The NFL Draft is NOT All That

In my formative years, my three favorite days on the sports calendar were the first round of the NCAA basketball tourney and the NFL draft. While the NCAA tourney continues to be an A+ event, the NFL Draft has gotten way too big for what it actually produces. What started out to be a little event that ESPN televised during the week has grown to a three-month event, which receives more coverage on sports radio than any sport besides the NFL regular season itself.

I get a little nostalgic thinking about the 1980s coverage, which basically consisted of Pro Football Weekly‘s Joel Buschbaum reciting his pre-draft guidebook and then pre-parody Chris Berman and Devo-headed Mel Kiper Jr. on selection day keeping us informed on what the teams were doing. The current atmosphere where everyone has become a draftnik on the call-in shows is misguided, considering that hardly any of the first round choices will be impact players. Where in the NBA one player can make a sizable difference since only five players on the court at one time, the NFL is a game of specialization which features 22 starters.

Just look at the past two years’ first rounders and tell me who made a real impact on their team. I would say that in 2005 you could point to Shawn Merriman and Cadillac Williams, while in 2004 it would be hard to point to anyone outside of Ben Roethlisberger and Johnathon Vilma. While some of these first rounders might really start to come into their own in 2006, most of them were lucky to just start as rookies. The odds are extremely stacked against your favorite team getting any impact player in the draft, as the best way to improve a team is to pick up second-tier free agents who have proven themselves in the NFL.

The best percentage play in choosing a player who can be an instant impact player is to get some high speed defensive lineman/outside linebacker, as that is a skill-set that doesn’t take as much of a learning curve. (See: Shawn Merriman, Dwight Freeney, and Julius Peppers.) Outside of this position, where pure speed can win out over strength and intelligence, rookies, no matter what round they are drafted in are projects which you hope will begin to make a major impact by year three. One could argue that drafting a pitcher who can close games is a better instant bang for the buck than any player chosen in the NFL Draft, but since the MLB Draft recieves less attention than Melanie Hutsell at an SNL cast reunion, very few are really aware of this. (Under category of Unaware, did you know Hutsell was a cast member for three years?)

*****

The two new analysts I’ve noticed on ESPN’s baseball coverage are Orel Hershiser and Tino Martinez. Orel Leonard Hershiser is the best addition to ESPN’s coverage since Rick Sutcliffe, as he has a vast knowledge of the game, plus a rare ability of coming strong with his opinions early on in his broadcasting career. If I haven’t said it before let me say it again: I want more Orel.

Less Tino would be the other part of that chant, as Martinez is typical of so many other ex-jocks who go into broadcasting. Does anyone think that a player of his marginal talents would ever have been chosen if not for being a long-time Yankee? The thing I dislike most about him is the strange vocal inflection he has which reminds me of a character the great Phil Hendrie might have come up with. Martinez might possess the weirdest dialect to hit the airwaves since Joe Namath flopped in the Monday Night Football booth. Once again: More Orel, Less Tino.

******

After reading this story, I wonder when our boy Will is going to doing an Under the Knife column for the E! Network. I mean, considering his expertise on steroids, plus his addiction to the show Lost who better to cover this story?

25 thoughts on “The NFL Draft is NOT All That

  1. 1.  Who is Melanie Hutsell?

    I know I know, your point exactly.

    Actually I’m wild guessing that she was the Jan Brady caricature…am I right?

  2. 2.  Who is Melanie Hutsell?

    I know I know, your point exactly.

    Actually I’m wild guessing that she was the Jan Brady caricature…am I right?

  3. 3.  I always thought it was amazing that Melanie Hutsell lasted that long on SNL when her only comedic “talent” was wearing the same idiotic look on her face for sketch after sketch after sketch…

  4. 4.  Tino Martinez may be a marginal talent as an announcer but he was a very good first baseman for more than a decade – an excellent fielder with good power. You don’t play 16 years and hit 339 HRs as a marginal talent.

  5. 5.  3Joe,

    I think my marginal talent line was a bit off, so I appreciate you taking me on. While I think he was a vastly overrated player all but maybe 5 years of his career, he was better than a marginal talent. Looking at his comparables at Baseballreference.com exposes one weakness at this overall great site. Tino is compared to a lot of other first baseman who played in eras when it was much more difficult to slug away. Tino’s best years came during the offensive explosion of the mid-90’s.

    He is better than a marginal player, but as an announcer he is below marginal.

