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My annual musing about Scott Boras’ conflicts of interest

Dec 3, 2010, 11:33 AM EDT

Boras sulking AP

This comes up every winter and I don’t feel like we ever get to the bottom of the issue. Probably because it’s boring to most people, but I still think it’s important. Query: Does Scott Boras’ status as the Alpha Agent create a conflict of interest?

He represents Adrian Beltre. He represents Jayson Werth. Both are thought of as targets of the Boston Red Sox who, contrary to popular belief, do in fact have budgetary constraints. While Beltre and Werth don’t play the same position, they’re both competing for a finite amount of Red Sox dollars.  If the position thing bothers you, let’s look back to last winter when Boras had both Johnny Damon and Matt Holliday on the free agent market, both left fielders.

What happens if, in the course of a negotiation over Client A, someone on the Sox alludes to the fact that they’d prefer to spend money on Client B, or someone very much like him? I’m curious about how Boras handles that. I’m curious as to his explanation about how hitting the Sox as hard as he can in the course of a negotiation for one of his players doesn’t necessarily harm the interests of another who is obviously sought by the same team. One possible answer is that subordinates handle negotiations and are “walled off” from the man himself to keep things kosher, but I don’t think either Adrian Beltre or Jayson Werth hired Boras to be represented by a suboirdiante.

I’m not saying Boras is doing anything wrong here. I’m sure he discloses all of these ins and outs to his clients, has them sign necessarily waiver of conflicts forms and all of the other sorts of things a careful lawyer does (and Boras often makes a point about how, as a lawyer, he’s more careful than other agents).  I just don’t see how that whole setup is so appealing to clients in Beltre and Werth’s position.

  1. bigharold - Dec 3, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    No conflict here.

    The RS may be kicking the tires on Crawford but he’s likely not headed there. He’s looking for a 6-8 year deal in the 90-100 mil range. The RS don’t sign those type of players. The next time the current management of the RS signs that type of contract will be the first time.

    Werth is more their speed if they can get him for four years. Even then, he’s a little old for a four year deal by RS standards.

  2. phillygirl4 - Dec 3, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    Thank God someone talks about it b/c I’ve been wondering the same thing. It sickens me that Werth is mixed up with this guy. I know he may leave but I don’t want that snake making decisions for him. Boras’ reign of terror won’t end until clubs take a stand and stop negotiating with this guy. Soon players will be making $30million/yr and no one will be able to afford to go anymore. I’m sick of hearing about him. Ugh!

  3. yankees1996 - Dec 3, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    I have never really cared for Boras as an agent or a human being, I agree with phillygirl4 above the guy is a damn snake. Last year he completely ignored Johnny Damon because he knew his bigger payday was Matt Holliday. He is everything that is wrong with Pro sports, but unfortunately he is successful in the eye of the players, therefore he will continue to be a constant source of irritation.

    • blackbear04541 - Dec 3, 2010 at 6:48 PM

      SHOW HIM THE $$$$ he is a sore on the a$$ of the sports world !

  4. elibolender - Dec 3, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    Ticket/merchandise/concession prices are NOT a function of player salaries everyone. They are a function of demand. As long as people are willing to pay those prices, then teams are going to keep them at that level. If you want lower ticket prices, then stop going to games. Stop watching them on TV. Stop buying the merchandise. Stop reading about them on the internet and posting on message boards.

    Scott Boras is a man who represents millionaires against billionaires. I just don’t understand why people listen to the MLB Owners’ propaganda machine (or “the media” as they are often called) and blast Scott Boras. Attacking Boras is sticking up for billionaires. NOT THE FANS.

    • Utley's Hair - Dec 3, 2010 at 12:30 PM

      This post has nothing to do with ticket/merchandise/concession pricing—which are legitimate points of contention in their own right. It is a post questioning how Boras’ can represent multiple players simultaneously and adequately with the same clubs.

      • Kevin S. - Dec 3, 2010 at 1:37 PM

        But the comments complained about how Scott Boras was responsible for driving up the prices, which is inaccurate.

