Nestled in the middle of a nondescriptoffice park in Newport Beach, just under the flight path of nearby John Wayne Airport, is the home base of perhaps the most powerful man in baseball. With its sleek, iron-and-glass façade and waterfall in the forecourt—a departure from nearby law firms—the Boras Corporation looks more like a glitzy ad agency than a sports agency. But then, it's far more than a typical sports agency.
A massive door pivots like the entrance to a secret crypt, and the first thing a visitor sees is a 10-by-16-foot display consisting of nearly 1,500 baseballs mounted on a rectangular board. Arena-size banners of stars like New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez hang from the two-story-high ceiling. On the lobby walls, cases filled with trophies, awards and players' gold-plated baseball gloves evoke a shrine. This soon yields to something more interactive: banks of TVs in glass-enclosed offices tuned to sports channels, with the ESPN crawl a constant.
This is the house that Scott Boras built: a high-tech baseball universe where the most historic—that is, the richest—player contracts in the game are signed. Boras represents only baseball players, and a high percentage of his clients are the elite, comprising current salary commitments in excess of $1 billion. Last December, Baseball America named him the most influential nonplayer of the past 25 years. He's been called both “the devil” and “the real commissioner of baseball,” and there's no arguing that the former minor-leaguer-turned-lawyer-turned-super-agent has transformed careers, teams and the national pastime.
How—and why—he does it is a constant source of debate among fans, commentators and even baseball players. This much is certain: Boras' free-market philosophy and client roster stocked with future Hall of Fame players give him the unmatched ability to make general managers cringe, fans simmer with rage and transient players rich beyond their wildest dreams.
Major League Baseball is a $6 billion-a-year industry, more profitable than ever. To Boras and his clients, that makes it a game of percentages on and off the field. As baseball revenues grow, so do salaries, thanks in large part to him. He was the first agent to sign players to multiyear $50 million, $100 million and $200 million contracts, as league revenues rose to $1 billion, $3 billion and $6 billion, respectively. Last year, he negotiated the largest contract ever for a Japanese player, Daisuke Matsuzaka, who signed with the Boston Red Sox for $52 million—after the Sox paid $51 million for the rights to sign him—and the largest ever for a pitcher, Barry Zito, who went with the San Francisco Giants for $126 million.
Boras works both ends of the spectrum. He revolutionized the amateur draft by signing players out of college and sometimes high school; now he has a team of former pro ball players and international associates sniffing out young talent from Cape Cod to Caracas. Because he is somewhat of a rock star, getting to Boras is not easy. There are layers to go through. And once he starts talking, getting Boras—that is, decoding his approach to baseball representation—can be an equal challenge. His critics—many of them right here in Southern California—object to his way of doing business.
“He definitely affects what happens on ball clubs,” says Steve Lyons, the former major leaguer and now a Dodgers broadcaster. “No one else manipulates the game like that, like where players end up. And it's not always positive or in the best interests of the player or the game.”
But some owners build their teams with his help. Which is why his place in baseball history is so perplexing.
A key trait of the Boras Corporation is the integration of former players into what often is a buttoned-down business atmosphere populated by lawyers and bean counters. Boras is a lawyer, but no lawyer-agent has the feel for the game that he has. He surrounds himself with baseball lifers who are as engrossed in the game as he is.
Jeff Musselman pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets from 1986 to 1990, and today he is one of five vice presidents in the Boras Corporation. Like a number of Boras' top lieutenants, all of whom offer bone-crushing handshakes, Musselman is a former client—one with a degree from Harvard University.
“The motive is to see that the player's work on and off the field are congruent,” he says of the spacious Newport Beach complex. “We focus on serving all the needs of the athlete.”
In addition to the Boras Corporation, the complex houses Boras' marketing and financial-management companies. The Boras Sports Training Institute, which includes physical trainers and psychologists, is located at Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo. Overall, Boras employs 70 people with some very specific areas of expertise; a dozen employees staff the data department, with one person spending all his time “scraping” the Internet for information to develop and maintain player profiles, which are updated for Boras on a daily basis.
