By Joshua Spaht
Oregon State opening day pitcher Ben Wetzler was suspended by the NCAA for 11 games to start the season. Wetzler was scratched from his start on the first game of the season against Gonzaga, after the NCAA released a statement claiming that Wetzler must miss 20% of the 2014 season. The reason for this punishment, though, is a very controversial subject in the college baseball world.
In last year’s major league draft, Wetzler was picked in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Phillies. After contract negotiations, Wetzler decided to return to OSU to play his senior season. The mistake he made that cost him, was that he used an agent to help with the negotiations. The Phillies reported Wetzler to the NCAA months before the season started.
In college baseball, players do not declare for the draft, as they do in football. In football, a player can declare to enter the NFL draft three years after they graduate from high school. Once a player declares for the draft, they give up their amateur status and are free to negotiate with as much help as they need. In baseball, after a player’s junior year, or if they are 21 or older, they are eligible to be drafted. Drafted players are allowed to consult with agents, as long as they sign with the professional team in the end. If a player is considering returning to college, they are not supposed to seek any advice from an agent. This, of course, creates a huge problem for anyone who doesn’t want to be taken advantage of by professional teams, who have around 100 players to pay each year.
When asked what he thought of Wetzler consulting with an agent, NEHS sophomore Stephen Martinez said “It’s not that big of a deal, if you’re just a college kid you don’t know what you’re going to choose to do yet.”
One major question, is what did the Phillies expect to gain from reporting Wetzler? Many organizations let it slide when a player consults with an agent, due to a common opinion that the rule is a little ridiculous. The last time that a player was reported for this reason was in 1992 when the White Sox drafted A.J. Hinch out of high school. Hinch opted out and chose to play for Stanford, and the White Sox reported him to the NCAA for using an agent. The Phillies also reported their 6th round pick, Washington State outfielder Jason Monda, but he was not found to have committed any wrongdoing.
OSU has expressed disapproval of the extent of the punishment, claiming that it was “too harsh.” The suspension has caused a lot of criticism of the NCAA’s rules concerning a players amateur status, and of the Philadelphia Phillies organization as well. Hopefully Wetzler’s stock will not be affected in this year’s major league draft due to the situation.