November reign: It’s all about Boras
Major League Baseball is divided into four parts.
There is spring training, the regular season, the playoffs and Scott Boras time.
This is November, Scott Boras time. It might be the most important of the four.
It wasn’t long ago that baseball writers came home from the World Series and disappeared until pitchers and catchers reported in February. Their jobs were more seasonal than teachers’. Now, they make sure to get time off during the season so they are fresh for November.
It wasn’t long ago that a team won the World Series, had a parade and went home to think about next year. Now, they are talking on their cellphones to other teams as they sit on the backs of convertibles and wave to the adoring home fans.
If you think the closer on the mound who is throwing 97 mph is dealing, you should see Boras. The players are playing hardball because Boras has really played it for them months before.
He has been accused of ruining the game, of being the “antichrist of baseball,” of setting the boundaries of the game’s economy. Nobody seems to take that a step further, to ponder that, if baseball is allowing Boras to set the boundaries of its economy, is that not baseball’s fault?
Players’ agents such as Boras are easy targets of scorn. They are like the messengers we all want to kill. They are the middle managers who have to lay you off because the corporate creeps who ordered it won’t get their hands dirty. They are the sportswriters who report negative facts about your favorite team.
Boras is not an ax murderer. He is a 56-year-old guy who puts on his pants one leg at a time. He has a life, has friends, runs his business out of Newport Beach, goes to lots of baseball games at Dodger and Angel stadiums and doesn’t prance around, looking for attention. He is just there, always there, watching what happens on the field and calculating how he can convert that into leverage in his next deal.
That is his job.
He represents about 60 players, but he is especially crucial to Southern California this November because two of his main clients are Manny Ramirez and Mark Teixeira. Dodgers fans have fallen in love with Manny and Angels fans fully understand the necessity of retaining Teixeira. The pressure is on general managers Ned Colletti and Tony Reagins, as well as owners Frank McCourt and Arte Moreno.
But the ultimate anger in Southern California baseball circles, if either or both of these deals fall through, will be directed at Boras, because he is the easiest target. He is, after all, a sports agent. Which is, after all, defined in all sports dictionaries as “a slimeball.”
He will be faulted for asking for too much money, too long a contract, for not dealing in good faith, not factoring in how much his players meant to their current teams, not caring about much of anything other than the bottom-line numbers.
That is his job.
The teams and general managers spurned will not hesitate to grumble bad tidings about him within earshot of sportswriters. He will become talk radio’s Public Enemy No. 1, the star of the blabbing . . . that is, until Kobe suffers a hangnail.
Lost in all this emotion and faulty finger-pointing is that Boras understands the economics of greed better than all the rest of us. It is a greed that includes, but is not limited to, the commissioner’s office, team owners, players, fans and even the media.
But Boras has the trump cards. His players are the product.
He is paid to be the bad guy, and the millions he makes being one undoubtedly help him handle the snubs at cocktail parties.
The players who hire him want him to be their guy, guarding the wall. The rest of us -- commissioners, owners, general managers, fans, sportswriters -- point at him as the bad guy because we can’t handle the truth.
Were he to be interviewed here, he might say some of these things. Probably, he would not, because mystery and an unapproachable, tough-guy image work best in negotiations.
Nor would we want to interview him here, because that would open the door to a hint of some action or a slight movement of negotiations that might seem newsy enough to print. That, then, could end up further leveraging a deal.
Baseball writers in November don’t get news as much as they get spin and trial balloons. The only news that can be truly trusted comes when the signatures are on the contracts and the doors to the news conference room are open. Everything before that is like the first furlong of a horse race. It’s jockeying for position.
There is plenty of time left in the free-agent season. In that time, Boras will make more money on his commissions than most of us will in our lifetimes.
But instead of getting angry about that, as we always do, we ought to understand that baseball lets him and so do we. Baseball keeps jacking up the prices of everything from parking to peanuts, and we keep paying them. Boras understands better than Ronald Reagan how this trickles down.
So curse him. Snub him. Rail on and on about him over a couple of beers with friends.
But also understand. That is his job.