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The First Amateur Draft - Part 1

Barry DuchanSunday, April 1, 2007
By Barry Duchan

Editor's Note: We will publish a post from Barry Duchan every Sunday covering some aspect of Mets history. - M.S.

In 1965, baseball went to a draft system in which all eligible amateur players were selected in reverse order of record from the previous year - a system that had been used effectively in pro football and the NBA for many years. The idea was to keep bonuses down by preventing bidding wars and at the same time to give the poorer teams a chance to become competitive. The system worked very well until just recently when agents such as Scott Boras established asking prices for their top amateur clients that caused teams that were both talent-poor and money-poor to bypass them in favor of more signable players. But, it's hard to argue with the original premise of the draft when the teams that had the first selections in the first 2 drafts, namely the Kansas City/Oakland A's and New York Mets became competitive and, in the A's case, dominant in the years following the draft. The A's, in fact, could have been a true dynasty, if it wasn't for owner Charles O. Finley deciding to cut back and rebel against high salaries and attempt to trade off practically every key member of his championship teams.

But this blog is not about the Oakland A's, but about the Mets, and this post is specifically about the 1965 draft. With the second pick in the draft, following the A's making the obvious #1 selection in Rick Monday (who became a good major league player, but not as good as a lot of players taken much later in the draft), the Mets made the consensus selection as the number 2 pick in lefty pitcher Les Rohr, a high schooler out of Montana. To say the Mets could have done better would be obvious - Johnny Bench was available, but everyone passed on him at least once and some teams twice - but most of the players drafted right after Rohr turned out to be no better. Ray Fosse was probably the best of the first rounders, but here are some others - Ken Plesha, Rick James (no, not "Super Freak"), Doug Dickerson, Rick Grant, Bill Burbach.

Rohr was a big, strong lefty with a big motion - kind of a lefty Gary Kroll. Armed with a big bonus and not much experience, Rohr was fast-tracked through the minor leagues and came up to the Mets for parts of the 1967, 1968, and 1969 seasons, winning a total of 2 games. Rohr never had a really good season in the minor leagues, either. He had size and stuff, but never learned how to pitch. A bad choice, for sure, but the Mets did get some good ones in subsequent rounds. My next installment looks at the rest of the Mets' 1965 draft and the one future superstar they selected.

Note: More of Barry Duchan's writings can be found on his own Metscentric blog.

About Barry Duchan: I've been following the Mets since 1962. Have to admit I was a Yankee fan as a kid, but I found it to be so much more interesting to see how a young team could build itself up rather than following a team where the season didn't really begin until October. I remember them all - Casey, Marv, ChooChoo, Don Bosch, The Stork, etc. As the years went on, I became more and more of a Mets fan, and a Yankee hater once Steinbrenner and Billy Martin entered the picture.   Read More -->

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Comments (3)

I remember all the hype about Les Rohr. That's really one of those classic Mets names ("let's roar," or "less roar"). The Mets had a habit in the bad years of hyping young pitching prospects. Interestingly, the great ones (Seaver, Koosman, Ryan, McGraw) in the system didn't seem to be hyped as much as some of the others. I remember all the excitement around Steve Renko and Jim Bibby. And I remember reading about a pitcher named Bill Denehy who came up the same year as Seaver and a lot of sources were saying was just as good.

My Dad played for the New York Mets in 1965. He blew out his arm I believe in Philadelphia, I was just wondering if they're were ever any Baseball cards of rookies or otherwise on him or any documented papers that he actually played I hope you can help me.

How great of a peospect was Michael Ray Griffith. He was pretty awesome at Edison High School in Stockton California. Does anyone remember my father.

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