The 40-man roster deadline to protect players from this year's Rule 5 draft was November 20 with the actual Rule 5 draft taking place on Dec. 10, the last day of the Winter Meetings. With that deadline in mind, there's a pretty cool anniversary on this fine Sunday:
November 22, 1954: Roberto Clemente selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Brooklyn Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft.
Yes, for those unaware, Clemente was signed out of his native Puerto Rico as a 19 year old by Dodgers. After one season -- the rules were different then and we'll get to that -- Branch Rickey's Pirates grabbed Clemente and he went on to have a legendary career.
In 18 seasons with the Pirates, Clemente would hit .317/.359/.475 (130 OPS+) with 440 doubles, 166 triples, 240 home runs, 1305 RBI and 1416 runs. He had a transcendent arm from right field. He won an MVP, went to the All-Star Game 12 times and won 12 Gold Gloves. There are also those two World Series rings and the 1971 World Series MVP at age 36.
He ended his career with exactly 3,000 hits. Here is his final, historic hit.
With Clemente, though, the numbers weren't even close to the whole story. For more on him, check out what I had to say on the 40th anniversary of his tragic death.
As for the Rule 5 draft, it has since changed. For this year's draft, players eligible to be selected by other organizations have to have been signed as an 18 year old or younger in 2011 or as a 19 year old or older in 2012 unless they are on the 40-man roster. Once selected, that player has to remain on the big-league club the entire following season or he'll be returned to the original organization.
With these rules, we are extremely unlikely to see anyone in Clemente's ballpark ever be selected again. Most of the time, the players don't stick with the MLB club. We just saw a few examples of players thriving this past season, however, in Phillies' Odubel Herrera and Rangers' Delino DeShields.
Some of the better players in recent seasons to be taken in the Rule 5 draft are Josh Hamilton, Shane Victorino, Johan Santana, Jose Bautista and Dan Uggla. Further back in history we can find Darrell Evans, Willie Hernandez, George Bell, Bobby Bonilla and several other useful players.
Maybe we'll be able to add someone to the list this coming season from the Dec. 10 Rule 5, but it won't be anyone who was recently added to a 40-man roster (Baseball America has a roundup of minor-league players added, for those interested).
No one, however, holds a candle to Mr. Clemente. On a laundry list of superlatives we could say about "Momen," the best Rule 5 pick ever makes the cut.