TWIN CITIES

By:  Holly HorningHolly Bio Pic

I have been watching my hometown team now for a number of years struggle with being oh-so-close-but-yet-so-far. At least the past 5 years of doing really well but unable to be successful in October. Threats about the window closing, and now, the warning that this conceivably is the last year of viability because a number of their top players will be going elsewhere.

Sound familiar? Would you be surprised to know that my reference is to the team that wears the Curly W and not the one with the Olde English D?

As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s déjà-vu all over again.” I’ve lived this experience with Detroit and now again, it’s in my backyard here in Washington.

So you might be wondering about why I’m writing about another team. It’s because history appears to be repeating itself and no one has been paying attention to the warning signs. And it’s also because Washington’s dilemma gives us a new understanding of what may have gone wrong in Detroit.

It’s not the first time I’ve written about the Nats. I can’t help it – they are just too similar to the Tigers. Here’s just one blog that compares them:

https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/10/08/an-intriguing-interesting-tale-of-a-team/

So why again? Because of one man who has been dominating the news recently with his influence.

But before we get to him, it’s wise to review just some of what these 2 teams have in common:

– An elderly owner desperate to win a World Series ring.

– A team built not by its farm system, but by being aggressive in the trade market and free agency.

– The hiring of a rookie manager for a team in win-now mode.

– A team plagued by injuries every year.

– An organization that laid the blame for not winning in October on injuries to their star players.

– A bullpen that was an afterthought with no real shut-down closer.

– One of the top pitching rotations in baseball.

– A team filled with Cy Young and MVP winners.

– Teammates fighting publicly with each other during games and in the clubhouse resulting in injuries.

– Relievers with attitude who were sent home before the season ended.

– Some of the game’s biggest and longest contracts.

– One of MLB’s biggest payrolls.

– Teams warned by the Commissioner’s Office to reduce their payrolls.

There’s one other thing which these two teams have in common. Scott Boras. Too much Scott Boras to be exact.

For the Nationals, now known as Team Boras in the baseball world, over one-third of their roster is now represented by him. The Tigers have been Boras’ second “favorite” with rosters over the years featuring as many as half a dozen at a time. Pudge, Magglio, Rogers, Porcello, Jacob Turner, Johnny Damon, Jose Iglesias, Prince Fielder and Max Scherzer to name a few.

And even though the Nats had 2 solid catchers, they signed a third one just the other day. Why? Scott Boras. He’s baseball’s version of the Owner Whisperer. And even with this signing, the Nats still don’t have a viable closer to go with all that talent on their roster. Sound like any other team we know?

You see, Boras doesn’t deal with GMs. One reason why he and Dave Dombrowski sparred in the media a couple of years ago when Dave tried to take back control over which players were signed. Boras only deals with owners. Which may also explain why Mike Pelfrey was signed to that $16 million deal despite reports blaming someone else. His agent? You know the answer.

Only in baseball can a smooth-talking agent separate an ageing owner from his Front Office (the “kids”), convince elderly men to part with vast sums of their money – and not go to jail for it. The Nats should have been given a loyalty card (“buy 9, get the 10th free”) given that the 9 (a lineup!) they signed take up 3/4th of the team’s total payroll. And the Nats are now looked upon as the top team with the most pressure to win it all this year.

This makes us question the impact and influence an agent like Boras has on a team. How much of their work to push their clients onto teams obstructs the team’s long-term vision? There is absolutely no correlation between expensive free agents and teams getting to the World Series. But yet, owners still swallow the sales pitch.

Boras was one of the keys to making the Tigers viable back in the early 2000’s. But how much influence did his contracts have on the team given the resulting lack of flexibility, the sometimes “stars and scrubs” profile and need to “go cheap” on other needs? The years of having no bench, no depth, no bullpen and no closers? The years of needing everyone to stay healthy because there were no easy replacements? Was all the money available used to sign his clients?

For every memory we have of Pudge and Magglio injecting new life into the Tigers, there is also the memory of Prince’s infamous belly flop at third base in the playoffs and the station- to-station running.  The Tigers are still paying on his contract (through 2020) although having Ian Kinsler in exchange helps to ease the pain.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the Nationals this year and beyond because Boras either has clients with long-term contracts or clients who will be leaving for greener (the monetary kind) pastures. Ownership will be paying Max Scherzer through 2028 when he is 42 years old.

