FROM AGENT TO INTERLOPER

By:  Holly Horning

Read any article about the latest free agent leaving their home team for a mega-buck contract and there is always one name mentioned in the article and the social media threads. Scott Boras.

While Boras is undoubtedly a brilliant businessman who redefined the sports agent industry, he is not a fan favorite. Part of this is due to his record of allowing only 3 clients in 35 years of practice to re-sign with their current team. If Boras were a baseball athlete, his salary (commission-based) would rank within the top 50 highest paid players in MLB.

What is not universally known is that the connection between expensive marquee players and winning the World Series is tenuous at best. Out of all the mega-contracts Boras has produced, only two clients went on to help their teams (Cardinals, Yankees) win the World Series. Pssst! Someone needs to tell the Nationals.

Speaking of which, Boras now has 8 clients playing for the Nats with the signing of Max. Four of them will most probably be gone after this year, greatly reducing this team’s above-average success in the future. But eyebrows are being raised over Boras’ conflict of interest over the perceived favoring of Max over his other client, Stephen Strasburg, who now is reported to have asked for a trade.

Certainly, the negotiations over Max’s contract last year left a bad impression with Tiger ownership and brass. Fans and media were surprised at Dave’s statement when negotiations failed, but if you had watched over the past couple of years, Dave Dombrowski was issuing a pre-emptive strike before Boras could implement what amounts to manipulating fans and bullying teams through his sound bytes.

Several weeks earlier, Boras referred to the Blue Jays as “cheap” because they did not sign his player. And his “pot shots” at other teams are only increasing. Currently, he is dissing the Chicago Cubs over a 12-day delay (impacting free agency, a new contract and Boras’ commission) in promoting his client, Kris Bryant, by telling baseball fans that the Cubs are pretending to be winners and misleading their fans. Yesterday, Commissioner Manfred admonished Boras and said this “was none of his business.”

And in 2012, the Diamondbacks were upset over his alleged advice to Stephen Drew – to delay a return from rehab, so he could remain healthy and earn a long-term contract with another team. If it happened once, what are the chances it could happen again?

In social media, many fans have questioned Max’s strict pitch count, especially when he still seemed able to deliver results. Boston Red Sox players were stunned when Max left that playoff game – several on record claiming that he was still effective. And at least one former Tiger pitcher roundly criticized Max leaving a playoff game when there was still gas in the tank and a bullpen waiting to implode.

Boras appears to increasingly go beyond his job description as an agent and now encroaching into team management territory. He’s also advocated for MLB to move the World Series to a bidding system as well as lobbying for the draft to be eliminated all together so amateur players may sign with the highest bidder.

In 2012, Boras had 5 Tigers as clients. Today, other than Andrew Romine, there is only Jose Iglesias. Could it be that Mr. I and Dave Dombrowski feel they’ve been burned? Could there also be a concern that some MLB players are being advised to place their needs ahead of the team’s priorities? It just may be a blessing in disguise that the Tigers do not have a Boras client in his contract year playing in 2015.