The various companies are integrated by a state-of-the-art data and communication system with three computer servers the size of meat lockers. Housed in a climate-controlled utility room known as “the dungeon,” the system gives the Boras team a competitive advantage.
“We store and analyze news clips, game tapes, videotaped practices, statistics,” says Musselman. “We're beyond megabytes and into terabytes.”
The brain trust meets in “the war room,” a conference room with long tables arranged in a V, Aeron chairs, huge white drawing boards, a retractable video screen and wireless video projectors operated from a customized control panel with the Boras logo, a “B” in the middle of a baseball field.
“Scott likes to be able to push a button and get whatever visual images he wants, when he wants it,” Musselman says, in what could be a description of Boras' general business attitude.
The company also tends to players' goals off the field, such as charitable work, and the interests of their families. “Scott has never done anything purely for profit,” says Musselman. “He believes if you do things right, the money will follow. You can make a million dollars today, but is that in the best interests of your client in the long run?”
The glue that holds the Boras Corporation together, Musselman insists, is passion for the game. “We're at the ballpark every day. We're looking at teams' rosters and thinking about players' goals; what makes a player tick? Sometimes teams' and players' goals merge. This is what we'd be doing anyway, thinking about ways to serve the game.”
* * *
Scott Boras is standing behind a massive desk, looking at numbers on a chart and getting ready for an upcoming meeting regarding the Boston Red Sox catcher and team captain Jason Varitek. Boras often makes his arguments with numbers, in a persuasive manner that forces people to listen. At the moment he is preparing to defend his client's subpar performance at the plate last year.
“It says here Varitek is hitting .129 when the pitch count is no balls and two strikes,” he says, moving over to a conference table in his glass-enclosed office. In pre-Boras times, before statistics dominated the lexicon of baseball and became central to player deals, an agent or general manager would simply say, “Varitek struggles when he's behind in the pitch count.” Here's what Boras says: “With one ball and two strikes he's hitting a little better, about .138. But then, with two balls and no strikes, or two balls and one strike, he's up around .315. So even with health issues last year, he's still a better than average hitter.”
Boras is 54, married with three kids. His only major distraction from the work of baseball is going to watch his two teenage sons play the game for their Orange County high school and Little League traveling teams. Three decades on from his playing days, which ended in 1978, he has a broad, handsome face, thinning hair and a midsection thicker than it used to be. Business casual in jeans and a blue blazer, he speaks in a low voice with the authority of an oracle.
The son of a Sacramento-area farmer, he was a minor league infielder and outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs until three knee surgeries ended his career. He never made it past Double-A ball, retiring with a .283 batting average. He moved on to law school, then joined a Chicago law firm. But as he tells it, each spring he yearned for the smell of grass and the taste of tobacco, and his thoughts turned to baseball.
One day in 1982, it dawned on him that baseball revenues had increased tenfold since the amateur draft began, in 1965, but salaries for draft picks had stagnated. “I was in law school and I didn't know how to deal with myself,” Boras says. “I hadn't played ball in years. I couldn't sleep. I was having withdrawal on a number of fronts. I started thinking of ways to help these kids.”
The next year, in 1983, Boras signed two draft picks, Tim Belcher and Kurt Stillwell, and soon their new agent was turning down entry-level salaries and demanding what Boras argued was market value. “Teams were irate,” he says. “They said to me, 'Don't get involved, come work for us.' I told them I didn't want to be a baseball executive, I wanted to be an advocate for players, that this was bad for baseball, bad for the system.”
Since then, Boras has advised 60 first-round draft picks and negotiated $150 million in draft salaries. The established side of his client roster reads like a who's who of major league stars: Carlos Beltran, Kenny Rogers, Andruw Jones, to name a few. He boasts 34 world champions, three Cy Young Award winners, three MVPs and 16 Gold Glove winners. Boras has negotiated more than $2 billion in player contracts, and he's looking for more.