Boras will definitely have a much harder time dealing with Chris Ilitch. But make no mistake, the deals he completed with his father will continue to impact the Tigers to some degree for years to come. The Nats? Maybe even longer.


So many of you have asked Totally Tigers to include pictures, audio, interviews and polls.  Well, now you’ve got ‘em! 

And it’s all on our Twitter feed, where we hand-select the best news and post it to feed your need about the Tigers.  And in Totally Tigers fashion, we add our own comments so you keep thinking about the game. 

Our posts appear before the newspapers can grab them.  We cover the controversy and what the local papers are afraid to report.  We even hear from the horses’ mouths – direct thoughts from Justin Verlander, Miggy, Ian and more!  And in the near future, interactive polls where you can directly participate and see the group results. 

If you’re not following us on Twitter, here’s what you’ve missed just in the past couple of days:

      Why the Mets pulled the plug on trading for JD over the winter

      Why the Dodgers were very interested but ended up not trading for Kinsler and JV

      The proof that JV was a better pitcher last year than Porcello keeps on a’ comin’

      Miggy’s new leadership role

      Machado may just be a keeper

      Al Avila keeps filling Toledo with veterans

      More predictions from the pros about where the Tigers will finish

 What are you waiting for?  Go to www.twitter.com and find us at @totallytigersbb.  Make sure to follow us, retweet us and tell your friends!

10 thoughts on “TWIN CITIES

  1. I was blaming Avila for Pelfry. I got that wrong. I apologize to Al Avila. Holly, roughly estimated would it be fair to say that Boris makes more in a year than some owners and this they may result in their respect of him enough to sign on to his crazy train?

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    • Hi, Matt – Boras makes more money by far than any other agent and he’s got his own one-stop shopping agency that supplies medical, financial, media, etc. services for his clients as well. But he makes somewhere south of $15 mill/year and has a net worth of $175+ mill. I think his reputation and also training as a lawyer helps him with owners and he knows which ones are more likely to say “yes.” But he also goes into each meeting with a team of associate agents and prepares what they call a “book” on each player that goes for hundreds of pages. Video, etc. He outdoes what anyone else in the industry does. Thanks for keeping the dialog going! – Holly

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  2. Why would an owner bypass his baseball “Brain Trust” i.e., GM, manager, coaches and scouts, and deal directly with an agent? Do you know if Boras makes any attempt at all to contact a GM first or does he actually go directly to the owner? If I’m the GM, I wouldn’t care for that at all.

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    • Hi, Sprocket – I think there are more owners who believe they can make sound judgments more often than not. Many of them buy a team because it is a big-boy toy for them. And then there’s the siren song of “this guy will take you over the top” with a huge sales pitch. This is why Boras bypasses the GMs. And yes, GMs don’t like this which is why we’ve been seeing Dombrowski, Blue Jays and a couple other GMs spar with him in the media. They even have a term for what Boras does – the “end around.” Thanks for keeping the conversation going! – Holly

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  3. With the Cubs, the Indians, and the Royals having so much recent success, and even the Yankees starting to build from within, I wonder if the Boras era is coming to an end. Even teams like the Tigers are figuring out that expensive long-term free agent contracts are a sucker bet.

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  4. An insatiable hunger for a ring puts Boras & the top-tier talent he represents in the catbird seat. A budget doesn’t always keep us from buying what our hearts desire. He uses that to his advantage.

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  5. Am from traverse city. A local old time restaurant supplier used to love doctors who invested into a place. He’d make all his sale’s pitches to them and not thier chefs or managers. Same went for suddenly rich farmers with oil wells. Guess the game never changes, just the level of the location. Thank you Holly for putting it together for me.

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  6. David Chadd has been closely following Pelfrey his whole career. Both are from Wichita,KS and it was his finger on the scale,not Illich’s. If Boros told Illich Pelfrey would “take him over the top”, they would laugh him out of the building.

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    • Tom – I think you are stretching the narrative a bit. In the case of Pelfry he was on a decline and Avila admitted himself that his scouts did not go on analytics but eyeball. So in the end I blame any and all involved with his agent for that complete waste of $16M dollars. It could have been used much better.

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