself if he honestly doesn't believe that 95 percent of all draft picks are wasted. Every year teams draft players who don't even sign with them and just re-enter the draft the next year. That's wasting your pick. And do you really mean to tell me that some high school kid you draft in the 48th round who batted .400 in some podunk town in South Dakota is a legitimate prospect?

Bear with me here. It's not like Maier stepping into the Orioles clubhouse would cause some sort of tension. Not one player from that 1996 team is still on the club. That team had Bobby Bonilla, Pete Incaviglia, Todd Zeile, Chris Hoiles, Mike Devereaux, Rocky Coppinger and, yes, Tony Tarasco. None of those guys are around anymore, and if they were the O's would have bigger problems than Jeffrey Maier.

What's the worst that could happen if the O's take him in the draft? Well, I guess the WORST that could happen is that he makes it to the big club, the team makes it all the way to the ALCS where they face the Yankees, and he purposely tanks a can-of-corn pop out that would have finished game seven and instead the tying and winning runs score, then after the game he tells reporters that he did it on purpose because of the years of crap he took from Orioles fans, and he removes his uniform to reveal the same Yankees jersey he wore to the game when he was 12 years old. But I'd say that's maybe a 3-to-1 longshot at best...

In all likelihood he'd get drafted, slum it around the minors for a bit, and maybe get brought up at some point five years down the road as an injury replacement or a September call-up to a frenzy of media attention and a chorus of boos at Camden Yards only to fade back into obscurity to live the rest of his life as the answer to a trivia question that every Orioles fan hopes never gets asked.

But just imagine if all the planets aligned, he worked his tail off, scraped his way up to the Major Leagues and became one of those scrappy players that every team needs. And imagine if, somehow, the Orioles made it to the World Series with him on the team, and he played the role of the hero in winning the Orioles their first World Series since 1983, leaving Orioles fans across the land to bask in the irony. That's the kind of stuff sports legends are made of.

And it's also about as likely as your 50th round pick panning out.

No comments: