SECAUCUS, N.J. -- The 2012 First-Year Player Draft might feel considerably different than the one that began Monday night, with the inception of a hard-slotting system and the prospect of teams selecting players from the Dominican Republic, The Netherlands, Cuba and points beyond.
At least if Commissioner Bud Selig has his way.
Slotting and a truly worldwide Draft are two items that will be on the Collective Bargaining Agreement agenda when Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association begin to negotiate a new deal, with the current one set to expire at the end of the year. On Monday, in between reading the first-round selections at the podium for a fifth consecutive year, Selig reiterated his optimism that slotting will happen.
"I do. I've said before, so I'll say it again, I believe in slotting and I believe in the worldwide Draft. I think it's important," Selig said. "Remember, we went to the Draft in 1965 -- there was a reason that they went for it. They went for what I call competitive balance today. Back then they called it parity. I think the Draft has worked, but there are some things that have happened in the past five or six years that are a little worrisome. So I believe in slotting and I believe in the Draft."
The intent of hard-slotting would be to even the playing field for all clubs, fostering a system in which the top talents go to the teams with the first picks and eliminating the possibility of better players falling to teams that have larger budgets, due to bonus demands.
CWS, DET, NYY and PHI did not have first-round selections.
"Only time will tell. That's why it's a negotiation. I'm confident that we need it, yes," Selig said, when asked if he thought the union will agree to the changes. "The original reason 46 years ago now, and more true today, it is for competitive balance. And it's proven out to be that. I couldn't help but watch the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia series over the weekend, and you look at [the Pirates'] young talent, and this is what the original intent was, and it's working quite well now."
Overall, the Commissioner expressed delight with the annual event that got started with the reading of UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole as the Pirates' No. 1 overall selection.
"I really do enjoy it," Selig said. "I always used to look forward to this when I ran the Brewers. It was a very exciting night. You follow the kids that you draft, that you've heard a lot about. Sometimes you're very happy. Robin Yount comes to mind. Two players taken before him in 1973, and it worked out pretty well. Then [Paul] Molitor in '77 worked out pretty well. There were two players taken before him. One was Harold Baines, so I have to say the White Sox did pretty well, too.
"It's great. It's fascinating to watch, and fascinating to watch it develop. We've come a long way. There were years ago that we wouldn't even announce who signed. This is very helpful, and we need to do more of this. ... But we are doing much as we can, and we hope to do more. And we should."
Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft resumes at noon ET Tuesday on MLB.com, where fans will receive exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Selig said he believes that conducting the first round and compensation round in prime time, simultaneous to the playing of live Major League games, is the best timing for the event.
"I still think at night we'll get the highest viewership," Selig said. "It's nice because now, on every telecast of clubs that are playing, they'll be saying, 'Hey, Milwaukee just drafted.' I can hear my old friend [Bob] Uecker talking about the two Brewers Draft picks in the first round."
Two of Monday's top seven overall selections were prep players who will be choosing between baseball or playing quarterback at a major college. Outfielder Bubba Starling of Gardner-Edgerton High School (Kan.) was recruited to play quarterback for Nebraska, and he was drafted fifth by the Royals. Right-hander Archie Bradley of Broken Arrow High (Okla.) was recruited to play QB for Oklahoma, and he was drafted seventh by the D-backs.
When asked if he thought a slotting system might hinder the ability to sign such multi-sport athletes in the future, Selig shook his head and said: "No, because the pluses outweigh the minuses. By the way, just so we understand, as usual in my process, I've had the general managers in all of our meetings, and the clubs have voted, the GMs have voted, and everybody's for slotting."
Selig also said he is satisfied with the early June date for the Draft. When asked if slotting would encourage him to move the Draft to, say, the day after the All-Star Game, when there are no games to compete against, he replied: "That's something I'll talk to the general managers about, but everybody seems content with it."
The Commissioner said specifics would be worked out on how a worldwide Draft would work, should it be passed in collective bargaining.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. You also can leave comments on his MLB.com Blogs Central community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.