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Bob Smizik Minimizes Pirates' Draft Return

I don't read Bob Smizik's blog, just as I don't shoot meth, or watch VH1, or set my face on fire - I value my brain cells. But when someone draws it to my attention, well, sometimes my curiosity gets the best of me. Thanks a lot, commenters.

But let’s wait until some of these players start to produce before we act like some kind of victory has been achieved. No victory was achieved. The Pirates did what they were supposed to do and what almost every other team in MLB did.

Uh, no. Every other team (other than the Tigers, who didn't have a pick) passed on Josh Bell, because they thought they couldn't give him enough money to dissuade him from going to college. The Pirates picked him. And signed him. So actually, the Pirates did what no other team in MLB did. The Pirates topped the previous record for draft signings by about $5 million, which is a wild amount.

Nailing second-round choice Josh Bell was more of a surprise, but he’s a high school kid. He’s years away from helping the Pirates -- if he ever does.

So? You could say this about almost any draft pick, and most of the exceptions are Danny Moskos types who are supposed to be close to the majors but provide little in the way of upside. If all you've got to say about a draft pick is that he's "years away," you might as well not comment on the draft at all, because that's pretty much how the draft works. 

As for Bell, who would have been a first-round choice had he not told all 30 MLB teams he was going to college, I present this information:

Jon Farrell, Charles Peterson, Mark Farris, Chad Hermansen, J.J. Davis, Clint Johnson, Bobby Bradley, John Van Benschoten, Bryan Bullington.

Those are Pirates first-round draft choices since 1990 who have been monumental flops.

That isn't really "information," except perhaps in the most generous definition of the word. It's just a list of names. And how does this discredit the Pirates' decision to pick Bell? If someone, anyone, were out there claiming that Bell is a sure thing, this might be relevant. But no one who knows anything is saying that. 

Also, no baseball player is a sure thing. You can pick pretty much any player category and start picking players who didn't work out. This says nothing about the value of those picks.

The Pirates need help now. They are a mediocre team that had a terrific two-month run this season. There is scant indication they will be any better next season.

It’s tremendous that the Pirates continue to be dedicated toward building their future. But they also have to do something about their present. The need better players for 2012, not 2013 or 2015.

Um, why not 2015? If Bob Smizik still has a blog in 2015 and the Pirates are losing, I'm sure he'll be the first to accuse them of poor planning. In the meantime, this is like a five-year-old saying she doesn't care about her college fund and really wants a pony.

The Pirates spent $5 million more than any team had ever spent in the draft before this year. Smizik waves that away by saying the Pirates should be expected to sign their first two picks, disregarding the fact that in the second round, the Bucs picked a first-round talent who everyone else passed on because they thought he was unsignable - and then signed him, to a bonus that went way beyond the call of duty.

If there's anything to feel ambivalent about here, it's that the whole thing felt like a few months ago when some folks thought the apocalypse was coming, and spent all their money, since they wouldn't be around to enjoy it later. I can't help but think the Pirates wouldn't have done this unless they felt pretty strongly that there would soon be significant changes to the draft that would prevent them from spending like this in the future.

That aside, though, it's just about impossible to deny that what the Pirates did is very, very good for them. They had the first pick and spent lavishly on him; that's to be expected. But to do that and sign Bell (along with Clay Holmes and several other expensive late-round picks) is well beyond what they had to do.

UPDATE 3:23 PM: Hahaha. Rjreynolds points out that Smizik had this to say on Monday:

Bell is another matter. He told teams before the draft they should not pick him because he fully intended to enroll at Texas and play college baseball. At the same time, though, he hired an agent, Boras, and the Pirates, from sketchy reports, have pursued him with some vigor.

The scorecard is this:

If the Pirates sign both: A+

If they sign only Cole: A-

If the sign only Bell: D

If they sign neither: F