Andy Pettitte added a nice little note to his Hall of Fame resume over the weekend, racking up his 250th career win after throwing 7.1 solid innings in the New York Yankees’ 3-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.
As with any pitching milestone of its type, Pettitte’s achievement has re-ignited the debate over whether or not we will ever again see a pitcher reach the 300-win mark that has long been considered an automatic ticket to Cooperstown. Pitchers seem to be throwing fewer pitches in fewer innings than ever before, and it seems like not a week goes by where some hot new phenom breaks down well before his time due to some random arm ailment.
But I’m here to tell you that we will see more players who win 300 games, as the single biggest component in whether or not a player can hit the milestone has not changed.
Compared to the NFL and NBA, the MLB Draft garners very little attention from the casual sports fan. While interest has grown over the past decade, most fans still do not realize that the Draft will be conducted over a three-day period starting this Thursday.
Because of the relative lack of attention, most fans are unaware of the many, many great stories that the MLB Draft has provided since it was implemented in 1965. Heck, I myself did not realize that the San Diego Padres passed on Justin Verlander in 2004 in favor of Matt Bush, who never set foot in an MLB clubhouse as a member of the team.
That story ranks right up there with three of the most famous top-pick tales in MLB Draft history:
1966: Mets help build dynasty in Oakland
As the MLB Draft nears, many sportswriters are bemoaning the fact that baseball’s event is not nearly the extravaganza of the NFL and NBA Drafts. Many are wondering if baseball needs to make big changes in order to keep up with the Joneses, proposing everything from moving the draft from June to eliminating sections of professional ball in order to get draftees to the pros at a faster rate.
But the simple truth about this issue is that there are too many structures in place to ever make the MLB Draft as popular as those for the NFL and NBA.
And that’s a good thing.
MLB has the best talent development system in all of sports.
One of the biggest reasons that the MLB Draft does not garner the same level of attention as the drafts in other sports is because, with few exceptions, MLB draftees do not make an immediate impact in the Big Leagues. Draftees must first make it through the Minor Leagues, proving their worth in as many as five different levels of competition before they can ever set foot in an MLB stadium.
Why is this a bad thing?
Theo Epstein and the rest of the brain trust trying to rebuild the Chicago Cubs arrived pretty much wholesale from the Boston Red Sox. As such, it’s not surprising that they’re thinking hard about acquiring some of the players they’d brought to Boston to become part of the Cubs’ future.
Apparently, one such player is center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs “are expected to make a strong push” to sign the one-time All-Star, provided that he digs out of the slump in which he’s begun the 2013 season.
Ellsbury’s overwhelming potential was shown off best in 2011, when he hit .321 with 32 HRs, 105 RBIs and 39 stolen bases. That performance is all but guaranteed to earn him a big-money contract somewhere when he becomes a free agent this offseason.
In mid-May, every major league team is supposed to believe it’s still a playoff contender, but realistically, the Chicago Cubs are playing for the future rather than the present. Given that harsh reality, the Cubs’ admittedly welcome victories over Washington and Colorado pale in comparison to the importance of Sunday’s off-the-field accomplishments.
As reported by Fox Sports, the Cubs locked up first baseman Anthony Rizzo through at least 2019 with a massive contract extension. Factoring in various incentives and a pair of team-option years, the deal could be worth as much as $73 million.
Considering that Rizzo had been making less than $500,000 for the 2013 season—a bargain-basement figure that’s now increased as part of the extension—the new contract represents a titanic commitment to a player who's appeared in just over one season's worth of major league games. It also shows that Theo Epstein and the rest of the front office understand what they’re up against in trying to turn the Cubs into winners.