Or at least, how it could have been.
Yesterday, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and Oakland A’s top draft pick Kyler Murray met with team brass about his future. Also on Monday, Murray announced he would enter the NFL Draft, likely foregoing a career in baseball.
We’ll never know the exact details of that meeting, but one can assume it did not go well for the A’s. Fortunately, Murray and the A’s also met simultaneously in my imagination. The complete transcripts of that meeting are printed below.
A’s GM BILLY BEANE: Hi, Kyler, great to see you again.
KYLER MURRAY: You as well, Mr. Beane. It’s very considerate of you to come all the way out to my home to meet me, and even further out to Epstein’s mind at the same time.
BEANE: Well, we value you very highly, Kyler, and we really want you to join the Oakland Athletics.
MURRAY: I can see that, and I thank you for the opportunity, but you’re wasting your time. I’m playing football.
BEANE: Kyler, if this is about money, you could make a lot more playing baseball.
MURRAY: Yes, it is possible to make more money in baseball than football. But for every Alex Rodriguez or Giancarlo Stanton, there are thousands of kids who wash out with nothing. Only a small percentage of professional baseball players ever reach the major leagues. Of those lucky few, an even smaller percentage accumulate enough service time to reach arbitration and the possibility of a seven figure salary. Fewer still achieve six years of service time and become free agents.
I’m 21-years-old. If I reach the majors in just three years, which would be quite fast, I won’t become a free agent until I’m 30. Now look what’s going on with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. They’re essentially the PERFECT free agents, and they’ve got no more than a handful of interested teams willing to pay what they’re worth! At best, I’ll be four years older than they are now when I reach free agency.
All of this assumes that I actually succeed in baseball. I believe in my own ability, of course, but the history of #9 overall picks is against me. Of the 51 players drafted in my spot from 1965-2015, only Kevin Appier and Barry Zito achieved more than 22 bWAR. 1⁄3 of them never reached the majors at all! The median bWAR for the draft position is -0.5. I can’t bank on draft pedigree as a golden ticket to success.
Making matters worse, MLB could go through difficult labor negotiations, or even a work stoppage, just as I’m ready to debut. The NFL could face similar problems as well, right around the same time. The difference is, over there I would be an established veteran. Wouldn’t you want to go through that as a veteran and not as a rookie?
BEANE: Well, you’ve certainly thought things through quite a bit! What you may not realize is how the Athletics want to market you as a franchise icon. You would be—
MURRAY: Let me stop you right there, Mr. Beane. You run the A’s, not Mount Rushmore. Tell me again how you marketed Josh Donaldson as a franchise icon. Or Yoenis Cespedes. Or even Sonny Gray! With your history of trading stars as soon as they get inconveniently expensive, I’d rather not hear about your marketing plan for me. Even if you do sign me to a market-value extension (which is highly unlikely), what about my teammates? How many of them will stick around?
The fact is, Mr. Beane, I can’t count on your organization having any real money to spend at all. In years past, you received a sweetheart revenue sharing deal from the league. Even then, you spent frugally, but now that’s phasing out. This does not inspire confidence in the fiscal well-being of the franchise.
Also, your ballpark floods with literal feces. Gross.
BEANE: Kyler, some things are more important than money. You’re a young man, but have you considered your long-term health? A Boston University study found that 99% of NFL players suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Concussions cause damage that can ruin the rest of your life!
MURRAY: I’m glad you brought that up. Brain injuries are indeed a serious risk in football. For this reason alone, baseball should have a clear recruiting advantage. Instead, your sport is so gate-kept that most kids have little choice.
To get recruited out of high school, a teenager has to travel to showcases, pay for personal trainers, purchase gear, pony up for tournament fees, and incur other unseen expenses. Furthermore, parents need to miss time from work to make all this happen, further straining the family’s finances. Frankly, it’s almost impossible for lower income kids or anyone with a single parent, so they often choose football.
I’m fortunate enough to have a choice between two sports, and I’ve made that choice. Even though there’s a greater injury risk, baseball still loses hundreds of teenage Kyler Murrays every year.
BEANE: You made a commitment to us, Kyler! You accepted that $4.66 million signing bonus! Don’t you have any honor?
MURRAY: I’ll remind you, Mr. Beane, that the A’s chose me and not the other way around! How come if the club releases a struggling player, it’s a business decision, but if I drop you for something better I’m dishonorable?
Where’s the honor in the average player salary declining while revenue reaches record highs? How honorable is MLB when they support racist legislators or domestic abusers? I should pay your bonus back in unrolled nickels!
BEANE: Ok, just calm down. What if we sign you to a major league contract right away? That should make up the money difference!
MURRAY: Ha! Then what, you’ll send me to Beloit, Wisconsin to play A-ball? I’d rather go to New York or Denver! Besides, you really don’t want to do this. It would set a precedent for future circumvention of draft slot or international amateur bonus restrictions, and goodness knows you’ve already worked so hard to prevent paying kids fair market value. I think I’d rather throw to Odell Beckham, Jr. next year than whoever your second baseman is in the Midwest League.
BEANE: Well then, I suppose there’s nothing more to talk about. We’ll need that bonus back as soon as possible. Blake Treinen is heading for arbitration, and we’re a little light in the wallet if we lose…
MURRAY: There’s a suitcase full of nickels by the door. Show yourself out.
Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. In addition to BtBS, he writes at www.OffTheBenchBaseball.com. Tweets @depstein1983