Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Royals sign 16-year-old shortstop for $1.3 million... somehow the idea doesn't sit well; will they even let the kid finish high school? Mr. Escobar, you better learn how to beat Billy Butler to first base on those routine ground outs

Just a little queasy is how I feel.

Did the Royals just sign a 16-year-old to a $1.3 million contract?

If Mr. Escobar were my regular, best-hope, shortstop, I’d be looking for help, too. But, a 16-year-old?

Question: Will the Royals make it possible for Marten Gasparini to finish high school?

Reading about ‘gap-to-gap’ power in a 16-year-old just feels strange. Above average bat speed, they say. Above average for 16-year-olds or above average for minor league or major league players. Marten is already six foot – are they sure he is finished growing? What happens when he discovers girls?

I remember what happened to my baseball work ethic when I discovered girls at about the same age. Well… when I really discovered girls, since I had discovered them long before in a more, let’s say, passive way. Only god knows what would have happened if I'd had $1.3 million to spend on girls at 16. As it was, I embezzled $32 as treasurer of the MYF to keep my first girlfriend in french fries and malted milk.

$1.3 million in the pocket of a 16-year-old? Mickey Mantle was 19 and had graduated high school when he signed with the Yankees for $1,500. And he still had a lot of growing up to do. Think about it. Mickey was raised on hard scrabble ground by his tough lead miner father in a dusty Oklahoma town. If anyone should have been seasoned for the mental rigors of professional baseball, it was The Mick.

Yet, he nearly folded during his first year in the minor leagues. It took some harsh words from his father, Mutt, to keep him from boarding a bus back to Commerce, Okla., mid-season.

I have no idea what sort of life Marten Gasparini has lived in Italy. But the idea of a 16-year-old with a $1.3 million bonus makes me queasy. And, not just for the money spent because the Royals certainly waste plenty of money on much older folks. I’m just thinking about the kid, about what this means in the shape of his life. Somehow, ironically, it doesn’t seem quite fair.


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