      • Utley's Hair - Dec 3, 2010 at 1:46 PM

        Alright…help me out here. I must be missing where the comments mention ticket prices, etc. elibolender’s comment looks to me to be the first time it was mentioned.

      • Kevin S. - Dec 3, 2010 at 1:50 PM

        Phillygirl’s post claiming that because of Boras, salaries will continue to skyrocket the games will thus be unaffordable.

      • Utley's Hair - Dec 3, 2010 at 2:02 PM

        Gotcha. I guess I skimmed right past that one. It’s Friday, after all.

        However, I do stand by my assertion in a previous post that, though pricing is not a direct result of the ever-skyrocketing contracts, they are not totally independednt of one another.

  5. BC - Dec 3, 2010 at 12:10 PM

    So in order to avoid a conflict of interest, each agent can only represent one player? That’s silly. If I’m a realtor, and I have a $1 million house and a $200,000 house on the market, guess which one I’m paying more attention to. That’s business, pure and simple.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 3, 2010 at 1:53 PM

      That’s silly. If I’m a realtor, and I have a $1 million house and a $200,000 house on the market, guess which one I’m paying more attention to. That’s business, pure and simple.

      Except one thing, Boras, as an attorney an agent, has to follow a code of ethics that states he precisely CAN’T do that. I wish Craig had posted Jack Marshall’s take on this from Jan ;09, as he delves into both the agent side as well as the attorney side. It’s a bit long, but considering Mr. Marshall is an expert on ethics, I’d take his word as gospel.

      But such conflicting representations are still inherently unethical, because the conflicted agent cannot do what the agent promises to do when taking on a client: use his or her talents and skills to assist every client without harming any client.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 3, 2010 at 1:56 PM

        Terribly remiss in not linking Jack’s article! Thanks church!

      • Kevin S. - Dec 3, 2010 at 2:16 PM

        By Marshall’s own admission, the entire column turns on a disputed claim – that Boras is bound by legal ethics in addition to agent ethics, simply because he is a lawyer. It seems to me that either he is providing a legal service in negotiating contracts, in which case every agent should be subject to the same ethical requirements, lawyers or not, or he is not providing a legal service with his negotiations, in which case the fact that he is a lawyer should be moot. The fact that he might (and this was entirely supposition on Jack’s part) be providing legal advice on other matters is immaterial, and his analogy of the two damages-seeking families is flawed, because there the conflict of interest is between what they’re legally entitled to under the law. That is not a negotiation (unless there’s a settlement, in which case that conflict goes away). Boras’ clients don’t have some amount they’re legally entitled to that a trial would determine – they are entitled to exactly what they negotiate for, nothing more, nothing less.

  6. citifieldurinal - Dec 3, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    I have no qualms with Scott Boras at all. He simply gets vilified because he actually is a damn good negotiator who makes sure his clients get paid what they think they’re worth.

    Better players don’t raise the price of tickets. On-field success and the owner’s discretion do. You’d be running a horrible business if there were a ton of demand for your tickets (which usually coincide with signing a high-profile free agent leading people to believe that player is causing the spike) and you didn’t raise prices. A ton of agents do the exact same thing, yet Boras is the one who always gets crapped on. Jayson Werth is mixed up with Scott Boras the same reason everyone else is with him: to get paid.

    “For a hundred years the owners screwed the players. For 25 years
    the players have screwed the owners – they’ve got 75 years to go.” – Jim Bouton

    • Utley's Hair - Dec 3, 2010 at 12:32 PM

      And the fans have been screwed for all of those years.

  7. Space Escalator - Dec 3, 2010 at 12:44 PM

    At the time the player signs with Boras, are they even aware what other potential free agents will come on the market at the same time? Does Boras have an obligation to raise that issue?

  8. iranuke - Dec 3, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Boras is small potatos, the real egregious conflict of interest come in the board rooms of major corporations. CEOs get golden parachutes while driving their companies into bankruptcy (see AIG, Enron, World Com, GM and many others).

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