Neither side was at fault in the Milwaukee Brewers' failed attempt to sign first-round draft pick Dylan Covey.
It certainly wasn't Covey's fault that he developed Type 1 diabetes at 18 without realizing it. If not for a physical examination arranged by the Brewers, Covey still might not know, putting his health in peril.
And it certainly wasn't the Brewers' fault that they selected the highly ranked prep right-hander with the 14th pick of the June draft. At the time, there was no reason to think Covey was anything but a perfectly healthy pitcher with a bright future.
Because Covey had a bit of a fall-off in some of his outings toward the end of his senior season -- now attributable to the onset of diabetes -- some suggested red flags should have gone up for the Brewers. What that amounts to is the worst kind of second-guessing.
"The kid didn't know (he had diabetes); the parents didn't know," said Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. "How could we know? (Scouting director) Bruce Seid is beat up over this, but it's just a very unfortunate situation.
"It might have been a worse situation if we had signed him first (before the diagnosis)."
Even with the diagnosis, the Brewers tried to sign Covey, who instead chose to attend the University of San Diego to stay close to home and work on getting his dramatically changed lifestyle in order. They offered less money than the $2 million the Coveys originally sought, but considering the circumstances, it was a commendable effort.
In the end, it was the system that worked against both the Coveys and the Brewers. Most of the top picks waited until the Aug. 16 deadline, hoping it would drive up their signing bonuses.
Because the commissioner's office didn't want one player to use the bonus of another to drive up his asking price, teams were asked to wait as long as possible to make concrete offers. That led to a flurry of last-minute signings, and to the chagrin of baseball executives, most of the teams spent far more than the recommended bonuses anyway.
Covey didn't get his diabetes diagnosis until a couple of days before the deadline. That stunning news left little time to process the information and decide whether it was best to go pro or wait.
As it was, the Covey family tried to digest as much information on the condition as possible. They talked to medical experts, and Dylan even chatted via telephone with Toronto's Brandon Morrow, who pitches with Type 1 diabetes.
After the deadline passed, Darrell Covey, father of Dylan, spoke with Melvin for 45 minutes on the phone.
"He said once they found out (Dylan) had diabetes, money didn't mean anything," said Melvin. "He said if they had a couple of weeks to digest everything, it might have been different. They were still in shock over it.
"Waiting this long hurts everybody in the draft. The Coveys asked for an extension (of the deadline), but they wouldn't give them one. We came in with a last-ditch effort, but there was no exchanging of figures.
"We were just trying to convince (Dylan) he could do it. We even told him he could wait until February to report to give him time to deal with this. It wasn't about the money at that point."
This situation provided another example of how broken the draft system is. Because high picks hold out until the last minute and teams wait to make firm offers, players miss out on their first year of pro ball.
Next year, MLB plans to hold a pre-draft player combine, a la the NFL and NBA, with physicals that will prevent a last-minute diagnosis such as Covey received. But look for management to insist on hard-slotting bonuses in the next labor negotiation as well as earlier deadlines to sign.
The Brewers will get the 15th pick in the first round of the 2011 draft as compensation for not signing Covey, as well as their own pick. Should Covey never approach his previous form while dealing with Type 1 diabetes, the Brewers will be better off with the future pick.
Assigning blame in this situation is pointless. Stuff happens. In this case, unfortunate, unpredictable stuff happened.
Still high hopes
Though losing Covey was a blow, Seid remains high on the Brewers' 2010 draft. He believes second-rounder Jimmy Nelson, a right-hander out of University of Alabama, third-rounder Tyler Thornburg, a righty out of Charleston Southern University, and fifth-rounder Matt Miller, a righty out of University of Michigan, have potential to pitch in the majors.
All three are pitching for the Brewers' rookie club in Helena, Mont. Nelson, who throws regularly in the low 90s while touching 95 mph, is 2-0 with a 4.58 ERA and two saves in eight appearances, with seven walks and 22 strikeouts in 172/3 innings.
Thornburg, who throws in the mid- to high 90s despite his slight 5-11, 185-pound frame, has a 1.42 ERA in seven appearances with 23 strikeouts in 122/3 innings. Miller is 6-1 with a 3.47 ERA in 11 starts, with 19 walks and 39 strikeouts in 57 innings.
"We wanted to sign Dylan Covey, no question," said Seid, who included seven pitchers among picks Nos. 2 through 13. "But we still think this is going to be a good draft for us. We picked up some good arms."
If it does turn out to be a good draft for the Brewers, it will be at a bargain price. Because they didn't sign Covey, they spent only $2.43 million in signing bonuses, the lowest figure among the 30 clubs.
When men were men
While it's notable that the Brewers' John Axford has converted six saves of more than three outs in an era in which closers seldom are asked to enter before the ninth inning, imagine what it was like for Ken Sanders in 1971.
The Brewers' closer, appropriately known as "Bulldog," recorded more than three outs in 21 of his 31 saves that season. Sanders also was credited with six victories in which he logged more than three outs.
