THE DEAL MAKERS
His negotiating style, agent Scott Boras was saying during a relaxed moment Monday, is based on the four Ps: preparation, passion, persistence and prayer.
Others have described it differently.
The man who negotiated Kevin Brown’s $105-million contract with the Dodgers and Bernie Williams’ $87.5-million deal with the New York Yankees and who represents many of baseball’s best players, has been accused of a scorched-earth approach, of being the anti- this or that.
“I’ve heard it all . . . ‘You’re wrecking the game, you’re pushing teams to the limit,’ ” Boras said, adding that those labels and descriptions generally come from people who support and trust their team’s decisions up until he is involved.
“It’s as if in dealing with me, their team suddenly becomes dysfunctional, short-circuited,” Boras said.
“I mean, is there a perception now that I misled the Dodgers or misread the market? My job isn’t to create the market. My job is to define the market.”
He does that, he says, by knowing which teams will have realistic interest in his clients, how his clients can improve those teams and where they slot in baseball’s pay scale.
“I do think there are times he tries to create the market,” Angel General Manager Bill Bavasi said. “But he’s very prepared, very smart and very patient. He’s not afraid to take a good player and wait [for the market to shake out].
“He’s definitely there for his client, but I don’t think he’s the devil and I don’t think he had to carry a .357 into Kevin Malone’s room.”
In other words, Bavasi was suggesting, Boras didn’t have to put a gun to the Dodger general manager’s head to produce a seven-year contract that is the largest in baseball history and a $5,250,000 commission for Boras--if his take is 5%.
Not bad for a former St. Louis Cardinal minor league infielder whose career was curtailed by three knee operations. He used free hours to get a doctorate in industrial pharmacology and a law degree from the University of Pacific.
Dr. Boras, is it?
Well, pharmacology yielded to the four Ps of contract negotiation as Boras kept remembering the one-sided aspect of his own minor league contracts. Some say he has been determined to make baseball pay for that.
Nevertheless, his bargaining powers have attracted an all-star clientele that includes Greg Maddux, Alex Rodriguez, Darren Dreifort, Andy Benes, Charles Johnson and Andruw Jones, besides hot tickets Brown and Williams.
Boras represents 52 major leaguers and about 40 minor leaguers, operating out of an Irvine office with a staff of 25, among them a resident psychologist and nine former players.
He has also represented five former No. 1 picks in the amateur draft, a favorite target and subject.
Boras often points out that Rick Monday received a $100,000 bonus as the first pick in the first draft in 1965 and, 17 years later, the bonus for top pick Shawon Dunston was still $100,000.
That landscape has changed dramatically--with Boras among the primary architects. Two of his clients--Jason Varitek and J.D. Drew--were first-round selections twice, dissatisfied with their offers and refusing to sign the first time. Baseball castigated Boras, who claims he can’t make a client do what he doesn’t want to do.
Drew played a year with the St. Paul Saints of the independent Northern League, was drafted by the Cardinals in June and ultimately received a $7-million guarantee, including a $3-million bonus, which has become the standard for No. 1 picks, a healthy improvement on Dunston’s $100,000.
“He pushes teams to where they’ve never been pushed,” catcher Jorge Fabregas once said of Boras. “If I’m a player, I want him on my side.”
Somehow, Boras got the moderately successful Fabregas a two-year, $2.9-million contract from the Arizona Diamondbacks last March.
On Monday, he got part-time catcher Chad Kreuter $725,000 from the Kansas City Royals, which may be a more impressive bit of negotiation than the Brown deal.
The pitcher, after all, is an acknowledged ace and had just led the San Diego Padres to a National League pennant.
Boras prepared a 35-page book, documenting Brown’s accomplishments and leadership qualities, for interested teams. He analyzed the market, concluding that 11 teams needed a No. 1 starter and six of those needed a No. 1 starter with leadership qualities, since they had two or three other starters with less than five years of experience, a category in which the Dodgers fit.
“Kevin Brown breeds confidence among the other starters because they see how he takes risks,” Boras said. “He goes after hitters. He is not just a robot.”
Six years were a must. There would be no financial discounts for the Padres or anyone else. Boras said he knew that this group of elite free agents would lift the record for average annual value to $13 million or more.
The Dodgers would ultimately prevail, the only team to go to seven years at $15 million per, overcoming Brown’s family concerns by providing a private jet and 12 round trips for his wife and children between Macon, Ga., and Burbank.
“We only had to propose that idea to Kevin Malone once,” Boras said. “The next time we showed up he had charts and time schedules laid out.
"[Brown] found out this year that playing on the West Coast could be palatable. He enjoyed the weather and the division. The issue was getting his family there.”
At $15 million per, Brown can seemingly afford first class. But Boras said, “People forget that the state tax in California is about 6% higher than in some other states, and the issue was primarily one of convenience. Macon to Burbank direct is 4 1/2 hours. It eliminates several hours commuting to Atlanta.”
Ultimately, Boras said, it wasn’t a hard sell--for the agent or team. Brown was swayed by the contract terms, his success in Dodger Stadium and the commitment to family and team that he heard from Malone and Fox chairmen Chase Carey and Peter Chernin.
The industry erupted. A widening of the gulf between haves and have-nots. Another blow to competitive balance. A single contract, they pointed out in San Diego, calling for more than John Moores paid for the Padres. Damnation from Sandy Alderson, baseball’s new executive vice president.
Boras shook his head.
He said that in every decade there are “precedential contracts” and it was only a few years ago that Alderson, as general manager of the Oakland A’s, re-created the market by making Jose Canseco baseball’s highest-paid player, drawing the wrath of colleagues.
He said that if Padre ownership is shocked by a contract for more than their team cost, maybe people should be shocked that Padre ownership is expected to retrieve $80 million by selling the naming rights to their new stadium and ultimately will make millions more in neighboring real estate and increased franchise value.
“That’s not on the Padre books,” Boras said. “It goes to personal wealth. The Padres have no business coming to the Dodgers whimpering. They wouldn’t have reached the World Series and might not have gotten the stadium without Kevin Brown.”
If there is validity in that, there would seem to be validity in the revenue, payroll and competitive concerns.
Can the controversial agent buy that?
There is no question, he said, but that “some clubs are afforded a greater opportunity for error” but that “you can’t legislate intelligence and hard work” and the problem is largely an issue of management skill and shifting demographics.
“Fox paid $300 million for the Dodgers,” Boras said. “That’s cheap programming. They don’t have to buy rights fees now. They wanted a star and an attitude change. Kevin Brown gives them both. He changes the power in the division. He gives them a seven-year window during which they don’t have to worry about a No. 1 pitcher and can use drafts and trades to build up the system.”
Does the doctor know best?
Many may dispute that, but Kevin Brown proves again that Scott Boras generally prevails at the negotiating table.
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* Age 46
* Family: Married, three children
* Resides: Newport Beach
* Baseball background: Played four seasons (1974-77) as a minor-league infielder, making it as high as double A. Played in 349 games and batted .283.
* Years as an agent: 13
Represents 52 major leaguers and about 40 minor leaguers, including:
* Greg Maddux
* Kevin Brown
* Alex Rodriquez
* Bernie Williams
* J.D. Drew
* Andruw Jones
* Charles Johnson
* Tim Belcher
* Alex Fernandez
* Kenny Rogers
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Dollars on Demand
Agent Scott Boras represents 52 major leaguers, including these high-profil (and high-salary) players:
* -Original contract signed with Yankees before trade to Oakland.