Anyway, because of this system, young men just out of high school and college have been at an extreme disadvantage as they've tried to negotiate contracts. And the NCAA hasn't made this any easier. Until yesterday, if a high school or college player retained legal counsel, to help them sort through their drafting team's offer, to double-check the contract to make sure it really was in the player's best interest (basically hiring an agent, but not paying them), they lost their college eligibility. In other words, 18-22 year old kids were expected to negotiate with grown men with 20+ years of experience in baseball. While "advisors" were allowed to have contact with the kids, they were not allowed to communicate in any way with the ballclub. That system, with its arbitrary distinctions and half-baked rules, makes absolutely no sense to The Common Man.
And so, when Andrew Oliver, a 21 year old kid, wanted to be pitching for Oklahoma State this year, he could not because his advisors went to a meeting with the Minnesota Twins, the boy and his father. According to ESPN,
"His former advisers, Tim and Robert Baratta, were at a meeting between Oliver and Twins officials when they discussed a potential contract.
That meeting led to Oliver's suspension from Oklahoma State last spring and his lawsuit.
Oliver and his father testified that the advisers were at the meeting because neither of them knew enough to negotiate a professional contract.
Instead of playing ball, Oliver was forced to the bench, even though the Twins never paid him a dime.
Yesterday, however, ESPN reports the wise Judge Tygh Tone (awesome name, by the way) ruled, "An NCAA rule that allows players to hire a lawyer but prohibits them from negotiating a contract is impossible to enforce and allows for the player to be exploited." Tone struck down the NCAA's rule and ordered that Oliver be allowed back on the team. And there was much rejoicing.
This is an important development for a couple of reasons. First, and most importantly, remember that the overwhelming majority of players who get drafted never even sniff the major leagues. Unlike football and basketball, there is an extensive minor league system that weeds out players who simply never develop the skills needed to make it. For most of them, their signing bonus is the biggest paycheck they'll ever collect from their ballclub. Also unlike basketball and football, many of the draftees are taken right out of high school, meaning that they're barely legal to begin with, and not at all up to understanding the complexities of their market value.
Second, it's potentially another step down the road toward Major League Baseball losing its anti-trust exemption, or at least all the perks that go along with it. While this ruling does not address baseball's draft specifically, it does attempt to deregulate the rules limiting ameteur players. An enterprising attorney and player, The Common Man imagines, would have little difficulty demonstrating that the current draft structure is also exploitative, and should be deregulated, or even that the draft rules do not apply to players who have yet to join the Players' Association (who negotiates the league's collective bargaining agreement). Given that the Supreme Court has said (in 1972) that only Congress can revoke the anti-trust exemption, perhaps a court ruling that addresses the league's rules and structure is unlikely. However, it is unclear to The Common Man why the Court believed Congress had jurisdiction in this matter, when the court has been the only entity to officially address the league's status since 1922, and when the Supreme Court itself bestowed the anti-trust exemption. The Common Man wonders whether, after 36 years, legal opinions may and interpretations may have changed radically, and wonders what has stopped agents and players from attacking the league and the draft through the courts. Maybe one of you dear readers can set him straight.