In converting 31 of 35 save opportunities, Sanders finished 77 of the 83 games in which he appeared, breaking the previous record of 67 held by Dick Radatz . The 77 games finished still ranks fourth on the all-time list.
Sanders compiled an amazing total of 1361/3 innings in those 83 appearances in '71 yet finished with a 1.92 ERA. Bulldog indeed.
Roll over, play dead
Little wonder Derrek Lee finally surrendered his no-trade rights and accepted a move from the Chicago Cubs to the Atlanta Braves. The Cubs have been going through the motions for weeks and are by any standard a $147 million train wreck.
After trading away several veterans, the Cubs played Wednesday and Thursday with 10 rookies on their roster. Six of those rookies were pitchers, a record for any club prior to September, when rosters can be expanded.
With 18 losses in 22 games entering the weekend, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry admitted, "The situation we're in, we're somewhere between miserable and sad every day."
Think about it, Brewers fans. As down as many of you are on Milwaukee's season, and with good reason, the situation is nowhere near as desperate as in Chicago, where the roster still contains several overpaid, underperforming veterans.
Position by position, which Cubs starter would you take over his Brewers counterpart? Centerfielder Marlon Byrd has played well, but he's toward the end of his career, not the beginning as with Lorenzo Cain .
Lee played for the Cubs for seven years and was asked to assess the Cubs' situation and legacy before departing.
"Having to hear about losing kind of puts you in a negative environment," he said. "That's not what you want. You want a little more positive energy going on.
"But you know that when you come here. That's one of the enticing things coming here. Everybody wants to be on the team that breaks the so-called curse."
First, you have to help yourself. After dealing Lee, the Cubs called up first baseman Micah Hoffpauir from Class AAA Iowa. Hoffpauir got as far as the airport in Sacramento, Calif., before the move was voided because he had not been down the required 10 days since a stint with the Cubs.
Not exactly a well-oiled machine.
How bad is your situation at third base when you upgrade it by trading for 35-year-old Pedro Feliz ?
That's what the St. Louis Cardinals did Thursday, acquiring the .221-hitting veteran from Houston. With rookie David Freese lost for the season with an ankle injury and utility player Felipe Lopez committing 10 errors in 49 starts at third base, the Cards were desperate for help.
"I do understand that this is not the biggest deal in the world, but I do think it addresses a very big need," said general manager John Mozeliak.
Basically, the Cards just want Feliz to field the position. He has a .963 fielding percentage, compared with Lopez's .925 mark at third this season.
AROUND THE BASES
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
MLB: Tampa Bay LF Carl Crawford
Crawford, 29, legged out his 100th career triple Tuesday, making him the youngest player to reach that plateau since Stan Musial got there at 28 in 1949. He was the first to reach 100 three-baggers since Kenny Lofton in 2006 and the first to hit them all for the same team since Milwaukee's Robin Yount in 1988.
BREWERS: LHP Randy Wolf
Wolf took a two-hit shutout into the ninth inning Wednesday in St. Louis and emerged with his third consecutive victory in the 3-2 triumph. Wolf was 7-9 with a 5.20 ERA after surrendering 12 runs in 52/3 innings in Pittsburgh on July 21. In five starts since, he is 3-0 with a 2.65 ERA.
Reds at Giants: Monday-Wednesday. Cincy finishes Western trip.
Twins at Rangers: Monday-Thursday. Twins face the heat.
Phillies at Padres: Friday-Sunday. Can Philly bats make noise?
Red Sox at Rays: Friday-Sunday. Trying to hang with Yanks.
BREWERS THIS WEEK
The Brewers continue their long home stand with three games against the Dodgers and three against the Pirates. Los Angeles has been disappointing. Pittsburgh has been, well, Pittsburgh, a loser for 18 consecutive seasons.
DID YOU KNOW?
CC Sabathia is 14-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 19 starts at Yankee Stadium dating to the 2009 all-star break. That is the longest home winning streak for a Yankees pitcher since Ron Guidry won 16 in a row over the 1985-'86 seasons.
YOU FIGURE IT OUT
Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer hit his first regular-season home run at Target Field on Wednesday in the Twins' 57th game in their new home. Mauer sent an opposite-field drive to left off Chicago's Gavin Floyd in the fifth inning.
"It felt good," Mauer said. "I've hit a lot of balls out that way that have died, so it's good to get one over the wall for sure."
Mauer's only other homer at Target Field came in an April 3 exhibition game against the Yankees. After that, he discovered how tough a home-run park his new digs would be.
Mauer acknowledged that the long home-run drought got to him.
"It messes with you mentally," he said. "You try to do different things that are out of what you do well. I fell into that trap a little bit, but you try to just have good at-bats and stick with your game."
In a postgame interview shown on the video board, Mauer told Twins fans, "Sorry it took so long."
(c) 2010, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Visit JSOnline, the Journal Sentinel's World Wide Web site, at http://www.jsonline.com/.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.