  6. 6.  Scott,
    Let’s not forget that Tino Martinez and his stats are being compared to Mark McGwire’s and Rafael Palmeiro’s, and we all know where a percentage of their “talent” came from!

    As far as Tino’s announcing skills are concerned, maybe you can cut him a break and give him a chance to settle in. I’m sure your first column didn’t merit a Pulitzer.

  7. 7.  I like Orel fairly well, but he loses me when he starts talking about anything other than pitching. It seems fairly clear that he doesn’t know as much about hitting as he does about pitching, so he sometimes dissolves into spewing the usual BS about bunts and hits-and-run that seems to be the party line for color guys these days.

    This puts him leagues ahead of Suttcliffe, who doesn’t know anything about anything, as far as I can tell, but is loud and rude about what he thinks he knows anyway.

  8. 8.  MEL,

    Who is comparing him to McGwire (Career OPS .982) or Palmiero (Career OPS .885)?
    Tino’s was .815, which I would suspect if you did ballpark effects and time period, would show that he was not much better than an average AL first baseman during this overall period. (see contemporaries of Tino…Frank Thomas, Mo Vaughn, Fred McGriff, John Olerud, Mike Sweeney, Jim Thome, just to name a few who have OPS’ more than 50 points above the Yankee media creation.)

    Voxter,
    Whenever anyone rips an announcer I always ask the follow-up question—who do you like then? I’m talking someone who is an analyst for ESPN or Fox, because I’ve got to think even you would rate Sutcliffe above average on that list.

  9. 9.  Since the E! network only seems to do celebrity reinactments, the better question is: Who plays the role of Will Carroll?

  10. 11.  Re: Tino Martinez… I think it’s interesting how you can judge Tino simply by his stats. Tino was a key member of the 1996-2001 Yankees, one of the most celebrated and winningest teams in baseball history. His clutch hitting, keen defense, and quiet constant leadership helped the Yanks claim four World Series Championships. Statistics don’t show you the plethora of times Tino singlehandedly carried his team. And no “marginal” player would ever put his team before himself, like Tino always did. Only a GREAT player — a champion, on and off the field — made that his goal, no matter which uniform he wore. There are many reasons why Tino is beloved in New York (all over the country, really), and those reasons go far beyond what statistical references reveal.

    I agree with your assessment of Orel Hershiser; but I feel Tino’s knowledge of the game is just as immense. Tino also has the ability to understand players at a deeper level; as a player, he could reach out to his fellow teammates when the coaches and managers couldn’t. Tino and Orel come from the same generation of ballplayers, and I think it’s easy to see that they like and respect each other. I think they make a grand team at Baseball Tonight because they both talk about the game with great expertise, instead of providing negative feedback. Perhaps you should give Tino another try, eh? Rather than hearing the tone of his voice (which in actuality is your only complaint), try listening to what he has to say, instead.

  11. 12.  Ken- You are basing the Burl thing on the pre-year of living dangerously Will.

    Janet, Janet, Janet. Where do I begin? First let me begin by thanking you for your post, as I appreciate your passion for Tino. Now, as I mentioned he had a really good 5 year stretch, but his overall career is one of just a solid major leaguer.

    Most of us around here judge players mainly on what their stats were and Tino’s overall stats would put him around the 7th best first baseman in the AL during his career. This is far from great. I don’t remember people talking about his clutch ability and leadership when he spent time with the Devil Rays. If Mike Sweeney had played with the Yankees, instead of the Royals during his career, he would have been a much bigger star than Martinez.

    As an announcer, I generally try to give a guy some time to get his feet wet, before being too harsh of a judge, but Tino’s weird voice sends up red flags from the beginning. Hershiser has come out of the gate slamming, with a great mix of substance and confidence. I haven’t learned anything from Martinez’s analysis, as he seems to have spent too long using athlete-speak. I don’t remember him being an interesting quote when he was with the Yankees, so I just don’t see why he was chosen for this gig, except that he’s good-looking and is a long-time Yankee.

    Some of my commentary is based on the immense bias that ESPN shows towards the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets. The network practically ignores teams like the White Sox, Cardinals, Angels, and A’s on its programs, despite these teams being just as good over the past couple of seasons. I have a real chip on my shoulder about people who get jobs more on circumstance than talent.

    Opportunities in life are often about being in the right place, at the right time. Meet Tino Martinez.

