Critics have called him the most hated man in professional baseball. Some argue that he has tainted the game with player contracts reaching figures once thought unimaginable. Yet, at yesterday morning’s personal interview held at the MultiCultural Center, baseball super-agent Scott Boras proved to be more than just the shrewd negotiator that the media has made him out to be.
[media-credit id=20037 align=”alignleft” width=”176″][/media-credit]Thrust from a business venture at Angel Stadium into a lecture hall filled with eager sport management minors, Boras chronicled a life that began very humbly on a dairy farm in Elk Grove, California. With the guidance of event moderator and sport management lecturer Al Ferrer, the renowned agent spoke on a variety of topics including, but not limited to, life as an agent in Major League Baseball.
“The real battle is maintaining interpersonal relations with players,” Boras said. “The lawyer work I do really isn’t all that special.”
Hard to believe that coming from a man responsible for the first $50, $100 and $200 million contracts in MLB history. That is, until you consider the lengths he has gone to develop the Boras Corporation, a multi-million dollar undertaking that provides players with anything from a marketing staff for endorsements to a sports psychologist to push past mental barriers.
“You can’t forget that you’re representing a person, not a piece of paper,” Boras said. “[MLB] teams have a general idea of what it takes to meet a player’s needs, but it becomes my company’s job to cater to each player individually so they can perform at an optimal level.”
Between perennial All-Stars like Manny Ramírez and future phenoms like 2009 number one draft pick Stephen Strasburg, several of Boras’s 200 clients have put up the numbers, or shown the potential to do so, to lead them on their way to a blockbuster signing.
Still, a handful of newsworthy contracts negotiated by Boras have been regarded as nothing short of highway robbery due to an imbalance between price tag and player performance — the most recent being a seven-year, $126 million agreement between the San Francisco Giants and starting pitcher Barry Zito. Though the one-time Cy Young has slowly regained his old form after more than two years of struggles, it is hard to believe that Zito would have become the highest-paid pitcher in baseball history without expert representation.
“It’s not about selling, it’s about understanding,” Boras said of contract talks. “I gave [the Giants] a vision of their franchise, a vision where no free agent hitters would come to their ballpark. But compile a good pitching staff, and suddenly there’s a way to attract them.”
Using the Zito case as a template, Boras repeatedly stressed the importance of preparation.
“You have to be so informed that you’re not giving opinions,” Boras said. “The best points are made out of research and evaluation … negotiation is about being prepared.”
Fortunately for Boras, his approach to negotiation wasn’t much different than his approach to life. Unlike the majority of baseball players that have no backup plan to professional sports, Boras was well-prepared for a professional career after knee problems cut his career short at the minor league level.
Returning to the University of the Pacific after his playing days, he finished up a doctorate in pharmacology before putting himself through law school. The combination of his legal experience and connections in pro baseball allowed Boras to slowly establish himself as one of the pioneers of the field. But the success would not come overnight.
“You have to have a plan, you have to have a motivation,” Boras said. “What success is about is waking up everyday and saying, ‘how can I be the best?’”
After decades of rapid expansion, the rags-to-riches agent has proven to be one of, if not the, best options for professional representation. Still, being the best doesn’t end with a responsibility to his players.
“Your kids don’t care what you do, they care about the fact that you’re there. You don’t always need sleep, but you always need to know that you’re fulfilling commitments to your family while doing the same for your clients.”
While he may be the most hated man in baseball, Boras is arguably one of the most powerful men in the sport as well. Not to mention one of the wealthiest. But taking the time to offer his thoughts free of charge to a group of aspiring agents makes you think twice about the way he is perceived in the public eye. Whether or not his public persona changes over the years is debatable, but one thing remains certain — the man knows how to do business.