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The Dam Links 2/20/2014: The Wetzler Fiasco

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My favorite MLB teams this year will be the Mariners and whoever is playing the Phillies.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

191 days until kickoff vs. Portland State.

It's a special Thursday afternoon version of The Dam Links, as the Wetzler story has hit the national college baseball wire pretty hard today.

First, a reminder that first pitch against Nebraska is Friday at noon. If you're trying to listen to it on the radio, here's the list of Beaver baseball radio stations and the games they cover. It might even be accurate.

The Elephant in the Room:

The big news in Beaver Nation is the Ben Wetzler situation, and a variety of sources have been weighing in on it since Baseball America's Aaron Fitt broke the story Wednesday night.

From SB Nation's Phillies site, The Good Phight:

Hopefully, this is the case of a rogue person acting outside the desires and normal procedures of the Phils' front office. If not, this makes the Phillies look extremely bad.

And petty.

The comments section of that blog is split fairly evenly between "Another crappy move by our terrible management" and "Wetzler broke a rule, it's his fault."

Deadspin: Report: The Phillies Ratted Out Two Draft Picks to the NCAA:

Why would the Phillies do this? It is almost inexplicable. They have nothing to gain—Wetzler is gone, and Philadelphia will receive a compensatory sixth rounder this summer—and everything to lose. Non-senior prospects generally indicate their "signability" before a team selects them. You should now expect very few of them to be open to talking with the Phillies.

(The compensatory sixth rounder comment may be an error, not sure)

The Oregonian's take on it is mostly a summary of Fitt's report, but it does show most of Aaron Fitt's tweets on the subject. They also have a summary of various reactions to the Baseball America report (including BeaverBeliever12's rant on this site), none of which are positive towards the Phillies.

The Philadelphia Inquirer is attempting to remain neutral. The comments in this article are more interesting than the article -- almost nobody in Philly seems to like the team's management.

David Murphy of did not pull quite as many punches.

While it may be impossible for an organization to ever sink to the depths that the NCAA has reached in its quest to continue operating its billion dollar minor league sports franchises without the expenses typically associated with such ventures, the Philliesseem determined to try. Or, at least, to give the impression of trying.

CougCenter's take on it, which is relevant because Washington State OF Jason Monda (and sixth round Phillies' draft pick) was also investigated after he returned to college, reported by the Phillies at the exact same time as Wetzler. Of course, Monda was cleared of any wrong-doing last Thursday. Their key point:

As usual, the only one hurt in the process is the player.

ESPN's Buster Olney also weighs in:

It would be really, really interesting to know if the Phillies had contact with "advisers" for signed draft picks in previous seasons, but chose not to reach out to the NCAA. Major League Baseball should be asking questions about this, given the ramifications. "If this is true, it could change the way business is done," said one agent.

If the Phillies are only targeting draft picks who chose to reject their offers and stay in college, this really is not that far removed from a form of blackmail, with Philadelphia’s future draftees perhaps believing that if they don’t sign, the Phillies could threaten their NCAA eligibility. If it’s a case of conflict between the team and particular agents -- and the player has become a pawn in that conflict -- then somebody should step in and do the right thing.

It’ll be interesting to hear the Phillies’ explanation for all of this, because on its face, it looks like it could be dirty pool, a case of a billion-dollar company using its power to complicate the lives of a couple of college kids it failed to sign.

If you're the vindictive type, you'll enjoy this tweet:

Minor League Madhouse has an outlook on the legal ramifications for this case. They mention Mark Appel, just a couple of years ago, declining to go to the Pirates because his "adviser" a.k.a. SuperAgent Scott Boras, demanded he get overall first pick money despite not going until the 8th pick. You think Mark Appel was the only one that ever had any direct contact with the Pirates?

There is one interesting quote from this article that I haven't seen elsewhere:

It’s likely that the Phillies will have a very severely damaged reputation now that Wetzler has decided to hire an attorney. This attorney is the same attorney that dealt with Houston based college football booster Willie Lyles in the case of Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk. The fallout likely could mean that the Phillies would be banned from drafting Oregon State, or by extension, Pac-12 baseball players. This would be a big loss, especially considering one of Philadelphia’s alleged biggest targets could be Oregon State star Michael Conforto.

I love the fact this story is convoluted enough to involve Willie Lyles.

Here's my (probably in vain) attempt to summarize the situation:

Once a college baseball player signs an agent, they waive their amateur athletic status. If that player does not know if he is going back to school or not, he can't hire an agent. While "Advice" is allowed, these advisers can't actually be part of the negotiating team, and can't have any direct contact with the professional club. So according to the NCAA, this 21-year old college athlete should be negotiating with major league baseball teams by himself. This seems to me like a rule that's just asking to be broken.

What has evolved is that just about every player who is drafted has an "adviser" of some sort who handles their negotiations in an unofficial capacity, because 99.99% of college baseball players are in no position to be negotiating with professional baseball franchises. Baseball teams know this, players know this, college teams know this, it's how things are done by virtually every team. Right or wrong, this is what has evolved to work best for all sides in the system, given the confusing and largely arbitrary rules imposed by the NCAA.

However, this time, the Phillies, for whatever reason, didn't like what happened with Ben Wetzler and Jason Monda, and reportedly went to the NCAA in November. Monda was cleared last Thursday. Wetzler's situation is, apparently, more complicated and needs more time. Why did these two get targeted when dozens of college baseball players do this every year? Only the Phillies (and maybe Ben Wetzler, Jason Monda, and their "advisers") know for sure. The conventional wisdom right now is "Sour Grapes."

