Looking to the future
Kyler Murray has a major-league decision to make.
The Oakland Athletics’ brain trust met with Kyler Murray in June and hammered out quite a unique contract.
The Athletics met with Murray again Sunday, according to USA Today, this time to persuade Murray to honor said contract.
I don’t know what Billy Beane and the A’s crowd pitched. Maybe more money, which at least
least one report said was Murray’s strategy. If so, that’s a bad look for Murray. The A’s were honorable and charitable with Murray. That’s no way to reward them.
But the Athletics are not on strong ground. They lose the athletic debate. Murray’s best chance for a long career as a major league athlete is football, not baseball. The gridiron, not the diamond.
That wasn’t necessarily the case last summer, when Murray signed the baseball contract that generously allowed him to play one last season of college football. Sort of get it out of his system, if you will.
Seemed like a good idea for all concerned. Five-foot-9 quarterbacks can excel in college football, but they’re not long for Sundays.
Better to be patrolling major league outfields, where short stature means only a smaller strike zone.
Then Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield happened in the NFL. Murray happened in college football.
And everyone sobered up about the difference between baseball draft picks and NFL draft picks.
Murray’s Heisman Trophy-winning season at OU made football scouts rethink their aversion to 5-foot-9 quarterbacks. Russell Wilson is all-pro caliber despite being 5-11; Murray seems to throw as well as Wilson and runs better.
And dead, too, is the bias against spread formation quarterbacks. Mahomes, an Air Raid QB at Texas Tech, could be headed for an MVP award. Mayfield, an Air Raid QB at OU, transformed the Cleveland Browns.
So Murray is billed as a possible NFL first-round draft pick, if he commits to football.
Hence the problem for the Athletics. Not every first-round quarterback becomes a star.
But the success rate for first-round quarterbacks is much higher than first-round draft picks in baseball.
Think of it this way. Murray was a superstar at the highest level below the NFL. College football is the sport’s version of Triple A.
And Murray dominated at that level. A star of stars. Murray’s 49-yard touchdown pass in the Orange Bowl had to eliminate all doubters about his skill level. Murray stepped up in the pocket against Alabama’s pass rush, jumped and fired, in mid-air, a half-the-field pass that Charleston Rambo caught in the end zone on a dead run.
In baseball, scouts know that Murray can hit .296 in the Big 12. The A’s, like every other organization does with high draft picks, tosses contracts to players they hope can play but aren’t the least bit sure.
We have no idea if Murray can hit TripleA pitching, much less major league curveballs and sliders.
As a first-round baseball pick, Murray will get every chance to succeed with Oakland. The A’s have invested heavily in the swift outfielder. He’ll have to prove he can’t play, which is better than having to prove that he can.
It’s much more likely Murray makes it big in football than in baseball. And surely he knows that.
That could be the best explanation for Murray’s evasive answers all season about his future. Back in the summer, sure, baseball was his future.
Agent Scott Boras secured a player-friendly contract from Oakland, and Murray was free to chase the lark of one last football season.
Then Murray and everyone else figured out how good he was in football and could be. Things changed.
Down the stretch of this season, we thought Murray was playing coy with his indecisiveness. What if he just really didn’t know?
Was torn between wanting to play baseball and the new realization that football was the safer path?
Certainly Boras’ public statements have gone from absolute confidence to hesitation. Boras seems to understand that his client is slipping away.
Murray is not a surefire NFL prospect. Fivefoot-9 still has its problems. But so do baseball players who haven’t so much as faced Class A California League pitching.
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray has signed with the Oakland A’s, but he might have a better chance at succeeding in the NFL.