Baseball’s “Convenient Bogeyman”

For some of us, the upcoming World Series will be compelling enough drama, but there are many fans who will fret away the next few weeks wondering:  “What’s A-Rod going to do?”  If you root for a team that has an opening at third base or shortstop, needs a power hitter, and has a big budget (like my team, the Los Angeles Dodgers), that team might be tempted to make an offer for Alex Rodriguez if he leaves the Yankees.

It’s good-news bad-news.  You’d be getting the best player in baseball in his prime. But you’re also getting his increasingly grandiose, manipulative, arrogant agent, Scott Boras, who thinks A-Rod should become part-owner of his next team.  The New Yorker profiles Boras this week, and, yeah, modesty’s not his strong suit.  Speaking to a group of baseball executives at Baseball America’s annual banquet, Boras recalls saying this:

“What I told them all was: ‘You know what this business is about, guys? We’ve gone from, when I came into it, an industry that made, economically, about five hundred million dollars, and we went to a billion in 1990. We went to three billion in 2000. And now we’re near six billion in 2007. What it says for all of us in this room is this: We’re doing a good job with the game. We’re growing the game, as it should be grown. There’s a balance that’s needed in the growing of the game, and I provide the balance on one side, and you provide it on the other.’”

Boras talks about the value of being “very myopic in what you choose to pursue” in order to be “the best at something.”  However, he doesn’t always live by that code.  He’s currently floating a proposal to expand the World Series to nine games — the first two in a neutral city that would compete to be host, like cities compete for Super Bowls or the Olympics now.  Corporate hospitality, a “gala, like the Oscars” to announce the MVP and Cy Young awards… Even Marvin Miller, the longtime players’ union chief whose legal acumen made Boras’ vast empire possible, believes Boras is “forgetting what his real role is” with such suggestions.

There’s almost too much good stuff to quote, so I’ll stop with this morsel and let you read the rest yourself:

“We’re purists about the game,” Boras told me. “We’re about commitment. We’re about making you better.” He brought up, as an example, Barry Zito, the San Francisco Giants’ lefty who is known almost as much for his surfer persona as for his sweeping curveball. “What we did with Barry Zito a year and a half ago is one of my better pieces of work,” he said. “It was really about getting him to be him. I call him Zicasso. The thing is, he wants to pitch powerfully, and I’m saying, ‘No, you’re Zicasso! You got to be the artist-poet-intellectual. That’s what you’re out there to do.’ He feeds off it. ‘You’re Zicasso. You come out and you paint!’ ” He added a wavelike flourish with his arm to punctuate each new mention of Zicasso—whose performance in the past couple of years, incidentally, has not been discernibly better than it was before.

By the way, this is definitely a business story.  The combined earnings of Scott Boras’ clients this year? $295 million, of which Boras gets five percent.

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One Comment on “Baseball’s “Convenient Bogeyman””

  1. Daffy Dave Says:

    The article noted a little about the information war that goes on between owners and players, and that this “symmetry” of this battle has been changing – something Boras has understood, although it sounds like he’s also a major league bluffer. But, seems like all the agents do that. Bottom line, the Yankees have not won a World Series with A-Rod, so since that is the Yankees’ unwavering objective, the investment in him has been unsuccessful. However, they actually got a bargain because Texas has been paying part of his salary.
    I saw a Murray Chass article in the NY Times that noted that Joe Torre was not completely accurate in his description of the Yankees’ “insulting” offer to him…in fact, he’s been working with incentives and so forth all along. Anyway, it would seem like the WS incentives really should’ve been placed on A-Rod, not Torre. Then maybe A-Rod would’ve figured out that he alone cannot get the Yankees a ring. It takes a whole team. The Red Sox had some outstanding single performances, but my reflection on their dominant performance was that of a complete team, with seemingly no weaknesses because they play together as a team. The Yankees didn’t do that this year. A-Rod’s negative influence on a club seems to be that he turns them into a bunch of hero wannabees, everybody swinging for the fences.
    Boras, A-Rod and Yankees are nuts, however: It sure seems like A-Rod belongs on the Yankees more than anywhere else. But to win a WS, the Yankees (a) have to get better pitching, and (b) convince guys like Jeter that the A-Rod example is not the one to follow to win it all.


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