Baseball Signing Saga Not Over?

Just a few days ago we brought you the definitive story on Jai Miller and his rapid rise up the prep baseball ranks, culminating in his 4th round selection by the Florida Marlins Tuesday. He was quickly signed and locked up, and we thought that was the end of the story. Turns out things are warming up again in Selma, Alabama, with a surprise turn of events.

Buddy Teevens is not going down without a fight.

Since we last brought you our update on the surprising and amazing story on three-sport superstar Jai Miller, more has been going on behind the scenes than we anticipated.  After all, the Alabama prep star signed a Major League Baseball contract with the Florida Marlins just hours after his draft selection, and that contract stipulated that Miller was not to play any sports at Stanford.  It seemed like a firm and disappointing ending for Stanford football and basketball fans who had spent the last year growing to love and anticipate Miller, yet would never see him perform in Cardinal and White.

But word has been circulating that the Miller family has become more cognizant of a disadvantageous situation they may have embraced by Jai's signing so quickly and for the money he did, given the three-sport professional potential that he possesses.  A big part of that recognition has come with the addition of more information and perspective provided by Stanford head coach Buddy Teevens and several of his contacts.

"Coach Teevens called people high up in Major League Baseball and explained my background and situation," Miller says.  "He has brought a lot of things to our attention."

Teevens has been feverishly working the phones and talking to people at the highest level of not just professional baseball but also the NFL.  The unanimous reaction has been surprise and disappointment once they have heard "the Jai Miler story."  The perception is that the Marlins rushed and pressured this family in a small town in Alabama that has effectively cheated a young man out of his potential by so abruptly closing doors to his athletic future.  And if the Marlins were to do so, Miller's earning potential should have at least earned a lot more money.

Of course, there were two parties involved in those negotiations that led to the Tuesday evening signed contract, and if a mistake was made then the family shares some of the blame for rushing into such a life-altering decision without properly arming themselves with enough information.

Nevertheless, Teevens has talked with his hopeful incoming freshman wide receiver, educating and encouraging the Selma star to push back on the Marlins.  I spoke with Miller today at approximately 2:30 pm Alabama (Central) time and he said that the Marlins representative was coming to their home at 3pm.  Our talk was brief, but he elaborated on where he was going to try and direct talks with the Florida club during the afternoon session.

"I would like to be able to have the chance to play football at Stanford while still play pro baseball with the Marlins," he explains.  "[The Marlins] knew I committed to Stanford before I committed to play pro baseball.  Their big concern is the injury factor; they don't want me exposed to the risk of injury that comes with playing football.  But Coach Teevens talked with me about an insurance plan they could help me setup that would protect me and the Marlins against an injury."

Those insurance talks relate to a proposal the Cardinal coaches have floated whereby Miller would go to someone like Lloyd's of London.  With his three-sport athletic abilities and prospects as a professional, they feel he could secure a hefty policy that would make his family and the Marlins more accepting of athletic competition at Stanford.

What we don't know is how the Marlins will react to this change in stance from the Miller family.  They have a contract he has signed and by all rights will likely take a hardline stance that their signee should adhere to the terms.  However it is believed that what was signed Tuesday night was an incredibly crude contract, more akin to a piece of paper with a few things jotted on it rather than a multipage document rife with the legalese you would expect.  In court, that scrap of paper would likely hold up as a contract, but we don't know how many terms and stipulations are laid out, as well as how carefully they are constructed.  The Marlins may not have sewn everything up as tightly as they should have.

But it is further believed that the higher-ups in Major League Baseball are waiting to see just how hard the Miller family wants to push this issue.  They were too easily swayed five nights ago, for sure, and if they buckle with the Marlins today then this story may not go anywhere.  But if their resolve is much stronger and they truly fight to let Jai play at Stanford, then it is believed that Major League Baseball will step in and apply pressure to the Marlins.  Theirs is an image they fight every day to protect, and it would come off poorly if the public became aware of how the Marlins have acted.

I see four scenarios that may play out as a result of today's talks and future jockeying between all these parties:

  1. Jai Miller regains the negotiating power that allows him to compete as an athlete at Stanford while at the same time meeting the Marlins' demands of him as a professional baseball player during the spring and summer.
  2. Jai Miller and his family embrace this support and regain negotiating power, but employ it not for athletic competition at Stanford but instead for a much fatter contract.
  3. Miller may take the hardest of stances and back away from the Marlins altogether.  It is not unreasonable that he may refuse to play for the Marlins and instead proceed with his original two-sport plan at Stanford.  He would likely have the opportunity to sign a baseball contract down the road with the Majors if and when he chooses.
  4. Nothing changes.  The Marlins may successfully coerce Miller, waving the signed contract in his face.  Though this would be the most disadvantageous situation for the young man, it is important to note that he and his family let this happen just days ago and it is not crazy to think that they could let it happen again.  It is anybody's guess how strong they will hold up during today's talks.

A few questions remain even if Miller is able to negotiate Stanford sports with the Marlins.  How much would they let him play and when?

"I don't think I would be able to get basketball from them," he says about his talks with the Marlins.  "Spring training would overlap with the NCAA Tournament and I doubt they would let me go do that."

Don't think Stanford basketball is lying down and taking this, either, though.  They have been talking with their hopeful point guard through this all as well, trying to empower him to fight back and return to his football-basketball Cardinal plan.  For their own interests, they indeed believe that if the Marlins have issues with injury, then basketball is a safer sport to allow Jai to play at the collegiate level relative to football.

But if the insurance proposal sticks, then the negotiating points may more likely center around the calendar than the sports themselves.  Spring training would be a deal-breaker for the Marlins, and that time overlaps directly with the final weeks of the college basketball season.  It is unknown if Stanford basketball would take Miller for less than a whole season, though they will cross that bridge when they come to it.  It is already known that Stanford football would take Miller for the fall season and give up spring practices if that is what it takes to get him at all.

Today's talks are expected to be heated and go deep into the evening, so I will next check in with Jai Miller on Monday, which he encouraged me to do.  Word might leak out late tonight, but whenever we learn the latest we will be the first to break the news to you right here on The Bootleg!

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