“I've said it before—there's going to be a $30 million-per-year contract. I don't know when, but there will be one, because baseball revenue will keep growing, and I'm all about the percentage of revenues.”
Boras' argument, one that is hard to counter, is that players should reap a fair percentage of team revenues because they are responsible for baseball's popularity and its expansion. But it is his gift for talking—part baseball knowledge, part business vision, a verbal onslaught of research and data delivered with a conviction that sounds presumptuous, if not threatening—that further sets him apart.
The year after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, center fielder Johnny Damon's contract came up for negotiation. Damon was a god in Boston, a durable lead-off hitter who was the team's spiritual leader. But his body was showing signs of wear, and Boras asked the Red Sox for more than they wanted to pay. “I told the Red Sox, 'If you don't sign Johnny Damon, you won't win.'” Damon moved on to the Yankees and would haunt the Sox at the end of last season.
Last year, another longtime Boras client, Jeff Weaver, was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals after a poor start with the Angels in Anaheim. Weaver was dominant in the postseason, and the Cardinals won the World Series, but St. Louis offered Weaver only a one-year, $5 million contract—which Boras found insulting. “That's what you'd offer a relief pitcher,” he says.
Weaver eventually signed with the Seattle Mariners for $8.3 million. “You have to respect that teams have a right to make their own decisions,” Boras says, before turning around and passing judgment on Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty. “Here's a GM who never played the game saying, 'We're going to go with our young guys,' and I go, 'You can't.'”
The Cardinals simply blew it, Boras concludes. “The Cardinals not signing Jeff Weaver is how you don't win divisions, and my prediction is the St. Louis Cardinals won't win their division this year.” (At press time, the Cardinals were near the bottom of the National League Central.)
Behind his attitude are two tenets Boras lives by: When you know the market, don't embarrass the player; and don't assume the player will sign for less because he likes the city he is playing in. In response to critics who say it's all about money, Boras says, “Really? I think it's about respect.”
* * *
In December, when Baseball America named him the most influential nonplayer of the past 25 years, Boras says the honor caught him by surprise. “I show up at the banquet, and they ask me to speak. Every person in the industry is there. Plenty of them are not happy I'm receiving this honor. I look around the room and ask, 'As caretakers of the game, what have we accomplished?'”
With the leaders of that game listening, Boras traced baseball's financial trajectory: “In 1980, baseball was a $500 million industry. By 1990 it went to $1 billion. In 2000 it went to $3 billion. Now we're at $6 billion and attendance is up, interest in the game is at its highest level. Collectively we've installed a system of checks and balances that has allowed this game to achieve grand success. We should look at each other and say, 'We're honoring the game.'”
Boras insists he honors the game even when his deals go sour. He points to former Dodgers pitcher Chan Ho Park, for whom he got a five-year, $65 million contract with the Texas Rangers in 2002, but who was injured five weeks into the 2003 season and couldn't pitch for the next two and a half years. Boras' response: “I invested millions of dollars of my company's money and developed a sports-fitness institute, with five full-time trainers, so this never happens again.”
Some of Boras' most famous deals, however, are hard to swallow. Take the lucrative but painful journey of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. In 2000, A-Rod was a popular member of the Seattle Mariners, who won 91 games that season. After the season, A-Rod's free-agent year, Boras negotiated a 10-year, $252 million salary with the Rangers, convincing them that A-Rod would become the best player in history, not to mention put fans in the seats. A-Rod then had the nerve to claim he was looking to join a winning team.
The Rangers did not win, nor did attendance go up. Within three years, Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees, where his woes were just beginning. Booed mercilessly, even in Yankee Stadium, he put up impressive regular-season numbers but slumped in the playoffs—three years in a row. By 2006 he was known as a high-paid choker. In three postseasons, he had just four hits in 41 at-bats.
The Dodgers have a particularly contentious history with Boras. LA fans recall former third baseman Adrian Beltre, a Boras client, belting 48 homers, hitting .334 and driving in 121 runs in 2004. But when the Dodgers wouldn't meet Beltre's market price, he signed with Seattle for $64 million, spending the next two years underperforming for the Mariners.
