Thursday, December 25, 2014

Ben Wetzler suspended 11 games; Oregon State 'disappointed' in Phillies

Ben Wetzler, an Oregon State University senior pitcher and former Phillies draft pick, was suspended 11 games by the NCAA on Friday, three months after the Phillies reported him to college's governing body for violations.

Ben Wetzler suspended 11 games; Oregon State 'disappointed' in Phillies

(David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
(David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ben Wetzler, an Oregon State University senior pitcher and former Phillies draft pick, was suspended 11 games by the NCAA on Friday, three months after the Phillies reported him to college's governing body for violations.

Wetzler, the NCAA said, used an agent who attended meetings with the Phillies and negotiated potential contract terms. The Phillies did not sign Wetzler, their fifth-round pick last June, and took the unusual step of reporting him. The amateur baseball community backlashed.

The university will appeal the ruling. It issued a caustic, 821-word release late Friday night that questioned the intentions of the NCAA and its "no-agent" bylaw. Steve Clark, Oregon State's vice president for university relations and marketing, said it was the school's "understanding" the Phillies' snitching spurred the investigation.

He would not detail the NCAA's evidence.

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"If in fact this is true, that the Phillies were the folks that did this, we're disappointed," Clark said by phone. "Not because it's our student-athlete, but there is some inconsistency here."

The Phillies have yet to respond to the allegations. The last known instance of a major-league team reporting a violation to the NCAA, according to Baseball America, was in 1992 when the White Sox turned in A.J. Hinch.

The NCAA does not permit amateurs to hire agents, but lawyers or agents are permitted to act in an advisory role so long as they are not compensated and do not directly interact with major-league clubs. Oregon State agreed with the NCAA's findings, but described the penalty as "too harsh given all of the mitigating factors."

It is standard practice for amateur players to engage an agent for advice on contractual matters while negotiating with billion-dollar companies, and the strict rules of communication are typically ignored. The Phillies also reported Washington State outfielder Jason Monda, their sixth-round pick, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

The NCAA annually surveys college seniors who were drafted but return to school. That due diligence includes discussions with the major-league team that drafted the player. The teams rarely identify any improprieties, even if negotiations were acrimonious.

"What's clear to us is that individuals within the NCAA and member institutions have discussed this matter for some time, saying that this rule needs to be fixed," Clark said. "We think this is a very unfortunate circumstance. It really points out what's wrong when a student-athlete decides to evaluate a matter and return to school, and now he is punished.

"Our point is that it's time to stand up for our student-athlete and the choice he made to return to college, but also to address that this matter needs to be changed. It doesn't make sense."

Wetzler's 11-game suspension represents 20 percent of Oregon State's season. He is the ace starter for the No. 2-ranked team in the nation.


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