Unlike a great many baseball fans, I am not particularly appalled by Scott Boras. I’m familiar with a lot of fans who feel he’s The Devil and that he is “ruining the game”, but, honestly, I don’t have any particular problem with what he does. In essence, the job of an agent is to support and promote a player, and look out for their best interests. However, agents are not moral arbiters, and they should not be expected to be as such, and so “best interests” is a term left up to each player to decide.
For the players who decide their best interests lies in the largest possible paycheck, there is no one better to hire than Scott Boras. From signing bonuses for draftees to opt-out clauses for veterans, Mr Boras has managed to find a number of clever ways to extract every dime of a player’s worth from some team, and then some, in many cases. There’s nothing evil or malicious about this, to me. It’s just the nature of the business. If the goal of the player is to make as much money as possible, then Scott Boras is one of the very best representatives to achieve such an end.
In the past, Boras has mostly made statements to the public only to defend or promote a player. His only comments about the actual mechanisms of baseball have been strictly contract related. His advice to clients that, if their signing bonus is inadequate to their desires, the contract should be turned down, with the expectation that the player could play college ball or in an independent league and then re-enter the draft the following year. This has worked out well for a number of players (like JD Drew, who refused the Phillies’ offered contract in 1998, and then took more money from the Cardinals a year later). It’s also hurt some players (most famously, Matt Harrington, who was drafted out of high school in 2000 and turned down a $4million contract, and progressively lost value in each of the next 4 drafts. Today, he’s considered a very long shot to make the majors).
Boras’ advice regarding the draft has led baseball’s amateur draft be largely about “signability” rather than talent. There are a number of teams (the Phillies and White Sox, among others) who are utterly unwilling to draft a Boras client. A great number of teams are reluctant to draft a Boras client (or a client whose signing bonus demands are expected to be high). It’s for this reason, that a 18 pitching prospect with all-star potential (Rick Porcello) could slip to the bottom of the first round, as teams don’t want to meet his financial demands.
Other than this, I’m unaware of any suggestions made by Scott Boras regarding the actual game of baseball, or the mechanisms by which it operates. But this season, Boras has made at least two that I’m aware of, and I wonder why.
The first suggestion was made earlier in the season, with Boras suggesting that the World Series move from a Best of Seven series to a Best of Nine, with the first two games played in neutral, warm weather site, to have an atmosphere largely like that of the all-star game, except, ahem, this time it counts. Personally, I love this suggestion. I suggested moving to a switching the WS to nine games last February, and I think the twist of two games in a neutral site is excellent. Why Boras wants to see this happen–as an agent–is unclear to me, however. I’m not sure how it helps or hurts any of his clients. If he’s acting just as a fan who happens to have access to reporters, then fine. It’s just an unusual move for the man.
The second suggestion, made recently to the Boston Red Sox, was that Terry Francona limit Boras client Daisuke Matsuzaka’s to about 100 pitches rather than the 120 pitches Matsuzaka has been regularly throwing in his starts. For the record, Matsuzaka has averaged 109.8 pitches per outing in 19 starts this year, though in six of his past eight starts, Daisuke has thrown at least 112 pitches, and as many as 130. One start he threw 110 pitches (in the other start, he got a rest and threw 90 pitches). Boras’ thought is that, by throwing fewer pitches, Matsuzaka’s career may be extended.
Now, this second maneuver is more inline with Boras’ usual work. He’s clearly working on behalf of his client. But what’s somewhat different is that he’s not trying to argue that Daisuke has pitched better than some critic believes, but rather, he’s trying to tell Terry Francona and the Red Sox how to run their team.
I find it interesting that a man so well known for his involvement fiscal side of baseball operations would this season begin poking around in the actual decision making process for the sport. Boras certainly isn’t just a businessman–he played minor league baseball for a number of years, and it’s likely that he wouldn’t be nearly as effective a solicitor if he didn’t have a reasonably strong grasp of the game. It will be fascinating to see if Boras tries to become more involved in the actual league–and how the owners respond. By reputation, MLB owners are an Old Boys Club, thus, it’s unimaginable that Boras would be allowed anywhere near a Baseball Decision. At the same time, those same owners possess a reputation of insurmountable greed, and you have to imagine that a few of them would think, “If this guy can make his clients so much money, I wonder what his ideas can do for me?”
Now, the idea that Boras wants to become more involved in actual baseball stuff is pure speculation, but it’s not crazy talk. The man has made about as much money as he could possibly want to spend, and it’s not as though he’s trying to expand to other sports. Baseball is clearly his passion, and Boras has more influence and media presence, I think, than any not actually employed by the MLB or one of its teams.