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Scott Boras rips Tony La Russa a new one

Feb 15, 2011, 4:00 PM EDT

Boras thinking

Michael Weiner has already denied Tony La Russa’s claims that the MLBPA is somehow exerting pressure on Albert Pujols in the course of his negotiations with the Cardinals, and Weiner is the official voice of that.  But there probably isn’t anyone who knows more about the dynamics of high-price player negotiations than Scott Boras, and he was on SiriusXM with Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy this afternoon saying — in his own lawyerly way — that Tony La Russa is full of crap.

He started calmly, saying that it’s “factually undefined to suggest such a notion” and that La Russa’s claims that the union is pressuring Pujols is “mere supposition” and “really not well thought out.”  But after he got warmed up he said in much clearer terms that in his experience negotiating the top contracts in baseball, there have never been calls or pressure or direction of any kind from the union let alone explicit demands of what the union would like to see in a deal.

The reason for this, Boras says, is simple.  The original basis for the MLBPA’s very existence as a modern bargaining entity was to ensure that players can be represented by the agent of their choice when it came time to do a deal.  This was a direct repudiation of and remedy to the old reserve system in which the GM dictated to the player — with no representation whatsoever — that they will make $X next season.  For the union, then, to step in and interfere with the player’s right of independent representation would be anathema to its very purpose.

It’s about freedom, right, and even if the union was agitating for the highest dollar, that limits the players’ freedom.  And lest you forget: that freedom to bargain had its roots in where a player wanted to play, not how much money he was going to make, let alone that he be able to make the top dollar.  The Curt Flood case was about Flood not wanting to report to Philadelphia. Not about the Cardinals or whoever else not paying him enough.

Back to Boras, who then turned his attention to Tony La Russa specifically. When asked by Duquette and Kennedy what might be animating La Russa’s lashout at the union today, Boras said “self-interest.” He noted that La Russa is competitive and wants the best player and that, like fans and anyone else, he’s reacting to the notion that the best player might leave the Cardinals.  But he doesn’t forgive La Russa for this narrow-mindedness like he forgives the fans who just want to watch baseball. Why? Because La Russa is a hypocrite.

“There is a market for managers,” Boras noted. And in that market the managers have every right to take below market deals if they want to.  “The last I remember,” Boras said, “Tony sits at the top of that managerial chain.”  Which is true. And I’m guessing La Russa doesn’t think that he was unduly pressured to take that high dollar deal. He wanted it because he thought he deserved it. And I gotta tell ya: While I respect La Russa’s accomplishments as a manager, Albert Pujols has more of a right to ask for the top dollar in his job than La Russa does in his.

Boras went on to note that, while there is no pressure coming from the union to the players, there is certainly pressure coming from management. He didn’t say La Russa did it, but he said its common for managers and coaches to approach players on the field before games and say stuff like “hey, why don’t you wanna play for us anymore” or words to that effect when contract negotiations are going on.

So, boom, Tony La Russa just got roasted by Boras.  And though I’m not a fan of either one of those guys, I enjoyed the daylights out of it.

  1. Alex K - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:12 PM

    Love the reference to The Office. Well, done.

    In a totally unrelated note, are there ever going to be tags for the posts again? Those were/are 100 times cooler than thumbs up/thumbs down for comments!

    • Alex K - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:13 PM

      Ummm, ignore that comma after well…..

      • Tim's Neighbor - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:47 PM

        I can appreciate a man who abuses commas and then apologizes. No need to thumb that on down.

  2. The Baseball Idiot - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    The union was accused of pressuring Sabathia to sign with the Yankees to get the biggest contract.

    Now, taking for granted I’m an idiot, wasn’t the issue that the union was getting other players to talk to Sabathia, so as not be caught being the bag man?

    If that was true, then Wiener saying he hasn’t spoken to Pujols or his agent doesn’t really matter. The head of the union not actually doing it himself doesn’t mean there might not be some truth to the story. They’ve been accused before. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Sometimes.

    If Wiener would come and say that no one in the union has spoken to Pujols, or no one at the behest of the union has spoken to them, then I would be willing to believe it. Until I hear that, I would have to think there might be some truth to it.

    Also, what was Boras’ point about the representation thing? Is LaRussa questioning Pujols’ right to have an agent, or to negotiate? I don’t remember reading anything about that, and LaRussa’s statment that Pujols was being pressured really has nothing to do with who he is represented by, or how.

    Sounds like Boras twisting the statment to make it sound like what he wants it to. I never thought that could happen.

    • scottp9 - Feb 15, 2011 at 6:15 PM

      I’d like to know why you think what you think about Sabathia. I’ve never seen that and don’t believe it.

      Boras is right about this – the union is worried about players having the freedom to do what they want, not about whether a particular free agent (or prospective free agent) gets a particular contract. They never get involved in free agent negotiations.

  3. bigtrav425 - Feb 15, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    Boras is a a-hole and a scumbag like most agents.I believe him as much as i would Belicheat from the Pats

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:14 PM

      Believe what you will, he’s right on this one. La Russa is a hypocrite who’s sweating at the fact that he may have only one more season with the greatest player of our era.

      • The Baseball Idiot - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:27 PM

        Please enlighten me on how LaRussa is a hypocrite? Did the manager’s union pressure him to sign the contract for the highest amount of money in order to help the other managers make a lot of money?

        Somehow I missed that. That’s they only way he could be a hypocrite in this particular situation.

        I think too many people are confusing their dislike for LaRussa with what he said. It’s two different things.