More irritating was when the team needed a new slugger, and Boras served up J.D. Drew, another of his high-priced clients. Drew played for three different teams in seven years, struggling with injuries until a breakout year in 2004 with the Atlanta Braves led to a five-year, $55 million deal with the Dodgers. But after driving in 100 runs last year, the most in his career, Drew chose to exercise an escape clause in his contract and forgo $33 million for the final three years of his Dodgers contract and sign instead with the Red Sox, for five years and $70 million. Dodgers brass and fans alike were furious.
Drew wasn't the only Dodger and Boras client to go for more money this past summer: Closer Eric Gagne, the injured but one-time heart of the team, and veteran pitcher Greg Maddux left for greener pastures.
This time, it wasn't just the Dodgers and their fans who were unhappy. The team's decision to not match Boras' demand and to let Maddux go to the Padres, their National League West rivals, for little more than what they offered still irks Boras. Though not at the top of his game anymore, the 41-year-old Maddux is one of the greatest pitchers in history. Boras felt justified asking the Dodgers for a two-year contract worth $21 million, and it wasn't just about his Hall of Fame stats: “He's what we shoot for every time: instinct is fully formed, self-identification realized, discipline absolutely defined, goals are absolutely achievable . . . “
“We think he's old,” came the reply from the Dodgers, according to Boras, along with a counteroffer he once again found insulting. To make matters worse, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti—perhaps in anger over the Drew debacle—sent subordinates to the meeting, something that had never happened to Boras in 30 years, he says.
Boras rarely has trouble when he shops a player, though in Maddux's case, the market yielded just $3 million more than the Dodgers were prepared to pay. “How can you tell Greg . . . ” Boras says of the Dodgers' offer, cutting himself off. The offer lacked proper respect for Maddux in a number of ways, Boras contends, but here is where he steps over the line—at least what is the normally accepted line—and sounds as if he's telling teams how they should conduct their business. “Not only are you getting [Maddux's] influence on the field and in the clubhouse, you're getting a coach,” Boras says. To offer Maddux less money than he is worth, “Now you've done something that you should never do.”
General managers might resent such statements. But one way Boras gets into their heads is to pit them against their owners. “The process is informational,” he says. “There are GMs who are information sensitive, and their opinions are in the rear. There's a whole group of GMs who put their opinions out front, and they view me as an obstacle. I tell them, 'Let me help you and your owner make good decisions. Why wouldn't you want good players?'”
As for the financial pressures of running a baseball team, Boras finds the topic irritating. “You might [as a general manager] keep your budget eight years in a row, but that doesn't mean you're going to keep your job,” he says. “Your job is to win. You have to cater the franchise to winning. That means I'm not the most difficult person to negotiate with. It's your owner. He's going to give you the wherewithal to do what you have to do. Then you just have to have the confidence and the skill to do it effectively.”
* * *
The banner hanging above the Vero Beach, Florida, spring-training complex reads, “It's Great to Be in Dodgertown.” About 10 miles inland from the barrier islands off Florida's central coast, the casual spread of playing fields, training facilities and vintage bungalows is the class of the Grapefruit League. The Dodgers' offices are in a modest two-story office condominium overlooking well-groomed Holman Stadium; on the second floor the walls are adorned with black-and-white photos of the Boys of Summer hamming it up for the camera; on the grounds below, players, coaches and front-office personnel zip around on golf carts, from practice sessions to media events to pregame warm-ups.
The Dodgers have been coming here since 1948, when they were still the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the place is imbued with tradition and intimacy. Many of the old-timers who direct traffic, provide security, staff the snack bars and greet visitors sound as if they come from Brooklyn. Out of a crowd one March day comes Manny Mota, a lifetime .304 hitter from the 1960s to the 1980s, wearing a Dodgers uniform and pedaling a vintage bike; visitors huddle outside the Dodgers' offices to watch base-running legend Maury Wills do a TV interview; former manager Tommy Lasorda stops his golf cart occasionally to chat up visiting players and coaches.