  12. 14.  The Mariners wanted to keep Tino past the 1995 season, but because he was doing so well they could no longer afford him. That’s when Martinez left Seattle for New York. Even though he had the difficult job of replacing Don Mattingly, he did enjoy a great six years in NYC. His stats (as I’m sure you know) show the highest production of his career, mainly because he played more games and was thrilled (and proud) to be a Yankee.

    He was hired by St. Louis and Tampa Bay after the 2001 season specifically for his clutch hitting reputation, as well as for his leadership skills and star veteran status. LaRussa and Pinnella have both commented in the past about the importance of Tino’s leadership for their young teams. No matter what he accomplished at bat, his presence alone made a positive difference for the Cards and Rays.

    When Martinez was asked back into the Yankee organization last year, it was to fill a back-up role for Jason Giambi. Tino gave the Yankees a much needed resurgence last spring when Giambi’s bat went cold. As a part-time first baseman, he carried his team while achieving a .391 batting average (more statistics) on a home run tear. Tino was feared enough at home plate that pitchers began to give him free passes to first base. Tino’s ability and talent brought the Yankees back to life. As the season went on and Giambi’s bat regained warmth, Tino still put his talents to good use: Under his own recognizance, he coached Jason (the man who replaced him in 2002, mind you) at first base, giving him advice while teaching him skills to sharpen his game defensively.

    As I said in my previous post, I think Orel Hershiser is definitely doing a great job on Baseball Tonight. I thoroughly enjoy listening to him talk baseball, as well. But perhaps Bulldog is seemingly better to you than Tino because he is enjoying his second stint with ESPN? Orel is probably more comfortable in front of the camera than Martinez because he has more experience; whereas Tino is just now completing his first month as an analyst, which is equivalent to around a handful of shows.

    Finally, for you to insinuate that Tino Martinez has accomplished so much in his life simply by chance is both absurd and (excuse me for saying it) ignorant. Opportunities in life are definitely made… but you must have the ability, talent, and desire to make the most of those opportunities. For a man who could easily get by on his looks, Tino has worked hard his entire life to achieve his goals. His instense, strong work ethic is part of what separates Tino from the likes of the real “marginal” players.

    You’re right to say I have a passion for Tino Martinez. I appreciate an athlete like Tino, as there are few men like him. As a player, he has always wanted to produce and put up big numbers… but not for the selfish reasons that plague Major League hitters today. Martinez truly loves the game of baseball and knows how to play it the right way.

    While ESPN may have a bias towards New York and Boston, you definitely have your own prejudice against those players. Thus, your judgement of Martinez is truly way off base. Meet Tino Martinez? I’m sorry Scott, but you haven’t got a clue.

  13. 16.  My guess is Janet is either Tino’s PR agent or is a Tino stalker with a passion only matched by the Clay nation.

  14. 17.  I didn’t hear Tino’s broadcast – and I agree with you regarding his better-than-marginal-yet-not-exactly-great assessment – but he was a better player, better leader, and simply by default would have to be a better announcer than Paul O’Neill. Which is really not saying much.

  15. 18.  I would argue the notion that Martinez was a better player than O’Neill. For 1 year he was, but outside of that, no.

  16. 19.  Tino maybe marginal as announcer, but he has a total of about a month and half of doing work. Compared to such amazing ex-player announces as Ken Harrelson, Joe Morgan, Jeff Brantley, Ron Santo, John Kruk, Tim McCarver, Darrin Jackson, Rex Hudler, Keith Hernandez…it’d be a lot more difficult to find a good ex-player broadcaster.

    And Hershier is great, I watched him for a whole three minutes and after he said “finding it,” for about the fourth time, I really understood what he was saying the next five times he said it.

  17. 20.  You know what, I checked some of the traditional stats and I find that I was wrong – with the exception of more home runs by Tino, He and Paul were just about the same player, with the edge actually possibly going to O’Neill.

    I didn’t do win shares or various other more accurate yet lesser-known SABR stats which, if I can ever find them, may yet vinidcate my seemingly now incorrect opinion.

    In my defense, I may have given O’Neill short shrift as a player because he’s infinitely more annoying a person than Tino.

  18. 22.  Scott, I’m disappointed you gave up on our conversation so quickly. You didn’t give me the chance to mention that Tino was a 1988 Gold Medal Olympian and MVP Player. Shucks.

