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Kyler Murray announces decision to play football

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The A’s top 2018 draft pick will walk away from baseball toward the NFL.

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Monday finally brought the end of the months-long Kyler Murray saga, though unfortunately it did not land in favor of the Oakland A’s. Murray personally announced that he has chosen to fully commit to playing football in the NFL.

Murray’s impending decision has been one of the top stories of the A’s offseason. They picked him in the 1st round of the draft last summer, at No. 9 overall, but did so with the knowledge that he would play one more season of college football before switching to baseball full-time. That final season at Oklahoma went far better than expected, and Murray ended up winning the Heisman. With his football prospects looking stronger than they had previously, he declared last month for the NFL draft and will now follow his lifelong dream toward that sport.

Here’s the full rundown of what happens next, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

Kyler Murray will return $1.29 million of the $1.5 million signing bonus money the Oakland A’s gave him last year. He forfeits the remaining $3.16 million due March 1. The A’s will put him on the restricted list and retain Murray’s rights, but they don’t get a comp draft pick.

Translation: The A’s get their money back, but not their draft pick, and if Murray ever switches back to baseball then he also returns to the Oakland organization.

Despite losing the gamble, GM David Forst made clear that the team does not regret drafting Murray, reports Julian McWilliams of The Athletic. Manager Bob Melvin “says he and the team remain big Kyler Murray fans and will be rooting for him,” reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle.

Analysis

The important thing is that this is all over, finally. It had turned into a tabloid-level drama, the kind that the 24-hour news cycle likes to jump on and then beat like a dead horse. Even when no new actual news came out, every off-hand comment and vague interview non-answer was torn apart in the quest for clues. Now it’s officially done and we can finally focus on baseball, which by the way starts spring games in a little over a week.

Of course I would have preferred that the story end and do so in favor of my favorite team, but such is life. I could choose to be upset that the A’s lost a top prospect, but I’m having trouble getting worked up about it, possibly because this conclusion has seemed likely for a while so I already got over it. I’m happy that Murray is happy and following his dream, as that’s a life goal we should all be able to relate to.

Similarly, I see no purpose in getting angry with Murray over the path he took to this decision. Sure, he could have committed to his NFL dream from the start without getting the A’s involved, and without costing them a premium asset (in the top-top draft pick they won’t get back), and I’d like to think I would have done things differently in his situation. But I also will never be in his situation and so I can’t possibly know what I would have done, and it’s genuinely not my place to judge. Also remember that breaking professional contracts in favor of better offers is an extremely common thing in our society (sports or otherwise) and is not in itself a bad or evil action.

The bottom line, and the most fair, constructive way to look at this, is as follows: He always wanted football but was advised it wouldn’t work; made an adult decision to settle on the safe route to baseball; saw his dream suddenly reignited last fall; and took the chance he thought he’d never have, while it was still there for the taking. It’s just impossible for me to look at that context and be upset, because it’s all so darn understandable.

The part of the story that doesn’t get enough press, and the part we should be most proud of, is how the A’s handled the whole situation. From day one they’ve said all the right things, and no matter how dire things looked for their own fortunes they never wavered even one percent from being fully supportive of Kyler and whatever he wanted to do. Not all pro sports teams are that mature; heck, not all companies in any industry are.

No one would have blamed the A’s if they’d gotten a bit chippy about the whole episode, but everyone should be praising them for the fact that they didn’t. They were even cool about the fact that Murray didn’t bother informing them of his decision before the announcement, and the fact that he didn’t acknowledge them in any way in the statement itself, even after the team had “bent over backward to try to accommodate him,” notes Slusser. I hope Oakland fans will take a cue from the team, and respond with the same level of class and positive vibes.

And so, it’s finally over. The A’s lose a top draft pick, just like many teams do every year when that pick gets hurt or otherwise doesn’t pan out. I still support the concept of using that premium selection on the highest ceiling possible, and I hope they’ll keep following their recent high-risk/high-reward strategy even despite this bust. I’ll conclude with an interesting thing to think about, from community member BWH.