The Times West Virginian

June 10, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- MLB can wait for Musgrave

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — It had been quite a couple of weeks for Harrison Musgrave, his head still spinning like the tornadoes that had roared through Oklahoma when his West Virginia University baseball team was there to compete in the Big 12 Tournament.

Now he was driving to the Cape Cod League for a summer of extended pitching as the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft was being conducted, his future very much at stake.

He needed something to take his mind off all this important stuff, and that something occurred as he was motoring toward his future, captured in this tweet he sent, presumably after pulling over: Just saw a guy giving himself a haircut while driving #mosttalentedmaninteworld.

Talented might have been the wrong adjective.

As for most talented, maybe not, considering the season Musgrave had just authored at West Virginia that included a 9-1 record with a 2.17 ERA, just 65 hits allowed in 95.1 innings, only 13 of those hits going for extra bases, fewer than the number of just doubles each of WVU’s other three starting pitchers had allowed.

Looking at that, one could use the hashtag #mosttalentedmaninteworld to describe Musgrave, unless he happened to be a major league scout.

As difficult as it is to imagine, Musgrave wasn’t selected in the draft until the 33rd round with the 991st selection in the draft. It is almost as mind boggling to believe that there are 990 better major league prospects available for the draft than a proven commodity like Musgrave as it is to believe that Geno Smith really wasn’t a first-round NFL talent considering his collegiate accomplishments.

Now it’s true that Musgrave doesn’t light up 91 on the radar gun and that he has a history of arm trouble that includes Tommy John surgery that cost him a year, and his value probably fell some when he indicated he would return to college if not selected high.

But 991?

Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray compiled a 10-3 record with a 1.64 ERA, allowing a batting average of .189 while facing the same hitters in the same league.

Yes, they are better numbers, but are they 988 players better?

Does it matter if you throw 100 mph, as Gray does, or in the low 90s as Musgrave does — with his left arm?

The result of the draft made Musgrave’s mind up for him.

This is what he tweeted shortly after learning of his fate: Proud to be drafted by the Phillies but we have unfinished business and i will be back for next year #roadtoomaha #wvubaseball.

Normally, as someone who covered major league baseball for 30 years, I would strongly disagree with such a decision, having learned the big money comes once you make the major leagues and not out of your signing bonus following the draft.

The road to the major leagues is through the minor leagues and you will advance far faster as a pitcher in the minor leagues under their instruction than in college, where you pitch far fewer innings and, therefore, figure to advance more slowly.

What’s more, in Musgrave’s situation, does he really figure to have a better year next year than he had this season?

It’s certainly difficult to be better than 9-1 with a 2.17 ERA. If that didn’t impress the professional scouts, what can he do for an encore?

Add in the risk of re-injuring the arm and you wonder what there is to gain by returning to college, but ...

Here’s the other side, and it actually has swayed me from my more practical assessment of getting your career started as quickly as possible.

You are only a college-aged kid once and, quite obviously, Musgrave is enjoying that.

This is especially true with the magic that coach Randy Mazey has created on his baseball team. Something really special happened here this year, something that will not be recaptured in the minor leagues when the real world weighs down upon you.

If you can experience that college magic and that college life for another year without really endangering your career, why not do it?

It’s like a friend of mine here in Morgantown — a friend, coincidentally, who is a Philadelphia Phillies fan — says about not taking things like business too seriously.

“What are they going to do, send me to Morgantown, W.Va., to hack out a living?”

Indeed. Musgrave was drafted 991st. What are they going to do next year, draft him No. 1,034?

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.