Major League Baseball just doesn't get it.

Never mind getting on the field this season in some abbreviated (less profitable) form or fashion.

The sticking point on restarting seems to be dollars and cents, compensation, and who will give up what to somehow get games played somewhere, anywhere, even if in semi-quarantine.

Yes, it's yet another heartwarming tale of millionaire employees squabbling with billionaire owners, which always tugs at the average fans' sympathies.

Maybe they get it worked out, maybe they don't.

In the meantime, the major leagues have a player draft to conduct, beginning tonight.

I suppose they learned nothing from their cohorts in the NFL.

The baseball draft never has had quite the caché of the football version, certainly not the theatrics nor — in normal times — the forced pomp and circumstance and occasional musical numbers.

Mainly, the players aren't as well known to the general public as college football players. The viewers tend to be the true seamheads more than the casual fans.

College football fans generally have a big interest in where their favorite school's players end up — in baseball, the college fans only hold their collective breath to see how the major leagues might ransack their incoming recruiting class.

But the skyrocketing TV ratings of the "adjusted" NFL draft — minus the centralized song and dance but with entertaining trips into real living rooms — should have been some tip off as to just how starved American sports fans are for anything real, something that's not "Classic" and probably recorded in 1986.

Something live and happening now. Bring it on. The more the merrier.

So what does baseball do with a chance finally to put its draft up there front and center on national TV for a captive audience begging for more?

Nothing special. Baseball just shortened its draft from 40 rounds to … five rounds.

They could have spread that thing out from now until next year.

And some people would watch it all.

We'd have been treated to social media arguments about the Mariners' 38th round pick, well over 1,000 picks in all to bicker about.

And isn't that what sports is here for?

Instead, there will be only 160 players drafted.

It'll be over before you know it, and then it's back to Classic This and Encore That.

Of course, the trade-off for the colleges and their fans is that only those 160 players will be drafted.

That should be good news, right?

Much less chance for those juniors to leave early, much better chance for those recruits to actually show up on campus.

It always varied from situation to situation, but as a general rule a player taken in the first 10 rounds was tough to keep in college or, if in high school, to get him there.

Now, if you don't go in those first five rounds, there's no incentive to sign pro. Those who sign as free agents will get, at most, a $20,000 signing bonus, also known as a mere pittance.

So, yeah, this could be a boon for the college game.

And at the worst possible time.

This is the new normal. This is the one year the colleges might have welcomed the pro leagues barging in and flashing cash money around. This is the year that maybe they could use a little thinning of the herd.

With this year's college season cut short, the NCAA rightly granted players another year of eligibility. It even created allowable roster space and scholarships for seniors unexpectedly coming back. They won't count against next year's 11.7 available scholarships or the 35-man roster limit.

The problem is that in college baseball, most drafted players leave for the pros after their junior seasons, when they have more bargaining power. College coaches accept it, plan for it.

But with only five rounds, many more juniors will be back, same for the incoming class of freshmen.

LSU, for instance, has only two of this season's seniors coming back for the extra year — which adds only two roster spots. You don't get extra roster spots for returning juniors you had assumed wouldn't be back.

The Tigers, meanwhile, could lose as few as one junior, outfielder Daniel Cabrera. There could be others — maybe catcher Saul Garza, pitcher Devin Fontenot or infielder Zack Mathis — but nothing like the usual exodus.

More of the recruiting class figures to show up as well.

It could work itself out.

College baseball's transfer portal is bulging at the seams these days, and LSU already has at least three players opting to play elsewhere for next season.

But the major leagues aren't doing college coaches any favors.

That's the old normal and the new normal.


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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