As much as Dodgertown represents the pleasures of baseball tradition, there are grumblings of discontent, especially at the mention of Boras' name. Jan Hunsley, a Seattle resident who has traveled across the country for a taste of spring training, says the Mariners spend more money each year without improving. “You fall in love with these guys and they leave. There's no loyalty on either side. Scott Boras is ruining the game.”
There may be a few people who agree with her inside the Dodgers' offices, where Ned Colletti is still shaking off the turbulent off-season and pondering the Dodgers legacy he is trying to restore. Colletti is the fourth general manager in the past six years, to go along with the team's third owner in the last decade, including six years of corporate ownership by Rupert Murdoch and Fox Entertainment Group—a contrast from 50 years of O'Malley family ownership that produced six championships.
The Dodger Way always meant good scouting, player development and team continuity. Colletti is trying to balance those values with pressure to stay at the top of the market, while answering to the Dodgers' relatively new owner, Boston real estate developer Frank McCourt. Colletti seems to feel the weight of judgment—from the fans and the front office. “The history of this franchise and the expectation is to win,” he says solemnly, “but I wouldn't be doing it properly if I didn't develop the youth in our system.”
Colletti is plainspoken, talks with a Chicago accent, fancies Hawaiian shirts and resembles a slightly downcast Edgar Allan Poe. Although his background is in PR, he seems genuine, even when he emphasizes character and grit.
That doesn't mean he is not a modern general manager. The Dodgers are usually in the top third of the league in player payroll. This off-season they signed Jason Schmidt, a veteran pitcher with questionable velocity, to a three-year, $47 million contract; pitcher Randy Wolf, who has just 15 wins in his last three seasons, for $8 million this season; and Juan Pierre, a center fielder with a weak arm, for five years and $45 million.
Colletti knows this is a balancing act, between expensive veteran talent and affordable youth and promise. “If the salary demand of the veteran is higher than their value, then it's nice to be able to turn to your youth to get the job done. Some don't want to give young players a chance. I do,” he says.
He's referring to Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and Andy LaRoche, youngsters in the Dodgers' lineup this year. He could also be referring to Drew, Gagne and Maddux, veterans who sought more than what he thought they were worth. Either way, Colletti says he is drawn to ageless virtues: “It doesn't matter if you play baseball, work in a factory or own a company, it comes down to how hard you want to work, how great you want to be, and what you are willing to do to get there.”
The Boras Factor hovers over the conversation. “No question” Boras influences his clients as they formulate their demands, Colletti says. “But everyone bears responsibility for the way things turn out. Players can follow the advice they get to the letter, or they can use their intuition. That's not just baseball, that's life.”
Once upon a time, no one would've pictured Eric Gagne in anything but a Dodgers uniform—even after he missed two seasons to injuries. Colletti is fond of Gagne, and recalls getting a call one day that impressed him. He had just become general manager, and Gagne wanted to talk about team chemistry. “It's rare to have that kind of conversation, much less have the player contact me,” Colletti says. “It's hard to believe he wouldn't want to be a Dodger anymore.”
Yet Colletti never talked with Gagne about remaining a Dodger. “Some agents don't want you getting too close to their client,” he says pointedly. Of the negotiation environment he often finds himself in, adds Colletti, “I hear all the time that it's not about the money, but that's what we are always negotiating over, so what else is it?”
Colletti has his own litmus test: “If money is a player's No. 1 goal, I stay as far away as possible. I've seen it sabotage clubs. And sooner or later, the player that emphasizes money above all else will let the team down.”
At some point last season, Colletti talked to outfielder J.D. Drew about the player's level of satisfaction in Los Angeles. Drew told Colletti he liked L.A. and the Dodgers, but according to Boras, that comment had nothing to do with Drew's contract intentions. And like many Boras-negotiated contracts, Drew's had a player option clause. Feeling assured by Drew's satisfaction, Colletti didn't worry about his contract status until after the season. So last November, when Colletti declined to renegotiate the three years and $33 million remaining on Drew's contract, Drew took the Boston money and ran.
