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?

"Or, you come home from work, have a barbecue, sit in a room with a big TV, watch the game, fall asleep on the couch, wake up and kiss your wife and then go to bed.

"Which of those scenarios are you going to choose?"

Giamatti was right. The main source of MLB's record $6 billion in revenues is network and cable TV contracts, including the MLB Extra Innings "package." Yet, paradoxically, the manic pace of modern team building in a media-driven culture has also increased fan interest at the box office. Asked if Boras is creating or cashing in on this phenomenon, Colletti pauses thoughtfully for a good five seconds and replies, "Both."

*   *   *

It's a chilly night in late April, and Dodger Stadium is sold out for the third game of a series with the San Francisco Giants. The hometown blue-and-white-clad fans are into their third round of "Barry Sucks" taunts when Scott Boras shows up at his front-row seats behind home plate—two and half hours later than expected. With him is Kurt Stillwell, who in 1983 was the second draft pick Boras ever represented, a historic move that resulted in Boras revolutionizing the amateur draft.

Stillwell played nine years for several teams, including the Angels, retiring in 1996. Now he is one of six Boras employees scoping out amateur baseball talent around the country. "Stilly graces us with his presence," Boras says, settling into his seat. He immediately catches the eye of Giants slugger Barry Bonds, who stands by the Giants dugout some 30 yards away, and they point at each other. "Barry gave my kids his All Star rings," Boras says of his former client, declining to elaborate on their split, which occurred after Bonds' name surfaced in connection with steroids. "He's sat in my house for hours at a time, talking baseball. The guy is a total gentleman."

Boras is less animated where Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is concerned. But then, he's Scott Boras, and McCourt is just the owner of the team and the stadium in which we're sitting. Even the people in McCourt's box nearby can't help looking over at Boras, as do batters in the on-deck circle, including Nomar Garciaparra, who just hours earlier wanted nothing to do with a reporter wondering about the role money plays in baseball. He seems interested now. Within minutes, Boras has also drawn attention from fans who want their picture taken with him, and film director Ron Howard makes no effort to hide his delight when he comes down to greet him.

After losing the first two games of the series, the Dodgers have jumped out to a 3-1 lead, prompting someone nearby to predict LA will win the National League West division this year. Boras, plowing through a bowl of chili nachos, a gyro and some chicken wings—he and Stillwell have been scouting amateur baseball all day and they're hungry—shakes his head. "San Diego," he says decisively.

The Giants get a strikeout to end the inning with the bases loaded, pick up a couple runs and eventually tie the game. Over the cheers and jeers of the sellout crowd and the incessant rock music blasting from the stadium sound system, Boras keeps a running commentary of the game, talking until he is hoarse. When San Francisco reliever Kevin Correia faces Dodger pinch hitter Olmedo Saenz with a runner on third and two out, Giants catcher Bengie Molina has Correia pitch around Saenz—who gets hit by a pitch. Boras notes that now there's a possible force out at second. "Molina is a smart catcher. He knows that was a bad matchup. Saenz is hitting .400 off this pitcher."

That Boras knows these sorts of things off the top of his head tells you just about everything you need to know about him: His appetite for the game is as voracious as his appetite for ballpark food. He and his staff probably spend seven hours a day at either Angel Stadium or Dodger Stadium, sometimes both in the same day, depending on which clients are playing. "Baseball is like breakfast," says Boras. "It only happens once a day, so you better not miss it."

One of the keys to his success has to be that players know his understanding of the game is as high as it can be. At the same time, many general managers and owners who understand the business side of baseball must be keenly aware that they have a fraction of Boras' baseball knowledge. It's as if his involvement in the sport is so deep that he feels justified not only representing clients to the maximum but to the point where he is having a direct effect on what teams look like when the season begins.

"There's so much we can do to help the players, the owners and the teams," he says, without hesitation or self-awareness. New owners, like McCourt, have to feel their way along, he says, and can fall prey to shortsighted decisions, whereas Boras feels he knows their team rosters as well as they do, if not better. Plus, he knows exactly whom he is signing where, and why. Boras doesn't think all teams can say that: "I'd say 35 to 40 percent of all major moves are without clear vision and deliberation as to the organization and where it fits in the industry."

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