The Kyler Conundrum

It is very rare that sports today enter uncharted waters.  For the most part, it seems that everything that is humanly possible (and not a ridiculously specific reach by an ESPN statistician) has been done before.  But, we are now at a point in time where the history books can be rewritten, and I’m going to argue that this historic event should never happen.

The NFL draft has been around since the year 1936.  It is 83 years old. The MLB draft has existed since 1965.  It is 54 years old. Thousands upon thousands of players have been drafted into these leagues since their creation.  If getting drafted into one professional sports league wasn’t impressive enough, how about getting drafted into two? Some notable people to have done that are Russell Wilson, Jameis Winston, Michael Vick, Colin Kaepernick, John Elway, Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, and Tom Brady.  Out of the thousands upon thousands of players who were drafted into each league respectively, and the handful of players who have been drafted in both, Kyler Murray is set to do something that has never been done before. Having already been drafted number 9 overall by the Oakland Athletics in the 2018 MLB draft, and as a sheer lock to be a first round pick in the upcoming NFL draft if he chooses to enter, Murray looks to be the first athlete in the history of the world to be a first round pick in both leagues.

Whether Kyler Murray should go to the NFL or MLB has been THE hot topic of conversation in the sports world for the last week or so, so I’m not going to waste your time reiterating the same points that have been stated time and time again.  That being said, I have my own take on the matter based on a few interesting points that I don’t think are as widely talked about as they should be. There are two interesting sides to this debate, and each goes beyond the surface of what most people are talking about.  Here’s my perspective on the matter…

Kyler Murray should play baseball.

And I don’t think it’s even really a debate.

Yes, this viewpoint is definitely based in some of the reasons that have been largely discussed by pretty much anybody and everybody debating this topic.  It’s really concerning that a study found that 110 of 111 NFL players had CTE.  That theoretically leaves Kyler Murray north of a 99% chance at getting CTE.  Compared to baseball, the comparative risks of injury are night and day. With regards to money, the average salary of an MLB player is just over $4 million while that of an NFL player is, $2.1 million.  The average MLB player earns twice as much, and due to the lack of a salary cap, the biggest MLB contracts are astronomically larger than the biggest NFL contracts, AND it’s all guaranteed money whereas it isn’t in football.  Lastly, the average career length of an NFL player is 3.3 years, while that of an MLB player is 5.6 years. So, in a very basic and macro sense, baseball is a sport where people play longer, stay healthier, and get paid more. This is definitely part of the reason I think Murray should choose baseball.  

But, all of that’s relatively obvious, and I’m sure Kyler and his professionally trained camp know all of this.  There’s clearly more to it than that, or playing baseball would be a no brainer. The career length or salary of an “average” NFL or MLB athlete really isn’t all that important or relevant because we aren’t talking about someone who is average.  The 9th overall pick isn’t expected to be average, he’s expected to be great. The Heisman Award isn’t rewarded for mediocrity, it’s given to the best of the best. Whether it is with regards to baseball or football, Kyler Murray is anything but average.

Kyler Murray should play baseball, but not for all of those very basic reasons that have been discussed time and time again.  Throw away the averages, throw away the generalizations, and just look at Kyler Murray for Kyler Murray, not just another athlete.  He isn’t just another athlete.  He’s an anomaly, something sports fans have never seen before.  So, without rambling on anymore, here is why Kyler Murray should pursue a career in the game of baseball.

 

Minor League Money Won’t Be a Problem

Minor league players get paid next to nothing salary wise.  They get around $2000 a month, barely over minimum wage and barely enough to support oneself, let alone an eventual family.  Comparing that to the $20-30 million contracts of a quarterback drafted high in the first round, it doesn’t seem like much of a choice.  That being said, Kyler Murray isn’t just another minor league ball player, he’s Kyler Murray. For starters, he was the number 9 pick in the draft, so he has a $4.66 million signing bonus just waiting for him as soon as he accepts the offer.  Even if Kyler Murray never steps foot on a baseball field, just by signing his name he is at least $5 million richer. And, there may be even more. As I am writing this, Kyler is negotiating with the A’s to give him a $15 million deal, a deal at the level of a full fledged MLB player, and the MLB seems like they are willing to break their rules and allow a minor leaguer to be offered a big league deal.  Because, as I’ve said, this isn’t just any minor leaguer, this is Kyler Murray. So, if he plays baseball, let’s say he’s in the minors for 3-4 years like most. He will already have at least $5 million, but at this point it’s looking like closer to $15 million in his bank account, and that’s off pure salary alone. Kyler Murray took the sporting world by storm this year, and in the span of 14 games went from a relatively unknown two sport athlete to a household name and Heisman winner.  Whether he ends up pursuing baseball or football, he will be far and away the biggest name in that draft class, and is sure to get tons of sponsorship interest. Whether it be Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, or something else of the like, plus recurring segments in the yearly “Heisman House” commercials, (with Kyler sharing a strong resemblance to 2017 winner Baker Mayfield who quarterbacked for Oklahoma a year prior and 2007 winner Tim Tebow who went from Heisman to eventually playing baseball) he will do just fine monetarily.