So, does money really equal respect? “I wouldn't be talking to a player if I didn't respect him,” Colletti says. “I could turn the tables and say the player doesn't respect the Dodgers, or the game, or me. If I hear that kind of talk, I know there's probably a bridge we cannot cross together—if they mean it.” Then, keeping matters in perspective, he adds, “What are we talking about? Are we talking about affording another new car or where your kids go to school? Or are we talking about things we can't even fathom?”
Perhaps Boras and the Dodgers clash because the team is caught between its legacy and a modern game driven by cold business decisions and players' statistics. Colletti concedes that the Dodgers make business decisions—advertising campaigns, parking and concessions prices—with an eye on players' salaries and profits. He invokes the memory of the late, former baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti to illustrate why he thinks teams should be careful to preserve the baseball experience, which means coming to the park and identifying with the players.
Back in the mid-1980s, Colletti says, Giamatti, then the National League president, gave a group of young baseball executives some cautionary advice: A typical fan, say, a father of four in the suburbs, had a choice. He could leave work early, gather up the kids, fight traffic into the city, pay a fortune to park the car, and then pay top dollar for good seats. “You get to your seat, it's dirty, there's no usher, and you're sitting in front of some drunks who use vulgar language and spill beer, which goes in your wife's purse, as it always does,” Colletti says, relating Giamatti's story. “Then after the game you leave the park and fans are still drunk and cursing and you have to drive all the way home and get up early the next day for work.
“Or, you come home from work, have a barbecue, sit in a room with a big TV, watch the game, fall asleep on the couch, wake up and kiss your wife and then go to bed.
“Which of those scenarios are you going to choose?”
Giamatti was right. The main source of MLB's record $6 billion in revenues is network and cable TV contracts, including the MLB Extra Innings “package.” Yet, paradoxically, the manic pace of modern team building in a media-driven culture has also increased fan interest at the box office. Asked if Boras is creating or cashing in on this phenomenon, Colletti pauses thoughtfully for a good five seconds and replies, “Both.”
* * *
It's a chilly night in late April, and Dodger Stadium is sold out for the third game of a series with the San Francisco Giants. The hometown blue-and-white-clad fans are into their third round of “Barry Sucks” taunts when Scott Boras shows up at his front-row seats behind home plate—two and half hours later than expected. With him is Kurt Stillwell, who in 1983 was the second draft pick Boras ever represented, a historic move that resulted in Boras revolutionizing the amateur draft.
Stillwell played nine years for several teams, including the Angels, retiring in 1996. Now he is one of six Boras employees scoping out amateur baseball talent around the country. “Stilly graces us with his presence,” Boras says, settling into his seat. He immediately catches the eye of Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who stands by the Giants dugout some 30 yards away, and they point at each other. “Barry gave my kids his All Star rings,” Boras says of his former client, declining to elaborate on their split, which occurred after Bonds' name surfaced in connection with steroids. “He's sat in my house for hours at a time, talking baseball. The guy is a total gentleman.”
Boras is less animated where Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is concerned. But then, he's Scott Boras, and McCourt is just the owner of the team and the stadium in which we're sitting. Even the people in McCourt's box nearby can't help looking over at Boras, as do batters in the on-deck circle, including Nomar Garciaparra, who just hours earlier wanted nothing to do with a reporter wondering about the role money plays in baseball. He seems interested now. Within minutes, Boras has also drawn attention from fans who want their picture taken with him, and film director Ron Howard makes no effort to hide his delight when he comes down to greet him.
After losing the first two games of the series, the Dodgers have jumped out to a 3-1 lead, prompting someone nearby to predict LA will win the National League West division this year. Boras, plowing through a bowl of chili nachos, a gyro and some chicken wings—he and Stillwell have been scouting amateur baseball all day and they're hungry—shakes his head. “San Diego,” he says decisively.
