Bane recalls his Strasburg-like situation
Former college star went straight to Majors in 1973
The story goes something like this:
In 2004, the Angels selected Jered Weaver in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft. Weaver, perhaps the top college arm in that class, had put up eye-popping numbers in his junior season. His advisor, Scott Boras, sent a letter to the Angels and scouting director Eddie Bane, comparing Weaver's stats to Mark Prior's ridiculous junior season at USC as a means to justify his bonus demands.
Bane went 40-4 with a 1.64 ERA in his college career at Arizona State and was one of 20 players since the Draft began in 1965 to go straight to the big leagues after being taken by the Twins with the 11th overall pick in 1973. He told longtime college baseball writer Kirk Kenny that he calmly replied to Boras, "Here's my stats. I was better than both those guys, but I won seven games in the big leagues. We're certainly looking for more wins than that."
Introducing Eddie Bane, walking cautionary tale.
"I never thought about it much like that," said Bane, taking a break from preparing for his sixth Draft as scouting director for the Los Angeles Angels. "I don't mind at all if that's what it is."
Bane was as dominant a college hurler as there was. His name dots the NCAA record books. He had a 0.99 ERA as a sophomore and went 15-1 as a junior. He was 1973's version of Mark Prior, Jered Weaver or, dare it be said, Stephen Strasburg. He went straight from the College World Series and into the Twins rotation.
"I went from striking out Dave Winfield at Minnesota at a College World Series game -- that played pretty well in Minnesota -- threw a few bullpens in Minneapolis and they told me I was starting July 4. Quite honestly, if every team made as much money off their first round pick as the Twins did off me, they'd be doing very well. It was the biggest crowd they ever had at [Metropolitan Stadium]."
He didn't disappoint, allowing just one run on three hits over seven strong innings for a no-decision. He appeared in 23 games that summer, mostly as a reliever, and posted a 4.92 ERA. After spending 1974 in the Minors, he made it back to the big leagues in 1975 and 1976. In the end, he had those seven wins to show for it to go along with a 4.66 ERA.
|Since the institution of the First-Year Player Draft in 1965, twenty players skipped the Minors and went directly to the Major Leagues after being drafted.|
Years in Majors
|1969||Steve Dunning||P||Indians||1970-74, 76-77|
|1971||Rob Ellis||3B||Brewers||1971, 74-75|
|1972||Dave Roberts||3B||Padres||1972-75, 77-82|
|1973||David Clyde||P||Rangers||1973-75, 78-79|
|1973||Eddie Bane||P||Twins||1973, 75-76|
|1978||Mike Morgan||P||A's||1977-78, 82-83, 85-2002|
|1978||Bob Horner||3B||Braves||1978-86, 88|
|1978||Tim Conroy||P||A's||1978, 82-87|
|1978||Brian Milner||C||Blue Jays||1978|
|1989||John Olerud||1B||Blue Jays||1989-2005|
|2000||Xavier Nady||OF||Padres||2000, 2003-pres.|
|* - Pete Incaviglia was drafted by the Expos, but was traded to the Rangers when Montreal was unable to sign him.|
With the lack of a big league career -- he would go on to pitch nearly 850 innings in the Minors -- it would be easy to understand if Bane was bitter about the quick call to the big leagues and how it ruined him. But that's not how he sees it.
"I don't think it was a mistake because I was mentally and emotionally able to handle it," Bane said. "The only problem was my physical tools weren't able to handle it."
Bane says that when his curve wasn't as good as it was in college, it didn't leave him with much. Still, in today's era, it's likely he would've gotten another shot the next year after winning 10 games in Triple-A. Then he won 15 more in 1975. But it was much harder back then to get back up once you'd been sent down.
Bane puts himself more in the Jim Abbott category in terms of having the mental toughness to go straight to the Majors, rather than the David Clyde category. Clyde was the No. 1 pick in the same Draft as Bane and went directly to the Texas Rangers out of high school.
"With David Clyde, it was a mistake," Bane said. "He wasn't ready emotionally or mentally."
Where does Strasburg fit into the spectrum? It's an important question as many have seen him as a guy who could make a Bane-like beeline to the bigs. He has the physical tools Bane didn't have and appears that he's ready to handle the mental and emotional side of the challenge. He pitched in the Olympics with professionals and not only held his own, but carried himself in a confident, yet uncocky way.
He might have one more advantage over Bane in 1973. The Nationals' roster is relatively young and, should Strasburg ascend quickly, he would be more among his peers than Bane was.
"There was a huge resentment when I signed from guys who had been with the Twins organization for a long time, until the next Spring Training when it went back to normal," Bane said. "I was coming into [Harmon] Killebrew, [Rod] Carew, [Tony] Oliva. They were all great, but they were much older than I was."
In the end, Bane doubts whether Strasburg will be the next to go from amateur to Major Leaguer in one fell swoop. And for Bane, that means being drafted, signing quickly and pitching soon, not signing late, going to the Arizona Fall League and then hitting the rotation next spring. And with the bonus figures being floated out on the rumor mill, the odds of Strasburg entering the Nationals' fold immediately seem to rule out the right-to-the-bigs path.
"I'm talking about a guy going on June 15 of this year. That would be a story," Bane said. "I don't see that happening with Stephen. I have a feeling the negotiations might take a little while."
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11 at 6 p.m. ET. The MLB Network will broadcast the first round on the evening of June 9 from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections also will be simulcast live on MLB.com.
Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos.
Once the first night is done, the Draft will continue with rounds 4-30, via conference call from MLB Headquarters in New York, at noon ET on Wednesday, June 10. Rounds 31-50 will be on Thursday, June 11, starting at 11:30 a.m.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.