Room for One More: The Rule 29 Draft
No time like the holiday season to be grateful for what we have... and to keep in mind that there is always... Room for One More...
Most of you are familar with the Rule 5 Draft, held the last day of the MLB Winter Meetings every year, where MLB clubs can select players off minor league rosters. The Cubs lost Donald Veal in the Major League Phase of the draft just last week.
And then there's the Rule 4 Draft (formerly known as the "Amateur Draft" and now known as the "1st Year Player Draft") held in June, where MLB clubs select high school and college players. RHP Andrew Cashner (TCU) was the Cubs #1 pick in last June's Rule 4 Draft.
Less well-known and more rarely held is the MLB Expansion Draft, used in 1960-61, 1968, 1976, 1992, and 1997 to distribute major league talent to expansion teams like the New York Mets, Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays, and Florida Marlins, as they joined the American League or National League Over the years, the Cubs have lost guys like Don Zimmer, Dick Drott, John Boccabella, Bill Stoneman, Joe Girardi, and Miguel Cairo in various expansion drafts.
But there is one MLB draft that has never been held.
In the event that an incident occurs where at least five players from the same MLB club are killed, dismembered, or permanently disabled during the season, MLB has a "Rehabilitation Plan" in place under Rule 29 that includes financial support and a "Restocking Draft" for the stricken club. The plan has existed in basically the same form since 1965, so the method for allocating talent to the affected team essentially follows the mechanism used to distribute players to MLB expansion teams in 1960-61.
Under this plan, after a reasonable period of mourning, and presuming that the Commissioner and MLBPA jointly agree that the club's season should continue, each of the other 29 clubs would be required to contribute five players (including at least one pitcher, one infielder, and one outfielder, and one catcher if the club is carrying at least three catchers) from its Active List (25-man roster) into a pool of players, and from this pool, the club that suffered the loss would be allowed to select replacements for the players lost in the disaster. .
No club would lose more than one player, and any player with a "no trade" right would be exempt from inclusion in the pool. The five players made available by each club would have to include as many players with a minimum of 60+ days of MLB service time as were lost in the disaster. Players on the Disabled List can't be included in the pool unless the club certifies that the player is healthy enough to be immediately reactivated if selected.
So if a disaster had occurred sometime last season and Rule 29 had been invoked, the Cubs probably would have placed the likes of Ronny Cedeno, Daryle Ward, Jon Lieber, Scott Eyre, and Bob Howry in the pool. Fortunately, the MLB Rehabilitation Plan (and the Restocking Draft) has never been needed, but considering the number of airplane flights taken by clubs every year, MLB has been lucky (so far).
Some fans might recall the tragic losses over the years of several members (or even entire squads) of various sports teams, including the U. S. Olympic Figure Skating team, the Cal Poly, Marshall University and Wichita State football teams, the University of Evansville basketball team, the U. S. Amateur Boxing team, and various international soccer teams, in plane crashes, and certainly there is also always the possibility of a hotel fire or bus crash or terrorist attack that could kill or maim scores (including members of a sports team).
While individual major leaguers have died during the season in a car crash (Josh Hancock) or a plane crash (Thurman Munson), or have been shot to death (Lyman Bostock), or fell off a bridge at Niagara Falls (Ed Delahanty), an entire team has never been lost.
Eight members of the minor league Spokane Indians were killed and one was critically injured in a fiery bus crash in 1946, but the only time more than one MLB player has been killed in the same incident was during Spring Training 1993, when two members of the Cleveland Indians (pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews) were killed in a boating accident in Florida (a third player--veteran LHP Bob Ojeda--was seriously injured).
The NFL (if 15 or more players from the same club are killed or permanently disabled in a single incident during the season), the NBA (if five or more players from the same team are killed or permanently disabled in an incident during the season), and the NHL (also if five or more players from the same team are killed or permanently disabled) also have plans in place for restocking affected clubs in the event of a common disaster, but hopefully the plans will continue to remain just theoretical contingencies.