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Critical Theory, Episode 3: Draftnik Navel Gazing

Taking a critical look at why we care so much about the MLB draft.

What's it all about, Alfie?
What's it all about, Alfie?

Dear Readers,

Allow me to be frank. A totally unexpected problem has arisen for which I need your always appreciated help. Please complain more so I can have something to criticize. I know that with the team off to a somewhat surprising fast start - 15-7 and leading the division by 4 games already - things around here are pretty rosy. The comment threads are suddenly cheery and full of celebratory memetic GIFs. I think I've seen that nerd guy do his nerd dance 15 times in the last week alone. Baseball is a joy to behold. Close games are now fun rather than nightmarish to watch because, at least thus far, we know we've got a chance at the end of every game. This is what we've all been waiting for, only Christmas has come early. It's especially fun for petty people like myself, who have more or less patiently waited for the moment we could enjoy watching fans of other teams go through the 5 stages of grief, one by one, in real time. Please allow me to pimp my tweet:

So this is great, it really is, unless your self-appointed weekly job is to write a post complaining about complainers. I've got a weekly post to pump out here and there's only so much I can make up by myself. Don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining about the lack of complainers to complain about. Far be it from me, given my advanced level of spiritual enlightenment. I'm just looking for something to babble on about long enough to earn my weekly bag of ‘good behavior' beans and rice David has dropped from the sky weekly into the dreaded Writers Pit, a la the Hunger Games Game Maker.

So what is to be done? I know you're still on about the strikeouts but that currently bores me. Perhaps I shall deign to address this in a future installment. I know some of you are rooting-tooting fed up with eggheaded saber nerds. That one has potential, as I know just enough about stats to get myself in trouble but it's just not calling my name right now. I know some of you will always want Carter gone and Correa brought up now but the former will always, apparently, be there for me when I need it and the latter really aren't taking the form of complaints. I expect at some point in the future the outside baseball world will switch from criticizing the Astros front office for ineptness to criticizing it for being too good. Maybe, if I'm lucky, one of the rocket scientists who write for ESPN will decide the Astros have been unfair by getting this good, this fast.

For now, since the draft is approaching, let me turn the critical gaze at those of us - myself very much included - who spend so much time thinking, discussing, and caring about the MLB draft. Because, for the life of me, I can't figure out why we do it.

The MLB Draft is a slow-motion crapshoot. The majority of players selected will never sniff the majors. Some disappear without a trace. Some rise a level or two then max out. Some rise with promise but are then traded to another team. Some get injured. Some flame out. A few will make it through the ranks, eventually, get a cup of coffee or two, racking up career WARs of under 1. And a small percentage will do what we hope -- rise through the ranks, make the team, contribute. The whole process is stacked against success and takes literally years to unfold. It's like watching the grass grow -- and then watching it die because of drought or wildfire or overgrazing or anything else that kills grass.

Yet there we are on draft day, paying attention. And not just for the first round or two, but throughout the whole process. We're there dutifully reading the notes and pondering what to think about a guy selected in the 38th round, when the chances of that guy ever doing anything in the majors is next to nothing. We catch ourselves thinking, saying and typing things like, "We could use a few more lefties in the lower levels." Isn't that thought a cry for help, fellow fanatics?

Aren't there better things to be doing? Isn't there more to life than sports fanaticism?Shouldn't we all be outdoors getting some exercise or indoors socializing with friends and family, rather than glued to screens clicking refresh during round 27?

It's important to note, I suppose, that not everybody feels this way. Here are fellow writer Chris' on the record thoughts:

I've kind of lost interest in the draft, to tell you the truth.  I'll be interested to see who they pick (afterwards), and I have curiosity about the top picks of course (#2 and #5), but beyond that I don't really have interest in reading about 10,000 high schoolers that the Astros won't even get.  I also acknowledge that a lot of you (Spencer, Anthony, etc) feel totally the opposite, and I think that's great.  But I represent a portion of the fans that don't really give a darn, except for how it reflects the Astros.  Also, 2012 was exciting, but that was my first time REALLY paying attention to the draft.  After investing all that time and energy and excitement into the we are three years later and we still haven't seen the first guy from that draft make the majors.  The excitement wore off when I realized how far away these guys are and how unlikely any of them being good in the majors is, and it really dulled my enthusiasm for the 2013 and 2014 drafts beforehand.

My two cents.

Having thought about it carefully, I have decided that, no, there isn't anything better to do. I shall continue to feed my MLB draft obsession, thank you very much. The Great Outdoors is a giant trap, a big place full of extreme weather, airborne plagues, predators looking for a meal, and annoyances like wasps and other people. We build houses for a reason. And socializing with loved ones isn't always problem free.

So you tell me, Big Fans one and all, what is it about the draft that you love? Chime in or forever hold your peace. Or at least forever hold a grudge. I won't hold it against you.