  19. 23.  Ravenscar – looking at less traditional stats, I’d say that O’Neill’s career OPS+ of 120 is more than trivially better than Tino’s 112. Although it does show they were both quality players. O’Neill was also a plus defender with a great arm at an important position. Tino was ok, O’Neill much better in my mind.

    Please don’t tell me to can it, Janet
    I’ve one thing to say and that’s
    Dammit, Janet, I love you.

  20. 24.  Childhood

    Constantino Martinez was born in Tampa Florida on Thursday, December 7, 1967. The second son of Sylvia and Rene Sr. Martinez. Tino’s mother, Sylvia was a schoolteacher and his father Rene Sr. was the general manager of Villazon Cigar Company, Inc. Rene Sr.’s father-in-law, once an employee at Villazon, owned the place. Tino’s older brother Rene Jr. is one year older and now is a bank vice president. Tino’s brother Tony, two years younger and is now a teacher.
    Tino as a young boy. Click to enlarge

    Hard work is no stranger to Tino. During summer vacations and Christmas breaks Tino (as young as 10) and his brothers would work hard at the cigar factory as young boys. They would help by unloading heavy crates of tobacco, assisted in the fumigation and arrange the tobacco in the sorting rooms.

    School

    Tinos’ childhood ambition was to be a professional athlete, but not necessarily a baseball player. Tino was five when he first started playing baseball. Later playing Little League in West Tampa. Tino surpassed at baseball in high school. Tino led Tampa Catholic H.S. to the Florida State Championship in 1982 and took Jefferson H.S. to the state finals in 1985. Tino attended the University of Tampa playing on the Spartans at first base and right field for three years, and was a three-time Division II All-America. Tino Martinez and Luis Gonzalez http://www.usatoday.com/sports/bbw/2001-10-31/2001-10-31-cover.htm Photo on left is of Tino Martinez and Luis Gonzalez in high school in Tampa, Fla – click for more information at USA Today.

    Career

    Tino was selected in Mariner’s first round pick (14th player overall ) in the June 1988 draft, but spent that summer with the U.S. Olympic team. He led the United States baseball team to the gold medal in Seoul, South Korea. Martinez spent three seasons in the minor leagues before the start to his big leagues career, making his M.L. debut August 20, 1990. In 1992 Tino had his first full season with the Marines. December 7, 1995 Tino was traded by the Seattle Mariners with Jim Mecir and Jeff Nelson to the New York Yankees for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock. Signing a 5-year contract extending through 2000. On November 5, 2001 he was granted free-agency. Tino signed with the St. Louis Cardinals on December 18, 2001. On November 19, 2003 Tino was sent from St Louis to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Tino was owed $7.5 million next season (2004) and has an option for $8 million in 2005 with a $1 million buyout. The trade included cash considerations for the Devil Rays, meaning St. Louis could pick up the bulk of the money remaining. On December 31, 2004 Yankees signed free-agent Martinez to a one-year deal that would guarantee Martinez about $2.7 million and include a club option for 2006.

    Presence

    Constantino Martinez resides in Tampa Florida with his beautiful wife Marie, maiden name Prado. Marie’s brother is Lelo Prado who is head coach at University of Louisville Tino and Marie have three children: Olivia was born August 10, 1992. T.J. was born August 10, 1993, one year to the date of Olivia. Victoria was born December 7, 1995 on Tinos’ 28th birthday.

    In Short
    Full Name: Constantino Martinez
    Date of Birth: 12/7/67
    Place of Birth: Tampa, FL
    Height: 6′ 2″
    Bats: Left
    Throws: Right
    Positions: First Base
    Team: New York Yankees
    Residence: Tampa, Florida
    Marital Status: Married to Marie (Prado)
    Children: Olivia, T.J. and Victoria
    First position ever played: First Base
    First Job: Working in a cigar factory.
    First Car: 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme
    Favorite subjects in school: English
    Favorite team as a kid: Cincinnati Reds
    Favorite Ballpark: Yankee Stadium
    Favorite Book: The Firm
    Favorite Movie: Rocky I
    Favorite Pet: Dog
    Favorite thing to do when not playing baseball: Boating
    Favorite Music Group: Rolling Stones
    Favorite Supehero: Superman
    Favorite Fast Food: McDonalds
    Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Cookies n Cream

  21. 25.  “Dammit, Janet… I love you!” Rocky Horror Picture Show. One of my favorite cult films.

  22. 26.  I think December 7th should be declared a holiday. (Although it should only be celebrated in New York City.)

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