There was no tugging on a cap. No hug from the commissioner. No arena crowd roaring its approval.
The No. 1 pick in the draft of the national pastime was sitting in a facility at Auburn university last Monday when he saw on TV that he had been selected by the Detroit Tigers. Number one.
“I didn’t know until the pick was made,” Casey Mize, 21, said.
They didn’t call you ahead of time?
Did you suspect it based on your workout?
“A little bit. (But) I knew they were considering some other guys, too…I kind of wanted to wait until I heard my name over the telly to really know for sure.”
Wow. How refreshing. No Mel Kiper. No massive ESPN crew. No data on bench presses or vertical leaps. No pre-paid trip to New York to sit in a tight-fitting suit and be filmed as part of a three-day reality show.
When it comes to drafts, baseball still does it right. Make your selection. Hope for the best. Move on. Most people, even many sports fans, didn’t know it took place.
And that’s fine. You won’t see Casey Mize on the mound at Comerica Park any time soon, so why make a huge fuss?
“I’m not sure what plans the Tigers have…But I have thrown a substantial amount of innings (in college) this year.”
Would you be OK with a year or two in the minors?
Did you see where Miguel Cabrera joked that you should come to the majors right now?
“I did see it. That was actually pretty cool.”
And what do you think?
“I think maybe slow down a little bit.”
Overanalyzed circus is overrated
“Slow down,” in fact, could be a mantra for the entire pro sports draft world. And the NFL and NBA could learn a few things from baseball. This year’s MLB draft drew a 0.3 rating on the MLB Network. That’s the highest it’s ever been. And that’s still less than 1/20th the audience of the first night of the NFL draft this year, according to the numbers reported by the Sporting News.
More than 20 times the audience? Why? The sport of football doesn’t draw 20 times the crowds of baseball.
But the NFL has supersized its draft into an overanalyzed circus, replete with breakdowns, footage, interviews, X’s and O’s, and of course, Kiper types ensuring their own importance by predicting who will succeed and who won’t — when every year, as many players surprise as disappoint.
It’s an industry unto itself, with websites, magazines and more, all trying to predict who will go where.
Forgive me if I prefer the baseball draft. It’s not only lower key, it’s lower expectations. For one thing, baseball doesn’t use college as a training program. It has its own minor league system that allows players to develop without trying to beat a draft clock.
Also, the baseball draft goes 40 rounds, yet takes about the same time as the seven rounds of NFL indulgence.
Oh. And you don’t hear this kind of stuff from baseball picks in the media: Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, who played one year of college basketball and couldn’t even lead his team past 13th-seeded Buffalo in the first round of the NCAA tournament, is boasting “I know I’m going No.1” in the upcoming NBA draft, while Marvin Bagley, who lasted one year at Duke, is calling that “disrespectful” and saying “I definitely believe I’m the No. 1 pick.”
Nobody’s looking at Mize as a savior
I’ll take Casey Mize’s approach. The right-handed pitcher was honored to be No. 1, but made no predictions. He admitted he’s never been to Detroit, doesn’t know much about Detroit, doesn’t know much about the Tigers, and didn’t spend his draft night doing a lot of research.
“I had a lot of family and friends come from out of town, so I kind of put my phone down…I just wanted to be with them, cause I knew they wouldn’t be able to stay long. I have plenty of time to do all of that stuff.”
Exactly. And the Tigers have time to develop him, and nobody is looking at him as a savior, the way No. 1 picks in football and basketball are hyped to be. On Saturday, in perhaps his final collegiate game, he gave up a season-high six runs in five innings. To college kids.
Nobody knows if Mize will be a star. He could be a Chipper Jones or Ken Griffey Jr., both No. 1 picks, or he could be Matt Bush, the 2004 No. 1 pick, who didn’t get out of legal trouble or the minor leagues for 12 years.
By the way, the No. 2 pick that season? Justin Verlander, by the Tigers.
So you can be one pick off or one pick on. No different than NFL top-pick busts like Jamarcus Russell, Aundray Bruce or Tim Couch. Or NBA disappointments Greg Oden or Anthony Bennett, both No. 1 selections.
The difference is, Mize won’t have to one day look back on a ridiculous fuss and be embarrassed. Instead, he can look ahead, as a draft pick should do, to bigger days than the one when he received a phone call. You know. Like the day he actually plays in a major league game.
Contact Mitch Albom: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Download “The Sports Reporters” podcast each Monday and Friday on-demand through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.