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Kyler Murray Wanted Football More Than Baseball Wanted Kyler Murray

Photo: Michael Reaves (Getty)

Outraged by the Bob Costas report from the weekend, Kyler Murray today chose a potential future in the NFL to a potential future in Major League Baseball.

Okay, that’s a preposterous lie, or as it is known in the industry, a hot take.

But the former Oklahoma quarterback, who had been itching to be lured away from a future as an Oakland Athletic by the sport he clearly preferred, heard enough hype about his future as a potential franchise quarterback and was finally convinced that football would love him more. This is a bargain many players come to rue in the fullness of time, but that’s not the point of today’s shriek. Murray gave off a consistent vibe that he really wanted football, which is why he kept his future options as gapingly open as he did.

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We will now wait a moment while you assemble your own hot take on why Occam’s Razor doesn’t apply to Murray even though it almost certainly does.

Yes, baseball is your parents’ pastime. Yes, the new baseball is heavily tilted toward The Three Truly Motionless Outcomes and away from the athleticism the young’uns prefer. Yes, the games take slightly less time than it takes for dinosaurs to become petroleum. Yes, the minor leagues are a hard and undercompensated road to glory and Major League Baseball went to court to make sure it stayed that way. Yes, the market for nine-figure money deals with double-digit terms is drying up, probably because of better-disguised forms of collusion, and yes, both labor and management are strapping in for an updated version of the old game show Lockout.

In other words, boys, girls and undecideds, baseball is getting its shoes squeezed at the arches while squeezing its own at the instep. But Kyler Murray isn’t part of the reason.

Baseball (and by “baseball” we mean the 30 billionaires who run the business rather than the game itself) could have changed its guidelines governing draft choices playing immediately. Bigger signing bonuses or swifter avenues of promotion through roster flexibility and service time might have helped grease the available skids to make Murray’s choice a lot more difficult than it ultimately was. The A’s could have made him the starting center fielder and then played him an inning at each position for the home opener and then renegotiated his contract after the game. If baseball really thought Kyler Murray could change the narrative that it is a 55-and-over complex with artery-ossifying stadium food, it would have done so happily.

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Or it could have done what it actually did, which is not worry about the narrative at all. It left the A’s brainiac farm led by the silver-tongued Svengali known to us as Billy Beane to sell life as an Elephant as best as could be done because ultimately, Kyler Murray didn’t mean enough to the industry as decided by the people who run the industry.

Baseball is back to the dark old days of the ’70s and ’80s, fighting about short-term money rather than game growth. For management, contracts must be driven down, and for labor, the perks of those already in the game must be defended. Marvin Miller and Donald Fehr sold the players on the idea of fighting for the next generation of players, but those arguments have been replaced by grousing about their own shrinking options. These are narrow views of a far greater set of problems, but hell is paved with short-sighted intentions.

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Kyler Murray would have brought buzz to a sport that clearly lacks it. He brings a fascinating set of athletic skills to a sport that has been condemned as insufficiently effervescent. He would have represented a small but braggable victory for baseball over the sport that already has too many teams in the league people care about and now two additional leagues, the AAF and XFL, that they didn’t ask for and will almost surely forget. Murray the A would have been a very nice get.

But Murray the A wasn’t a sufficient enough lure for baseball to circumvent its rules and mores to retain him, and we suspect that Murray the Yankee or Murray the Cub or Murray the Red Stocking wouldn’t have helped much more with that.

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For one, the A’s didn’t do anything wrong, and in fact were forward-thinking in a way that might help them with players who can’t be talked into the first round of the NFL Draft the way Murray was. Baseball’s ideas about bold thinking tend to run toward banning shifts and enforcing pitch clocks and making pitchers work harder, not truly thinking outside the batting cage as Oakland did. If Rob Manfred was smart, he’d return the A’s pick for having good intentions and shout down the teams that would object because, frankly, his sport needed just the concept of Kyler Murray the baseball player and needs the concept of others.

For two, baseball could not have reasonably manipulated its rules to move Murray to a more high-profile team without splitting its owners into have and have-not factions at a time in the life of the collective bargaining agreement when it desperately needs unanimity.

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Finally, though, and this is the one thing to take from today’s news, Kyler Murray chose what feels best for Kyler Murray. He walked, no pun intended, to the thing he’d rather do at this stage in his life. There is no reason to assume he did not make an educated and reasoned choice for him, although his brain and bones and muscles and ligaments may well weigh in later with additional data.

And baseball walked, too. It decided Murray wasn’t worth the extra-over-extra effort to make exceptions at a time when they’re trying to pen the entire herd. But if he doesn’t become the quarterback people keep saying he will be and he decides to abandon Dream 1 for Dream 1A, it won’t be because football failed. Kyler Murray is that luckiest of athletes—he has choices. He’s made one. He will have more. At least he’s betting he will.

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As long as it doesn’t involve a bucket of ice water and Bob Costas, the nation will survive.


Ray Ratto is a typing thing.

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