Several friends within MLB told me that the New Yorker profile of Scott Boras was a must-read, but I just stumbled upon it today. They were right – it is a must-read, and I give Ben McGrath credit for being balanced on a subject that (who) unbalances a lot of people.
I’ve never been down with the demonization of Boras. He’s serving his clients’ interests, and if he wasn’t doing so and there was no other agent filling this role, then MLB owners would be making a lot more money and the game would be no better off. The so-called haves/have-nots structure has nothing to do with Boras or with players in general trying to earn market salaries. And people who demonize him seem to forget that his aggressive strategies work, and that there are no style points in negotiations.
Couple of quotes that stood out:
At one point while I was in his office, Boras took a phone call, and explained afterward, “The draft is looming.” I asked if he planned to travel to Orlando, where the draft was being held. He smiled. “I think the draft is here,” he said. “It’s not in Orlando. We’re in the room”â€”he pointed up, toward the war roomâ€””and we’re telling teams who they can draft, who they can’t. That’s basically how the thing goes.”
I would bet that the folks at MLB headquarters went apeshit when they saw that. But Scott’s not exactly wrong here, as I wrote before the draft, saying he was “the one man who might have the most say in how the first round unfolds.”
“The scouting director for the Twins was a very abrupt man,” Boras recalled in his office, referring to George Brophy, who died a few years ago. “He went public, saying, â€˜It’s disgusting that these kids are being represented. They’re draft picks.’ All these antiquated thought processes. I kept on saying, â€˜He’s a young man in a negotiation against a system, which requires him to sign a professional sports contract, which is governed by a collective-bargaining agreement. Why wouldn’t he need a lawyer?’ I said, â€˜Why do your teams have lawyers who draft all these things up? You’ve unilaterally imposed all these rules.’ He sat there, looked at me, and goes, â€˜I’m not a lawyer. I’m just talking to you about baseball. That’s not how we do things.’ I said, â€˜Well, we’re changing. We’re changing for the betterment of the game. The great athletes aren’t going to come to baseball if you keep the bonuses at this level, because some owner will pay for that talent. It just happens to be in a different sport. Baseball players play football and basketball, too.’ “
I’m sorry to say that Brophy’s mentality still exists within the industry. There’s a sense that these kids should just be honored that anyone is willing to pay them to play baseball. Needless to say, I think that’s bullshit.
Critics of Boras call him a “compulsive liar,” or a “congenital liar,” while also granting that he, at least, seems to believe what he says. I prefer to think of it primarily as optimistic, adversarial embellishment…
I’m with McGrath here. I have talked to Boras a handful of times and don’t think I’ve ever felt that he was lying to me or caught him in an inaccuracy. He pushes the truth, which is one way in which he is like every other agent I’ve ever met, but I’m comfortable with that because it’s part of an agent’s job.