Sigh. The big news on the day was not that the Nationals took another easy win handed to them on a red-and-gold platter by the pitching staff and flushed it down the clubhouse toilet. Been there, done that. No, the big news on the day was the details of the Jack McGeary signing, which completed a stunning 20-for-20 signings sweep of the team’s top draft picks. It’s a signing that could revolutionize the drafting of prep athletes. Gone could be the old paradigm battle between crusty old trust-your-gut scouts drafting high school stars and Moneyball-era empiricist GMs drafting college stars. Heck, gone could be the structure of the farm system as we’ve known it since Branch Rickey.
With the McGeary signing, the Nats have become the first team to open a ROTC program.
Here’s the deal: The Nationals will give McGeary a full-ride scholarship to attend Stanford. In return, McGeary must follow a strict regimen of supervised training and drills during the academic year. Then he goes on active duty and serves full-time over summer, participating in Nationals training exercises in Viera, Vermont, Potomac, Harrisburg, or even Columbus. His actual assignments each summer will vary. Then, once he graduates, he will owe the Nationals three or four years of full-time uniformed service.
The key for BallWonk is that McGeary will not be allowed to play NCAA baseball for Stanford, thus upholding baseball’s status apart from the NFL and NBA in not totally exploiting college athletics as a free-labor training plantation. If the Nationals’ ROTC experiment works out, and McGeary gets his degree and joins the rotation in Washington in June 2011, BW hopes the signing might become a model for other athletes. Attend college, play ball, and get paid for your labor.
On the other hand, it must be noted that the Nats farm system is now filled to the brim with high-potential pitching prospects, an amazing number of them lefties. Too bad hitting is the team’s most desperate need at the big-league level. Our jury-rigged staff and bullpen can already silence the biggest bats in the league most nights, but our lineup is still consistently making even the sorriest has-beens, aren’t-yets, and never-will-bes look like Cy Young candidates.
Those early morning drills at Stanford could get awfully lonely for young cadet McGeary. Next year, perhaps the Nats can send a batting prospect or two to join him.
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