You know that Baseball America is obsessed with the draft. It's part of our DNA.
The obsession grows out of that of our founding editor, Allan Simpson, who made shining a light on the baseball draft part of Baseball America's mission from the time the magazine started in 1981.
It is impossible to overstate how secretive baseball was about its draft at the time, and for at least 20 years after that. It goes without saying that there was no broadcast of the draft, but baseball didn't even release the full list of picks until weeks or months after the draft--and for a long time, the list came out alphabetically, so no one would know what round a player was drafted in.
Simpson stepped into that information vacuum and decided he was going to report on the draft anyway, because he was interested and because he thought readers would be interested as well.
He was right, and the work he and countless other Baseball Americans did over the years benefited the entire baseball industry, in spite of its resistance to the publicity.
Now the baseball draft is a big deal, relatively speaking, and even casual fans pay attention to it for at least a couple of days. Just about every major media outlet now pays at least cursory attention to the draft, and we're no longer the only ones doing mock drafts.
We're still several steps ahead of the competition, though, here to provide more draft information than any baseball fan has a right to expect with Baseball America's Ultimate Draft Book. Order your copy today!
Now, you may remember that we talked about this book a year ago, during the 50th anniversary of the baseball draft, but the project proved to be so massive that we're only now getting to the finish line.
You could say that the draft has been Allan Simpson's life's work, and this book is the volume that best encapsulates that work.
To that end, part of the challenge of this project was figuring out what not to include. Simpson estimates that he has cut 100,000 words from all of the stories in the Ultimate Draft Book.
And the stories are amazing. For each year of the draft, we have included a comprehensive overview of what happened that year, focusing on the picks that worked, and the picks that didn't--and exploring the reasons why. It's remarkable how many first-round picks not only didn't work out on the field, but also had lives that descended into tragedy off it.
In addition to the overviews for each year, we have also pulled out some of the most intriguing people from each draft for a closer look, both on the field and off. How was Andre Dawson an 11th-round pick in 1975? Which first-round pick hanged himself in a jail cell after his baseball career fell apart? What happened to all the 1996 loophole free agents?
Unprecedented Data On Bonuses, Beyond
You'll also get the most comprehensive draft data ever assembled. I know that sounds like a generic marketing claim, but if anything it's an understatement of just how amazing all of this information is.
Simpson went back and re-examined every draft list, all the way back to the first draft in 1965. He corrected mistakes with names, schools, even whether a player had signed or not, or whether picks were voided.
Did you know that longtime college and pro basketball coach Lon Kruger was drafted (twice actually, when he was a high school player in Kansas in 1970 and after his senior year at Kansas State in 1974, and when he was known as Lonnie)? With these draft lists we have highlighted information like that for every draft, so you'll see all the notable names both in and out of baseball who have gone through the draft over the years.
The lists also include whether a player signed or not, whether he reached the big leagues (and for how long), and for the top picks, the level where their career peaked, even if they didn't reach the majors.
In the case of the draft-and-follow process (which lasted from 1986-2006 and allowed teams to sign players who either didn't return to school or went to junior college until a week before the next year's draft), no one had ever gone back and determined exactly which players from each draft signed as draft-and-follows.
Now someone has. Not only will you see which players signed as draft-and-follows, but if they also went to a different school for the intervening year, we have noted that as well.
And I have been saving the best part for last: the most comprehensive bonus information ever collected. Again, just saying that does not do justice to how much bonus information we have in this book. Have you ever seen a source that has the bonus for every first-round pick in draft history? No you have not, because one has not existed until now.
Have you ever seen a source that has the Top 25 bonuses for every draft in draft history? The top bonuses by round for every draft in draft history? Again, no, because that information had never been gathered into one place.
Now it has. Every first-round bonus, and basically every significant bonus in draft history in one place. Not to get all “as seen on TV" on you, but you're getting your money's worth on the Ultimate Draft Book with the bonus information alone.
When you consider that no one much paid attention to draft bonuses beyond those awarded to the top picks until about 20-25 years ago, going back and assembling this information is an amazing feat, and a tribute to Simpson's contacts in the game as well as his doggedness in pursuing each piece of data.
This is something that few people would even notice, but for years the accepted figure for 1975 No. 1 pick Danny Goodwin's signing bonus was $125,000, which he received as part of a major league contract. In fact, Goodwin received a $150,000 bonus--shattering the record of $100,000 established by Rick Monday in the first draft in 1965.
Simpson discovered this tidbit and many others by going back to original source material and seeing the figures for himself. Again, it's a tribute to his doggedness and the contacts he and Baseball America have built in the industry that we are able to find this information and bring it to you.
It's what we have been doing for 35 years, usually with the cooperation of people who see things firsthand--but not always.
In a nice full-circle moment, Hall of Fame baseball executive Pat Gillick penned the Foreword to the Ultimate Draft Book, paying tribute to our work in making the baseball draft a more prominent part of the sports landscape. It was funny to those of us who have been around for years, because we remember when Gillick's employees with the Toronto Blue Jays were not allowed to speak with BA.
“In fact, we had a strict, well-established club policy that if any of our scouts ever talked to BA, they were subject to dismissal," Gillick writes. “It was nothing against Baseball America. It's just that the Blue Jays weren't going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, to gather inside draft and scouting information and then provide it to a publication that was selling it for $1.50."
Now some Blue Jays employees talked to us anyway (we'll never tell which ones), and once Gillick left Toronto, he did not hold his employees with other clubs to the same standard.
“I came to appreciate that Baseball America had a wealth of sources for gathering insightful draft content, and was discreet and responsible in the way they used it," he writes. “In fact, Baseball America's draft information and insight more often than not became a valuable source to us and all clubs in the game.
“More than anything, Baseball America is most responsible for the popularity of the draft today, and the accompanying 50-year history of the draft is a reflection of their coverage of the draft through the years. It is the most complete, most authoritative book on the topic ever published. It gathers not only the names and the facts, but the amazing stories of the baseball draft."
We can't really say it any better than that.
No matter how much you think you know about the baseball draft, I assure you that you will learn something new from this book. I have worked at Baseball America for more than 20 years, and I'm finding new information around every corner. It's remarkable how many names you'll recognize, but often not for their on-field accomplishments.
As we head into another year of draft excitement, it's a reminder that even after 50 years, teams still struggle to get those selections right. Every baseball executive should have this book on his or her desk as a reminder, and so should you.
It will go to press right after the 2016 signing deadline, so order your copy today!