Monday, June 4, 2012

Keith Law is An Asshole

“Byron Buxton has tremendous upside potential”
-Keith Kiper Jr.


This isn’t going to be the focal point of this post, I just figured “Keith Law is An Asshole” gets a fair amount of hits on Google and being a brand new blog I’ll take all the views I can get.

Really, though, Keith Law is an asshole. He never lets an opportunity to insult his audience get away, and his sadomasochist following just can’t seem to get enough of his abuse. “Klaw”, or at least those who defend his dickishness, enjoy pointing out how “snarky” and “sarcastic” he is, but an asshole? No way. This defense is somewhat reminiscent of Sarah Silverman’s line about celebrities that excuse their behavior by proclaiming themselves a “Diva.” As Silverman retorts: “No, you’re a c**t.”

I’m not really sure why a Harvard and Carnegie Mellon educated man would waste his time belittling the already overtly unreasonable fans that comment on his chats and twitter feed. You don’t see mainstream, 24-hour news networks bothering to give the time of day to completely unqualified, illogical “commentators”.

Okay, bad example. Still, if the people he demonizes are that stupid, why bother responding? If it’s for his own amusement, then he is much more easily amused than I would’ve expected. If it’s for his viewership’s amusement then…

…get the damn MLB Draft back on ESPN, because this man would make a great “Mel Kiper Jr.”

Kiper has never (to my knowledge, anyway) routinely used the Internet as his personal medium for berating fans, but he’s the NFL’s lighting rod for Draft controversy. Whether it’s sparring with NFL executives, telling Todd McShay what a moron he is, that goofy helmet hair, or actually using “upside” and “potential” in the same breath when describing a prospect, Kiper has long been in important piece in the NFL marketing machine that has managed to make the NFL Draft the most awesome piece of pretentious television the world has ever seen. (Really, it’s like the male version of the Oscar’s. It’s the one day in sports where the showmanship plays a larger role than the event, itself.)

That’s not to suggest the MLB should try to mimic the NFL when it comes to the draft, the processes are just too different for too many obvious reasons to bother naming, but the league should take note that behind all that hype, seven different scrawling banner graphics, and cursing Eagles fans, the NFL ends up doing a beautiful job in blending actual, informative, content with TV gimmicks.

Sadly, in lieu of actual analysis on how GM’s and Scouting Directors use the draft to build their farm systems (and, by proxy, big league teams), the MLB Network-produced draft spends four hours simply telling their audience just who the hell a couple dozen of these players are with commentators that have seen hardly any of them play. To make up for this lack of real content, MLB makes a half-hearted attempt to steal a page from the NFL playbook and puts together a cheap stage where Bud Selig can sheepishly announce the picks to MLB Network studio employees.

I understand why the MLB holds the draft on their network. Lord knows they need the ratings and I guess it’s cheaper to just have Selig trot around your own TV studios than to rent out the Radio City Music Hall, which is more akin to what ESPN would like. (Can’t we meet in the middle? Like, the Seacacus Hilton Convention Room?) But the end result for us fans is a draft class full of players from a college or high school season that went completely ignored by the network that now plans on detailing their professional prospects for us. If a fan limits themselves to MLB-operated mediums, their only chance to learn anything about the class, prior to draft day, is to check out Jonathan Mayo’s coverage on MLB.com. Yet, with the draft being as unpopular as it is, even Mayo (who’s one of my favorite baseball writers) is hamstrung by the fact that his audience must first be introduced to many of the draft’s basic concepts. His 2012 coverage met its depressing end this past Friday with a very awkward attempt at a game of “Draft Chatroulette” on MLB.com.


I’d like to see how Keith Law would handle this situation


Even worse, during the one day of the year where the network does bother to cover the draft (you know, draft day) the league-owned channel immediately kills any opportunity for some objective analysis. Every team and every pick has smoke blown up it’s ass by the MLB Network crew, with the closest attempt at any form of criticism is to call a pick “risky” (and even that is likely to be followed by some positive reinforcement). Klaw won’t play that shit. He won’t even let an annoying tweet go unpunished. Get the draft on ESPN and watch him snark the hell out of the Pirates for taking Deven Marrero ahead of Kyle Zimmer, and in the process probably provide some actual analysis.

The coverage doesn’t have to be combative, but it at least needs to be interesting if MLB expects anyone to watch. Enough of the scripted banter and empty commentary. Sure, a lot of fans don’t follow the draft very closely, but maybe they would if MLB gave them a reason to. So fine, MLB, if you insist on carrying the draft on your network at the very least can you give someone from Baseball America (or Perfect Game, or wherever) a seat at the desk during the draft and a reasonable amount of air-time prior to it? It’d be nice to actually hear someone familiar with the prospects them give informative input on players outside the top ten picks.

Also, let’s get a chance to actually see the prospects we’re talking about. The college baseball season begins in February (when MLB is still not yet out of hibernation) and is still active on draft day, is it that unreasonable to see just a tiny bit of NCAA coverage? (I’m holding out hope that this might be possible in the near future with the recent MLB-NCAA partnership discussions, but I’ll have more on that on the next post) And what about a televised Draft Combine for the High School prospects so they aren’t forced to travel all around the country for the countless showcase events?

MLB, if you’re going to go for a draft built on hype and cheap stage productions, at least do what the NFL does and make somewhat of an effort to stage a little drama. In the end, however, your draft simply isn’t built for that. So instead of waiting until the 11th hour to explain just who the hell is on the draft board, get people interested in the event by making sure they know what’s at stake before the draft begins. From there, the fans will create the drama themselves.   

The league can also make the draft more inherently interesting by making further changes to the rules and format. To be continued….