POTD Scott Boras -- a Backstage Pass


=== Input/Output, Dept. ===

This week, an ML executive was chatting about the state of the 2011-12 winter market.  Somebody asked the exec about a minor Boras client who is, this winter, getting disappointing offers.  "Is it that this player isn't as good as we thought he was?"

The exec kind of laughed.  "Finding homes for marginal players has NEVER been Scott's strong suit," the man said.  "Scott does one thing well:  he maximizes the returns on the super-hot commodities.  At that, he is brilliant."

And a light came on.


=== Deconstructing Scott ===

The simplistic view of Boras has been that "he's unpleasant, but he does his job very well.  You or I would do exactly what he does, given the same situation."

Um, no.  We wouldn't.  Not always.  For starters, the average American has the word "greed" in his vocabulary, at least.  There are times when greed is a moral failing.  

That said, Boras has certainly had a lot of success at what he does.


What the exec points out, though, is that Boras' relentless, slitted-eyed greed works well --- > in one situation.  That is the situation in which people can make a lot of money by interacting with him.

Both on paper, and in the real life of an F-500 boardroom ... CEO's are about their companies.  If the CEO of Boeing can sell a hundred 787's by sitting in a room with a truly vile sheik, he will do that.  It's in the borderline cases that a real executive will -- he's human -- factor in the smelliness of a business partner's attorneys.


=== The .300 AVG Ballplayer ... with a 300 / 325 / 390 Slash Line ===

And all of a sudden it hit me.  If you're talking Mark Teixeira, if you're talking Matt Holliday or Robinson Cano, Boras' relentless greed and slimy-but-agile mind will return some really surprising numbers.  And these are the situations that fans see.

But if you're talking about a fading Johnny Damon, and the Yankees are starting to go "Meeehhhhhh" about him, then Boras is well-and-truly capable of having greed blow up in his face.  Before 2010, Damon imperiously demanded $13M per, times what, 4 years? ... and not a penny less.

The Yankees saw their chance to stick it to Boras and went after Nick Johnson for a piddling $5M.  Damon went back, tail tucked and hat in hand, asking for a lesser deal.  The Yankees gleefully refused.  Damon signed for 1 year, $8M, in Detroit.  That's 1.5-, 2.0-WAR money.  The next year, Damon got 1 x $5M only because Boras packaged him with Manny.

The embarrassing deals started piling up in my mind.  ... Daisuke Matsuzakatotally capitulated to the Red Sox.  ... Stephen Strasburg got about 30% of what I'd been expecting; the system crushed him and Boras with ease.   Luke Hochevar held out a year, had to fire Boras, took a disappointing deal and then has always pitched like he'd missed a year.

Here's a list of about 80 clients.  Lottttttta guys on there who didn't do so hot.


To be sure, there have been Boras clients who scored more $$$ with him than they would have with anybody else.  But more and more, you start to realize that when Boras does not have two or more zealous bidders, he will often hurt his clients more than he helps them.  Owners see their chance to get payback by telling him, "No."

My view of Boras is more nuanced this week.  I don't see him as a guy who's verrrrrrrrry, very good at what he does.  Unless "what he does" is limited to those cases that involve red-hot commodities.  And why is that critical, if you're already Mark Teixeira?


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