On a very slow news day in Yankee-land, Peter Abraham chimed in with his take on the A-Rod/Boras blame game. In his view, we should be blaming Alex Rodriguez and only Alex Rodriguez for this opt-out extravaganza. Scott Boras, Abraham contends, simply works for Alex Rodriguez. Scott Boras, he writes, “wasn’t above him manipulating any strings”
To back up his contention that A-Rod is the one who deserves all of our ire, Abraham cites the case of Ron Villone, a fair-to-mediocre middle reliever who also happens to be a Scott Boras. Villone, who has made a meager (by baseball standards) $12 million over a 13-year career, has asserted his own desires about those of Boras’. Abraham writes:
Ron Villone is a Boras client. We were talking about it a few months ago and he told me that on several occasions during his career, Boras wanted him to sign with a certain team and he didn’t. “At some point you have to do what is best for you and your family,” Villone said. “You’re a man, you make your own decision.”
Using this as the basis for his argument, Abraham wraps up the piece by pinpointing A-Rod and his desire for more money as the root cause of the opt-out.
Now, while I’m sure A-Rod is no saint in the whole controversy, I have to disagree with Abraham’s assumption that Alex opted out all by himself and that Boras is working only for what A-Rod wants. I have a unique perspective on this agent-client relationship. My father is an agent himself, and throughout my life, I’ve met a lot of agents and heard a lot about the agenting business. While its true that Boras is working for A-Rod, to think that Boras had nothing to do with this opting out is simply naïve.
Of course, agents are working for their clients, but when their client is the number one star and money-marker, agents will try to push a little bit harder for that bigger deal. That bigger deal, you see, has ramifications that echo all the way down to the Ron Villone’s of the world. When Scott Boras says to A-Rod that by opting out, A-Rod could make $300-$350 million over the next ten years, A-Rod is going to listen. When Scott Boras sees an opportunity to imprint baseball with his fiscal legacy, as this article in The New Yorker claims Boras wants to do, he’ll leap at that opportunity. If it means pushing A-Rod a little bit harder, then so be it.
By taking advantage of the opt-out clause, Boras is making it known to Major League Baseball that owners should not take these clauses lightly. For two years’ running, a major Scott Boras client has opted out when presented with the option to do so. By triggering these clauses, Boras can extort more money from owners. “Give us more money or give us an opt-out clause,” he’ll say in negotiations. With this bargaining chip as well as the opportunity to really cash in with A-Rod, you can bet that Boras, while not pulling all of the strings, is certainly giving his client constant advice.
Meanwhile, the Ron Villone analogy is just plain wrong. To Boras, Ron Villone is nearly a non-entity. He makes less than the league average salary and doesn’t help Boras achieve any of the long-term goals he has set out for himself. If a Ron Villone says to Boras, “Keep me in New York,” Boras is going to listen because he (that is, Boras) has nothing to lose. But A-Rod is a whole different beast.
Abraham may choose to blame A-Rod based upon his first-hand knowledge of Rodriguez. I can’t vouch for that because I, unlike Abraham, do not have access to the Yankee clubhouse. But I do have access to an agent, and I know how the business works. You can bet that Boras had a major role in A-Rod’s opting out. Definitely blame A-Rod, but don’t give Boras a free pass just because he works for his clients. It’s a two-way street.