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Scott Boras: the teflon agent

Dec 29, 2009, 11:25 AM EDT

Buster Olney has an article up about Scott Boras over at ESPN today. It’s framed with a “I guess we’ll wait and see what Boras does” kind of thing, but the meat of it — and Buster’s probable intention — is to catalog some of Boras’ screwups in recent years.  The highlights:

  • Playing cute with Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates’ No. 1 pick in 2008, at the signing deadline and then starting a grievance process against Pittsburgh. Buster thinks this will hurt Alvarez long-term;
  • The A-Rod opt-out fiasco, which was only saved when Rodriguez went around Boras to negotiate with New York;
  • Johnny Damon’s apparently failed gambits this offseason, which have likely cost him either millions of dollars, playing in his preferred New York or both.

There’s room to argue about all of this. On the one hand, yes, Varitek probably took less money last year by opting out of arbitration than if he had gone, but if he did he probably wouldn’t have a job this year, which he has by virtue of the player option he got last year. $9 million for one year via arbitration in 2009, or 2009 and 2010 for $8 million total as a result of Boras-led negotiation? Varitek may very well prefer the latter to sitting at home doing nothing this season.

I’m not sure what to think about the Alvarez thing. Maybe Boras’ tactics have delayed his development in Pittsburgh, maybe not. Though I think that if any team is going to hold such business against a player it will be Pittsburgh, I think that even the Pirates are bigger than holding a grudge if the player’s talent and performance demands that he be advanced in a regular fashion.

What to say about A-Rod? It was messy to be sure, and probably ill-handled by Boras. But at the end of the day, A-Rod did get more money and what amounts to seven year extension, and no one would dare give him that now, let alone next year when his original deal would have expired. Take points off for style, but I can’t see how you can really criticize this when you take everything into account.

Ultimately I think Boras’ biggest mistakes come in the smallest of places, not these high profile affairs. Places like Johnny Damon’s contract this year, whatever it will be. In the welfare of his lower-profile clients like Joe Crede and Hank Blalock and Jarrod Washburn who likely have to deal with (a) an aversion on the part of front offices to deal with them because of who their agent is; and (b) the fact that they cannot possibly rate in the top ten of Scott Boras’ daily priorities given the other guys he represents, even before taking arguable conflicts of interest into account.

Boras gets raked over the coals for his high profile behavior. That’s probably a mistake. I’m way more curious about what happens when and where no one notices.

  1. ecp - Dec 29, 2009 at 11:48 AM

    I’m constantly amazed at the stunts Boras pulls and gets away with. And by “gets away with” I mean that none of his clients (that I know of) ever fires him, no matter how much he damages their bank balances and/or reputations.

  2. YANKEES1996 - Dec 29, 2009 at 12:27 PM

    I will tell you this I cannot stand Scott Boras he and agents like him are what is ruining Pro sports! I think the athletes would not be nearly as greedy if they were not driven by a**holes like this guy!

  3. willmose - Dec 29, 2009 at 12:40 PM

    How was the A-Rod deal a fiasco? A-Rod traded $75 million over 3 years to a guaranteed $275 million over ten years (not to mention performance bonus). A-Rod will be making $25+ million at age 42! Sorry, I’ll take a fiasco that puts $200+ million in my pocket any day. If you believe it was a fiasco, here’s a hint at how it worked. Bad cop: Boras. good cop: A-Rod, rube: the Yankees.
    Has Boras made mistakes? Sure. Is Damon one? Well, the wheel is still in spin on that one. Will the Pirates be vindictive? Of course, they are kind of an organization (pencil in one that doesn’t win).

  4. Jeff V. - Dec 29, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    Guthrie dropped him after the ’08 season.

  5. AD - Dec 29, 2009 at 1:30 PM

    If someone has a problem with players making too much money then they should stop supporting the game. Players are the entertainment of baseball and as such deserve their cut. Don’t hate on Boras because he is good at what he does. Hell, if I were a player I would absolutely want him representing me. He is notorious because most of the top-tier ballplayers have him for representation. We can argue about the economy of baseball all day but to attack an agent for doing his job, and doing it very well, is unfair. To assume that players would not be nearly as greedy is ridiculous, too. Professional sports have become big businesses and all athletes deserve a share due to the roles they play.

