Summarizing baseball's feelings about Scott Boras, the sport's most successful player agent, the Chicago Tribune's Rick Morrissey once wrote, "He is a very, very bad man. Exquisitely bad, in a foreclose-on-the-farm sort of way." When Boras brokered his latest jaw-dropping contract—a 10-year, $252 million "merger" between the Texas Rangers and shortstop Alex Rodriguez—the animus only intensified. Writing in the April issue of Esquire, Scott Raab called Boras "the Most Hated Man in Baseball, the heartless bastard hell-bent on destroying our National Pastime, the keen-eyed pimp of ball-hogging, bat-whipping, splitter-hurling youth."
- "Scott Boras, Motherhood and Apple Pie," Slate, May 9, 2001
That quote wasn't really cherry-picked; I can't think of another figure — save perhaps Barry Bonds — who can inspire more instances of bobbing for epithets than Boras. A three-second Google search will bring up an overwhelming number of journalistic hatchet jobs on Boras' reputation, and very few measured pieces that actually delves into something resembling reality.
(LATE EDIT: The author of the Esquire article, Scott Raab, has clarified that his comments about Boras were taken out of context in the Slate piece. Raab was being facetious, which is kinda obvious now, and ended up arguing against the blind hatred of Boras. I wish I could read the full article myself [and link to it], but Esquire hates poor bloggers. If anyone can find a copy, I'd love to read it)
The hyperbolic reaction that he receives from columnists is absolutely insane, and serves as proof that very few men of the major metro sidebar actually think for five seconds before forming an opinion on something. Boras has done nothing in his career except represent his clients, and their interests, to the best of his ability. That's his fucking job. It's like criticizing a defense attorney for getting his or her client acquitted. Of course, many baseball writers aren't willing to accept that this is a business involving two parties attempting to get rich off the other, and without talented representation, it would be the players who get ripped off by the millionaire/billionaire owners who don't suffer for negotiating acumen or astute legal advice.
Two major issues with Scott Boras coverage, specifically:
1) This man cannot possibly dictate the terms of players' careers as much as many columnists would have you believe. How many times, during the Carlos Beltran free agency bidding war, did we hear about Boras "steering" Beltran to Queens when the player really wanted to stay in Houston? Anyone with half a brain has to call bullshit; there is no fucking way that a player of Beltran's caliber was going to do anything he didn't want to do. Frankly, the attitude many of these columnists took with Beltran, and continue to take with all of Boras' clients, couldn't be more condescending if they referred to the player as "boy." Yeah, I realize that intelligence isn't a prerequisite for a baseball player, but to suggest that Boras gets to dictate the terms of his clients' careers is insulting and unacceptable.
2) Big salaries, for the last time, are not ruining the game, unless you believe the game needs to be played for free in order for it to have any value. Yes, I know, you would play the game for free, but that's because you suck at it and no one would want to watch you play. Yes, I know, $10 million is an insane sum of money, and it just seems greedy to want $20 million when $10 million should be more than enough. And yes, I know, ticket prices have gone through the roof, and you believe it's because of outrageous player salaries. But none of those arguments are actually rooted in logic; they're the kind of emotional responses one expects from six-year-olds. Grow the fuck up. Baseball revenues are counted in the billions, and that's almost totally because of the players themselves. If George Steinbrenner is going to get rich off of baseball, the persons responsible for his team's profits should be getting rich, too. And, the fact that a lot of people are getting really fucking rich is as much proof as you need that baseball is far from ruined. In fact, I couldn't think of a better time to be a baseball fan.
More: Boras is almost solely responsible for destroying the "slot" system in the MLB draft, a system that served to move almost all the risk associated with a baseball career onto the players, leaving the owners in a situation where they were guaranteed low-risk, high-reward investments in prospects. That the odds of any particular draftee finally making it to the league — not to mention be good enough or lucky enough to play long enough to earn a commensurate wage through free agency — are so staggeringly against any individual player is the main reason why Boras' advocacy was so needed. A player should take every opportunity he has to get paid as much as possible, since a long athletic career is so improbable. If a pitching prospect blows out his shoulder in High-A thanks to mismanagement, his career is effectively over, and teams wouldn't think twice about casting him off to the land of used auto sales. He has every right to ask a team to make a sizable investment in what they perceive as potential, big-league talent. There is strong evidence to support that the cautious, safety-oriented approach taken with most top prospects is owed almost entirely to the fact that teams are making multi-million dollar investments in top-level prospects. That's a positive for everyone involved. Furthermore, owners still stand to make huge profits for relatively low investments, even with the "outrageous" bonuses that are being given to top draft picks. Sure, paying a guy who plateaus in Double-A a million bucks stings, but paying Albert Pujols roughly $500k/season to produce DiMaggio-like makes all of those failures well worth it.
(Aside: Not all criticism of Boras is off-base; Peter Gammons recently argued that Boras' handling of prospects in his private training facility might actually be hurting the players in question. Interesting stuff.)
In short, it's flabbergasting to me that the kind of weak populism that colors the criticism of huge contract figures for baseball players serves only to benefit the fattest cats of them all, the owners. Anyone who wants to tell me that David Glass, Carl Pohlad or — gasp — the motherfucking Yawkeys are more sympathetic characters than A-Rod, Barry Zito or Carlos Beltran should be slapped in the face in that frenchy, limp-wristed, glove-in-hand way.