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Random Musings about the Futures Game

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Thoughts on the Futures Game.

I have been struggling with this "thoughts on the futures game" thing for a couple of weeks, along with the upcoming piece on the Triple-A slugger. The problem here is I couldn't find a "hook" for either piece, something to organize the essay around, a specific idea to explore. I've finally given up, and will do both pieces in "stream of consciousness" fashion.

When they started doing the futures game a few years ago, I was very excited. What better treat could there be for prospect watchers? But the actual execution of the project has, for me, been something of a disappointment. I don't find the TV commentary to be particularly interesting. Actually, I found it less-than-interesting in previous years, so I didn't pay attention to the announcers at all this year, ignoring them and watching the game on TIVO.

You only get to see the pitchers for an inning at most, the hitters two at-bats at most and often just one. I would personally prefer an American vs. National League format, rather than the "U.S. vs the World" thing they do now. The current format smacks too much of the Olympics for my taste, and I haven't liked the Olympics since I was 10.

The rosters are certainly a who's-who of top prospects, with some sleeper guys mixed in. It's great to see unknown-but-talented guys like Travis Bowyer and James Johnson share the stage with well-known names like Justin Verlander and Francisco Liriano. But again, given the limitations of a single game and the necessity for everyone to play, from a scouting perspective the event has little value.

I don't mean to bash the Futures Game, but I want to put it in context. It's a good idea. I'm glad they have it. The most important thing that the Futures Game does is focus attention on prospects and bring them into the public view. This is good, obviously, especially for people in my line of work. The more people seek out information about prospects, the better.

But the thing I like most about doing prospect analysis is finding the diamond in the rough, or figuring out who is going to be a prospect in 2006 before everyone else notices. Or following the fringy Quadruple-A guys. From this perspective, Futures Game hype for Delmon Young is less interesting, to me, than the development of Bowyer, or Edison Volquez, or Radhames Liz and his 45/7 K/BB in 31 innings in the New York-Penn League.

So, overall my thinking about the Futures Game is that I'm glad they have it, and it is useful for publicity purposes, but it is not one of the highlights of the year for me.