The Boras Factor

Some fans and team officials think hes the devil. His player clients think hes an angel. Everyone agrees that super agent Scott Boras has changed baseballbut for better or worse? And what does he want now?

"We store and analyze news clips, game tapes, videotaped practices, statistics," says Musselman. "We're beyond megabytes and into terabytes."

The brain trust meets in "the war room," a conference room with long tables arranged in a V, Aeron chairs, huge white drawing boards, a retractable video screen and wireless video projectors operated from a customized control panel with the Boras logo, a "B" in the middle of a baseball field.

"Scott likes to be able to push a button and get whatever visual images he wants, when he wants it," Musselman says, in what could be a description of Boras' general business attitude.

Scott Boras. Photo by Jennie Warren
Scott Boras. Photo by Jennie Warren

The company also tends to players' goals off the field, such as charitable work, and the interests of their families. "Scott has never done anything purely for profit," says Musselman. "He believes if you do things right, the money will follow. You can make a million dollars today, but is that in the best interests of your client in the long run?"

The glue that holds the Boras Corporation together, Musselman insists, is passion for the game. "We're at the ballpark every day. We're looking at teams' rosters and thinking about players' goals; what makes a player tick? Sometimes teams' and players' goals merge. This is what we'd be doing anyway, thinking about ways to serve the game."

*  *  *

Scott Boras is standing behind a massive desk, looking at numbers on a chart and getting ready for an upcoming meeting regarding the Boston Red Sox catcher and team captain Jason Varitek. Boras often makes his arguments with numbers, in a persuasive manner that forces people to listen. At the moment he is preparing to defend his client's subpar performance at the plate last year.

"It says here Varitek is hitting .129 when the pitch count is no balls and two strikes," he says, moving over to a conference table in his glass-enclosed office. In pre-Boras times, before statistics dominated the lexicon of baseball and became central to player deals, an agent or general manager would simply say, "Varitek struggles when he's behind in the pitch count." Here's what Boras says: "With one ball and two strikes he's hitting a little better, about .138. But then, with two balls and no strikes, or two balls and one strike, he's up around .315. So even with health issues last year, he's still a better than average hitter."

Boras is 54, married with three kids. His only major distraction from the work of baseball is going to watch his two teenage sons play the game for their Orange County high school and Little League traveling teams. Three decades on from his playing days, which ended in 1978, he has a broad, handsome face, thinning hair and a midsection thicker than it used to be. Business casual in jeans and a blue blazer, he speaks in a low voice with the authority of an oracle.

The son of a Sacramento-area farmer, he was a minor league infielder and outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs until three knee surgeries ended his career. He never made it past Double-A ball, retiring with a .283 batting average. He moved on to law school, then joined a Chicago law firm. But as he tells it, each spring he yearned for the smell of grass and the taste of tobacco, and his thoughts turned to baseball.

One day in 1982, it dawned on him that baseball revenues had increased tenfold since the amateur draft began, in 1965, but salaries for draft picks had stagnated. "I was in law school and I didn't know how to deal with myself," Boras says. "I hadn't played ball in years. I couldn't sleep. I was having withdrawal on a number of fronts. I started thinking of ways to help these kids."

The next year, in 1983, Boras signed two draft picks, Tim Belcher and Kurt Stillwell, and soon their new agent was turning down entry-level salaries and demanding what Boras argued was market value. "Teams were irate," he says. "They said to me, 'Don't get involved, come work for us.' I told them I didn't want to be a baseball executive, I wanted to be an advocate for players, that this was bad for baseball, bad for the system."

Since then, Boras has advised 60 first-round draft picks and negotiated $150 million in draft salaries. The established side of his client roster reads like a who's who of major league stars: Carlos Beltran, Kenny Rogers, Andruw Jones, to name a few. He boasts 34 world champions, three Cy Young Award winners, three MVPs and 16 Gold Glove winners. Boras has negotiated more than $2 billion in player contracts, and he's looking for more.

"I've said it before—there's going to be a $30 million-per-year contract. I don't know when, but there will be one, because baseball revenue will keep growing, and I'm all about the percentage of revenues."

Boras' argument, one that is hard to counter, is that players should reap a fair percentage of team revenues because they are responsible for baseball's popularity and its expansion. But it is his gift for talking—part baseball knowledge, part business vision, a verbal onslaught of research and data delivered with a conviction that sounds presumptuous, if not threatening—that further sets him apart.

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