The Giants get a strikeout to end the inning with the bases loaded, pick up a couple runs and eventually tie the game. Over the cheers and jeers of the sellout crowd and the incessant rock music blasting from the stadium sound system, Boras keeps a running commentary of the game, talking until he is hoarse. When San Francisco reliever Kevin Correia faces Dodger pinch hitter Olmedo Saenz with a runner on third and two out, Giants catcher Bengie Molina has Correia pitch around Saenz—who gets hit by a pitch. Boras notes that now there's a possible force out at second. “Molina is a smart catcher. He knows that was a bad matchup. Saenz is hitting .400 off this pitcher.”
That Boras knows these sorts of things off the top of his head tells you just about everything you need to know about him: His appetite for the game is as voracious as his appetite for ballpark food. He and his staff probably spend seven hours a day at either Angel Stadium or Dodger Stadium, sometimes both in the same day, depending on which clients are playing. “Baseball is like breakfast,” says Boras. “It only happens once a day, so you better not miss it.”
One of the keys to his success has to be that players know his understanding of the game is as high as it can be. At the same time, many general managers and owners who understand the business side of baseball must be keenly aware that they have a fraction of Boras' baseball knowledge. It's as if his involvement in the sport is so deep that he feels justified not only representing clients to the maximum but to the point where he is having a direct effect on what teams look like when the season begins.
“There's so much we can do to help the players, the owners and the teams,” he says, without hesitation or self-awareness. New owners, like McCourt, have to feel their way along, he says, and can fall prey to shortsighted decisions, whereas Boras feels he knows their team rosters as well as they do, if not better. Plus, he knows exactly whom he is signing where, and why. Boras doesn't think all teams can say that: “I'd say 35 to 40 percent of all major moves are without clear vision and deliberation as to the organization and where it fits in the industry.”
In the eighth inning, newly acquired Dodgers center fielder Juan Pierre drops a deep fly to right center. A run scores, then another, putting the Giants up 5-3. “Well, well, well,” says Boras, cackling and looking over at Stillwell, enjoying a moment of what might be considered payback. “J.D. Drew would've caught that ball,” he says confidently, leaving no doubt that he has not forgotten the off-season controversy. “You just don't let Greg Maddux leave your building, and you sign J.D. Drew,” he says.
Boras' self-assurance doesn't end with personnel decisions. He believes teams like the Dodgers, in not owning the entirety of all advertising and TV revenues generated at the ballpark, are behind the curve. That's because McCourt bought the team in 2004 for $430 million, about half of what the organization was worth, and left Fox with the TV rights for 15 years. “[McCourt] can just raise parking prices for the next 12 years and he'll be fine,” Boras quips. “Then he can buy the TV rights to his franchise.”
And then Boras makes an interesting, perhaps even Freudian, comment: “If I was commissioner of baseball, I wouldn't allow a single dime of TV revenue to leave the stadium.” If I was commissioner of baseball . . .
Meanwhile, the Dodgers are down to their last at-bat. They score once more, making it 5-4, but Garciaparra strikes out to end the game. As disappointed fans head for the exits, Boras is still enthusiastically pondering the future of baseball: He says he wants MLB to scrap the current World Series format and adopt a nine-game series in one designated city per year—the way it was played in the early 20th century. He's talked to owners and says some see nothing but upside.
“The TV and advertising and marketing revenue would explode,” he says. “Places that might never have a World Series could compete for the location like they do for the Olympics. Nine games would allow a greater chance for the best team, and not just the hottest team, to win. It would be like the Super Bowl, but better. I sent a letter to the commissioner's office two weeks ago asking them to consider it.”
He hasn't yet heard back from MLB commissioner Bud Selig. But it's not hard to see Boras pushing the idea into the mainstream for debate with or without Selig's support. (Sure enough, two weeks later, Bloomberg News picked up the story.) As for detractors or traditionalists who might complain that too much tinkering with baseball's format is bad for the game, he says, “That's the beauty of this idea: It's the way the game was played in 1903. Does it get any more traditional?
“I find that if you are going to promulgate change,” says the unofficial commissioner of baseball, “it's good to have history on your side.”
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