Ruben Amaro, the Philadelphia Phillies’ General Manager since 2009, has become more of a punchline than an effective MLB executive. His myriad of poor contracts have and will hamstring the Phillies for years to come. Ryan Howard received a superstar-level deal and has never lived up to it and Roy Halladay broke down by the end of his deal. Despite fielding one of the oldest teams in the MLB, Amaro has resigned the oft-injured Chase Utley and added aging A.J. Burnett for large deals. Even with all of this money dished out, the Phillies will not be better than the Braves or Nationals, and will struggle to stay ahead of the Mets.
The thing about the Phillies that makes them so bad, though, is not these mistakes but the disgusting behavior they exhibited this past year surrounding the MLB draft. The Phillies selected Oregon State’s Ben Wetzler and Washington State’s Ben Monda in the fifth and sixth round of the 2013 Amateur MLB Draft, and began negotiating a contract. The two players allegedly employed advisors to aid them in their contract dealings, but ended up not signing and returned to school. In an act of vindictiveness, the Phillies reported the use of these advisors to the NCAA. The use of an advisor is against NCAA rules, as it removes a player’s “amateur” status. Now, Wetzler is facing an 11-game suspension, and will have an inordinate amount of attention during his next season.
There’s a lot of issues on the table here, so let’s start with the NCAA. According to NCAA rules, a player cannot hire an agent or individual to negotiate on their behalf, as they are to be treated as students, not professionals. So essentially, if a drafted MLB player wants to potentially return to school, he will have to hamstring his ability to negotiate a contract without any paid help. Think about this. A college student and his family are forced to negotiate solo against organizations worth literally billions of dollars, in order for the NCAA to continue their inane rules that allow them to profit off this sham called “student-athletics.”
It’s both tragic and disgusting. NCAA executives and universities earn tremendous profit from these players, and they claim to offer “education” as payback, even though we continually see a lowered academic standard for athletes. The reality is that many athletes are forced – not priviledged- – to attend college and risk their careers without any plans to graduate. Student-athletes are screwed at every turn.
And that’s what makes what the Phillies did so particularly awful. Not only are they negotiating with any non-senior college player while holding a stacked deck, but they’ve now taken action over a player potentially disobeying an unjust rule that is not to be monitored or enforced by the MLB or its franchises. The Phillies played tattle-tale because they could not strongarm a pair of amateurs into signing contracts the franchise desired, and actually perpetuated the unjust rules of the NCAA. It’s actually worse than what the NCAA has done in a lot of ways; at least the NCAA can take the “it’s the way its always been” route. The Phillies are actively working on new ways to cheat students.
For those who say that rules are rules, look at this from a moral standpoint. Are these actions moral? Is hiring an agent to negotiate on your behalf and then instead electing to go back to school amoral? How about running a huge organization and forcing men aged 18-22 to negotiate on their own, without paid advising, while otherwise sacrificing part of a
The fact is that these rules are a joke. College sports have regressed to the point where money is literally the only thing that matters, and many administrators and
professionals in the industry could care
less whether or not Ben Wetzler ruins his college baseball career or agrees to a contract that devalues himself.
But most of all, shame on you, Phillies. You had an opportunity to negotiate in good faith and you blew it. Many baseball reporters are indicating that this will have long-term ramifications on your ability to negotiate with players and prospects, and it should. Last year, Forbes calculated your revenue at $279,000,000. The revenue college athletes are allowed to earn each
Contact Zander Frost at [email protected]