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Chat: Scott Boras

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday August 09, 2005 8:00 PM ET chat session with Scott Boras.

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Scott Boras runs the Scott Boras Corp., a sports agency that claims as its clients many of the biggest names in Major League Baseball, including Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Adrian Beltre, Mark Teixeira and many others.

Scott Boras: Thanks for joining me. Let's get started.

Matt McCracken (Belmont, CA): Do you think it is right that you have turned drafting the best amateur players into an auction? Don't your tactics take the top amateur clients out of the hands of the teams that need them most and into the hands of the richer teams? It just seems unfair that the best players are being drafted by the richest teams and not those at the top of the draft because of the greed of an agent.

Scott Boras: Our job is to attain the true value of the player. That value is determined by what one team will pay that player. Teams notify us and our players of that value, and we can in turn let other teams know how the player is valued in the market, should they choose to draft that player.

For the player and the parents, knowing their true value has to do with proper representation of the player’s rights. The rights of the team are not their concern. It is MLB’s job to address the philosophical question of team rights within the draft setting. MLB’s definition, however, is not relevant to my job in representing the drafted player.

One way to solve the dilemma of higher value for higher picks would be to allow teams to trade draft picks for either players or compensation. Teams could choose this option if they decided not to take the best player available, and this would answer many concerns about the weak teams not getting full value from their higher picks.

mattcollins (Boston, MA): Thanks for chatting with us, Mr. Boras. I've seen somewhere that you are against the amateur draft because it treats players not from the US or Canada, and nationalized Cubans differently from those who are from other countries. Would you prefer that there be a "worldwide draft" or would you like to see the draft completely done away with?

Scott Boras: One reason I am unhappy with the draft is that some foreign players have rights that other foreign players (Canada) and US players do not have. Individual countries should determine how their athletes are treated. Instead, MLB is imposing rules on sovereignties.

For those countries that do choose to participate, I would like to see the draft limited to three rounds of college players and 1 round of high school players. There would be minimum bonuses for these players. All other undrafted players would be free agents. This would assure that teams could draft players they truly wanted exclusivity to (but pay fair values), and the remaining players would not have their fate decided by any single team.

Joel Charny (Washington, DC): Scott, I have absolutely no problem with your trying to get the best possible contracts for your clients --- that's your job. My one doubt though is when your tactics lead to draft picks missing their first summer of development time, either signing late or even going back into the draft. Doesn't that lost deveopment time hurt them on the field and in the wallet (by slowing their path to the majors)?

Scott Boras: Anytime we assume that an amateur player will be a statured major league player, that expectation is to the detriment of the player.

Truthfully, the only contract we can absolutely guarantee that player (because of injury, etc) is that first contract signed as an amateur. We have an obligation that that player get his full value from the beginning of his professional career. Sometimes, these negotiations stall because of a subjective difference of opinion. However, our track record bears us out. Nearly 100% of our college first-rounders make it to the majors, while the average overall is closer to 50%

adamcarralejo (santa barbara): 1. Do you represent your clients in arbitration cases? 2. If so, who among the major league GM's do you least like to see on the other side of the room representing the team; do the GM's even represent the teams in arbitration hearings? 3. Do you think the arbitration process is fair to players, or is it unfairly depressing player salaries?

Scott Boras: I am an attorney and I do represent my clients in their hearings. Many other agents are not attorneys, and even fewer do their own arbitration cases.

GMs generally do not present their own arbitration cases, although they are often sitting in the room (and somebody from the team is always in the room, if not the GM).

Most teams hire prominent law firms to prepare their cases for them. This may be wise as it deflects some of the antagonism with the player away from the front office.

On fairness, I find that the player has the burden of proof. Arbitrators can have a hard time rewarding millions of dollars to a player when a loss still results in millions of dollars. In my experience, veteran arbitrators can focus more on facts than dollars. The panel system (3 arbitrators) places an even greater burden on the player because the advocate cannot know the beliefs of the entire panel.

The average MLB career is fewer than 3 years, which means the majority of players never even reach arbitration, while the owners make billions of dollars. This is the fair agreement between owner and player, but a fact few fans are aware of when hearing about salary numbers.

Dr. C (Mobile): You have a degree in pharmacology. How has that helped you as a sports agent? Do you have nutritionists, personal trainers, and other associated health personnel on staff at your agency?

Scott Boras: We are the only agency to employ sports psychologist, the well-known Harvey Dorfman as well as Don Carman, an ex-pitcher with a psychology degree. This is hugely important because players deal with a range of emotional consequences from playing in front of thousands of people every night. Even the best players have slumps, and this stress can affect performance as well as personal life.

We also have one-of-a-kind attention to nutrition and conditioning. We employ Steve Odgers, who was a world class decathalete and employed by the White Sox for 13 years. Steve is dedicated year-round to helping our athletes meet their training needs. Our unique approach is designing different workouts for different positions, rather than just for different sports. We also work with team trainers to meet the needs of our clients.