 

Going From One to Another

I don’t think that Kyler Murray will be a bust in whatever sport he ends up choosing.  He has not only a high ceiling but also a high floor, which is a dangerous combination for any athlete to have.  That being said, on the off chance that he doesn’t find success in whichever sport he initially chooses, I think that initial choice should be partially based on setting up his contingency plan, which sport will be easier and more effective in transferring to the other.  I personally believe, the clear answer to that is baseball. Kyler’s one knock right now when it comes to baseball is his lack of experience. He hasn’t “had enough swings” is what scouts and analysts are saying. Due to spending a lot of time (rightfully so) playing football, that has taken away from the time he has been able to put into baseball.  He’s behind the curve a little in experience compared to the other 21 year olds. So, let’s say he were to forego his chance to play baseball today. He spends four or five years in the NFL but doesn’t quite cut it at the NFL level (which I would like to reiterate I don’t think would be the case but this is a “what if”) and then tries the whole baseball thing again.  Now he’s 25-26, with the experience of an inexperienced 21 year old (the number scouts are throwing around is an 18 year old even though I don’t totally understand how they got there), and now has another 3-4 years in the minors before touching a big league diamond. He’s 26, with the experience of an 18 year old, and due to the physicality of football, the joints and bones of god knows how old, and don’t even get me started with head trauma.  So he will be around 30 AT EARLIEST when he cracks the bigs, with less experience and more injuries than literally everybody else in baseball (which I don’t think is hyperbole). On the flip side, if he chooses baseball, he can get his guaranteed money, and if the 3-4 years in the minors don’t work out, hopefully he put on some weight in his 4 years as a pro athlete (his one knock as a football player) and can start his football career with no injuries at 25 years old.  That seems like a much better path than the alternative.

 

He Can Be The Face of A Revamping Team

The Oakland A’s are probably the most interesting team in baseball.  In recent history, more specifically throughout Billy Beane’s recent tenure with the club, they have effectively been able to make something out of nothing.  This past season, the A’s finished with the fourth best record in the AL, securing 97 wins and the second wild card spot. (To put that into perspective though, that would have been the best record in the NL)  They did this with the second lowest payroll in baseball, at $82 million, just about one third of the Boston Red Sox, topping the charts at about $240 million. The A’s are known for finding these cheap diamonds in the rough, as was the focus of Michael Lewis’ book and the box office hit Moneyball, starring the likes of Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt.  They never really have a true stand out star player, trading them away when they have any sort of value, or acting content in letting them walk in free agency.  We saw this a while back under Billy Beane’s initial “moneyball” regime with the likes of Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Carlos Pena. We have seen it more recently as well with trading the likes of Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Donaldson when they were seemingly in their prime.  They haven’t really had a franchise player in recent history because when it looks like someone is on the verge of becoming that, they trade them away.

Kyler Murray can be that.

If a team with a payroll of $82 million TOTAL last season is in fact willing to spend $15 million to sign ONE draft pick, they have big plans for that guy.  Kyler Murray is already a household name, an absolute blur on whatever field he so chooses to play, and overall a great commodity for any professional sports team.

Not only do they value Murray, but the A’s are going through a renaissance, and Murray can be the perfect leader of this resurrection.  The A’s have been the Bay Area’s second fiddle for too long, with the Giants having continuous success in recent history, including three World Series Titles in the span of 2010-2014.  But, the Giants won just 73 games this past season and a measly 64 the year before, the A’s see their chance to pounce. They have plans to build a new ballpark on the water, full of glitz and luxury in the heart of Oakland.  It would also turn the surrounding area into a “sports epicenter,” all based around the stadium.  Who better to lead this renaissance than Kyler Murray, forgoing his chances as an NFL quarterback, placing his trust and allegiance in the Oakland A’s to be their star for years to come.  He can be the star.

Kyler Murray will be a star no matter what he does.  That being said, while there are pros and cons to just about every decision, I think the benefits far outweigh the risks of baseball, and the opposite could be said for Kyler Murray’s potential career in the NFL.  No matter what he decides, we can all agree that Kyler Murray is unlike any athlete we have ever seen before.

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