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 Phillies seem determined to try. Or, at least, to give the impression of trying.
Last week, the Oregonian reported that the NCAA had suspended Oregon State senior pitcher Ben Wetzler indefinitely while it investigated allegations that he made inappropriate use of an agent during his negotiations with the Phillies, who selected him in the fifth round last year. According to a report by Baseball America, the Phillies turned Wetzler in to the NCAA after they were unable to sign him. The report is generating major backlash in college baseball circles because of the see-no-evil-hear-no-evil phillsophy that has long been employed by major league teams who negotiate with college players. Technically, once a baseball player hires an agent, he becomes ineligible to return to NCAA competition. The rule, of course, is complete crap, the exact kind that you'd expect from an organization with a track record of the NCAA. As one Phillies player said today, "You're expecting a college kid with no money who might be paying for school to negotiatie with a professional sports team?"
Most people do not expect that, which is why every player retains the services of an "advisor." As explained by the aforementioned player, a potential draftee enlists the help of a lawyer or agent with a wink-and-a-nod agreement that his services will be compensated once a contract is signed. The "advisor" negotiates the contract, and right before the contract is signed, the player signs a contract for representation with the "advisor," who usually receives a cut in the neighborhood of four percent. This is standard operating procedure, as you can read in this piece by Baseball America here. Again, this is how it works. Nothing about Wetzler retaining an "advisor" would be out of the ordinary.
Whether there was anything else out of the ordinary is unclear, because the Phillies have refused to share their side of the story. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. referred comment to his assistant general manager who is in charge of amateur scouting. That assistant general manager, Marti Wolever, declined comment to Baseball America yesterday.
Clearly, the Phillies felt they were going to be able to sign Wetzler. If they didn't, they would not have wasted a draft pick on him.
Here is what Wetzler told the Oregonian on July 13:
"Before the draft, I was pretty convinced I was going to sign wherever I got picked, and move on. But a couple days after we got back (from Omaha) something in my belly just wouldn't let me leave."
So the kid decided to return to Oregon State for another shot at the College World Series, and, presumably a college degree. He announced his decisions in a group text message to his teammates that said, "Let's take one more crack at this thing."
According to Baseball America, the Phillies did not share his gumption. And until they tell their side of the story, they are going to look like a group of vindictive teenagers.
Angels lefty Michael Roth, a former University of South Carolina star, tweeted in response to the Baseball America article, "That's a weak ass move for any organization. If I was a junior this year I'd tell the Phillies not to draft me after that."