“He has mastered the simple game of negotiating and using any deceptions he can to maximize his players salaries and his own income,” said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College and author of 20 books.
Perhaps no Boras orchestration stands out more than when Alex Rodriguez left the Seattle Mariners in 2000 and signed a 10-year contract for $252 million with the Texas Rangers, a history-making coup for Boras but a contract derided by many. The next season, the Mariners set a league record with 116 wins, 43 games ahead of Rodriguez and Texas. How were they able to do it?
“Because we didn’t have any Scott Boras guys,” said the team’s president, Chuck Armstrong, according to Jerry Crasnick’s 2005 book “License to Deal.”
Such are the baseball world’s mixed feelings on Boras: credit for his role in sending clients to championship teams, such as 2003 Florida Marlins and the 2007 Detroit Tigers, criticism for crippling others, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1990s.
“You always get tagged with, ‘You are about money, you’re about greed,’ ” Boras said, tapping a finger on the table to emphasize his words. “Still to this day, having done nearly $5 billion worth of contracts, you realize that part is not going away. Every fan in every city is going to see that as the primary motivation.”
There have been five baseball contracts in excess of $200 million and Boras has negotiated three of them. He says his aim, though, is pure: for the betterment of the game but also to maintain the equitability of the system. It’s simple free-market economics: If the game’s coffers grow, so should players’ wallets. Boras’s dealings have helped grow salaries of players throughout the sport, not just his own clients.
“My job is to make sure the evaluation of these performances is to the standard of the revenues. That means if revenues go down, the value of those performances go down,” he said. “If they go up, fine.”
Boras builds convincing narratives and creates leverage where none existed. To him, it’s all money earned. Any purported altruism, however, is debatable.
“I thought people would understand after doing this a long time that it can’t be only about money,” he said. “But they never do. That part’s never going away.”
It’s one part of the narrative Boras can’t change.
‘That’s his job’
In Washington, the dominoes fell according to Boras’s plan. In August 2009, Strasburg signed what was a then-record $15.1 million contract with the Nats. Twelve months later Harper signed a $9.9 million deal and Werth jumped on board less than five months after that.
No other agent represents more than three players on the Nats’ likely postseason roster, which makes Boras’s position a unique one. Ron Shapiro is a Baltimore-based agent and attorney who at one time in the 1980s represented 21 players on the Orioles roster. He says it’d be difficult for any agent to do that today because so few stress the importance of a long-term relationship with a community.
“You don’t have to leave for the highest bidder,” said Shapiro, who authored a book called “The Power of Nice: How to Negotiate So Everyone Wins—Especially You!” “There are great advantages. There’s so much value to relationships.”
Boras’s own role in helping assemble this Nats team is open to interpretation. In August, he was quoted in a Washington Post column taking credit not usually afforded to an agent. He said: “Rizzo and I put this team together. I got eight or nine guys on the team.” The columnist, Mike Wise, listened to the tape of his interview with Boras again and later wrote that Boras actually said, ‘When Rizzo and I put this team together with eight or nine of my guys on the team…”
Boras says he’s not interested in running a baseball team and joked if he had really taken a lead in building the Nats, it would probably look a lot different. Boras says his job isn’t to funnel his players to one particular team; his loyalty and energy is devoted to getting the best deal possible for his client.
“These situations aren’t about a group of players, it’s about the individual needs of each player,” he said.
From his perspective, Rizzo says he thinks Boras’s priority is clearly his clients’ interests, not the Nats’. “He’s fair-minded and professional, and he does what’s best for his clients. That’s his job,” Rizzo said. “I respect the job that he does.”
Barry Svrluga contributed to this report.