Talking Baseball

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Posted by Dave on Thursday, February 05, 2004

Scott Boras: Social Enemy?

Normally, before I launch into the post, I have some dirty laundry that I like to air out. Today, there isn't much because there isn't much going on. I still do have a few comments: I'm nearly outraged that the Twins haven't signed Johan Santana to a long-term contract, this guy could be one of the best pitchers in the MLB in a few years (he's already close), and the Twins haven't signed him to a Huff/Zito/Halladay deal. Realistically, they could sign him for 4 years for about 28 million and have it backloaded. I also suspect that if they accomplished a deal like that, it would have tremendous value in the future. I also highly suspect that they'll have a ton of difficulty getting him to sign a contract similar to this following next season...I agree with Rob Neyer's latest article - I think winning is by far the most important thing in sports. This is precisely why I am so surprised that it was not one of the categories listed in the ultimate standings. They include "Championships," but that eludes "winning." Maybe the creators of the poll thought "winning" was too broad an explanator in determining the value of a franchise. I don't believe that, however. Who cares if winning explains 70% of the quality of a sports team? That makes perfect sense, and it doesn't diminish from the study being interesting. In the end, you wouldn't care in the slightest about fan relations, stadium experience, ownership, the likability of the players...all of these wouldn't matter if your sports team wasn't winning. There's a reason no one goes to Camden Yards anymore, and I can guarantee you that it has nothing to do with ticket prices, ownership, or the likability of Jerry Hairston Jr. (I'm sure he's a swell fellow). It has everything to do with them cellar-dwelling, don't let that poll convince you otherwise...In an interesting story from ESPN.com, Fred McGriff injured himself after construction on a HR-sign that would countdown to his 500th. Going into this season, McGriff had 478. The Dodgers calculated that he would hit 500 on approximately August 22nd. This would mean he'd have to not only hit 22 HRs this season, but do it all before September. McGriff actually was on pace to hit more than 22 last year in an LA uniform, but to say he'll even hit 22 this season (the full one, not just until August) may be a bit of a stretch. McGriff isn't just on the wrong side of thirty, he's really on the wrong side. I take it all back, McGriff has been so consistent at bombing 30 out in a season that I suppose it's fair for the Dodgers to surmise he'd have 22 by that date. That's pretty incredible that he's maintained his power - let alone a job - until age 40.

Let's move onto Scott Boras, the man everyone loves to hate. But is he really that bad an agent? Remember this: His job is to get his clients in the best situation. With each client, there are a number of questions that are important in whether or not he signs with a specific team: How much money am I getting and for how many years? Where am I playing, am I near my family? Does the team win? Will the team have a realistic chance at winning a championship? How is the quality of the schools in the area? How is the nightlife (David Wells)? There may be other questions, but those seem to be the most important. Boras is notorious for getting above market-value for his free agents using strong-arm tactics and by always squeezing his client's suitors for more money. This is beneficial to the player; he's generally receiving the maximum amount of money possible when he's being represented by Boras. It's also beneficial for Boras; his wallet gets fatter with each extra million that's added to his clients' contracts. I think this truth about Boras is often underrated. Pudge Rodriguez accomplished all he could ever want to accomplish last season. He put together a fine season, winning WS MVP, and was arguably the premier catcher in the National League. After a year when you've accomplished it all, why not get some financial security for the future. For Pudge, he may have desired money much more than he desired playing near his current home, winning, or winning championships. This would seem to be the case if he accepted 40 million over 4 years instead of 24 million over three years from Florida (sans the voidability part, I would imagine). In Pudge's case, it almost (read: just barely in the realm of possible beliefs) makes sense that he'd put such a premium on the money. Boras also helped Darren Dreifort to a 5 year, 55 million dollar contract. This is an incredibly beneficial contract (even in the Golden Age of Contracts) especially considering Dreifort's history of injury. Boras did very well for his client in that case.

As much as I would like to condone Boras' behavior (it is in his job description to do the best he can for his clients), it seems that all too often, Boras does not behave in the best interest of his clients. Bill Madden informatively points out that Boras has behaved poorly in a number of cases:
Kevin Millwood had the chance to sign a 3 year, 35 million dollar contract with the Phils, but Boras turned it down because he claimed Millwood could get better. He didn't, and is now in arbitration.
Kenny Rogers wanted to stay in Texas last year, but declined their 2 year, 11 million dollar contract. He ended up signing with the Twins for 2 million for one year. He's back with the Rangers now - for 2 years and 6 million dollars, however.
Rey Sanchez has had to deal with the greatest amount of misagenting, however. In 2001, Rey Sanchez was apparently offered a 2 year deal worth 7.5 million. His salary for one of those years would exceed his salary for the last three years combined. Poor Rey.
We all know the situation with ARod too.

So, is Boras a bad agent? It depends who you ask. Perusing some of Boras' clients (middle of the page, in a table off to the side) If you're a player like JD Drew, Rick Ankiel, or Darren Dreifort, having an agent like Boras is extremely beneficial. Boras will help players get what they deserve (or much more), even if they're merely prospects (the former two) or unestablished players (Dreifort). These are the players that have the most to benefit from financial security because they're still young and their careers could become marred by physical injury (Darren's lost in Injury Hell, it seems) or, in the rarest of circumstances, psychological injury (Rick Ankiel, imagine what you could have been).

It seems, however, that if you're an established player (Millwood, IRod, ARod, Rogers, Sanchez), having Boras as your agent may cause one of two pitfalls: Boras overvalues your worth initially, trying to work for a better deal (Millwood, Rogers, Sanchez). After trying to strong-arm the club, the offer is dropped off the table later in negotiations. This is bound to happen with Borasian tactics. You may fall into the other pitfall, however. You may think you want the maximum amount of money, but end up miserable at your destination. This has already happened to one Rod, and will almost surely happen to the other Rod. If Boras was truly concerned for his clients' welfare, I feel he would better articulate the importance of the environment that the player is playing in. For players like the Rods, I don't believe that Boras does this. ARod must've had an inkling of a feeling that the Rangers would be put in financial chains as a result of his contract, preventing them from competing effectively (an extremely important factor in ARod's decision on who to sign with). The point, however, is that ARod shouldn't need to realize this. Boras should inform him that if he signs a 252 million dollar contract, he probably won't be able to compete for a divisional title in Texas. I feel as though this is what happened to IRod. Boras probably selfishly emphasized the importance of money in having IRod sign with Tigers. Most sports fans are bewildered by the signing - it would seem to most everyone that IRod would have a significantly higher utility in Florida. Hopefully Boras isn't behaving selfishly, I would hate to find out that a majority of his clients were unhappy with his services. In truth, I would suspect that most of them are dissatisfied with his services; I, for one, would not desire to have Boras as my agent.

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