Thursday, April 21, 2016

UPDATE: New Jersey screws over top draft prospect Jason Groome (slightly less)

According to multiple sources, Groome will be allowed to come back after the 30 day/half-a-season suspension is up. He's expected to only miss two more starts, though his previous ones will still be wiped out. It's still not a fair situation for a kid who just wanted to come home and play on his local high school team, but it's far better than the apocalyptic scenario that I reacted to below, which was based on incomplete reports that had been published by other sources.

Lucky us, we don't have to start thinking about the amateur baseball draft for another couple of months. There's baseball ahead of us, after all. And, assuming you aren't a Twins or a Braves fan, at least the promise of a few wins to distract us from our daily march toward our inevitable ends.

Alas, Jason Groome doesn't have that luxury. Groome is an 18 17 year old high school pitcher in New Jersey who can throw in the upper 90s and who may be the first pick in said amateur draft in June. Normally, Groome would be mowing down fellow teenagers in New Jersey in the Spring, putting up eye-popping numbers and being scouted by 30+ guys in polo shirts, panama hats, and Ray Bans. But Jason Groome isn't going to get to do that, and the reason why is utter bullshit.

Groome has been declared ineligible to pitch by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA). He didn't do anything wrong, mind you. He didn't hire an agent. He didn't get paid to do a commercial or by some booster under table. He didn't switch to some powerhouse private school to guarantee himself a state championship. He just wanted to pitch at his local high school with his friends.

Let me explain why this was a problem. Groome spent the 2015 baseball season at a baseball academy in Florida. This is something a lot of top prospects do. It's to help them iron out their mechanics, develop secondary pitches, and experience professional training in advance of their professional careers. Are they a good thing? Maybe. Maybe not. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to give potential big leaguers a leg up, especially if it doesn't come at the expense of their academics. Anyway, Groome wanted to spend his final season back at home and playing with the guys he grew up with.

New Jersey's high school athletic association has a rule that says that any player who transfers to a school without physically changing addresses has to sit out for either 30 days or half of an athletic season, whichever is less. This is to prevent the kind of team jumping I described two paragraphs ago, and is a pretty good idea from a competitive perspective. But, while Groome's family didn't move, exactly, he did switch the states in which he was attending school. Moreover, he made the move to attend his local school, not some academy of ringers. And finally, it's not like he made the move just for the baseball season. He's been back in New Jersey for the whole school year. Indeed, he could have signed up for basketball for a half-season, "quit" after his waiting period ended, and would have been fine. He could have gamed the system. He didn't, and for that he's being punished.

Now, the NJSIAA has banned him for the rest of the season. It's vacating all of his stats and his team's wins in which he appeared. This is ridiculous. It's following the letter of the rule, and not the spirit of it. Jason Groome has about two months left to be a kid, and that's been taken away from him. It's utter bullshit and a damn shame. It's unfair to him, and to his team. Let him pitch, New Jersey. Let him play.

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