        Whether anyone likes LaRussa or not, his comments should be taken for what he said, not what peoples personal opinion of him his.

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Feb 15, 2011 at 5:54 PM

        La Russa is complaining that the Union is strong-arming Pujols to get more money (or the most money). Do you really think La Russa wuld give up some of his fat salary to make room for the team’s budget? Hell no and neither should Pujols. The team should make room for Pujols is what I’m saying or pay the price of losing him. Personally I hope to God he is a free agent b/c the next off season will be full of awesome rumors and stuff.

  4. Kevin S. - Feb 15, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    Worth noting that Boras hardly needs any pressure from the union to chase down the highest dollar for his clients. That said, I think he’s right here.

  5. granted42 - Feb 15, 2011 at 8:32 PM

    It could be argued that Boras may not know what he’s talking about here. Of course he would never see the union strong arming any players to take more money, because no one hires Boras thinking they’re going to give some kind of hometown or loyalty discount: They hire him to squeeze as much blood out of ownership’s turnips as he can, so he and the union are on the same page in that regard. Yes, La Russa has motive to keep Pujols in St. Louis, but Boras and the union have motive to get him to take top dollar with no discounts at all. Pujols will get the richest contract in the history of the game, and Boras and the union will reap many rewards using it as the new benchmark.

    Bottom lime is that Weiner, La Russa, and Boras are all lawyers, and they’ve been trained to lie. I don’t trust any of them. (Good post Craig. 😉 )

  6. fuzzman656 - Feb 16, 2011 at 12:07 AM

    LaRussa’s statements are hypocritical because Tony makes as much as the market will bear but doesn’t seem to think Pujols should. But LaRussa isn’t a fool – He knows very well that Albert doesn’t need the union to tell him how much he should make. That’s Boras’ job. Tony is playing politics with the fans.

    That said, does anyone believe that this giant man is going to continue to be at the top of his game in five years? I think that the Cardinals are going to let him walk rather than be held hostage the way the Giants were by Barry Bonds. I hate to see them lose such a great player (yeah right, I’m a Cubs fan), but almost no team could afford to risk so much on one guy. Eight or ten years is an absurd length for a professional sports contract.

    Not to take anything away from Tony LaRussa (or Steve Young or anyone else with a law degree that doesn’t practice) but he isn’t a lawyer. He’s a professional baseball manager. Having gone to law school does not make someone a lawyer. Passing the bar and practicing law does.

    And not all lawyers are dirtbags. Just the ones you don’t want to like. Don’t hate the player – Hate the game.

    • The Baseball Idiot - Feb 16, 2011 at 1:16 AM

      Where did LaRussa every say Pujols shouldn’t get the biggest contract and the most money possible?

      What he said was, the union shouldn’t be pressuring Pujols to do something he doesn’t want to do, and let him make his own decision.

      Sounds like pretty good advice to me. Maybe people should stop condemning LaRussa just because they don’t like him, and actually look at the facts of what was said. LaRussa also never said Wiener was the one who did it.

      He said the union did. Is the union Wiener, or is it the collective of players?

      Deal with the facts of the issue as they really are, not what you want them to be.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Feb 16, 2011 at 5:31 AM

        La Russa’s comments yesterday:

        The way it should be, La Russa contended, is that a player in Pujols’ position should “look at all the factors. … It shouldn’t just be the most money.”

        “I’ve had a number of players over the years who took the [most] money,” La Russa said, “and they’ve regretted it later.”

      • fuzzman656 - Feb 16, 2011 at 10:35 AM

        Why would you defend Tony LaRussa? He’s overpaid and over-rated. If you can’t see that he is a hypocrite, then you really are a BaseballIdiot. Of course it’s about more than money. I’m sure he wants to play for a winner. That isn’t the Cards!

        He wants Pujols to play for him and knows the Cards don’t have the scratch to resign him. Maybe he should focus more on clever strategies, like batting the pitcher eighth.

  7. metalhead65 - Feb 16, 2011 at 12:17 AM

    so are we suppose to take sides in this spat?I hate both men equaly so it will be tough to choose. on the one hand you have a guy who thinks he invented baseball with his every move a stroke of genius, and don’t forget your pitchers are not allowed to come inside on cards hitters as that is headhunting,but it’s just baseball if their pitchers do it. and boras is all that is wrong with the game. I am all for getting as much as you can but there comes a point where the owner should not be told this is how much you will paythe guy or it’s don’t like what they offer then get a real job! just because they can pay you 300 million does not mean they should have to.

    • fuzzman656 - Feb 16, 2011 at 10:37 AM

      No you aren’t supposed to take sides. You are supposed to laugh that the Cards clearly cannot afford Pujols. XD

  8. jeffrp - Feb 16, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    The union cares about the freedom of players to play where they want only as an ancillary benefit of free agency. The true goal is to drive salaries higher and that so far and away supersedes freedom of movement it’s not even funny. A couple points to consider:
    – The union does not want universal free agency, indeed that would be their nightmare scenario with a flood of free agents creating too much supply in the market and depressing salaries.
    – The union’s greatest tactical advantage is not free agency, rather it is salary arbitration which is of course not about where a player plays at all.

    So is La Russa talking out of his rear end? Of course he is. But remember it was the union that killed ARod to the Red Sox so as not to allow a precedent to be set that a player could devalue his contract. ARod wanted to go to Boston, where was the union standing up for Alex playing where he wanted to play?

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