In a move that can only be described as an effort to fill time, Major League Baseball and ESPN2 announced that the MLB Amateur Draft would be broadcast on tv for the first time. The four hour coverage will take place at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, and occupy the daytime hours from 2-6 EST.
If you think the NFL draft is long, think again. The MLB draft technically has 50 rounds. It can also conclude if all 30 teams have passed on a selection before the 50th round. Either way, ESPN2 will be merciful and only broadcast the first round. This draft format really gives an added advantage to the wealthier big market teams. It seems that while teams like the Devil Rays and Pirates will spend their draft budgets, the deeper pocketed teams can take fliers on riskier players.
The real question is: is anyone going to watch this? The allure with the NBA and NFL drafts is that we're familiar with the players being chosen. It's one of the biggest reasons the NBA instituted the draft cap last year. We've watched these players rise up through the college level, and it's exciting to see which teams they'll end up on. ESPN made a HUGE deal about last month's NFL draft. It dominated their airwaves in the weeks leading up to the draft. But they do this for good reason: the Draft brought in a 3.6 HH rating, second only to The Sopranos for cable ratings that week.
NCAA football and basketball are well-oiled star machines. Simply, we enjoy watching players like Lebron, Carmelo, Leinart and Bush be drafted. They've cultivated a fan base through their successes and become poised for stardom. And what brings down the draft are the players like Didier Ilunga-Mbenga and Tiago Splitter. They're the players that surmise a collective "huh?"
And the MLB draft is nothing more than a collection of Tiago Splitters. The cream of the MLB draft crop is often just as ready to contribute in the big leagues as any other player from another sport (See: Weaver, Jared; Prior, Mark). But they're a bunch of no names. You'd have to be far more than the average fan - no - far more than the obsessive fan to even know more than a dozen of these guys. The Splitters of the world may turn out to be great players, but they lack the allure to draw in the fan.
The MLB draft is likely to draw in the same people who would watch anything else on ESPN's daytime program: unemployed men, and college students. You won't see people people ditching work and donning a Mets jersey for the occasion. I don't fit into any of the above categories, and won't be watching. But everything being equal, I'd rather be watching PTI.