My doctorate is helpful in explaining many of the current issues to clients and the media.

alappin (Needham): How has the hiring of statistically-inclined GMs (Billy Beane, Theo Epstein, etc) affected the negotiation process? Do you have to sift through in-depth statistics to find what your client's true value is?

Scott Boras: I enjoy working with statistically-minded GMs. We have a database and a number of employees dedicated to evaluating our clients. At the same time, we do not have the other obligations of a team, such as winning and building a farm system. Our job is to analyze, compare, and understand the market and revenues in establishing the value of our clients. We enjoy dealing with any team that is receptive to this type of information. It is a common language that makes my job easier.

Livy (Charleston (WV)): How much would Albert Pujols be worth today if he weren't locked up for a long, long time? It seems to me that he really limited his earning potential by staying in St. Louis.

Scott Boras: A statured player like Pujols would be at the top of the market with his historic performance. He is likely to be one of the 5 best players in the league for many years to come. This type of player is extremely hard to find. Walt Jocketty said to me once in a laughing manner that if I represented Pujols during his arbitration years, we would not have been talking about a long-term deal. I agreed.

Max (Montreal): What do you think of what Drew Rosenhaus is doing with Terrell Owens in the owner friwndly NFL?

Scott Boras: A few Owens questions... "Renegotiate" is not in my vocabulary. I advise players to consider all the variables, such as injury vs improvement, before they sign a contract.

I have had players call me about bad contracts they had signed and I always advise that the sanctity of the contract is important for the survival of any system based on performance. To change it when there is improvement is a double-edged sword that will inevitably lead to degrading the contract when the player malperforms.

Unless there is a provision allowing for changes based on performance, anyone who advocates change puts all his clients in jeopardy. It becomes subjective, degrading contracts just as often as improving them, and anarchy results.

Terrell Owens argues that the owners have the ability to void his contract at any time. While this seems unjust, this is in the NFL CBA. This is a huge issue that should be raised at the next collective bargaining session, but not in the context of an individual player. Owens knew this provision existed when he signed his contract.

George W. (Alexandria, VA): Scott, do you think that competitive balance is important to the business of baseball? And if so, is there a role to be played by the collective bargaining agreement in that competitive balance. On the other hand, if competitive balance is not important, would you support the contraction or dissolution of teams that consistently fail to compete for economic reasons?

Scott Boras: Competitive balance can rarely be legislated when a sport is run by intellect. It is true that there are 4 or 5 clubs with economic advantages. However, these clubs cost a great deal of money to purchase in the first place. Smaller market teams, on the other hand, have a relatively low buy-in, leaving their owners with revenue he saved on the purchase. Consider buying the Pirates for $120 million vs. the Red Sox for $750+. The Pittsburgh owner also has revenue sharing money and national TV revenue.

In short, the CBA has addressed competitive balance. When the Yankees sign big free agents, they lose draft picks. This bit them when they had little in the minor leagues to trade this past July 31. NY must build in the off-season. Other teams build in the draft and with in-season trades.

It seems that every year a new team emerges to be competitive.

Ed (Chicago): In your opinion, what is the number one public misperception about the way you conduct business? Does it bother you -- even a little -- that some people dislike you because you're too good at your job?

Scott Boras: My number one concern is working hard and committing ethically and principally to the client. Also, like any person, I like to be good at what I do. Some people see this in a negative light.

Most important in my dealings with others is to be respected, not liked. I'd say most of my clients would agree with both, and most other people would only choose one description of me.

Bryan Smith (Chicago): Scott, who do you believe is the most influential man in baseball?

Scott Boras: Any one of the 20 most talented players in the game. Talent drives interest and marketability. Sustained talent leads to the popularity the game has enjoyed for so long.

alappin (Needham): How is being an agent for a baseball player different from being an agent for a football or basketball player?

Scott Boras: To be effective in baseball, I could not do other sports. All the talented people on my staff work to understand the game at many levels- performance/economic/etc. To do so in multiple sports would dilute what we do. It would be impossible for one entity to cover in detail all the information players need to maximize their careers.

We have had inquires from players in the NFL, NBA, and NHL, but have always taken the position that this would detract from our commitment to baseball. Being a former player, I realize people need to know we have the same focus as they do.

Max (Montreal): What do you think of the "Moneyball approach" in finding cheap, but effecient players who can fill certain roles?

Scott Boras: I have great respect for Billy Beane and his ability to provide a consistent level of post-season play. The only hurdle he has yet to overcome is whether his philosophy will win in the playoffs. (His philosophy of players with limited, defined roles... not specifically OBP)

Once Billy gets his World Series, his work as a GM will be adorned as one theory to acheive success not advanced until he became a GM.

birk (Dayton): Scott, for someone that's thinking about a career in sports business, what's the best way of working toward this goal?

Scott Boras: My employees come from a wide range of professions... writers, sports information directors, engineers, former team employees, and of course, ex-players. There is no one answer. There are grad school options, depending on your desired field. Outside of this, it is best is to take what you can find with a company/team/agent you are interested in, and work your way up within that organization.

Scott Boras: Thanks for the questions. Enjoy the last few months of the season! sb


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