Baseball super agent Scott Boras joined Washington Post reporter Adam Kilgore and Phil Wood for a two-hour panel presented by the Smithsonian Associates at the National Museum of Natural History on Monday. In addition to addressing the Redskins name controversy — yes, really — Boras shared stories about former clients and answered a variety of questions from the panel and audience members about the business of baseball and his role in negotiating on behalf of some of the game’s biggest stars.
Boras, who represents six Nationals (Danny Espinosa, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Rafael Soriano, Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Werth), recalled one of his first interactions with Nationals owner Ted Lerner, who was interested in luring one of Boras’s big-name clients to the District.
“I said to him, I don’t really want you to make a bid on this player,” Boras said. “I don’t want our relationship to begin that way because this player is not coming to D.C., because the team is not ready for him and his goal is to win and win now. But I do need you to do something, if you want my advice. I want you to really do something. And I think your entity has been doing a good job of it. I need you to do something for a couple of years, which would really benefit your franchise. And he said, ,’What’s that?’ And I said, ‘Lose.’ And boy, they did a great job of that.”
Boras, who later said he advised Lerner to keep on losing without actually saying it, knew that Strasburg and Harper were the consensus No. 1 picks in the 2009 and 2010 MLB drafts and that drafting them would increase the Nationals’ chances of long-term success. Sure enough, the Nationals finished with the league’s worst record in 2008 and 2009, earning them the right to draft Strasburg and Harper No. 1 overall in consecutive years. The Nationals improved somewhat in 2010 and entered the 2011 draft with the No. 6 pick.
“Drafting Strasburg and Harper was not a very difficult decision for Mike Rizzo,” Boras said. “But, there was a decision that they made about Rendon, because Rendon was a player who was injured. Mike Rizzo called me a month before the draft and goes, “You know who I want.” And I go, “No chance, you’re not getting this player. It can’t happen.” Because they had just had the first pick two years in a row and I think they had the sixth pick then. All of a sudden, he got a little bit nicked in a game; his ankle was a little bit swollen, nothing severe. And lo and behold, the first, second, third and fourth players were taken and Rizzo called me and goes, ‘I told you. I’m getting the best player in the draft three years in a row.’ And he was right.”
Boras on whether he would give the Nationals a discount if Harper has a bad year heading into free agency:
“People like myself do not create markets,” Boras said. “We’re barometers. There are times that players who are injured, the teams are happy about it because they know that the injury’s not serious and that they can go out and prospect that this player will return to performance, or, particularly in a young player, be better. When you’re looking at value, it’s really in the eye of the beholder. A lot of teams have gone out and signed players that were injured for a year or two, and they’ve brought them in and they’ve flowered into great successes. And then there are some instances where players who played great really never perform at those levels once they’ve signed a contract with a particular place. So, part of the dynamic of being a fan, and the unknowns and the mystery of the game, goes to the business of the game, which I think lends to the popularity. The surety of these things happening, it’s not anything that you can say for sure will happen. And our jobs, and the the challenge of our jobs, is to make sure that those probabilities increase to a high level so that it does happen.”
Boras on his relationship with Peter Angelos:
“Look, what I know of Peter Angelos – we’re both lawyers, we’re both Greek. The idea of it is that this guy, whenever I call him, he’s always in his office, he’s always working, he’s always available, he always returns my calls. I can’t say that he often listens to my dynamic, but the reality of it is, you give a lot of credit to the idea that in recent time, they’ve gone out and put together a new manager, a new general manager, a coaching staff, and this team is in first place. They’re there for a lot of reasons, and how long they’ll be there, I don’t know, but to be in first place in the American League East…you’re really doing something right. That goes with trades, drafting, signing players. I think credit where credit’s due. The Orioles have done a very good job of making their franchise relevant and of interest the last couple of years. Whether or not that continues will be, I think, a big question, but in the current today, I think that Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter have really formed a force that’s allowed for the development and evaluation of players that, really, when you look at the decisions the last couple of years, are some of the league’s best decisions.”
Boras on renaming the Redskins:
“I’m going to tell you all that I have a family bias, and that is that I have some Indian heritage in our background and we were raised on a farm, and not far from us was an Indian reservation. So, I kinda believe that that decision is not one that belongs to a team or a professional owner. I believe that decision belongs to the very tribes and such, so that they themselves can determine what is best for their children, their families, their respect, and I think that only they are the ones that really know the meaning and the definition, whether they are pro or con, of whether those names should be used or not used. I would leave that decision to the Indian Nation.”