Right or wrong, the bottom line is that this completely screwed Wetzler; he's not earning money playing baseball, and he's not able to play for his college team. Now, if he did break a rule, did he deserve to get penalized? By the strictest letter of the law, perhaps. But if he broke a rule that's broken by dozens of players each year and is rarely (almost never) enforced, is that fair? Debatable. Did the Phillies' draftees that signed contracts break the same rule prior to signing the contracts? I'd place a sizable wager that the answer to that question is "yes."

This is a complicated situation that isn't exactly new. Baseball America reported on a similar situation back in 2008, although that time it was a spurned agent which caused the ruckus.

Back in 2009, a player sued the NCAA for getting declared ineligible for this very reason. The matter was settled for $750,000, and the case was settled, which meant the NCAA could go back to doing exactly that. At least, until someone sues them again. One key quote out of that article, from Rick Karcher, a professor of sports law at Florida Coastal School of Law:

The MLBPA, not the NCAA, is the proper entity to be regulating the player-agent relationship.

I would tend to agree. So why is the NCAA still doing it?

If the NCAA wants to avoid this problem, make the baseball draft like the basketball and football draft, where once you've declared, you have a deadline to pull out by, or you're done in college. Then this situation wouldn't arise. I don't actually know why the rules are different, I'll try to dig up that answer in the next day or two.

As far as the actual length of his suspension, I found this quote from Kendall Rogers on Perfect Game in an online chat:

I'm hearing that it could be a very very long suspension. But we will see what happens. Oregon State apparently has a very very good legal team.

As of Tuesday, OSU was hopeful the investigation would be wrapped up this week. However, given the glacial pace of the NCAA, and considering they've had this since November, I have little or no faith in that. Part of me fears that it took them three months to figure out Monda's case, and will take Wetzler the same amount of time, but did Monda first because he was first in alphabetical order.

Of course, we don't know exactly what Ben Wetzler did at this point, so maybe some of this outrage is misdirected, and he is a guilty party. However, I find it difficult to swallow that he did much, if anything, different than what dozens, if not hundreds, of other young men did last summer.

Other, less frustrating, Stuff:

Some more insight on why Coach Cavanaugh turned down Oklahoma State.

ESPN's Pac-12 blo analyzes various coordinator changes in the Pac-12 North. It's kind of surprising to me that only three Pac-12 teams have retained their offensive and defensive coordinators from last year and none of those three (Arizona, Colorado, Washington State) were particularly successful.

Pac-12 football attendance was down very slightly in 2013 as opposed to 2012. Oregon State attendance was down 1.1%, averaging 42,964 fans last year. I think some of that can be attributed to the fact the team went 6-6 instead of 9-3, plus the Civil War being in Eugene instead of Corvallis last year. Hopefully, next year is an uptick again.

Josh Andrews and Michael Philipp are in Indianapolis, preparing for the draft, although they weren't invited to the combine. Other non-combine invited Beavers expected to participate in OSU's Pro Day: Cody Vaz, John Braun, Jovan Stevenson, Steven Christian, Micah Hatfield, and Kevin Cummings.

The Pac-12 spring practice schedules were announced, and the Beavers will start spring football practice on March 31, with the spring game on May 7th.

The Pac-12 has a number of players practicing in spring sports, including seven Beavers: Hunter Jarmon (baseball) and six track and field participating athletes.

Oregon State baseball returns to Arizona this weekend, with a noon game against Nebraska kicking things off. OSU's game notes show that this will be the third game all time between the two schools, and the second in seven days. A Saturday noon game against Michigan State continues the series, and a 10 am game against 10th ranked Indiana finishes the Pac-12/Big 10 Challenge. A 10am Monday game, not part of the series, rounds out the weekend in Arizona. The opponent in that game is a familiar one -- the Washington Huskies. The Beavers will be back in the state the last weekend of March, when they play a three game conference series in Tucson against the Arizona Wildcats. Connor Letouneau previews the series, and O-Live also has some video of the team, including indirect reactions to Wetzler's situation. At least they're saying the right things trying to focus on baseball.'s Brooks Hatch has a really nice interview with OSU pitcher (and suddenly annointed Sunday starter) Scott Schultz.

A redditor compiles the major college baseball polls into one conglomerate poll, kind of interesting. Oregon State comes it an a combined #2, although the #1 team is currently 2-2 and likely to fall a bit. A 4-0 weekend would probably turn them into a combined #1.

The Gazette Times' Jesse Sowa takes a look at the Beavers' mens' basketball team's current emphasis on coaching chemistry.

The official OSU website has a preview of the womens' basketball team's Friday night game in Pullman. This is a big weekend for the Lady Beavers, who are just ahead of the two Washington schools in the standings, and are in good position to earn an NCAA tournament berth.

Two OSU volleyball players (one former, one current) will try out for the womens' national team this weekend.

A four part television series on the OSU Basketball team starts airing on Sunday on the Pac-12 Network. Looks like each of the next three (and maybe four) Sunday nights, you'll be treated to a new episode of Rise and Grind*:

*Unless, of course, you have DirecTV.

Today's instantly legendary baseball brawl comes courtesy of Cuba.

As always, vote in the poll below. And leave anything I missed in the comments. There's a lot out there on the Wetzler story, I'm sure I've missed something.