Earlier this week it was reported that the Philadelphia Phillies reported to the NCAA that two of their draft picks were using an agent during negotiations. An NCAA rule says that college athletes cannot have an agent represent them as long as they are in school. It allows players to talk to advisers but the advisers cannot speak to the team directly. It appears as though the Phillies are only following a rule, however, it is a rule commonly ignored by teams. After all, these are teenagers without college degrees negotiating with billion-dollar organizations. Therefore teams often allow these players to have agents present as “advisers”. However, after Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler and Washington State outfielder/first baseman Jason Monda elected not to sign and return to school, the Phillies reported the two for the NCAA. Monda has gotten a pass to play this season for Washington State, the NCAA has suspended Wetzler indefinitely.
Considering that this NCAA rule is often ignored by MLB organizations, why would the Phillies rat out two of their draft picks just for not signing? It appears to simply be sour grapes, the Phillies are upset that they were not able to sign their fifth and sixth picks respectively, so they reported the two to the NCAA. There could also be the possibility that the Phillies reported the two due to a disagreement with a particular agent. This is not much better since they would put a young man’s future in jeopardy just to spite an agent. Regardless, the Phillies do not come out of the situation without looking bad. The only way the organization could save some face is if a rogue employee reported the players, rather than the higher ups of the organization deciding on it.
As at fault as the Phillies are, the ultimate blame lands on the NCAA. The NCAA has long been criticized for its ridiculous rules that limits what student athletes can and cannot do. While that is a debate for time, the rule involved in this situation needs to go. This rule forces teenagers without degrees and no experience negotiating contracts to negotiate with organizations that do it on a regular basis. Having an agent present on the athlete’s side is common sense, creating a fairer negotiation between the two sides. The NCAA is putting the professional future of teenage athletes in their own hands, rather than in the hands of someone with experience.
The Phillies will likely suffer due to their controversial decision. Many writers, agents, and fans have been blasting the Phillies organization since the incident occurred, and it will especially continue if Wetzler does not play this season at Oregon State. It is speculated that college coaches, who allow scouts info on their players, will create difficulty for Phillies’ scouts in the future after this incident.
They have hurt their reputation over something that is rather insignificant. Players have returned to school after being drafter in the past and it will happen again. The Phillies did something that has not been done since the White Sox did the same in 1992. A front office that is not well liked by fans did itself no favors with this, and even players on the team do not agree with it. In the Philadelphia Daily News, a current Phillies player noted that this rule “means asking a kid without a college degree to negotiate a fair contract with a professional sports franchise, a contract that, once signed, will strip him of the most leverage he will have until he becomes arbitration-eligible, which could be up to nine years from that date.”
Update: It has been decided by the NCAA that Wetzler will miss 11 games this season, eligible to return March 2 due to his involvement with an agent.