"When you think about the parameters of who should be the highest-paid player in the game, Manny Ramírez fulfills them all. ... When you talk about his character, the totality of the circumstances will ring true."
-- Agent Scott Boras, speaking about Manny Ramirez in last Sunday's Boston Globe.
Don't know about you, but I almost choked on my Cheerios when I read those pearls. Made me wonder at what point a sales pitch becomes distortion of the facts, an exploitation of the masses or, quite simply, a delusional fantasy.
Or, of course, all of the above.
Before we go any further, let's get this out there: If I were a baseball player, I'd want Scott Boras as my agent. The man can make Craig Grebeck sound like Hanley Ramirez. Boras is the premier power-broker in major league baseball and undisputed agent to the stars, representing everyone from Manny Ramirez to Mark Teixeira to Jason Varitek. In a professional sports world where agents are now looked upon like defense attorneys, Boras is either the Johnnie Cochran or F. Lee Bailey of his industry. Maybe he's a little of both.
This offseason, Boras's name might actually appear in print more times than that of Barack Obama, John McCain, or even America's latest sweetheart obsession, the bespectacled Sarah Palin.
Boras, Boras, Boras.
Boras to death.
At this moment, here's what many of you are thinking: I would never hire a man like that. Don't flatter yourself. For all of the criticisms of Boras over the years, he provides client services like arguably no other agent in the game. The Scott Boras Corporation counsels players on everything from financial matters to physical conditioning to dietary and marital issues. No stone goes unturned. No need goes unfilled.
"He's excellent at what he does," said Derek Lowe, who is expected to file for free agency today and is represented by Boras. "I don't think people realize the amount of work he does for his clients, especially at this time of year."
This time of year. We might as well call it Boras Time. That is when Boras starts marketing his free agents, using the media and spinning the facts like any good lawyer would. It's just enough to make you go mad sometimes. Boras treats every negotiation on a case-by-case basis, which is both brilliant and infuriating. When Boras had Alex Rodriguez as a client on the open market, Rodriguez deserved to be the highest-paid player in the game. Apparently, that distinction now should be bestowed upon Ramirez, the irresponsible man-child who roams through a Hall of Fame career like the oblivious Mr. Magoo.
When you talk about his character, the totality of the circumstances will ring true.
Is Boras serious with this one? By "character," does he mean Ramirez's integrity? Or is he referring to the made-for-TV personality that makes Ramirez baseball's version of Cosmo Kramer, a peculiar freak whose cluelessness is somehow celebrated as genius?
Here's the part that makes this all the more difficult to swallow: This winter, as mentioned, both Ramirez and Teixeira are free agents. Both are represented by Boras. Already, Boras is out there saying that Ramirez deserves to be the highest-paid player in the game, which suggests that he seeking an average annual salary in the vicinity of $27.5 million a year (Rodriguez's current average) for a man who doesn't run like Rodriguez or field like Rodriguez. Ramirez just happens to be older, too.
The fantasyland known as Borasia needs a new king. Why not Manny Magoo?
Meanwhile, standing off to the side is the switch-hitting Teixeira, easily the best long-term investment on the open market. Ramirez is 36; Teixeira is 28. Ramirez is a circus act in the outfield; Teixeira is a two-time Gold Glove winner at first base. Ramirez has the emotional maturity of a teenager and has indisputably quit on his team (more than once); Teixeira went to Georgia Tech and has averaged 151 games per season over the first six full years of his career.
If I'm Teixeira, I walk into Boras's office on the double and ask a simple question:
Um, Scott, don't you think I'm actually worth more than this clown?
But then, that's probably why Boras will try to get Ramirez signed first.
Once that happens, Teixeira then will deserve to be the highest-paid player in the game.
Ultimately, we all know what negotiating is about: making an argument. On the one hand, Boras will sit down at the table and present his case for why Ramirez should be the highest-paid player in the game or why the 'C' on Varitek's chest (as in C-note -- it's all about the Benjamins) means more than the player's RBI or OPS. On the other, team executives will pick at a player's shortcomings, then flip over tables and kick down doors when the player goes somewhere else.
Still, at some point, accepted business practices border on outrageous manipulation of the facts, the latter of which is an art at which Boras clearly excels. This makes the most powerful agent in baseball either a black belt or a two-bit car salesman, depending on whether anyone out there actually believes that Manny Ramirez is worthy of anything beyond being called a great run producer.
I'm not buying it.
But like I said, I'd still hire the guy.
Correction: This column stated earlier that Boras was no longer representing Rodriguez in any way. That is incorrect, and has been removed from the column. We apologize for the error.
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