  6. lar @ wezen-ball - Dec 29, 2009 at 1:52 PM

    I’ve been meaning to write about this, but I think Boras’ biggest mistake has to be the Juan Gonzalez deal in 2001 or so. He turned down a $140 million contract with the Tigers because he thought he could get something better the next year, and he was very, very wrong (JuanGon got injured that year, I think). Sure, he ended up getting some good money the next 3 years or so, but nowhere near the $140 mil he turned down. Not sure there’s been a bigger misread of your client’s possible fortunes than that (and it’s not like Gonzalez getting injured was a shocker…)

  7. APBA Guy - Dec 29, 2009 at 2:25 PM

    I like Boras bashing as much as the next guy. One of my favorite Boras moments was his attempt to hold out on Boston during the Dice-K negotiations. Dice-K ended up “only” getting $ 52M for 6 years, rather than the $ 90M-100M plus Boras had insisted upon. Importantly, the Seibu Lions kept the $ 51M posting fee that would have been forfeit had Dice-K held at as Boras threatened.
    But I think Craig is absolutely onto something with the conflict of interest angle.

  8. rob - Dec 29, 2009 at 3:10 PM

    When it comes to the high profile guys, Boras gets the job done. Last year he was pilloried because it took Manny so long to sign, but Manny’s bank account didn’t suffer. He got the same dollars in February that he was offered earlier. Same can be said for ARod….in the end ARod received his money. And so it will be with Holliday.

  9. Mike Mariner - Dec 29, 2009 at 4:54 PM

    What about Manny?? Didn’t he eat crow and get back to Dodgers?

  10. Mike - Dec 29, 2009 at 6:29 PM

    Agents, whether they’re the soft-spoken Ben Dogra in the NFL or Boras, baseball’s most-hated representative, are a necessary evil in a major league sports economy. Like attorneys and the legal system, we decry their tactics, bemoan their results, and make them the butt of jokes – right up until we need one. While we as fans hope for the best for our favorites teams, and secondarily what’s best for the game, agents enjoy the singular goal of getting the most and best for their clients. We may not like their tactics, their negative PR, or their results, but they are doing their jobs and keeping the system balanced. Sure, I wish they were more outwardly concerned with the ripple effects of their machinations or the way their image plays out to fans. Still, when they engage in tactics that enrage fans, oftentimes it’s to provide their clients with plausible deniability. A player who demands a raise or a trade or who threatens a holdout is boorish, but an agent who does so is, well, living up to our expectations of an agent. In the process, he insulates his client from the PR backlash, at least to an extent.
    As a fan, I absolutely abhor agents. But as a sports executive for the last 17 years, primarily in baseball, I understand and accept their place – even public enemy number one, Scott Boras.

  11. The Rabbit - Dec 29, 2009 at 6:33 PM

    I’m not a fan of Boras’ methods but I don’t begrudge a player for becoming millionaires at the expense of billionaires.
    Baseball is entertainment. I rarely see anyone complaining about the amount of money an actor or singer receives for one movie or one album and/or tour. Look at what it costs to go to a concert or a Broadway show.
    The prices of all of the above are driven by supply and demand. The market for tickets is the primary factor in ticket pricing, not player/entertainer salaries.

  12. jim marshall - Jan 9, 2010 at 2:40 PM

    On the whole Alvarez thing, doesn’t everybody see that Boras was pissing on the turf for the following year? The signing deadline for draftees is like a game of chicken. If one side gets to push the deadline back, this greatly enhances their negotiating position. This is exactly what the pirates did and they were able to drive a hard bargain with this advantage. After the grievance was filed and MLB told teams they could have do overs, Boras clients got much boigger signing bonuses.

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  15. Peter - Feb 12, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    Maybe it feels like a century ago but Kenny Rogers got hurt in a big way when Boras outwashed Rangers offers ($20M for 3 years) and Rogers signed for small cash ($2M) with the Twins in 2003.

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