Remembering the draft of 1981…

Back in the good old days of the MLB amateur draft, nobody paid any attention at all.
It wasn’t on TV, very few, if any players had agents, and the process was much simpler.
Yesterday, as expected Stephen Strasburg was the #1 overall pick of the Washington Nationals. It was a no-brainer—- 13-1 with an ERA less than 1.50 and he even threw a no-hitter. Oh, and by the way he throws 100MPH routinely.

So this is where I’m supposed to point out how the draft is not an exact science and have numbers and facts about how #1 picks rarely make it to the big leagues. And guys like Bill Russell of the Dodgers was a 42nd round pick and never played high school baseball– but had a great career. Or maybe the most famous Dodger draft story, the great Mike Piazza who was drafted in the 63rd round out of courtesy to his father.

But I’m not going to do it.

I hope Strasburg makes it big. In fact, the number two pick in the draft, Dustin Ackley, is the son of a guy I played with in the minor leagues way back when. I hope he makes it, too.
I have no problem with the kids and the talent level they posess, I have a problem with the agents and the system that’s created so much pressure for the teams to sign these guys—and for BIG BUCKS.

Strasburg is represented by Scott Boras (big surprise) and he’s not just going to get a big signing bonus and a plane ticket to “A” ball the way it used to be. Oh, no. Boras will be involved in intense negotiations to get Strasburg a package in the area of $15 to $50 Million.

Yes, 50 Million!

Of course that deal will be a long-term contract that will contain bonuses and guaranteed call ups to the big leagues– before he’s ready and major salary increases at every level he pitches at etc, etc. But still, $50 Million?

It was always well known that the top players in the draft we’re going to get a nice bonus. “Bonus Babies” was the term used for the Nuke Laloosh’s of the baseball world. But the money and the pressure on the organizations to sign these guys is incredible. And I always wonder why?

What’s Strasburg going to do if Washington says, “no”?

What would any of them do?

It may sound like sour grapes on my part and I promise it’s not—but I do have a point of reference. In 1981 I was the Number 1 daft pick by the Boston Red Sox.

I got $55,000.

One day later I was sent to “A” ball in Winston-Salem NC where I began my Pro baseball career.

My salary was $600.00 per month and meal money on the road was 9 bucks.

I played 13 years of professional baseball, 9 in the Major Leagues and felt like the luckiest guy in the world for the entire time.

I made 2.1 Million in my whole career.

50 Million wouldn’t have made me a better player or any happier.

— Steve Lyons


  1. oldbrooklynfan

    I never made it myself Steve, but you’re right, the money is not the important thing, it’s the sheer pleasure to play on a major league baseball field.

  2. zelig888

    Wow. Thanks for the inside look on your experience from the draft. I think the modern “bonus babies” (and their agents) could learn a thing or two about humility from a former Big Leaguer like yourself. Most of all, as a fan, I would like to hear (just once in a while) a young guy expressing his thankfulness for getting to play baseball for a living — a great, great living. Most of us only get to dream about such a living.

  3. cpompe1

    Hey Steve!
    You’re absolutely right and no, it doesn’t sound like “sour grapes” to me. I don’t know whatever happened to these “bonus babies”? I don’t know how much of it is the agent (although, I can’t stand Borass) and how much of it is the player himself, but whatever happened to working your tail off thru the minors and then get called up to the majors when it is time? What you say is the same thing (maybe in different words) that Harold Reynolds from MLBN. I watch that network all the time, and in talking about Strasburg, and if he’ll go DIRECTLY INTO THE MAJORS, Harold says much the same thing you do. All this talk about him going directly into the majors or how much $$$ he’ll sign for, is getting me nauseous…

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