I happen to know that Doug’s brother is staying out of trouble by playing the Strat-O-Matic online game!
The closer you are chosen to the first round [of the MLB draft], the better your odds of making it. In fact, first-rounders make it about 65 percent of the time, whereas those drafted in the 16th to 20th rounds have a 6.5 percent chance. That’s 10 times less likely.
The reason is talent, for sure, but also opportunity and investment. These amateur players have benefited from both, because when talented people receive more consistent expert education, they gain exponential advantage.
In 1991, I was one of those first-rounders… But that same year, the player picked over everyone on earth, by the New York Yankees, was Brien Taylor… Taylor, a left-hander, flirted with 100 m.p.h… In his first two seasons, he did not disappoint. He baffled professional hitters in the minor leagues just as he had high-schoolers. But one day, while trying to protect his older brother from being bullied by a man in a North Carolina trailer park, Taylor ended up hurting his pitching shoulder… The Yankees let him go in 1999 and two other teams gave him brief looks before deciding that he no longer had a future in the game…
Earlier this month, Taylor was indicted on federal drug charges, including three counts of distributing crack cocaine. This stemmed from an arrest in March after he had been accused of selling directly to an agent. Now he is facing a new kind of inevitability — not one having to do with major league stardom, but one that makes a jail sentence a mere formality. He is 40, a shell of the person he was on draft day…
In that trailer park, Taylor did what anyone would have done for a brother who was being threatened. Sure, he should have fought with his non-pitching hand, or tried to be the negotiator, but such things are not always options in that split second it takes for life to change. The kind of thing that happened to him could have happened to anyone.
Meanwhile, here I was, 11 picks after Taylor, able to get my time in the big leagues. I made my major league debut, earned a multiyear deal, had a locker next to Alex Rodriguez’s. I try to tell myself that it was because of my better judgment about what risks to take, or my Ivy League opportunities, but comfort does not come. For me, reading about Brien Taylor is haunting.
All this points to the illusion of inevitability. You can engineer the perfect diet and workout routine, be a good citizen and work at your craft year-round, and still have your dream destroyed by something out of your control. It could even happen while you’re doing what you wholeheartedly believe is right.