Thursday, March 01, 2007

Leaving Early

Watching a basketball game, whether it be college or NBA, one is likely to hear the commentators giving their two-cents as to whether or not players should leave college early or skip college entirely in order to play in the NBA. The reason you'll most commonly hear given is that players need to gain maturity in college. Presumably, those coming right from high school are less capable of jumping into a multi-million dollar lifestyle; after all, they've probably lived with their parents through their high school years. The NBA thought so much of this that starting this year, they instituted a rule, essentially requiring players to go to college for at least one year. If this rule weren't in place, it is clear that both Greg Oden and Kevin Durant would be in the NBA.

However, if that's the case, why don't you hear about high school baseball players making the immediate jump to the professional ranks. In last year's draft, 14 of the 30 players selected in the first round came straight from high school, compared with only 3 of 30 selected in the 2005 NBA draft draft (the last draft where players could come directly from high school). If students coming out of high school need to gain maturity before playing professional sports, why no huge uproar about high school baseball players?

Therefore, I think there's another reason why people are so concerned specifically with basketball (although I do think that one gains maturity in college). I think the cause for concern regards what happens to a basketball player vs. a baseball player when their talent doesn't translate to success at the next level.

First, in baseball, even after you get drafted you have the opportunity to assess if your draft position, potential signing bonus, etc., are worth making the jump to the game. If one feels these factors are not in his favor and thinks that a/another year of college ball would improve his game, he can choose not to sign and return to college. However, in the NBA game, once one makes the final decision to go through and test the draft waters, he loses all NCAA eligibility. Thus, if he received bad information about his draft status from outside sources (which apparently happens frequently) and didn't get drafted, he can no longer go back to college to play ball.

Lets, for comparison's sake, say that a baseball player did actually sign out of high school, and his talent didn't pan out. When you compare this type of person with someone whose basketball talent didn't pan out, I think the baseball player has a better chance of "making it" in life. It's no secret that basketball is largely an urban game and a good percentage of players come from inner-city neighbors. These are the same inner-city neighborhoods that are more likely to have sub-par schooling districts. These are the same inner-city neighborhoods that likely have drug and gang sub-cultures. A combination of all of these factors, as a general rule, probably leaves the bust-for-an-NBA-player less than qualified for admission into a college, sans basketball talent. Since his eligibility is gone due to going through with the NBA draft, he can no longer use his basketball talent to help him gain admission to a college or university. This person, IMHO, has a decent chance of ending up in the drug or street sub-culture.

Contrast this with the bust-for-a-professional baseball player. Baseball, while also played in urban settings, is definitely more of a suburban sport. Besides the fact that suburbia is better equipped real estate-wise to have baseball fields, baseball is a more expensive sport to play. Cleats, bats, balls and gloves all cost a pretty penny. Those living in an inner-city environment may have less resources to put their child out the diamond. Contrast this with basketball which can be played at a high level in street clothes and a basketball. Overall, I believe that the average baseball player's family has a higher income than that of an inner-city basketball player. Additionally, the places where these people live probably has more funding for better schooling and is less likely to have drug or gang sub-cultures. So, when the baseball player's talent doesn't pan out, he's more likely to be qualified for admission into a college or university.

This, I believe, is the reason that you don't hear about any problem with high schoolers jumping right into the MLB draft; If the sole reason were maturity, you would.


Anonymous Opinion said...

no duke commentary?

Players entering the draft only lose eligibility if they sign with an agent.

Notwithstanding that basketball players ar ethrown into the limelight right away while baseball players can mature on bus rides through Wichita. Big contracts are rare in baseball drafts compared to basketball.
I also agree with your points and the posses associated with basketball players is not too common in baseball. Not so sure that all those involved truly are worried about the players. College basketball is the NBA's minor league.

9:35 AM, March 01, 2007

Blogger AlanLaz said...

Apologies, I was wrong on that point. According to wiki:

"A player who declares for the draft will lose his college eligibility, even if he is not drafted, if any of the following is true:

The player signs with an agent.
The player has declared for and withdrawn from the draft in any previous year."

I know that some college baseball players have been drafted as many as 3 times before they accept.

Oh, and no need for Duke commentary. We were are the better team and we played like it. Any such commentary would discredit these facts.

9:46 AM, March 01, 2007

Blogger Soccer Dad said...

Cal Ripken has said that he had an agreement with his father that he'd give baseball until he was 21 (I think) and if he wasn't successful he would seek a real career.

I don't know what the average baseball player's family income is, but you do have to take into account foreign - especially Dominican - players who obviously bring the figure down quite a bit. (Unless you are only referring to American baseball players.)

I realize that that's really beside your point. I don't if I agree with: So, when the baseball player's talent doesn't pan out, he's more likely to be qualified for admission into a college or university.

As you first commenter noted college is the minor leagues of basketball (and football.) But unlike baseball, those college sports are a very protective environment for the prospective professionals. They're in college mostly to play sports and they've received a scholarship to do so.

Most minor league baseball players have to make a living. Unless the player is getting a bonus a minor league salary isn't enough to live on. He still has to get a job the other six months of the year and learn how to live in the real world. Something a college basketball player never has to do. That's why there's a difference in maturity levels. Going to college for a year isn't going to change that.

10:26 AM, March 01, 2007

Blogger AlanLaz said...

Yes, I wasn't referring to Dominican players. I'm talking about players that would be in America, baseball or not.

And yes, I understand college athletes are in college to play sports. My question is: let's say a college baseball player gets drafted and never plays an inning of professional ball. Compare him to a high school basketball player that loses college eligibility, gets drafted in the NBA, and never pans out - who's in better shape?

10:46 AM, March 01, 2007

Blogger Jewboy said...

As commenters have pointed out, the extensive minor leagues in baseball makes a big difference. Most minor leaguers are not making the kind of cash NBA rookies are, nor are they living the glamour lifestyle. Granted, the high picks in the draft make good cash right away. Also, I think racism plays a factor in this. The NBA is still vied as a "thug league", although it's clear that the NFL is far worse.

6:30 PM, March 01, 2007

Blogger Jewboy said...

Greg Oden is a good player but is undoubtedly one of the ugliest athletes arond.

8:50 PM, March 01, 2007

Anonymous opinion said...

Oden does not look his age. He should be a great NBA player, but the MAN looks 35. He probably was in third grade 10 years in a row.

12:38 PM, March 02, 2007

Blogger bluke said...

There is a very simple explanation. In baseball players drafted out of high school go to play in the minor leagues for a number of years against kids their age and learn how to play the game. In basketball, there is no minor leagues, college is the minor league equivalent, if you are drafted you are in the NBA.

5:48 PM, March 06, 2007


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