Friday ended the 2012 Draft-signing period, a new system with restricted pools for each team, a system that was agreed upon by the Players Association in collective bargaining, one that most general managers and scouting directors entered with degrees of uncertainty.
As it turned out, between creativity and the understanding by draftees that the real money comes in The Show, clubs maneuvered to get the majority of their draftees signed, and because the deadline was moved from Aug. 15 to July 13, got them out into the Minor Leagues for an orientation to the professional game. Only one player in the first round did not sign and only eight in the first 10 rounds.
The one unsigned first-rounder unsurprisingly was Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, who turned down all the Pirates could offer ($3.8M) to return for his senior season. His adviser, Scott Boras, believed Appel should have been the first pick. Boras is a believer in "value," which if Appel is a No. 1 starting pitcher in the Major Leagues would have put him in the $6-7M range, which Pittsburgh could have done had they chosen not to sign most of their picks in the first 10 rounds, something they simply were not going to do.
Maybe Appel returns to Stanford, remains healthy, performs and is one of the first three picks next June. Maybe Boras finds a loophole in the current system, which gives teams leverage on college juniors who know that at the end of their senior year their choices are to sign or move on in the academic or business world. Maybe "value" ends up winning over the bargained system. Those are Mark Appel's rights, as the Pirates had the right to refuse to go outside the system, pay taxes and forfeit their first round pick in 2013; as it now stands, they'll get the ninth overall pick in next year's Draft as compensation for not signing Appel, as well as their own first-round selection.
Then again, sometimes there is more than the principle of fighting the system. Mike Yastrzemski finished his junior season at Vanderbilt. He was picked in the 30th round by the Seattle Mariners, mainly because it was felt that it would cost too much to buy him out of his senior year. But as he prepared for 2012-2013 working out in Massachusetts to try to improve his strength and conditioning, the Mariners re-thought his situation.
Scouting director Tom McNamara had met early last week with Mike and his grandfather Carl in Boston. Then Thursday, McNamara contacted Yastrzemski's representative Jack Toffey and told him the club was willing to go to $250,000, essentially fifth-round money. By Friday, the Mariners had moved all the way to $300,000 plus his Vanderbilt costs, and while his grandfather wanted him to get his degree, he told Mike to go ahead and sign if that was what he wanted.
The young Yastrzemski talked it out with his mother, Anne-Marie, and agreed to sign. But as they worked on the details, Toffey asked Mike, "Are you sure this is what you want?"
When Yastrzemski hesitated, everyone rethought the position. He decided to return to Vanderbilt, where he may or may not have leverage next June, but he did what he believed was right. His father, who passed away when Mike was a teenager, was one course shy of a degree from Florida State, and while Carl signed with the Red Sox after his freshman year at Notre Dame, education has always been held as extremely significant for ensuing generations of Yastrzemskis.
"Mike is the best of the best," said Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin. "He's one of the most remarkable kids I've ever been around."
Carl Michael Yastrzemski was a rookie 51 years ago en route to the Hall of Fame. His son, Mike, made it to Triple-A. Grandson Mike is called by Corbin "the face of Vanderbilt baseball," not because he'll eventually play professionally with the ceiling of David Price, but because of who he is and how is part of the Yastrzemski baseball legacy.
Last summer, Billy Beane advised Mike: "Don't worry about the Draft, don't worry about fulfilling the family name, when you get that Vanderbilt degree you will be free."
Mike took the advice.
In 2008, Mike Yastrzemski was on the Northeast Area Code team run by scouts Ray Fagnant of the Red Sox and Matt Hyde of the Yankees. Mike Trout was his teammate. So was Marcus Stroman, who developed into an All-American at Duke and was the first-round pick of the Blue Jays this year.
Anne-Marie Yastrzemski went to the games in Long Beach and asked Fagnant and Hyde why they couldn't have games like that for kids in the Northeast, where the spring seasons are so short. She wanted to help get them started, and Hyde and Fagnant suggested they name the games after the late Mike Yastrzemski. Carl had become involved and thought it might be better to hold off on the Yastrzemski name, so Fagnant suggested "The Rivalry Classic."
So every August the Red Sox and Yankees put together two teams of rising high school seniors -- a group of Northeast all-stars for the Red Sox, a group of national all-stars for the Yankees -- and play a handful of games at Bentley College outside of Boston, then play two games at either Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium. Last year's game included 2012 first-rounders Gavin Cecchini (Mets) and Stryker Trahan (D-backs). This year's games were supposed to be at Fenway, but have been moved to Yankee Stadium from Aug. 16-17 because of the Bruce Springsteen concerts at Fenway, and one of the pitchers will be Kacy Austin Clemens. Yup, another baseball legacy family; because of Roger Clemens' history with both teams, they may have Kacy dress for the Yankees one game, the Red Sox the next.
Carl missed playing with Roger by a season, retiring in 1983, the year Clemens was drafted by Boston. But when and if Kacy dons a Red Sox uniform for The Rivalry Classic, it will be because of Anne-Marie, Mike and Carl Yastrzemski. And while Mike will never change the bonus salary system for elite players in the Draft, he will enter professional baseball next June with the Vanderbilt degree so important to his family's real legacy and as "the face of Vanderbilt baseball."