Tug of war

Tug of war
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It seems everyone and anyone has an opinion on Kyler Murray. And it is big news.

While there have been many sportsmen before Murray talented enough to play multiple sports at a professional level, few if any have had the capacity to be picked in the first rounds of their respective drafts.

But let’s rewind a little to get a sense of what all the fuss is about. On the 4th June 2018, the Oakland A’s selected Kyler, a centre fielder at number nine in the MLB draft. In the final season of his collegiate baseball career (also at Oklahoma) Murray hit .296 with 10 home runs, 47 RBI’s and 10 stolen bases. Murray transferred to Oklahoma from Texas A&M following the 2015 season.

At the time, the A’s seemed pretty relaxed about the dual football/baseball tug of war. “the risk of football was, in our opinion, outweighed by the upside on the baseball field” said the A’s scouting director Eric Kubota. Kubota went on to say “we were totally on board with his desire to play quarterback at Oklahoma. Frankly we’re kind of excited to be Oklahoma fans for 12 games”. 

Excitement in Oakland appears to have turned to concern with reports that the A’s have held a number of frantic or “wooing” meetings, depending on which report you read, to convince Murray his career should be in Oakland hitting the little white ball.

But does this really come as a surprise to anyone? Murray has never hidden his love for football. He is on record as saying it is his passion and love. And to be honest he has hedged his bets almost since the day he signed his $4.7m contract with the A’s, mostly because of the endless media questions about the situation but also because and mainly due to his decision to return to Oklahoma to play in the Sooners 2018 football season.

A season in which Murray won the Heisman, edging out the early season leader Tua Tagovailoa. In 2018 Murray recorded 4,361 yards for 47 touchdowns with only 7, yes 7 interceptions. Murray is good.

So where does Murray go from here? Well much will depend on what NFL scouting reports will be telling him and his advisers. Whether Cliff Kingsbury’s comments were helpful, mock drafts have Murray going anywhere from first to the later rounds. But we know, if this is about money (which I don’t think it is, but it must factor somewhere in the decision) he would need to be drafted early in the first round for him to be in a position to leverage a contract anywhere near the money he is getting from the A’s. 

But we’ve ascertained it’s not all about the money. In MLB draft picks do not go straight to the big leagues. Irrespective of who or what you are you play in the minor leagues. You may develop quickly and your progression accelerated but you will still play in the minor league. So the attraction of following last year’s exception quarterback class of Mayfield, Darnold, Rosen, Jackson and Allen straight in to first team action must be an incentive. And in this brave new world, an offensive, gunslinging quarterback world of opportunity Murray has all the tools to succeed.

So what’s next?

The A’s commence their rookie spring training camp in early February. Coincidentally the NFL combine runs from 15-18 February meaning its not possible for Murray to do both. This appears the earliest opportunity for the two worlds to collide. And indeed the A’s if not before then, will get a very quick heads up if Murray doesn’t report for training camp.

Declaring for the draft does not negate Murray’s MLB contract and he does not yet have to hand back the signing bonus. However the A’s are a worried outfit and CBS sports recently reported that the MLB had given the A’s special dispensation to offer Murray more than the $4.7m originally offered and perhaps more importantly a spot on the A’s 40 man opening day roster. That is indeed quite a statement to make and confirms Murray leveraging his special talents to their fullest.

However, should Murray attend the combine, he will need special permission from the MLB (not a given) and further progression from there would mean the A’s getting their $4.7m back but not a compensatory pick. Good deal for Murray, bad deal for the A’s. This will be a masterclass in sports contract negotiation over the next couple of weeks.

Both the baseball and football world are agreed on one thing. Do not expect to see Kyler play both sports simultaneously. That is just not going to happen. Despite Bo Jackson’s recent claims that Murray has the talent to do both, sources close to the A’s say on this occasion that Bo does indeed not know.

This will not be the last time we talk about Kyler Murray on these pages. Watch this space.

photo credit : WSJonline

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