Major League Baseball Agent Scott Boras conducted a chat at usatoday.com this morning and made a couple of interesting revelations.
Well, perhaps they weren’t revelations. But they offered further proof that the agent couldn’t give a rip about anything more than making as much money for his clients as possible.
One questioner, from Westlake Village, Calif., asked if Boras had any concern for the fan bases of teams affected by the constant shuffling of players chasing big bucks.
Boras didn’t really answer the question, but told Westlake Village that his staff of 20 works year-round to prepare players for free agency and salary arbitration.
“When Teams call we determine if our client is interested then a information exchange occurs to define the agreed value of the player. If both parties agree we have an agreement,” he says.
Another Californian from Aliso Viejo asked about player greed and salaries during a time when “real hardworking people who get up and work 8-5 to make ends meet but are losing everything they have.”
While the question was a bit melodramatic, Boras’ response started out as a discussion of player revenues, which he says have increased from $3 billion in 2000 to $6.5 billion in 2008.
“Please keep in mind many of our clients donate millions of dollars to funds that provide tickets to children and families who would other wise not be able to attend games,” Boras wrote.
I about yacked when I read the last part. To quote the late, great Chris Farley, “Well, La De Frickin’ Da.” A big thank you to players making anywhere from what, a quarter million to $26 million a year for buying a couple tickets to each game? Is he looking for a slap on the back? I will grant him that many, many players are fantastic people and very generous. But forgive me if I don’t bow in their general direction when they share their money with the less fortunate. They should do that – just like any halfway decent person with an abundance of resources should. Charitable organizations rely on such generosity – and guess what, some people don’t want or need recognition for it. Spare me the pretend virtuosity.
My favorite answer, however, came when he was asked by New York, NY what his response would be to a salary cap. Boras, in true, self-serving fashion, responded that “salary caps prevent the true intellect of the sport from operating.”
Part one: As we have seen in the past 8 years there are many ways to win a world. Fans need to know an owner or a team can take what ever steps needed to improve their team. The power of choice without limitation makes the game exciting.
BBP respose: Ahh, where to start. Yes, small-market teams can win World Series. Even teams like the Florida Marlins, who load up for runs, then sell off all their talent and suck from the teat of large-market teams through revenue sharing for years on end. But come on. The Yankees just had a string of more than a dozen years in the playoffs end. The Boston Red Sox have won two of the last four. Philadelphia is hardly small market. You get the picture. Let’s not be in denial here. While small-market teams can contend, they can’t do so on an annual basis because big market teams have the revenue and can afford to spend it to the tune of five to 10 times what the small market teams can.
And as for knowing an owner or a team can take whatever steps needed, sure. They can – but often only if they are willing to leverage themselves to no end. There simply isn’t a comparison between the revenues generated by the New Yorks and Chicagos of the world compared with the Pittsburghs, Tampa Bays and Kansas Citys of the world – and I don’t think those latter three cities would say their chances from year to year are “exciting”.
Part two: The NFL (with a salary cap) has to mandate a schedule where losing teams play losing teams and this allows poor teams to have a better records and hides the defects of many teams which leads to mediocrity.
BBP response: This answer is, at best, a stretch and at worst, complete crap. First of all, his statement completely ignores the fact that the NFL has easily eclipsed Major League Baseball as “America’s Pastime” both in terms of television revenue, advertising and fan interest.
Hell, look no further than franchise valuations. Twenty four of the 25 most highly valued franchises are from the NFL. This isn’t me making up facts. I emailed Ryan Spoon to see where he had gotten the data for the impressive charts he posted and he indicated that it came primarily from several years of Forbes magazine data. Forbes magazine’s research isn’t perfect – it’s flawed in that I know many of the teams don’t communicate any of their worth directly. But the publication is credible – more credible, I would guess, than either me or Scott Boras would be just sitting around arguing which league has a better system. And I don’t think it’s a stretch to guess that this fact has something to do with knowing there is some competitive balance from year to year.
Secondarily, his argument about the NFL schedules are simply incorrect. The NFL schedule mandates that each team play the other three teams in its division twice. The schedule also sets all four members of one division in a round-robin of sorts against every team in one other division from each conference. For example, every team in the NFC East plays six games against its own division mates. And all four of those teams play all four teams in two other divisions – those games are based on a rotating schedule, not record.
In fact, you can look online and find out right now who 14 of your favorite team’s opponents will be in 2009, 2010, etc. right now. Then, yes, teams play two games against teams from other divisions based on where they finished in the standings the previous season. So, unlike what Boras says, less than 15 percent of a team’s schedule is based on “losing teams play losing teams” and thus allowing “poor teams to have a better records.”
Is there mediocrity in the NFL? Sure. Is the salary cap system perfect? No. But can teams in any market compete in any given year? Look no further than the success of the Green Bay Packers or the run made last year by the Jacksonville Jaguars that fell just short against New England. Would that have happened in Major League Baseball? I don’t think so – certainly not on a regular basis, anyway.
And that scheduling format sure beats the hell out of the current formula used by Major League Baseball, where teams play “natural rivalry” series every year and some teams play 15 interleague games while others play 18 – the number differing even within teams’ own divisions. That’s fair-and-balanced scheduling? Please. And those games aren’t randomly or evenly spread for the sake of equal competition. Not even close.
Part three: Dynasties and David beating Goliath create great fan interest. A system that has owner and salary flexibility allows the most opportunity for varied results.
BBP response: Yes, David beating Goliath is exciting, but only if David can actually get to the matchup that matters from time to time. Too often in Major League Baseball, the Davids of the world have no margin for error. If a Yankee or a Red Sock player underachieves or gets hurt, Theo Epstein or Brian Cashman simply get on the phone and buy the next superstar acquisition.
Many owners could probably afford to do that. Carl Pohlad in Minnesota is, if memory serves, the country’s richest sports owner. But he didn’t become successful in business being an idiot. He still bases his baseball budget on baseball revenues. So, he could definitely afford to spend more on the team. But he’d be doing so at the risk of losing money on the team whereas George Steinbrenner just sells another corporate sponsorship or raises ad rates at the YES Network and figures out who to buy next.
“The only cap in sports that is beneficial,” he concludes, “is the one worn by baseball players.”
BBP response: Think his opinion on the salary cap might be driven more by the desire to line his pocket with millions upon millions for negotiating A-Rod and Man-Ram contracts? I think Boras wears his cap too tight. Look at the numbers. Look at the popularity of football versus baseball. I rest my case. He’s not interested in the well-being of the game. He’s interested in maximizing his clients’ paychecks regardless of what it does to the competition. Because that’s what maximizes his own pocketbook – and to Scott Boras, that’s the bottom line that matters.