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feedback on a column

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by MonitorLizard, Apr 14, 2007.

  1. MonitorLizard

    MonitorLizard Member

    Something I wrote using last week's Red Sox-Mariners game as a jumping off point. I'm a little nervous about posting here, but any suggestions are welcome, no matter how brutal. Thanks!

    Last Wednesday was a banner day for globalization in Major League Baseball. The league’s top two Japanese stars – Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka – squared off in a game dominated by a Venezuelan – Felix Hernandez – who won with the help of two doubles by another Japanese player, Kenji Johjima.

    In the last 30 years, baseball has made significant inroads into Latin America, to the point that 24 percent of major leaguers on opening day rosters this year came from that region. With that success in mind, baseball has targeted the Far East as its next area of expansion, playing regular-season games in Tokyo in 2000 and 2004, with a 2008 season opener in Japan or China a growing possibility.

    As the electric atmosphere surrounding Wednesday’s game showed, the expanding talent pool rejuvenated fan interest in baseball. But the influx of new talent has also reemphasized baseball’s inability to change with the times.

    Under the current system, residents of the United States, Canada and U.S. territories like Puerto Rico must go through the amateur draft in June; anyone else is up for grabs, free to sign with any team, usually the highest bidder. In Matsuzaka’s case, that was the Red Sox, who shelled out over $50 million just for the right to negotiate with the Japanese star. The Mariners paid $13 million for the rights to Ichiro, then gave him $44 million over four years; the Yankees signed Hideki Matsui to a $21 million dollar deal when he came to America as a free agent.

    For years, both large- and small-market teams have established scouting networks in Latin America, haunting sandlots and semipro games looking for hidden, raw talent that won’t cost millions. Oakland spent all of $2,000 to sign Miguel Tejada, who won the MVP award with the A’s in 2002. The Texas Rangers signed future home run king Sammy Sosa for all of $3,500.

    But the players coming from Japan, Taiwan and Korea aren’t kids being discovered on corner lots, playing barefoot, with homemade gloves. Matsuzaka had eight years of experience in Japan’s Pacific League, winning 108 games with a 2.95 ERA. Matsui hit 332 home runs in 10 years with the Yomiuri Giants. Ichiro hit .353 in nine professional seasons in Japan.

    In short, the Far East talent pool isn’t made up of unknown commodities. Japanese stars are commanding big bucks because major league teams know what they’re getting, and by and large they haven’t been disappointed. The problem with this system is that it virtually excludes all but a handful of big league teams from competing for Far East talent: Matsuzaka’s $51.1 million posting fee was higher than four teams’ total payrolls, and is only slightly less than what the 25 Arizona Diamondbacks will earn.

    As more players come across the Pacific, the disparity between the haves and the have-nots is only going to grow unless the current system is reworked. Even if small-market teams eventually lost their Latin American stars to free agency, at least they reaped the benefits for a few years. Having already been priced out of the Asian market, there’s not even that to look forward to.

    Two changes to baseball’s draft, both long overdue, would nip the problem in the bud. First, make every player go through the draft process. The draft was created in 1964 to prevent teams like the Yankees from signing all the young talent. Not applying that logic to the Far East – and to a much lesser extent Latin America – leaves a giant loophole for the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, et al, to, you guessed it, stockpile young talent by simply writing bigger checks.

    Second, teams should be permitted to trade draft picks. A prospect’s “signability” is just as important around draft time as his fastball velocity or plate discipline. In 2001 the Minnesota Twins passed up consensus top pick Mark Prior because they were aware they couldn’t afford to sign him. Such situations would undoubtedly arise if the draft was expanded, but adding trades to the mix would allow, say, the Royals to trade a high pick, rather than have to take a lesser player for financial reasons.

    The NBA has for years made all players, American or otherwise, go through the draft, a practice that helped Dallas land Dirk Nowitzki and Houston grab Yao Ming. Not only did those acquisitions boost those struggling teams, but they also helped lesser-known teams gain worldwide exposure. Michael Jordan used to be the face of basketball everywhere; now, kids in Beijing wear Rockets jerseys, while those in places like Berlin don Mavericks gear. Over here, fans get excited about foreign talent, since there’s a realistic shot at seeing them suit up for the home team. Who besides Red Sox, Yankees and Mets fans was truly excited to hear that Matsuzaka was coming to America? After all, it was a given from the beginning that he’d only go to a rich, already strong team.

    The Far East is the next frontier in baseball’s gradual but successful globalization strategy. It’s up to baseball, though, to make sure that expansion benefits all teams, and doesn’t leave the majority of fans content with glimpsing the occasional highlight of the Next Big Thing, broadcast from New York, Boston or Los Angeles.
  2. It's just fine. You make your argument well (although, for the record, I don't agree with it) and the writing is solid.

    It's a bit dull, however. Unless it was written for a publication aimed at serious baseball fans, I'm not sure many readers would have read it in its entirety. If it was a column for a community paper, it shouldn't have been written at all (not without a local hook, anyway).
  3. Appgrad05

    Appgrad05 Active Member

    You obviously know what you are talking about, but it needs a hook. Something to draw me in and keep me going. What type of publication are you writing for?
  4. MonitorLizard

    MonitorLizard Member

    Thanks so much for the feedback. That was my biggest concern when I was writing it, that it sounds too much like a lecture or something. I'm writing for a daily in New England, and we cover the Red Sox with some regularity, so I was trying to tie in the whole Dice-K mania with the future of baseball as it spreads globally.

    After that first graf, I was thinking something like
    "An exciting sign of things to come -- unless you're one of the vast majority of fans who will never get to see the future in your team's colors."

    Or something like that.
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