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An Open Letter to Kyler Murray

Oklahoma dual-sport athlete Kyler Murray declared for the NFL Draft on Monday, just seven months after being selected by the Oakland Athletics with the ninth overall pick in the MLB Draft. This doesn’t mean he will necessarily choose to play football, but it allows him to keep his options open.

There were conflicting reports regarding whether or not his reps gave the A’s an ultimatum — in the form of $15 million — but it is clear that Murray wants some form of monetary compensation to help counterbalance the infinitesimal minor league salaries he could soon be receiving. In order to entice Murray to pursue a career in professional baseball, Major League Baseball has agreed to waive a rule that prevents teams from providing more money to its draft picks than was originally allocated.

There are certainly pros and cons to both options, but a career in baseball has more to offer. In this piece — written as an open letter to Murray — I explain why.

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Dear Kyler Murray,

I understand you have a decision to make in the coming months. It’s a decision any ordinary human can only dream of facing -- it takes a uniquely extraordinary athlete to be in a position to choose which major sport to play professionally -- but a difficult decision, nonetheless.

Over these next few months, you’ll hear lots of talk about why you should choose football. And I get it. You don’t have to squint to see the obvious advantages that a potential career in professional football flaunts-- a quicker path to the highest level, more guaranteed money early on and a direct path into the limelight.

On the other hand, though, you don’t need me to tell you about the injury risks that come not just with playing football, but especially with being a dual-threat quarterback. You could end up like either Russell Wilson or like Robert Griffin III -- the only two quarterbacks with at least 800 yards rushing in a season over the last decade -- the former of which hasn’t missed a game in his seven-year career, the latter has suffered multiple concussions and serious knee injuries that have limited him to just 12 starts in the last five seasons. You know that even with the recent flurry of new rules designed to protect quarterbacks, there is plenty of inherent, short- and long-term risk (most notably CTE) that comes with playing football.

This isn’t to say a long, full career in Major League Baseball is a guarantee. We’ve seen countless careers cut short before they could truly get off the ground-- Grady Sizemore and Rocco Baldelli come to mind as guys who have shared your position. But long-standing health issues as a result of playing baseball are quite rare.

Plus, the opportunity for playing time is much greater in baseball. In the Majors, there are 90 starting outfielders, 60 reserves who are likely to see at least 200 plate appearances in a single season, and 15 more spots for designated hitters. Meanwhile, in football, there are only 32 starting quarterbacks and 32 backups who, oftentimes, don’t see a single meaningful snap for years at a time.

And you were drafted into a great situation. Oakland is one of baseball’s youngest and most exciting teams. Infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are each under team control for five more years. Young pitching is on the way in the form of Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk. By 2021, you can be manning center field for the A’s, flanked by Lazarito Armenteros and Austin Beck-- current outfielders Stephen Piscotty and Ramon Laureano are both better suited for the corners, so you shouldn’t have much competition for the starting job. And before long, you could be playing your home games in a beautiful, new park at Howard Terminal.


Baseball Needs You

But it’s not just that baseball is the right choice for you. The game needs you, Kyler. So much so that the league is willing to go beyond the rules for you. Major League Baseball needs more electrifying athletes. More five-tool players. You’re incredibly unpolished, but you have that potential that mesmerizes baseball fans and fantasy owners alike. A fast bat, a solid supply of untapped power and an improved approach that was on display your last year at Oklahoma. Your blazing speed will make you an instant threat on the basepaths and provide you with incredible range in center field-- even if you are still adjusting to the position. Some scouts question your arm in the outfield, but once you make the transition from throwing a football to throwing a baseball and get some reps in, with your strength, there’s no reason your arm can’t play at least average in center.

And lastly, the A’s need you. A small-market team like Oakland must hit on all of its top draft picks-- particularly ones with your upside. And trust me when I tell you that players with your upside don’t come along every day. I know you need to do what’s best for you, but if you were to choose to play football, Oakland wouldn’t get the draft pick compensation it otherwise would have gotten if you hadn’t signed following the draft. The fact they are even considering parting with an additional $15 million AND a 40-man roster spot proves how badly they want you in green and gold.

You were a little busy winning the Heisman Trophy to make your professional baseball debut in 2018, so you might be a bit behind the curve come Opening Day. But the improvements you made during your redshirt sophomore season lead me to believe you have the ability to make rapid strides, work your way through the minors and become a star in this league sooner rather than later.

You know the right choice, Kyler. MLB needs you, baseball fans want you, and your immense talents would be better served on the diamond than the gridiron.

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