Phillies, NCAA should be ashamed

It's pretty tough to be looked at worse than the NCAA in the sports world, but that's what has happened to the Philadelphia Phillies this past week.

On Wednesday, it was reported by Baseball America that someone in the Phillies organization had turned in Oregon State senior pitcher Ben Wetzler, whom they drafted in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball draft last June, to the NCAA for allegedly using an agent during negotiations between Wetzler and the Phillies last July.

While using an agent is against the NCAA's rules — more thoughts on that to come later — it has been common practice by numerous college baseball players drafted after their junior seasons.

Let's put aside whether Wetzler, who was suspended for 20 percent of the season — 11 games — on Friday by the NCAA, broke any rules.

Instead, let's focus on how a bunch of money hungry grown men and women hold all the cards and don't care who gets hurt along the way.

If true, it's sickening to me that a professional organization would stoop so low because it was spurned by a young man who had a passion and desire to return to school to help his team make another run at a College World Series berth.

On Saturday, the Phillies finally responded in a 36-word statement that read: "The Phillies did participate in the NCAA investigation and a ruling has been issued. We believe it is inappropriate to comment further on either the negotiation with the player or the action taken by the NCAA."

There will likely be backlash and repercussions for the Phillies as they have angered many for ratting on Wetzler, as well as Washington State's Jason Monda, a sixth-round pick. Monda was cleared last week just before the start of the season.

As for the NCAA, Wetzler may not be the poster child for college baseball, but you have to admire a young man who gives up a pretty payday (reportedly around $400,000) to sign a professional contract and opts to return to school for his senior season.

I can understand that the NCAA wouldn't want players to sign with an agent. Makes sense for football and basketball as those drafts take place well after the end of those seasons and the players have time to decide if they want to enter the draft early.

The issue I take is that in baseball, unlike football and men's basketball, you are eligible to be drafted after your junior season whether you declare or not.

In many instances, like Wetzler's, players are still competing at the time of the draft. Then they have a short period of time to sign or choose to return.

It doesn't seem fair that a 21-or-so-year-old person should have to go into a negotiation with a Major League Baseball club by himself or without some kind of (professional) representation.

In baseball and football, the players have already been drafted and have passed a deadline to be able to return to school. So when they go in to negotiate a contract, they have representation without fear of losing eligibility because they don't have any left at that point.

Steve Clark, OSU's vice president for University Relations and Marketing, had some harsh words for the NCAA in a statement released on Friday.

"The NCAA should have the best interests of student-athletes in mind, and it should certainly question rules that produce this outcome," Clark said. "Having seen these amateurism rules in action, OSU believes the NCAA should take a serious look with an eye toward revising the rules on amateur status and find new ways to help student-athletes navigate the high-pressure negotiations of professional sports to make the best life choices."

However, I don't believe the NCAA cares one bit about the athletes who help make it money. If it did, it would rethink so many of its archaic rules regarding amateurism, especially this one when it comes to baseball players.

If the NCAA wants to keep it illegal, then maybe underclassmen should be required to declare for the MLB draft.

Instead, the NCAA has once again messed with, in this case, a young man's future. Wetzler has worked hard, talked about being a better leader for his team and realized that money isn't always the best option. He loves the game of college baseball, loves Oregon State and this situation should have been resolved by now.

The NCAA should — once again — be ashamed of itself.

So should the Phillies.

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